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The other day, I responded to a comment on a conservative American website with regard to diet.

The context was in regard to the reform of Obamacare in the Trump administration. The initial comment referred to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s (R-Wisconsin) possible approval of a health auditor, a stranger, to visit someone’s house to assess a family’s lifestyle prior to their obtaining health insurance. Apparently, this is one health insurance idea that has been discussed before.

Ryan’s father died at an unexpectedly early age from heart disease. Consequently, Ryan focussed on diet and exercise to ensure he himself didn’t end up that way. It is thought that he also might well consider that a stranger going into someone’s home to assess their lifestyle — perhaps to check cupboards for snacks or alcohol and sniff walls for evidence of smoking — is entirely acceptable.

That is every bit as frightening as the Vault 7 Year Zero CIA document dump by WikiLeaks on March 7.

There are two things here.

The first is that, as a legislator, Paul Ryan will never have to be part of Obamacare or Trumpcare. He and his colleagues get a traditional health insurance plan.

The next thing is obesity, which Paul Ryan — a thin man — desperately opposes.

As I told the person on this particular conservative website, this notion of a healthcare audit is a plan for the ‘little people’. (They, in Ryan’s estimation, do not understand what their betters do. This, by the way, is Ryan’s ‘magnificent home’ in Janesville, Wisconsin. It has an extensive border fence around it.)

I further commented (same link):

To counter Ryan’s dictating to Americans on their health: my father also died of heart disease at an early age. So did his father, whom I never met. So have some of my friends in the present day. That doesn’t give the right to go around snooping in people’s homes as a precursor to getting health insurance!

Then, I discussed obesity:

Re obesity: severely limit or stop eating starch and sugar, eat more fat (including animal fat) and less protein. Watch the pounds roll off. It’s called the ketogenic diet, which is a permanent eating plan, not a fad diet. I’ve been on it for three years. I lost weight and stabilised. Cholesterol and triglycerides go down with keto.

As we know, there is a particular association between Americans and obesity. It is unclear whether this can be connected with the increase of obesity in other Western countries, because who knows how much corn syrup — rather than sugar — is in their food? Emphases mine below, not in the original comment:

Someone on here was talking about corn. It’s all the corn syrup used in place of sugar which also leads to obesity. Sugar makes you feel more sated than corn syrup. We owe the proliferation of corn syrup to the Nixon administration in the 1970s. Corn farmers, IIRC, had a glut of crop then, so were bailed out with companies producing corn syrup for commercial cake, cookie and candy manufacturers.

Note when obesity started to climb: the late 1970s to early 1980s. It was no big deal at the time. Most people attributed it to Americans giving up smoking. Although that was a factor, I would posit that the increase of sweet snacks and cakes made with corn syrup were a greater contributor — and continue to be today.

Yes, I know I should have said ‘was’ instead of ‘were’ in the last sentence, but only caught it now.

Regardless, that message got through. My sincere thanks to the moderators. I didn’t think anything of it until later. Now read on.

The commenter, with whom I was corresponding, replied:

Salty snacks like crackers and chips also contribute, along with soft drinks and the rest of our favorites (fast food, etc). Eat at home family meals with vegetables and salads have diminished with women working, divorces, unwed mothers with no Dad in the home, increase of addictions, etc.

I’m not in favor of a one-food group diet (animal fat/low carb) diet. Whole grains and vegetables/fruit contain important phytonutrients. Did you know heart attacks diminished in Britain, in WWII, despite the stress of the bombings, when sugar was rationed?

So, appreciating this reply, but differing because of my keto experience — and that of thousands of others — wrote back.

I retyped my reply twice. Both immediately went into spam. A subsequent message, on a different topic, went through, by the way.

The text below is similar to what was spammed. Once again, emphases mine below, not in the original comment. For the overweight:

All starch — whether salty or sweet, from carbohydrate to sugar — should be sharply curtailed or eliminated.

It should be noted that the ketogenic diet — a way of eating and not a fad diet — is not a one-food group diet. It works with a proportion (depending on the individual) of 50% fat, 35% protein and 15% carbohydrate per day. Vegetables should provide most of the 15% carbohydrate. The more you weigh, the more you lose.

Starch comprises bread, cereal, cakes, oatmeal, salty snacks (etc.). Sugars, including those in fruit, are also starches.

Corn syrup has replaced sugar in most sweet snacks. Corn syrup is less satisfying than pure sugar. Americans are eating more corn syrup in cakes, cookies and candies. Therefore, they are getting fatter because the corn syrup is less satisfying.

Eating more fat — including fat from cheese, eggs and dairy products, especially butter — will be more satisfying than eating starches or sugar.

I agree very much with your point on ready-made meals, however, another problem is that Americans — along with many other Westerners — eat five times a day.

I take your point that, during the Second World War, Britons got their nutrients from whole grain bread. However, they needed all the sustenance they could receive. They also had no central heating. They had to walk or ride bicycles to and from work. Rationing in the UK did not end until 1954.

Westerners live an entirely different lifestyle in the 21st century. They eat too many carbohydrates, including sugars — especially corn syrup products, which leave them less full than sugar would. They have heated homes and offices. They drive nearly everywhere.

Low fat foods are another problem. For a decent flavour profile, low fat needs to be offset with high sugar content, most often corn syrup.

My message must have had wording or syntax that instantly caused it to end up in spam — twice.

There is a political point about corn syrup that I want to make concerning the law of unintended consequences. No one could foresee in the Nixon administration that corn syrup would result in a national weight problem.

I know from experience. In the early 1960s, when I was five years old, I was a guest of a young friend at her house for Saturday dinner — pancake night. My mother always bought maple-flavoured syrup made with sugar. This family always bought corn syrup. I still remember eating a plateful of pancakes with syrup and feeling hungry before I went to bed that night. The hosts even told my parents that I had an incredible appetite for such a little tyke. Yet, that was the only time I was ever hungry after eating twice as many pancakes as I would have done at home. The only difference was the type of syrup.

Conclusion

If Americans were still eating sweets of any kind made with sugar, they would be of normal weight.

Corn syrup is making people fat. So are other starches. Anyone who wants to lose weight should try a low-carb high-fat — LCHF — eating plan.

For more information on the ketogenic diet, please read the following. If you are in any doubt or under regular care of a physician, seek medical advice first:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Low carb high fat diet primer

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

Whilst I cannot guarantee that my original correspondent on the conservative website will see this, I hope that others might find this of interest.

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Churchmouse Altarmousefinal copyThis stuffed squid recipe is perfect for those on low carb high fat (LCHF) eating plans.

It goes very well with my prawn truffle sauce spooned on top.

My better half told me this was a ‘restaurant quality’ dinner. I hope you have a similar experience.

British readers can buy one of the seasonings, Old Bay, here.

Notes:

1/ Ask your fishmonger to prep the squid for you.

2/ Make half a recipe of prawn truffle sauce and reserve the rest of the stock as well as any squid juice (not ink) for poaching the squid.

3/ You can have two squid courses. Start with the tentacles and any flat pieces then serve the stuffed squid as a main course.

4/ If you want to serve the tentacles and odd pieces pan-fried, dunk everything in beaten egg white (or coat thinly with mayonnaise) then dredge in a few teaspoons of well seasoned flour. Let the squid pieces sit in the dredge for 45 minutes to 1 hour so that the coating sticks. In a small frying pan (slightly larger than an omelette pan), heat 2 – 3 tbsp of duck, goose or pork fat until hot (the fat should be bubbly on the bottom). Carefully place the squid pieces in the pan, working away from yourself to avoid grease splashes. Make sure there is adequate space between the pieces so that they fry evenly. Turn them over after 2 or 3 minutes to fry on the other side. Drain well and serve.

Churchmouse’s stuffed squid

(prep time: 15-20 minutes; cooking time: 10 minutes; serves 4)

Ingredients:

4 squid for stuffing

1/2 a recipe of prawn truffle sauce

1/2 pint (0.25 l) of prawn stock and any squid juices (not ink)

2 red bell peppers, finely diced

8 spring onions (scallions), finely sliced

1 tsp garlic paste or 1 clove crushed garlic

2 level tbsp flour

2 level tbsp butter

Salt, cayenne and Old Bay to season

1 – 2 tbsp double (heavy) cream

2 – 3 tsp baked panko-style breadcrumbs (optional, but they add crunch)

8 toothpicks

Method:

1/ In a small omelette pan, cook the butter and flour over medium heat. Stir it so it becomes a roux.

2/ Add the spring onion pieces to the roux. Stir and cook for 2 minutes.

3/ Add the garlic and diced red pepper to the onion roux. Stir well and cook for 4 – 5 minutes until al dente.

4/ Season the vegetable mix with salt, cayenne and Old Bay to taste and stir well. Add the cream and stir again. If the mix is too solid, add a teaspoon or two of the seafood stock and stir.

5/ Remove the vegetable mix from the heat and let cool for 15 – 20 minutes.

6/ Once the vegetable mix has reached room temperature, take a dessert spoon (larger than a teaspoon but smaller than a tablespoon), open the squid and carefully spoon in the mix. Using clean fingers, gently press the mix as far down the squid as possible.

7/ Take care not to tear the squid pockets when filling them. Also, do not overstuff, just ensure there is a decent amount from top to bottom so they are slightly rounded. Secure each squid at the top with two toothpicks. Set each aside on a plate or cutting board.

8/ Start heating the prawn truffle sauce in a separate saucepan.

9/ Put the prawn stock and any squid juice in a large, frying pan preheated over medium heat. Carefully place the squid in the pan. The liquid level should reach halfway up the squid.

10/ Poach the squid for 4 – 5 minutes on each side. Carefully turn the squid over with a large serving spoon to cook the other side.  In both cases, check after three minutes to make sure the squid have not split. (My first few squid split when I started stuffing them several years ago, but I keep a closer eye on them now and they are perfect.) In case of any splits, turn down the heat, either turn over to cook or quickly remove to a plate, split side up. A small split sometimes closes by itself.

11/ During the last few minutes of cooking the squid, make any seasoning adjustments to the prawn truffle sauce, if necessary.

12/ Carefully lift the squid out of the pan, allowing any excess liquid to drip off. Place the squid on the plates — one per person — and remove the toothpicks. Spoon the sauce over the squid. Top each one with a teaspoonful of warm, baked breadcrumbs for a bit of crunch.

13/ Long green beans drenched in garlic butter make an elegant accompaniment served on the other side of the plate.

(Graphics credit: Dr Gregory Jackson of Ichabod)

Yesterday’s post introduced the low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating.

It is preferable to consider LCHF not as a short-term fix ‘diet’ but rather as a nutrition plan that you and your family can adopt — just as you might have adopted a high carb low fat one!

If you missed my previous posts over the past several days, it might be worth your time reading them to better understand the science behind it: debunking popular breakfast myths, why overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet, why we should not graze and a case against grazing.

The primer below is not exhaustive. Information comes from my own 18-month experience as well as insights from other LCHF followers and medical practitioners.

N.B.: In order to avoid fatigue or light-headedness from Day 1, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with sea salt and Lo Salt.

Also, avoid falling into the trap of ‘gluten-free’ and soy-based foods (e.g. tofu). Most of these have large amounts of carbohydrate and are not on the LCHF plan.

1/ I’m afraid of fat, especially getting fatter by eating more of it.

Over the past few years, the medical establishment — which had previously advised against fat — now recognises it has a beneficial part to play in a healthful diet.

The problem Westerners have is eating a lot of carbohydrates which make us hungry a few hours later. This has made us fatter, not thinner, especially as more of us are obese and running the risk of Type 2 diabetes.

By turning the tables — eating more fat and far fewer carbs — we are actually helping to regulate insulin. Dr Mercola says (emphases mine):

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

Dr Lyle Macdonald explains:

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Note that fat has little to no impact on insulin secretion. This is why overweight people may well benefit from the LCHF.

On another practical level, fat increases satiety. Many LCHF followers find they consume fewer calories by increasing fat when compared with their former high carb low fat diets.

2/ How much weight can one lose on LCHF? Can you give me a real-life example?

The heavier one is, the more weight one will lose. The heaviest will also lose weight quicker than those who are in a normal weight range.

There are many examples that can be found by looking for LCHF successes in a search engine. A specific case is that of Tommy, a Scandinavian who has lost an incredible amount of weight — nearly 200 pounds in the first two years. The before and after pictures are amazing! His website, Eat Low Carb High Fat has many helpful posts on physiological markers and what he eats.

3/ How can I get a variety of fats?

Many LCHF followers rely a lot on butter. To it, one can add garlic, herbs and different kitchen seasonings (Old Bay, poultry seasoning). You can do this as you cook or make a compound butter in advance. Take a slightly softened stick or brick of butter, put it in a bowl and mix whatever you like into it so that you have it over the course of a few days. You can put it into a smaller container (with lid) or roll the butter into a sausage shape which you can then wrap in cling film (plastic wrap).

Clarified butter — known as ghee in the Subcontinent — is also an excellent cooking fat.

Cream is useful, especially in sauces or in a shot of coffee, known as ‘bullet-proof’. If you’re buying milk, make sure it is full-fat. Milk has a fair amount of carbs, so use it only in hot beverages and when thinning cream sauces.

Olive oil is great for salad dressings and light sautéing. It cannot withstand high temperatures, however.

Animal fats are highly recommended. I keep a variety of them in the refrigerator from our roasts and pan fried meats, e.g. duck. After cooking, I drain the fat into a glass jar (with lid) by type of fat. At any one time I have jars of the following fat: chicken, duck, goose, beef and pork. Chicken and duck fats are flavoursome to mix with butter when sautéing vegetables. Goose, beef and pork are for on the occasions when I make Yorkshire pudding, which needs fat that can withstand very high heat. To make light gravies to go with the roasts, keep a tablespoon of the fat in the roasting tin to make a roux (add a tablespoon of flour to mix and cook with the fat as a sauce base). Then add meat stock and seasoning gradually to the roux to make the sauce — a slightly thicker form of jus.

Pork crackling makes an excellent accompaniment to roast pork loin and a nice snack before dinner. I save chicken skin, salt it, flatten it and heat it in the oven for 10 minutes to crisp it. Served on the side with hot chicken, it melts in the mouth and is surprisingly filling! If I’m running low on chicken, I eat the skin with a small amount of meat and give the lion’s share of protein to my better half.

Full-fat mayonnaise is a must. Use it generously with tuna, chicken, egg or coleslaw.

Peanut and almond butters are great with vegetable sticks at lunch or as a daytime snack.

4/ How can I be sure I’m getting the right proportions of fat, protein and carbs?

Martina from the UK, author of The KetoDiet Blog, has a helpful calculator for macros — macronutrients — that are scaled to individual requirements. This determines the proportions you should be eating each day. The calculator page also has useful examples to illustrate how they work.

Most people with experience of this and similar calculators say to select ‘sedentary’ unless one has a daily workout regime.

You might have to rerun the calculator as you lose weight and reach a subsequent stall or plateau.

Initially, I was successful on a 60% fat, 35% protein, 5% vegetable with some flour (sauce) carb for the first few weeks. After my first month, I then had to recalculate my fat and protein amounts, so that I now eat 55% fat and 40% protein with 5% carb.

Weighing portions in the beginning will help to ensure that they are accurate. After 18 months, I no longer do this.

5/ It sounds as if you don’t count calories, then.

No. I weighed everything instead. Now I judge by eye. After a few months, you’ll see and feel (fullness) exactly what you need to eat to achieve satiety. Again, because of the dominance of fat, you’ll consume fewer calories.

6/ Did you throw out all the carbs in your house in the beginning?

No. I only threw our remaining pasta, rice and couscous a few weeks ago!

I went cold turkey whilst my better half continued to eat bread and potatoes for a few more months. We have both been on LCHF (ketogenic diet for us) for over a year, so it seemed a waste of space to keep these carbs around. As much as I dislike throwing food away, the opened packets were only taking up space. None of it appeals to us anymore!

I still make bread, but primarily for bread crumbs, used sparingly just to give crunch to soft vegetables. My better half needs a few more carbs than I do, so I make bread once every fortnight now on average. We have Yorkshire pudding much less often. For our birthdays, Christmas and Easter I make a fruit crumble or ground nut-based daquoise (e.g. Opéra, Yule Log).

7/ What sort of foods will provide both protein and fat?

Always buy fatty meats and eat the fat after cooking. When pan frying duck breasts, render the skin before flipping the breast over to cook on the lean side. Delicious.

Bacon and good quality sausages (85% meat minimum) are excellent sources of protein and fat. Premium hot dogs are perfectly keto.

Fatty fish — salmon, mackerel, sardines — provide a lot of Omega 3 and satiety.

Cheese is outstanding. Not only does it give you the excuse to eat different varieties but it is also very filling. A thin wedge of brie after dinner often suffices.

Don’t forget the versatile egg. Enjoy it scrambled, poached, hard boiled, devilled or in an omelette.

8/ What should I avoid?

Beware of eating too much dark (70%+) chocolate. It has carbohydrates, so only have a square or two now and then unless you are fully in maintenance.

Nuts are another potential downfall. Too many almonds or peanuts can cause a stall or weight gain. A handful — 15 whole nuts — really is the maximum one should have per day if one is not in maintenance. Nuts have a fair amount of carbohydrate. It is easy to underestimate how many we eat.

9/ Can I have a carb cheat day? If so, how soon?

If you’re really into carbs, cut down dramatically to begin with as you increase fat. If you can’t do without toast or breakfast cereal, have one or the other — and only a small portion. Give up every other carb.

If you’re not losing weight within the first fortnight, give up carbs altogether.

Most LCHF followers will experience a taste bud change once they go cold turkey. Carbs and sugars lose their appeal within a few weeks.

If you’re entering the LCHF plan anticipating your first cheat day, you’re unlikely to succeed long term. One way around this is to think of something fatty and appetising every time you want something carby. If you’re really hungry, have a fatty snack. Otherwise, imagine you’ve just eaten a fatty snack and you now feel full. Mind over matter.

10/ What are my chances of reaching a stall? What do I do?

Nearly everyone, reaches a stall — plateau — at some point on LCHF. This is especially common for those with the least to lose. However, this is common to every diet plan, which is why so many of us fail.

Considering LCHF as a long term way of eating helps to give us patience and endurance in reaching our goal.

LCHF is a gradual plan for those of normal weight. The heaviest have the most dramatic results. For everyone nearing their goal weight, the last several pounds take the most time to shift.

In general, it is essential to remember that after decades of an excess of carbs, the liver, pancreas, gall bladder and thyroid need time to readjust. This might take months or a few years.

Speaking personally, it was normal for us to have plateaus every few weeks. Sometimes we lost nothing. Sometimes we lost inches instead of pounds. Some pound loss came easier than others. There seems to be a step-change, including stall, every several weeks with progress at the end. Whilst my better half is now in maintenance thanks to a historically better metabolism and insulin sensitivity, I still have several more pounds to lose.

Those who are concerned can re-evaluate their macros, keep a food diary, weigh portions to guard against underestimating and increase gentle exercise. Some people find it helpful to reduce consumption of cream and milk.

Martina has an excellent précis of LCHF which serves as a useful reminder of what we should be doing. She also has an encouraging follow-up post. The readers’ comments and Martina’s responses are also enlightening.

Don’t give up! The benefits will come sooner or later! Internal clean-up is a big part of LCHF. Often, that stage has to be completed before the rest follows.

11/ You said ‘gentle exercise’.

LCHF does not work well for sedentary types who suddenly engage in intensive exercise to break a stall. Some actually gain water weight.

It is much better to get one’s exercise from moderate walking, cycling, housework, DIY or gardening.

That said, fitness enthusiasts who have already adopted their regime can do well if they choose to embark on LCHF.

12/ In what other ways can LCHF benefit us?

Diet Doctor has over 100 articles with case studies on the ways LCHF can benefit us. These cover a variety of health issues from acne to cancer to Parkinson’s.

I got interested in keto because it seemed that there should be a diet which can help with low moods and irritability. What I found amazed me. Related posts are on my Recipes/Health/History page under ‘Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression‘:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

High carb, low fat diets bad for brain health — and moods? (more testimonials for the ketogenic diet)

In closing, best wishes to all those who are undertaking LCHF or are embarking on such a journey.

Final words from me before exploring recipes in future posts: low carb high fat eating is the most fun you’ll ever have with food!

Yesterday’s post made a case against grazing — consuming several small meals a day.

My previous posts on diet debunked popular breakfast myths, warned overweight individuals not to adopt an athlete’s diet and discussed why we should not graze.

As obesity and Type 2 diabetes have been at high levels in the West for 30 years and show no signs of abating, it is useful to find out why this phenomenon has been occurring.

With regard to diet, we wonder why our blood sugar levels aren’t going down whilst we feel hungry at the same time. This post will explore the subject in greater detail and what to do.

Insulin and leptin

Too few of us, especially those trying to lose weight pay enough attention to the role of insulin and leptin in the diet. That is because most of us do not realise how insulin affects each of us.

Dr Mercola’s article on frequent meals and metabolism has a good explanation of the role of insulin and leptin on metabolism. Excerpts follow. Emphases in bold are the original; those in purple are mine:

Consuming junk food and fast food that does not feed your body the nutrients it needs will often lead to eating far more calories than you need simply because your insulin- and other hormonal balances are out of whack …

Metabolism can be roughly defined as the chemistry that turns food into life, and therefore insulin and leptin are critical to health and disease.

Insulin works mostly at the individual cell level, telling the vast majority of cells whether to burn or store fat or sugar and whether to utilize that energy for maintenance and repair or reproduction.

Leptin, on the other hand, controls energy storage and utilization, allowing your body to communicate with your brain about how much energy (fat) the cells have stored, and whether it needs more, or should burn some off.

Controlling hunger is one way that leptin controls energy storage.

Hunger is a very powerful and deep-seated drive that, if stimulated long enough, will make you eat and store more energy. The only way to eat less in the long-term is to not be hungry.

It has been shown that as sugar gets metabolized in fat cells, fat releases surges in leptin. It is believed that those surges result in leptin-resistance, as well as insulin-resistance.

Once you become leptin-resistant, your body loses the ability to effectively and accurately convey hunger signals, resulting in feeling hungry much of the time, even though you’ve consumed sufficient amounts of calories.

Sugar (and foods that convert into sugar, such as grain carbohydrates) is the main culprit in causing you to become leptin-resistant and should clearly be avoided, especially if you’re struggling with excessive hunger.

The objective in changing diet is to become insulin- and leptin-sensitive. Many of us who have problems controlling hunger from an overload of carbohydrates — including sugar — are insulin- and leptin-resistant. We want to move from resistance to sensitivity.

Dr Lyle Macdonald at Body Recomposition explains more in his article ‘Insulin Sensitivity and Fat Loss’ (emphases mine):

insulin is a storage hormone released in response to eating with carbohydrates having the largest impact on insulin secretion, protein having the second greatest and fat having little to no impact on insulin secretion. Insulin sensitivity refers to how well or poorly the body responds to the hormone insulin. Individuals who are insulin resistant tend to have higher baseline insulin levels because the body is releasing more in response to try and overcome the resistance.

Becoming insulin-sensitive through diet

Note that Macdonald says carbohydrates cause the body to secrete the highest amount of insulin. Protein comes next. Fats, on the other hand, have no impact on insulin.

I cannot emphasise that enough.

Fats are the key to resolving insulin-resistance so that one becomes insulin-sensitive.

Granted, everyone is slightly different which means that insulin resistance and sensitivity vary, some of that being dependent on our genes. However, Macdonald says:

high insulin secretion tends to make people eat more.

This is why obesity and Type 2 diabetes are often discussed together — and why many of these diabetics are overweight.

Macdonald mentions two studies which showed that insulin-resistant women lost weight once they began reducing their carbohydrate intake.

Although the studies do not appear to mention a move from insulin resistance to sensitivity because that was not their objective, in time, if they maintained the eating plan, the dieters would probably have succeeded in regulating their insulin secretion.

It would be complicated and expensive to have all the blood tests necessary to diagnose insulin sensitivity or resistance, not to mention secretion. However, Macdonald offers these basic questions which can help us determine if we are sensitive or resistant:

  1. On high-carbohydrate intakes, do you find yourself getting pumped and full or sloppy and bloated? If the former, you have good insulin sensitivity; if the latter, you don’t.
  2. When you eat a large carbohydrate meal, do you find that you have steady and stable energy levels or do you get an energy crash/sleep and get hungry about an hour later? If the former, you probably have normal/low levels of insulin secretion; if the latter, you probably tend to over-secrete insulin which is causing blood glucose to crash which is making you sleepy and hungry.

Those who are insulin-resistant and often hungry would do well to adopt:

a diet lower in carbs and higher in fat (don’t forget that protein can raise insulin as well) …

What to do

The low carb high fat (LCHF) diet is what it says. Reduce intake of carbohydrates dramatically and replace that deficit with fat.

What to avoid

Carbohydrate-heavy foods to eliminate or reduce include potatoes, sweetcorn, chickpeas, lentils, rice, pasta, breads, pastry, oatmeal, breakfast cereal, breakfast bars, sugar, chocolate bars, sugary soft drinks, sweet smoothies and — crucially — fruit.

What to increase

Replace the carbohydrate deficit with fats: butter, olive oil, mayonnaise, cream, cheese and animal fat (chicken, duck, goose, pork and beef).

Exclude low-fat spreads and dressings as well as margarine.

With regard to coconut oil, be careful. Those who are unaccustomed to eating it and incorporate it in their diets might find it disagrees with them, resulting in a rush to the bathroom. Start with small amounts and adapt your body slowly.

Fatty proteins

Buy fatty meats, including well-marbled steaks and chicken with skin.

Bacon, pork sausages and quality hot dogs are excellent no-brainer meats.

Pork roasts with a good layer of fat are also highly recommended.

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and trout, are excellent as is any other fish and seafood, particularly when combined with a buttery or creamy sauce.

Water and salt are vital

In order to avoid fatigue, especially in the beginning, you will need to consume around a litre of water a day and use good quality salt (e.g. sea salt) on your food. A potassium supplement, e.g. Lo Salt, is also highly recommended. I season everything with salt and Lo Salt.

Alcohol and soft drinks

Speaking of drinks, beer is out. Spirits, especially clear ones (gin and vodka), are fine. Dry wine is also good.

Diet soft drinks can be drunk in moderation. They are not a replacement for water.

Vitamin supplements

SpouseMouse and I have always taken a daily multi-vitamin and continue to do so.

Dr Mercola says that Vitamin D3/K2 supplements can also help to keep the body healthy. I take a D3/K2 supplement daily in liquid (drop) form. D3 and K2 are particularly necessary for people who have compromised immune systems.

Our household

I follow the ketogenic eating plan which calls for 20% or less of net carbohydrate intake a day. I try to keep it well below 20% altogether. SpouseMouse is more insulin-sensitive than I am and requires 30% to 40% in carbohydrates a day. Our protein intake is roughly 35% of our daily intake and fat comprises the rest — proportionally more for me and less for my better half.

The only starch we have in the house is T55 bread flour. I make bread for SpouseMouse once a week along with the occasional Yorkshire pudding.

I sauté vegetables in butter, duck fat or chicken fat. An alternative for the winter is to cook vegetables and top them with homemade cream sauces, often with cream cheese, which I top with grated cheese and bake at a low temperature (150° C or 325°F) for 15 minutes until the gratin melts.

Meal suggestions

The list below is hardly exhaustive but gives an idea of what LCHF followers eat.

Breakfast can be comprised of sliced ham, bacon and fatty (often smoked) fish, eggs (any way you like) as well as cheese.

Lunch can include the above as well as avocados, salad leaves, bell peppers and celery with a full-fat dressing. Some tomatoes and carrots are all right, but not too many as they are higher in carbs than green vegetables. Nut butters, particularly almond or peanut, or cream cheese with vegetable strips is a good combination. A cheese plate is a filling and tasty option. Fish and meat are superb proteins. Egg, chicken or tuna mixed with lots of mayonnaise are satisfying and easy to prepare options.

A small snack of a handful of almonds or peanuts is fine.

Dinner should be comprised of fatty meats or fish. Lean versions of either are also excellent sautéed in fat. Vegetables can include the aforementioned suggestions for lunch along with cooked ones such as green beans, broccoli, aubergines, courgettes (zucchini), cauliflower, brussels sprouts, all of which should be topped with butter or cream sauce.

A square or two of dark chocolate — 70%+ — makes a satisfying dessert substitute. A cheese plate is a better alternative and, for many, more filling.

These suggestions show how fat can be incorporated into the daily diet in place of carbohydrates.

Results

The LCHF is not an immediate silver bullet to combat insulin resistance, but, in time, the body corrects itself. Depending on the level of resistance, this can take six months to a year in most cases. Results will differ according to the individual.

Immediate effects

Within 24 hours, hunger pangs disappear. LCHF followers experience higher energy, calmer moods and better concentration. Sluggishness is gone.

After three to four days, the LCHF dieter will need to urinate copiously over a period of several hours. This will result in water weight loss of a few pounds. Heavier individuals will experience more loss than those of normal weight. Keep drinking water, however, as this is the time when fatigue or light-headedness can set in.

After one week, fat loss begins.

A fortnight later, pulse rates begin to normalise, clothes fit better and inches are lost.

After three weeks, skin becomes smoother and clearer. Dull roughness disappears. Expect compliments.

Intermediate results

As the body adapts, weight loss stalls can occur although inch loss continues.

Many people become frustrated after three to six months and think that nothing is happening when they get on the scale. However, tracking regular measurements of the waist, belly, hips and thighs will demonstrate that the body is reshaping itself into a slimmer, more attractive one. For this reason, a tape measure is more useful than a scale much of the time.

Men have an easier time losing weight than women. Post-menopausal women have the hardest time, although they, too, will still experience overall loss in inches and flatter tummies.

The longest and toughest battle is for internal organs such as the liver, pancreas and thyroid to start functioning properly after decades of abuse, illness or immune system issues. However, in time — depending on the condition — this can normally be resolved.

As an example, an article on Hashimoto’s disease states:

there is no doubt that what goes through your digestive system has a huge impact on your immune system. Huge.    

One Hashimoto’s sufferer, Carrie Vitt, regained her health with a gluten-free diet. It took her several years, but she is now symptom-free.

I digress, but this goes to show how a proper diet combined with patience and persistence can bring about lasting and beneficial physical improvement — without drugs!

Conclusion

Whilst this is not meant to constitute medical advice, overweight people with no serious health issues might wish to try an LCHF diet not only for weight loss but also for better overall health.

Starting now — well before the holiday season — will help to adapt the body and mind to a new way of eating, not meant for the short-term but the years ahead.

There’s a question mark in the title only because we have no significant proof yet from a majority of our experts in the medical community.

However, I have been on the ketogenic diet — eating plan — for well over a year now and am enjoying it. Even with an extremely stressful month-long episode six weeks into it, I still woke up feeling as if I could tackle what lay ahead of me on those days. Not perfectly, admittedly, but with much less emotional upset than expected.

Thank goodness.

The physician and author, Dr Michael R Eades, might be on some of your online reading lists. In a post from 2006, he explores reasons for the Western rise in obesity.

We are told we are fat because we don’t eat the right kind of foods and don’t exercise enough. Around the time Eades wrote this in the US, we in the UK were receiving constant announcements from the Labour government’s Health ministers saying we should be breaking out into a sweat every day. Gentle housework and 15-minute walks wouldn’t cut it, they told us.

With that in mind, it was interesting to read what Eades had to say nearly ten years ago:

What if cutting calories and running yourself ragged exercising don’t work because, well, you’re not overweight because you eat too much and don’t exercise enough?

He then cites a paper saying that any beneficial link between diet and exercise is ‘largely “circumstantial”‘ and cannot be applied to every person. Factors which also need to be studied include lack of sleep, smoking cessation, pesticides on fresh food which can harm our endocrine systems, demographics and so forth.

The one that caught my eye, and the only one Eades did not debunk, was the following one (emphases mine). It concerns the benefits of a high-fat diet on the brain whilst reducing carbohydrate consumption and prescription medicines. MD — mentioned below — is his wife, Mary Dan Eades, also a physician:

Factor # 5: Pharmaceutical iatrogenesis

Iatrogenesis, the causation of a state of ill health brought on by medical treatment, is indeed a cause of weight gain. Multiple drugs commonly given for a host of medical disorders have weight gain as a side effect. Antihistamines, antidepressants, anticonvulsants, blood pressure medicines, diabetic medicines, steroid hormones, mood elevators, birth control pills–all have been shown to cause weight gain to varying degrees. The authors make the case that there has been a huge increase in the number of people taking these drugs–especially the antidepressants and mood elevators–over the same time period as the obesity epidemic has been developing. Once again, I think there may be other factors afoot that cause both.

MD and I have always noticed that at the same time the bookstore shelves were laden with books on low-fat dieting they were also filled with books on depression. I don’t think this is a coincidence. The brain is a fat dependent organ composed primarily of fat. An enormous number of scientific studies have shown that people who don’t get enough fat nor enough cholesterol tend to develop depression and/or anxiety. MD and I have seen this first hand. Ten or so years ago we participated in a clinical study for an anti-obesity drug that worked by inhibiting fat uptake in the gut, thereby putting patients on a low-fat diet irrespective of how much fat they actually ate. One of the big problems we had was that the patients on the drug became depressed, anxious, or both, went to their regular doctors and were given prescriptions for antidepressants or anxiolytic medications. One of the guidelines of the study was than anyone who took one of these medicines was disqualified from continuing. We fought this problem continuously, so we know that low-fat diets cause mental problems. During the past 20 years the average fat consumption has fallen about 25%-30% as the obesity epidemic has surged, leading, I’m afraid, to a whole lot of antidepressant prescriptions. I would have to say that the increased drug use doesn’t cause obesity, but is, like the obesity epidemic, a consequence of a sea change in the American diet.

What about antihistamines, blood pressure medicines, anti-diabetic medicines? Same thing. When people get fat, they have more allergies, asthma, high blood pressure and diabetes. The dietary changes cause both the obesity and the attendant problems requiring drug treatment.

So, we have the real probability that high carb, low fat diets can affect our moods. We also know that our brains need fat in order to function properly. Lack of fat can produce moodiness and depression, which leads to prescription drugs that can also cause weight gain.

I agree with mechanical engineer Lori Miller who has also been on the low carb, high fat diet for a year when she wrote a post about it in 2011, ‘Lousy Mood? It Could Be the Food’, excerpted below. Details about the book cited can be found here:

Since I started my low-carb, saturated fat fest almost a year ago, the old problems evaporated. I can’t remember the last time I needed to stop and regroup. I believe the high-fat diet has had everything to do with that.

Psychotherapist Julia Ross says in her book The Mood Cure, “… much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry–malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs.”(2) She recommends, among other things, eating plenty of good fats and protein. “Our clients generally love the way they can come alive on their omega-3 foods and supplements.” (3) Saturated fat, Ross explains, is needed for vitamin and mineral absorption, skin health, blood sugar control, brain health, and cancer prevention, to name a few things. It’s an important part of her cure for patients with eating disorders(4), something Dr. Robert Atkins had been doing for years.(5) Ross also recommends eating enough food and including vegetables.(6) (I noticed years ago that eating a salad improved my mood.)

Sweets and white flour starches tie for bad mood foods #1 and #2 in Ross’s book.(7) (Remember my Coke & bagel diet?) Dishonorable mentions go to skipping meals, low-calorie dieting, low-fat diets (“firmly associated with depression”), low-protein diets (“low energy and low-mood”), and pre-packaged food.(8)

So far, everyone offline — bar SpouseMouse — thinks a high fat, low carb eating plan goes against common sense and, more importantly, received wisdom. ‘I need my breakfast cereal,’ ‘Bread is very important for a nutritional profile,’ ‘We need to eat pulses’, ‘I always feel better after cake’ and so on. All of this is rubbish. A small amount of carbohydrate from green and cruciferous vegetables will suffice.

In February 2015, Time magazine came out with another article — they published two in 2014 — saying that low-fat guidelines should never have been issued or encouraged in the 1970s.

Alice Park’s article explores a study done in Scotland which states:

Reporting in the journal OpenHeart, Zoe Harcombe, a researcher and Ph.D. candidate at University of the West of Scotland, and her colleagues say that the data decisionmakers had in 1977, when the first U.S. guidelines on dietary fat were made, did not provide any support for the idea that eating less fat would translate to fewer cases of heart disease, or that it would save lives

The problem, as Harcombe notes in her study, is that advice was “arbitrary. The 30% wasn’t tested, let alone proven,” she says. In fact, some data even contradicted the idea that the fat we took in from food had anything at all to do with the artery-clogging plaques that caused heart disease. In one study, men who were fed copious amounts of high-fat foods (butter, eggs, portions of cream and the like) did not show higher levels of blood cholesterol, suggesting that the fat from food had little to do with the cholesterol circulating in the body and produced by the liver

The American Heart Association, fortunately, is taking this on board for their own revised recommendations.

The most important thing is to eat whole foods, not necessarily organic, but helpings of fatty meats and oily fish that you need to prepare at home. Cook a selection of vegetables or prepare a salad to accompany them. Leave out the potato, pasta, rice, couscous. Add plenty of butter or cheese and cream to sauces. Sauté in duck or goose fat, lard or beef dripping.

Also: Drink lots of water during the day — three or four large glasses. Salt your food, and supplement potassium with Lo Salt or Lite Salt. Otherwise, you might well end up feeling weak and faint.

Not only will your hunger pangs disappear for hours on end, but your mood and outlook will improve immensely.

As for exercise? Only the gentlest will do, as a hard workout may cause the body to retain water. In any event, when there is no weight loss, one will lose inches.

Disclaimer: This is not intended as blanket medical advice. When in doubt, check with your doctor.

More of my posts on the ketogenic diet can be found on my Recipes / Health / History page:

Low-fat, high-carb diets increase depression

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

In breezing through The New York Times, a few health headlines from the past month caught my eye.

Allergies connected to dishwashers?

A study published in the journal Pediatrics shows a correlation between allergy prevalence and dishwasher use.

Washing by hand, the researchers say, could be better.

As always, check the readers’ comments which proved to be a mixed bag. Some who grew up in homes where Mum washed the dishes by hand still had allergies. Some who grew up with dishwashers were allergy-free.

SpouseMouse and I did not grow up with dishwashers in our parental households nor do we have one now. Neither of us has allergies, but who knows?

Possible things to check out with regard to dishwashers — thanks, NYT readers — are filters which need to be replaced, too much detergent and film on plates or glasses. Any one of these, or a combination thereof, might trigger allergies or skin conditions.

Feed peanut butter to infants?

Speaking of allergies, should mothers feed their infants small amounts of peanut butter in order to prevent a possible nut intolerance?

An editorial in the New England Journal of Medicine says they should. Dr. Rebecca S. Gruchalla of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Dr. Hugh A. Sampson of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City point to a study done in London in 2008 among Israeli and British Jewish infants. The Israeli children ended up with fewer cases of peanut allergies because their mothers fed them small amounts of a local peanut product when they were only a few months old.

A more recent study based on this looked at infant reactions to peanut protein. Some mothers were told to give their infants a peanut product and other mothers were told to avoid it. The children were tested weekly for an allergic response.

Of those consuming a prescribed peanut product, only 10.6% developed an allergy by the age of five. By contrast, 35.3% of children not eating the peanut product were allergic to it.

However, as ever, this is not intended as being a conclusive debate on the matter. More research needs to be done.

NYT readers debated the matter heatedly.

Parents should check with their paediatrician first. However, a small amount of peanut butter mixed in now and then with appropriate baby food might accustom the body to handling it. It won’t work for every baby, but a consultation with the doctor and an allergy test beforehand will confirm if this is the right way forward.

Older generations never had nut allergies. I’d never heard of such a thing until the 1990s. Why is this now such an increasingly common disorder?

Should athletes turn to a high-fat instead of a high-carb diet?

This story is about the ketogenic diet, which my regular readers over the past ten months will recognise from my posts on the subject.

When I was growing up in the 1970s, many athletes were still eating plenty of steak and eggs to build muscle and stamina. That changed during the 1980s. Today, pasta and rice are daily staples.

However, new advice from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee suggests that athletes should also be consuming a certain portion of fatty foods for their metabolism.

Professor Jeff Volek of Ohio State University in Columbus is a co-author of the paper in question. Anyone who is following a ketogenic eating plan will recognise his name as one of the diet’s biggest supporters.

In the opposing corner is Louise Burke, the head of sports nutrition at the Australian Sports Commission. She says there is no proof that a high-fat diet is better than a carbohydrate-based one.

However, both agree that there is no firm definition of a high-fat, low-carb diet.

In reality — and what the article doesn’t say — is that this will vary amongst individuals. Those who are in a normal weight range will need a closer balance between fat and protein whilst severely restricting carbs. Those who are overweight to obese will need much more fat than protein whilst also keeping carbs to 10 – 15g a day.

Clicking on my ketogenic diet link reveals the physical and mental benefits as well as the resources where one can go to calculate specific daily macros — gram ratios — for fat, protein and carbohydrate.

My complaints with the article are twofold. First, it says that ketogenic followers experience days or weeks of sluggishness when adapting. That happens only with inadequate salt and water intake. The condition is known as ‘keto flu’ and can be potentially dangerous. The remedy from Day 1 is more salt (and possibly potassium) on a daily basis, possibly 1.5 to 2x what one was consuming previously. Cups of bouillon are helpful. With regard to water, even a sedentary person on this eating plan must drink one litre per day. Athletes will probably need around three to four litres a day.

I never had keto flu nor has SpouseMouse. My year’s anniversary is coming up in April. SpouseMouse has been on the eating plan for six months.

Secondly, the reporter says that the food is boring. Not at all. In fact, it is the most fun anyone can have with food: all the tastiest things, including fatty meats, are allowed. Nearly everyone also ends up craving more vegetables and salads, too. How can that be a bad thing?

My suggestion is to copy Italian and Indian restaurants by making one basic sauce — cream-based, in my case — and varying it according to vegetable or protein (especially fish). We have creamy leeks, courgettes, onions and spinach nearly every week. With fatty steak, I sauté onions and mushrooms in butter and animal fat (goose, beef dripping or lard). We eat poached eggs in hollandaise sauce without a worry.  Bread, potatoes, pasta — who needs it? We’re quite satisfied — and keto-adapted.

It seems our media do not wish to divert too much from the received Ancel Keys dietary advice dating from the 1950s.

Yes, there are parts of the world where populations do rely heavily on carbohydrates. However, they are surviving on a subsistence diet and working strenuously during the day. Most Westerners do not fit that category. Most of us are sedentary. Even athletes can balance out their diets quite comfortably.

With any of these headline stories, concerned readers should check with their doctors first. This post is not intended as medical advice.

Yesterday’s post explained the reasons and history behind spiritual discipline during Lent.

Below are some suggestions for Lent for those who would like to do something a bit different.

When I was younger, I used to give up desserts in addition to observing Friday (and Ash Wednesday) fasts. A few years ago, I tried eating only one meal a day. As I was no longer working in town, there was no reason why it couldn’t be done. Since then, I’ve kept this up, rarely eating after dinner.

The ketogenic diet — high fat, moderate protein, very low carbohydrate — has helped greatly in this regard.

Resources for the ketogenic diet

Dietary advice: the old ways are the best (my own story on the ketogenic diet)

A high fat and low carbohydrate way of eating is also very good in treating a variety of physical and mental medical conditions. (Some readers might need to discuss it with their doctor first.) Feeling better helps us to become better ambassadors for Christ:

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Now that I am older and understand it better, sanctification has become more important. Part of this lifelong undertaking includes Bible study.

A few years ago, I was undertaking Bible reading every day during Lent. One year later, I had read it all. Would that I had done so before. These posts of mine explore methods of reading the entirety of Scripture which lend themselves to our busy modern lives:

Why not read the Bible this Lent?

Bible study plan suggestions

You, too, can read the Bible with the Grant Horner system

Update on the Grant Horner Bible Reading System

The Grant Horner Bible Reading System is a success

Prayer is also vital to sanctification — our growth as Christians. However, a question mark remains over certain New Age practices which have migrated into the Church:

Caution on Lenten devotions

The labyrinth: Lenten it isn’t

These suggestions are not to be construed as persuasion to adopt a Lenten discipline. As the Lutheran Pastor Abrahamson said, it is not obligatory nor is it salvific. However, many like to use these 40 days to further their personal sanctification but are not quite sure how to go about it.

I pray that those of us undertaking something special are able to keep a good Lent.

One of my late grandmothers-in-law was a Londoner, born and bred.

One of her maxims was ‘the old ways are the best’.

Although she went to her rest several years ago, I often think of that saying every time new health advice makes the headlines.

In April 2014, I took a leap of faith and embarked on a high fat, moderate protein and low carbohydrate — ketogenic — diet. I did so because I wondered if I could find a way of eating that would produce not only weight loss but also extended health benefits.

My regular readers might remember some of the following posts. However, new subscribers can find them on my Recipes / Health / History page.

Resources on the ketogenic diet — originally used when treating epileptics nearly a century ago — include the following posts. If you are looking for a mood regulator or something which is anti-cancer, anti-migraine and lowers blood pressure as well as cholesterol, these might be of interest:

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

Depression and anxiety: the perils of a low-fat, high-carb diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression

Depression and cancer: more evidence against a low-fat diet

High carbohydrate intake and depression (also epilepsy related [Dr Richard A Kunin’s paper])

High-carb, low-fat diets might cause Western diseases (cancer related)

Low-carb diet a migraine remedy

Low-carb, high-fat diets regulate testosterone, cholesterol levels

Ketogenic diet and gout risk — tips for success

Resources for the ketogenic diet

I had a serious family matter to deal with not long after I embarked on the ketogenic diet. Thank goodness, because it gave me the energy and alertness to accomplish what needed to be done.

I also lost several pounds eating more animal and Omega-3 fats. My vegetable consumption has soared. I haven’t had processed carbohydrates since August.

As I am of a normal weight seeking to get to the lower end of normal, my macronutrient percentages of fat v protein v carb) are approximately 55% fat, 40% protein and 5% vegetable carbohydrate. Butter, meat fat and cream feature daily.

I only wish I’d known about this diet when I was a youngster. It would have helped me from adolescence through adulthood. I am convinced that consuming refined carbohydrates has contributed to a greater sense of calm.

It is difficult to change eating habits and general dietary outlook. We think we are doing the right thing by following government guidelines but maybe we would do better going back to the old ways which, often, are the best. My grandmothers did not eat many refined carbs — bread, biscuits, or cakes. They had a few chocolate candies only at Christmas or on special occasions. All of those were treats. They also did not snack during the day.

Anyone who is on a low carb high fat — LCHF — eating plan and feels great will have a difficult time convincing others of its benefits, satiety and safety. As one of my friends told me, ‘I don’t know. This goes against everything I’ve been teaching my children about food.’

For over 30 years, we have been told that we need refined carbohydrates. Yet, because of the way our bodies process insulin, a lot of those carbs turn into fat. Hence, our obesity and diabetes ‘epidemics’. Probably the only people who actually need carbohydrate are those on subsistence diets in the Third World. That eliminates vast swathes of Westerners.

Take a look at the ‘healthy’ aisle of your supermarket. Most of the foods there are some sort of carbohydrate. Cooking shows are full of carb-laden foods — often prepared with low-fat yoghurt or vegetable oil. School and hospital canteen menus are full of refined carbs and sugars.

I am convinced that, because the LCHF way of eating begins working relatively quickly on the body, more people would find it a better pathway to an even disposition and better health than pills, potions or the food group charts. That goes for children, especially excitable ones, as well as adults.

In closing, here are three more related posts worth reading:

Bad science: obesity, cholesterol, statistics and statins (Dr David Diamond returns to meat and good health)

Does low animal fat intake increase hostility or depression? (a hypothesis)

Fat and a balanced mind (low-fat diets can imbalance serotonin and nerves)

If you’ve tried an LCHF way of eating, I’d be interested to read about your experience in the comments below. Thank you in advance.

My grandmother used to make this soup during the summer, although she used French beans because they were more plentiful.

She put a serving of pork steak — which had been cooked in the soup — on a side plate. One had the option of adding it to the bowl after having eaten most of the soup (which my parents did). Alternatively, one could add the meat to the soup straightaway (which I did). Either way, it was a memorable meal in a bowl.

My version below is particularly tailored towards a high fat low carb ketogenic diet.

Notes:

1/ Using good stock as a base for the soup adds much more flavour than using water.

2/ Fat adds not only flavour but also satiety, eliminating one’s need for carbohydrate.

3/ You will need a deep pot for this; I use a Le Creuset size E (4.2 litres or 4 1/2 quarts).

4/ This soup tastes even better when made the day before. As Grandma would say, ‘It’ll be good tomorrow!’

Runner bean soup with pork steak

(Prep time: 30 min.; cooking time: 2 hrs; serves four)

Ingredients:

1200g (approx. 2 1/2 lb) pork steak

600g (approx. 1 1/3 lb) prepared, sliced runner beans (the link has instructions)

1.2 litres (5 cups) of flavoursome meat stock

2 large (or 3 small) shallots, finely chopped

2 spring onions (scallions), finely chopped

2 – 3 cloves garlic, crushed

1/2 to 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

5 tbsp fat (butter, goose, duck fat or a combination thereof)

2 – 3 tbsp flour

120 ml (4 oz) whole milk

Salt, pepper, cayenne, Old Bay to taste

Method:

1/ In a large, deep pot melt 2 tbsp of fat over medium heat and lightly season it.

2/ When the fat is hot, add the pork steaks to the pot and seal the meat on both sides. This takes between five and seven minutes. Turn the steaks over halfway through.

3/ Take the meat out of the pot and put on a plate. The meat is added to the soup to cook with the beans later (see Step 10 below).

4/ Add the other three tbsp of fat to the pot, season and, once melted, add the shallots. Cook until translucent. This takes between five to seven minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

5/ When the shallots are properly cooked, add the scallions, the red bell pepper and the garlic. Stir well and cook until tender and translucent.

6/ Add the flour to the vegetable mixture and stir well to throroughly incorporate. Let the flour cook for two to three minutes until golden brown.

7/ Add the stock little by little to the floury vegetable mixture and stir well with each addition of liquid. There should be no lumps. You are making a roux, which will add body to the soup.

8/ When the stock has been fully incorporated, add the beans, stir and cook for 15 minutes. Skim any frothy residue from the sides of the pot and discard. (It’s important to do this, otherwise, those eating it might be gassy later on!)

9/ When the beans are nearly tender, add the milk and stir well.

10/ Add the pork steaks back to the pot. There is no need to break the meat up at this point.

11/ After the meat has cooked for 15 minutes, skim any frothy residue and discard.

12/ Put a lid on the pot, turn the heat down to low and let the soup cook for another 60 to 90 minutes. Check every half hour to see if there is more residue to skim. After skimming, if necessary, stir the pot to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom.

13/ When the soup is finished, the beans and meat will be tender yet still holding their shape. The shallots and scallions will have dissolved into the soup and the red pepper pieces will provide a pleasant contrasting colour. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Stir well after adding seasoning.

14/ Take the pot off the heat and set aside on another burner. Put the lid on askew to allow a bit of air to get in the pot. Unless your kitchen is really warm, it should be fine to rest overnight. However, if it not, let the soup cool thoroughly and put into a Pyrex container, cover and refrigerate.

15/ Reheat at a medium-low heat for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If you like, you can break up the meat roughly into bite-sized pieces or cut the steaks into four equal portions and place them on a side plate.

 

Early in our marriage, my better half who is English got me started on an old family tradition of his: the fat bowl.

As traditional roast potatoes are a staple in England, one needs high quality animal fat in order to guarantee a crispy, unctuous result.

We have maintained a large fat bowl in the refrigerator for over 20 years. When the post-Christmas goose fat runs out, we start roasting ducks and use their rendered fat. Over the past few years, I have begun rendering nearly any and all animal fat.

I have been following a low carb high fat (LCHF) way of eating — the ketogenic diet — since late April. I have never felt better or more satisfied after a meal.

Incidentally, The Goose Fat Information Service (based in Oxford) has statistics on not only goose but also other animal fats.

If you are following LCHF, whether fully ketogenic or not, what follow are my suggestions for creating a fat bowl.

You will need a decent sized Pyrex mixing bowl for goose fat. For other fats, which render a lesser amount, use a smaller bowl and a clean glass jar (e.g. mayonnaise) with a lid.

And do remember the oven gloves — along with sobriety! Rendered fat is dangerously hot.

Goose fat

A turkey baster is essential for siphoning goose fat from the roasting pan. If you’re planning on having goose for Christmas and don’t have one, buy a baster beforehand.

You will also need a rack sitting on top of your roasting tin so that the fat can drain freely.

While it’s roasting, the goose needs to be taken out of the oven every half hour so that excess fat can be drained. This can be difficult to do single-handedly, so ask another responsible adult to help, if necessary.

Before removing the roasting pan from the oven, place a large wooden cutting board on the floor, right in front of the oven.

Carefully take the roasting tin out of the oven and place it on the board. Have the turkey baster and a large Pyrex bowl nearby. Use the baster to siphon the fat and release it into the bowl.

When the goose is done, remove it to a carving tray and drain the rest of the fat from the roasting tin into the bowl.

Put the bowl on a trivet or small chopping board, because it will be very hot.

Leave the bowl on the countertop for a few days, even a week. It ends up being more solid than goose fat put in the refrigerator within 24 hours.

It is the best fat for roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.

Duck fat

Over the past few years, there has been a significant reduction in fat on English ducks.

I used to be able to get a small Pyrex bowl of fat from one duck, now I barely get a quarter of a cup.

Many home cooks might not realise that a duck is likely to contain two less obvious portions of fat. These are just inside the cavity, one on either side.

Gently pry these fat pockets loose with your fingers and put them in a small saucepan. Put the pan on medium-low heat to render. This takes about 45 minutes to an hour. Turn the two fat bits over halfway through to ensure thorough rendering. Take care that the fat does not splatter; if it does, turn the heat down to low.

When the fat has rendered, turn the heat off and let the pan cool well before pouring the fat into a 100g (3.5 oz) jar.

Before roasting, place the duck on a rack to sit on the roasting pan, as with goose. When the duck is done, remove it to a carving tray and drain the fat into a small bowl before adding it to the jar. It could well cause the jar to crack if it is too hot.

Leave the fat to cool overnight, then put the lid on the jar and refrigerate.

This is excellent for roasting potatoes and for Yorkshire pudding.

Pork fat – lard and crackling

These days it’s hard to find a good joint of pork with a rim of fat that is 2 cm (1″) thick. (N.B.: The following applies only to fresh pork, not ham.)

However, in order to make decent crackling, you’ll need that amount of fat.

Crackling is a British tradition, one which turns roast pork into a delicacy.

The only recipe that works for me is Gary Rhodes‘s. He had his own television series in the 1990s which I watched often. It’s time the BBC reran it. (Rhodes, incidentally, began cooking as a teenager when his mother was at work and his siblings were little. He’d get home from school and prepare dinner from scratch. It was something he volunteered to do.)

Rhodes carefully cut off nearly all the fat in one piece — this takes a while to do at home — and generously salted both sides before placing it in a separate (and smaller) roasting tin.

While the joint (with a thin rim of fat) was cooking in the main roasting pan, he put the crackling pan on another shelf to render. Both finished at the same time, although, while the meat is resting, the crackling can continue to render quite comfortably in the oven.

Drain any excess fat from the crackling tin into a small bowl to cool on a trivet before putting in a 100g (3.5 oz) glass jar. Break the cooled crackling into smaller irregular slices or pieces then serve alongside the meat. Delicious!

You can wrap any leftover crackling in aluminium foil and reheat uncovered in the oven at 150° C (300° F) for 10 minutes the next day.

Leave the drained pork fat on the countertop overnight, put a lid on the jar and refrigerate. The solidified product is lard.

Homemade lard is much tastier and better performing than the commercial product. Therefore, if you can render your own pork fat, it’s well worth it, especially for pan fried breaded fish and vegetables and homemade roasted oven chips (fries).

Beef dripping

As with duck and pork, finding a fatty joint of beef is becoming more difficult. There used to be a nice clump of fat sitting along the rib bones which I used to render.

A butcher might be able to supply a bag of fatty offcuts. These lumps of fat can render nicely in a small saucepan (see Duck fat, above).

That said, the average joint of beef can still provide a small quantity — several tablespoons — of beef dripping which you can use for homemade chips, roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding.

As with the other aforementioned fats, let this cool overnight before putting the lid on the jar and refrigerating.

Beef fat has a tendency to smoke when rendering and roasting. Place a dash or two of salt on it to prevent this from happening.

Chicken fat (schmaltz) and skin

After roasting a chicken, I pour the few spoonsful of rendered fat in a very small pudding bowl or jar and refrigerate it to use later when sautéeing vegetables.

Although I have been flattening out the skin and reheating it the next day uncovered in the oven (150° C (300° F) for 10 minutes) for a while, it is gratifying to see that professional chefs around the UK and the US are popularising this reuse of a tasty ingredient.

The crispy chicken skin can top or be propped up against a serving of meat or vegetables. It really is a melt-in-the-mouth delight.

Use fat only once — and sparingly

Rendered fat should be used only once for cooking then discarded. Otherwise, it can oxidise and eventually become carcinogenic. Therefore, even if it still looks clear, why jeopardise health and encourage the aging process by reusing it again and again?

I did see one fat bowl years ago which was actually a brownish black. New fat was added to old and the whole thing reused so many times it must have been a health hazard. Ugh!

The other bit of advice is to not use too much. An excess of fat can clog drains. Therefore, less is more:

Roast potatoes / oven chips: 1 level tbsp for a small quantity, 2 level tbsp for a large quantity.

Yorkshire pudding: 1 tbsp for one large one; if using a muffin tin, put 1/3 teaspoon in each section.

Sauteeing vegetables or browning meat: no more than 2 tbsp, generally 1 tbsp suffices.

The bits at the bottom

The bits at the bottom of the fat bowl or jar generally have too much meat juice to be used for frying or roasting.

However, their fattiness and flavour are perfect for sauteeing vegetables or browning meat.

Rendering and using animal fat is making use of as much of the animal as possible.

I hope that many more home cooks will discover the joys and glories of the fat bowl along with LCHF/ketogenic ways of eating!

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