Silesian Sokolow with Pumpkin, Celeriac & Cumin-Roasted Vegetables – a low-carb autumn treat; simple, delicious & bursting with flavour!

polish sausage

Because it’s Halloween, I naturally couldn’t resist cooking something with pumpkin. But this dish is a winner on any day of the year!

Sokolow is one of those sausages with such intensity of flavour that complex cooking will only serve to clutter it. The rich, spicy, salty tang, & course-ground filling are best left enjoyed just as they are. Any accompaniment will require depth of flavour that holds its own, but doesn’t compete.  That’s why I chose cumin – it has a warmth which compliments the sausages perfectly; so perfectly that there won’t be a scrap left on the plate!

This is one of those great ‘oven-only’ meals. Once prepared, you can just leave it in the oven and slowly start to relax into your evening. For this reason, it’s a wonderful thing to have up your sleeve on a week-night. And at this time of year, few things could be more satisfying than chunks of roast pumpkin and spiced pork. You’d never know it’s low carb! As such, it’s one of those ketogenic- / diabetic treats that’s really substantial & filling. So go on & enjoy…! We certainly did!

Dice your pumpkin, along with any other low-carb vegetables you have to hand. I used celeriac, celery, onion, peppers, leek & a few spring-onions I had left over. Pumpkin is higher in carbohydrate than the other vegetables; so make sure it only comprises about a quarter of the vegetables by volume. Sprinkle on a generous shake of ground-cumin, paprika, salt, pepper & crushed garlic, then pour on a good glug of olive oil. Mix with your hands to ensure that everything’s well coated.

Roast in a hot oven for 40 minutes, or until there is a slight browning around the edges of the vegetables. At this point, add your sausages on top, and cook for a further 20 minutes.

Et voila! It’s that simple… Serve with a small sprinkle of grated cheese and some freshly chopped herbs. Once you’ve made this, it will become a firm favourite in your repertoire. You’ll want to cook it time and time again. And at this low level of carbs, you can do just that!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

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Fiery Witches’ Cauldrons… Serve up a creepy low-carb scare this Halloween!

cauldrons real

A bit of fun for Halloween night! If you’re having friends over for a drink, then this is the perfect way to serve up a few demonic dips and creepy crudités…

Hollow out cooked beetroot with a melon-baller. Remember; if you’re on a ketogenic-diet then the beetroot is just for decoration. Beetroot is fairly heavy on the carbs, so is best consumed with restraint.

Fill the hollowed-out cauldrons with a selection of your favourite dips. I’ve chosen Middle-Eastern Baba Ganoush, topped with pesto, it’s very low in carbohydrate and won’t impact your blood-sugar. Recipe follows below…

Arrange the beetroot-cauldrons on a bed of sprouting-broccoli and frankfurter sausages, placing upright chantenay carrots at internals to serve as ‘flames’. The carrots too are only for decoration if you’re in the weight-loss phase of a diet. Diabetics, or those with a higher carbohydrate-allowance can dig in with gusto!

Devilishly delicious and incredibly easy. The perfect start to an evening of terrible treats!

To make the baba ganoush, prick circa 3 aubergines with a fork and grill, until the skin is charred and the flesh beneath feels soft to the touch. As a guide, this takes around 20 minutes. Make sure to turn them periodically, so that they don’t over-cook on any one side.

Blitz x2 large cloves of garlic in a food-processor, then add the juice of one lemon, a teaspoon of tahini, olive oil, ground cumin and a generous whack of flat-leafed parsley. When this is smooth add your aubergine.

Slice the aubergines down the middle and scoop out the flesh into the food-processor. Pulse the mix, until you reach your desired texture. I like it nice and smooth, but you may prefer a chunkier texture. If so, just pulse it a little less.

A brilliant accompaniment to dip is celery-sticks, smoked sausages, crisp lettuce-leaves, radishes, purple-sprouting broccoli or even raw cauliflower.

This also works as a starter, serving one cauldron per person.

Thanks for reading, happy Halloween and bon ap!

Adam.

Halloween Special – From the low-carb cauldron! Musings on a witch’s waistline…

pump

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
    Fillet of a fenny snake,
    In the caldron boil and bake;
    Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
    Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
    Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
    Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
    For a charm of powerful trouble,
    Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Shakespeare’s famous witches scene from Macbeth reinforces what many of us have always known… Witches were very low-carb eaters…

Irrefutable evidence from a number of late-medieval manuscripts, corroborates what fictional sources such as Macbeth have always confirmed. Shakespeare actually lifted the above recipe straight from the period’s most popular ketogenic cookbook: ‘The Low-Carb Cauldron’.

Ingredients such as newts’ eyes and fenny snake were highly prized for their omega 3 and rich saturate density. Bat-wool provided an excellent source of non-soluble dietary-fibre, which slowed down digestion in the gut, thereby promoting feelings of satiety and quelling hunger-pangs.

In fact, depictions of the classic witch’s wand are actually a primitive form of keto-stick. Their frequent testing of urine-samples served only to heighten the existing suspicion and contempt, held against them by an increasingly obese society of glucose-intolerants.

In the end, it was that society’s jealousy over how witches stayed so ‘magically slim’ that led to their vilification and gave rise to the notorious witch-hunts which so plagued the middle-ages.

So ‘witch’ diet will you follow today…? My money’s on LCHF!

Thanks for reading and Happy Halloween!

Adam.

Earthy & Aromatic Spanish Chicken with Chorizo, Aubergine & Buttered Savoy. A bowlful of low-carb comfort!

spanish chicken

The earthy flavours of chorizo and cumin are just the thing when the dark evenings start to draw in. They’re very much a staple in our household. I’m often late home from work, and crave something that’s simple, yet tastes anything but!

The depth of flavour in this dish lends the impression it’s been cooking for hours. But because you can just leave it in the oven, it won’t take up a fraction of your time. As there are no carbs, diabetics & ketogenic-dieters can dig in without qualms. And believe me – they will!

Season the chicken-skins and sprinkle with herbs. Roast in a hot oven for circa 45 mins to an hour, or until the chicken-pieces are golden and crisp.

Meanwhile heat some olive oil in a pan and sauté some chopped, cooking-chorizo. Add onion, garlic, mushrooms & diced aubergine, then cook on a medium heat until soft. Sprinkle on turmeric, paprika & dried thyme, then de-glaze the pan with dry sherry or white wine. If you have any orange-flower water, it adds a nice fragrant edge; a cap-full should be fine. Pour on some water, until the mix is up to its ears in liquid. Crumble in chicken stock-cubes then reduce down to a third of the liquid’s volume. Add chopped olives & check for seasoning.

Finely chop your savoy-cabbage, rinse, then add to a pan with the water still clinging to it. Throw in some butter and salt, then cook with the lid on for 5 minutes until tender. Serve up alongside the chicken in big bowls, then spoon the sauce all over the top. Autumnal perfection itself!

Enjoy and thanks for reading. Bon ap!

Adam.

The pros & cons of pounds & ounces. Or… Weighing up ‘weighing in’…

Should we ‘scale down’ the weighing-scales? This is a difficult question; and one I feel should very much be a matter of personal preference.

At the start of this process, I vowed to myself that I’d never become a ‘weighing-scales’ addict. I wouldn’t measure too often, or obsess about the latest reading. Instead, I’d take a ‘measured’ approach and trust more in the fit of my clothes and other markers. These include energy-levels, general well-being, as well as the ultimate indicator – the mirror!

Without monitoring progress however, how would I assess whether or not I was on track to meet my targets?

This conundrum led me to the decision to ‘weigh in’ once a week. This interval would allow me to keep a healthy distance from data. Hopefully I’d just crest along smoothly, and get a nice surprise once a week.

And then it all went wrong.

Week 2 saw the worst thing a dieter can experience – gaining weight, rather than losing it! This was really distressing. I’d tried so hard and had been in ketosis the whole time. I simply couldn’t understand the fluctuation. I consequently mulled it over for a while & managed to identify the problem. I changed my diet accordingly and succeeded in bringing things back on track.

A week is a long time to wait for diet-disappointment. Would this trend have been spotted earlier if I’d have ‘weighed in’ more often? I think it would.

I must admit to having stepped onto the scales most mornings since then. Yes; there’s inevitably the daily confusion of ‘how on earth has that happened?’; but a more frequent benchmark enables me to spot any problems and address them as soon as they occur.

My ‘corrective action’ may be as simple as having a smaller portion for dinner, or taking a little bit more exercise than planned. So far, this seems to be working.

And after all; if I hadn’t avoided the scales for so long prior to now; I probably would never have gained so much weight in the first place!

So for many, the jury’s still out on the weighing-scales. For me however, I’m a convert. It takes a lot of time, effort, planning & money to initiate a lifestyle-change to this extent. I really want it to work. Why risk all that for no reason?

There’s an old saying which states ‘you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it all the time’. Well, I think the opposite is true if you’re trying to slim it down!

For the time being then, I’m keeping the scales and shall heed their advice. Maybe at the end of all this, I’ll have a ceremonial purge and rid myself of them forever.

Or maybe I won’t. Who knows? Ask me when I’m there.

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Testing for ketones…

One of the things I really like about this diet, is the ability to check that your food-choices are having the desired effect.

What do I mean? If you’re in ketosis, then you’re definitely burning body-fat!

Other diets don’t have this security-blanket. On a low-fat diet, you only have the scales to rely upon. And these fluctuate daily, with sufficient variation to make even the most rational person more than a little paranoid about their progress…

So how do you test for ketones?

There are two methods currently available on the market:

  • Ketone testing-strips e.g. Ketostix. These test ketones excreted in the urine
  • Ketone blood-testing meters e.g. Freestyle Optimum. These test ketone-levels in the blood.

There’s naturally a huge difference in price between the two. So which is better?

Ketone-strips are a cheap and cheerful method (my diabetic partner & I both use them currently). You place a single strip into the urine-stream and after 15 seconds, the colour changes to indicate ketone-levels . It shows a gradation of weak > strong; and you match the colour of the strip against that scale (indicated on the side of the packaging).

ketostix

A ketone-level somewhere between 1.5 – 3 is said to be the optimal level for maximizing weight-loss.

Pros & cons? Well; I’m colour-blind, which makes things rather difficult!!; but I can still detect the stronger intensities, so it’s pretty functional on a day-to-day level.

What it’s important to realise, is that ketones excreted in urine are only ‘excess’ ketones, not metabolised by the body (i.e. the excess energy you haven’t burnt, which would otherwise have been stored as fat on a glucose diet). The strips don’t therefore indicate actual levels in the body. There’s inevitably a time-lag too, as the strips will be indicating levels from several hours ago (urine being the end-point of a process).

It spite of this, they’re more than good enough for me at present. They say that ketone-levels decrease in urine after a few months of nutritional-ketosis; so if they cease to become effective, then I’ll reassess as need dictates.

And the meters? These are obviously a lot fancier. The readings are ‘measurable’, accurate and current! They show the actual levels in the blood at any given time, plus a precise reading (as opposed to a rough guess based on a colour-scale).

The accuracy is the main advantage. Ketones in urine show the ‘past excess’; they can’t show the ‘current totals’. The monitors are therefore far better if you require this level of accuracy. The downside? Cost.

Whichever version you choose, being able to monitor ketones provides you with a tool to make dietary-adjustments where necessary. If you see that ketones are getting weaker, you can lower your carb-intake accordingly. This makes the whole thing far easier to manage – you don’t have to wait until you’ve gained weight to realise that something’s wrong!

So happy testing!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Crispy Thai Coconut Pork with Butternut Noodles – low carb, diabetic & delicious!

pork nood

I’ve recently discovered the wonder of zoodles, and I must confess; I’m hooked! These ones are made with butternut-squash. They’re a little bit higher in carbs than their courgette counterparts; but certainly nothing to worry about. If you’re still in the weight-loss phase of a ketogenic diet, then just don’t have seconds. Everyone else (including diabetics), can pile them up and get stuck in!

Pork belly slices are one of our favourites. Cooked for long enough, they go beautifully crisp on the outside, yet stay gooey and unctuous in the middle. They’re also easy to cook, as they don’t need turning or ‘fussing over’. They can simply go straight in the oven until they’re done.

Start by cutting your pork-belly slices into inch chunks. In a mixing-bowl, prepare a dry-rub of garlic-salt, paprika, dried thyme, salt, pepper, cumin and ground coriander-seed. Place the pork into the mixing-bowl and massage the spice-mix into the meat. Place on a lined baking-tray & oven for circa our hour until crisp.

Meanwhile peel your squash and cut the ‘zoodles’ with a julienne-peeler or equivalent machine. Sauté in butter and olive oil until they lose their rawness, yet still retain bite (circa 20 mins). Season well, then remove from the heat.

Finely dice an onion, garlic and chilli. Cook until soft, then crank up the heat and pour in a good cupful of water. Follow this with a couple of stock cubes, a squeeze of lime, and chopped coriander stalks. Let the mix reduce to half its volume, then add a half can of coconut milk (full fat) and cook until the sauce has thickened. I also added thinly sliced cabbage and mange-tout to the sauce, just after adding the coconut; but these additions are naturally to preference.

Reheat your squash-noodles in the pan for a couple of minutes. Pour on the vegetably coconut sauce, then scatter your pork-belly slices over the top. Garnish with plenty of chopped coriander and serve to the hoards!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Fuel v energy…  What exactly are ketones & where do they come from?

Questions like this are never easy to answer. The explanations involve a lot of long, confusing words, which then themselves require definition. As I have no medical or dietary training; all I can do is try and present the results of my own reading in as clear and jargon-free way as possible. If readers’ comments can help guide my understanding, then all feedback will be gratefully received!

The below represents my own explanation of the process. I hope it helps fill in a few gaps; for what can be a tricky thing to get your head around!

We’ve already touched on the metabolic state of ‘ketosis’ in an earlier blog. But what exactly are ketones? If they promise so much, we ought at least to understand a little about them.

As we’ve seen, ketosis is a state where the body’s energy-supply comes from ‘ketone-bodies’ in the blood. This is in direct contrast to a carb-fuelled metabolism, where energy is provided by glucose. That state is termed ‘glycolysis’.

So ketone-bodies are what we burn in ketosis; but where do they come from?

In order to produce ketone-bodies, the liver’s stores of glycogen must be depleted. This is achieved through restricting your intake of dietary carbohydrate.

Glycogen is the energy-source which the body creates from glucose in the food we eat. To understand the difference between glucose and glycogen, just think of an old-fashioned coal power-station.

Coal is burnt to produce heat. That heat turns a generator, which then generates electricity. It’s the electricity which powers our homes, not the coal itself. Think of glucose as the coal (our fuel). The body converts it to glycogen, which represents the electricity (our energy). It’s the glycogen which actually powers our muscles and organs; glucose is the fuel which we process to produce that energy.

So, we restrict our glucose-intake. The body then can’t produce glycogen, which has hitherto been our primary source of energy. Our bodies then face two choices. We can either die, or we can find another source of energy to replace the glycogen. This is what ketone-bodies are; the alternate source of energy our bodies manufacture when they can’t produce glycogen.

The name for the body’s production of ketone-bodies is ‘ketogenesis’. But how does the body produce them?

Ketones are produced primarily in the mitochondria of liver cells. Mitochondria are the parts of cells which generate the energy required for those cells to work. In our power-station, mitochondria represent the generator which turns the fuel into energy.

If glucose is required to make the energy-form glycogen; what is the body’s fuel-source which enables us to produce ketone-bodies? The answer is fatty-acids.

The term ‘ketone-bodies’ may be misleading. ‘Bodies’ implies that they’re solid. In fact, they’re water-soluble. When fatty-acids are broken down for energy, they produce ketone-bodies which can then power the brain and muscles.

These ketone-bodies come in three forms:

  • Acetone (the word ‘ketone’ actually derives from the old Germanic Aketon, meaning acetone)
  • Acetoacetic acid
  • Beta-hydroxybutyric acid (sources state this isn’t strictly a ketone, but it does the same thing, so I include it here).

It’s interesting to note that two forms of ketone-bodies are acidic. If levels of these become too high, the body enters a state of ketoacidosis. This is the poisonous ‘acidic’ state that type 1 diabetics enter when their bodies cease to produce the insulin required to process glucose from the food they’re eating.

Because the body can’t produce energy from that glucose, ketosis occurs which burns stored body-fat. When this is depleted, the body moves onto muscle-tissue in its desperate quest for energy. At this stage, ketosis turns into ketoacidosis. Un-metabolised glucose continues to build up in the blood, which then literally becomes poisonous. The results can be fatal if left untreated.

So if ketone-bodies are produced from fatty-acids, where do the fatty-acids come from?

Fatty acids can come from the food we eat, or from the body’s stored fat-reserves (body-fat). This is why you lose so much weight on a ketogenic-diet. Your body literally turns into a fat-burning machine, fuelled by the ready source of body-fat most of us have built up through excessive consumption of carbohydrate.

This makes ketosis an incredibly efficient source of energy. The body’s fat-stores are a huge fuel-tank, just waiting to be tapped. Because fatty-acids are also present in the food we eat, it’s practically impossible for that fuel-tank to run empty. This is why many athletes are turning to a ketogenic-diet: they don’t suffer the roller-coaster of energy peaks & troughs which result from burning glucose as fuel (more in that in another post).

So that’s a short explanation of where ketones come from, and how our body produces them. My brain has burned a fair few ketones, in trying to understand this process; so enough for now!

I hope you find this helpful and informative in trying to decipher the jargon.

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Magical mushrooms. The field of dreams…

In the autumn months, the rich fruitful bounty of the English fields and hedgerows gives rise to an entirely different fruit. Fungi!

There is one field I pass on my morning walks, which is truly a field of dreams. From out the pasture emerges a carpet of strange, phosphorescent, magical mushrooms. They glow ethereally in the half-light of early dawn; like an army of silent, fallen angels. As the daylight encroaches, they give up their glow and the magic is slowly lost.

The breadth of mushrooms at this time of year is astounding. Some of them even look like bizarre flowers. The ‘good’, the ‘bad’ and the ‘ugly’ doesn’t really do them justice. They all seem to be pretty ugly, and I’m certain that a fair percentage would prove quite ‘bad’ if you were to attempt to eat them. I just look therefore; and quietly gawp at the rich variety of nature’s harvest.

Thanks for reading and enjoy the day!

Adam.

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mush 2

mush 3

mush 4

mush 1

Classic Caesar Dressing – the perfect accompaniment to low-carb salads. Chicken, ham, prawns… The choice is endless. LCHF & diabetic-friendly.

caesar 2

You know you have good friends when they invite you to a LCHF, diabetic-friendly meal!

Last night, we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. The food she cooked was sublime! Prawns marinated in ginger, garlic, chilli & dill, atop a classic Caesar salad-style base. Thrown into the mix was griddled pancetta, tomatoes, olives & parmesan. I couldn’t have done better myself!

Caesar dressing is a low-carb staple! Not only does it taste wonderful; it’s also truly versatile. You can use it on pretty much any salad, be it meat, cheese, fish or fowl.

I’ve always been a bit of a purist with food. When I say that, I don’t mean that I stick blindly to the classics; I refer principally to the quality of ingredients used and the attention to detail of their preparation. A Caesar salad dressing therefore doesn’t belong solely with cos lettuce, and croutons. Try it with soft autumn ‘buttery’ leaved salads and stir it into steamed peas or broccoli. The results won’t disappoint.

There’s no impact to blood-sugar and it’s incredibly easy to make. I tend to make a ‘batch’, which lives in the fridge for up to a week. Experience shows however, that it never lasts that long. We eat it within three days every time!

In a small food processor, whizz up a couple of anchovies and half a clove of garlic. The flavour of the garlic intensifies over time, so if you’re not going to eat all the dressing straight away, it’s best to err on the side of restraint. Add to this a small squeeze of lemon juice, a small handful of grated parmesan cheese, half a cup of good olive oil and half a cup of double cream. You can also add an egg yolk if you like, but bear in mind that raw egg will shorten the shelf-life. Give these a good blitz in the processor until smooth and emulsified, then taste to adjust the seasoning if required.

Voila! Incredibly simple and sublimely delicious.

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Missed opportunities…

My mother always said I was never very quick off the mark… Well that definitely applies to my photographic skills!

On so many of my morning walks, I’m just too slow in reaching for the camera. I’ve missed deer, owls, birds of prey, badgers, foxes, fighting pheasants and (of course) the cat doing any number of ludicrous things!

Well this morning, my missed photo opportunity was a huge heron. It launched itself from the cover of the reeds, and sailed awkwardly yet majestically right over my head. Its long neck, sharp beak, huge wingspan and great hanging feet made it look just like a pterodactyl. This is supported by how slow they move. It’s not hard to see that birds are directly related to dinosaurs sometimes. This one looked like something straight out of the history books. And I was just too slow in reaching for the camera…

Nevertheless, in spite of these missed opportunities; it’s another perfect day in ketosis!

Take a look for yourself…

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plough

Thanks for reading and have a great day!

Adam.

Pork Stroganov with Buttered Grana Padano Kale – comfort food with a difference: no carbs! Rich, creamy & satisfying. Diabetic-friendly & a keto-winner!

pork strog

As those Autumn nights begin to kick in, this dish is just what the doctor ordered. The warmth of smoked paprika, the saltiness of grana padano & the smoothness of cream all provide the perfect counterpoint to one-another. This is certainly the type of dish to enjoy on the sofa from a bowl. Light the fire and think of bobble-hats & bonfires. Then have seconds! After all, it’s low carb…

In a thick-bottomed pan, brown some smoked bacon / lardons. Add chopped onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft. Add your kale, a little water and season thoroughly. Place the lid on the pan and cook on a low heat for at least half an hour until the kale loses its toughness.

In another pan, melt butter and a little bit of oil, then add your pork. Seal until golden brown, trying not to turn the meat until it’s done (if you do, you stop it from caramelising and risk making it steam, not fry). Once browned, add onion, peppers and garlic, then a generous shake of paprika. Stir in a stock cube and cook until it starts to cry out for moisture. At this point, de-glaze with a little vodka.

Top the pan up with water, so that the contents are up to their necks in liquid. No more. Reduce to a third of its volume then stir in your cream. Adjust for seasoning and sprinkle on some herbs. Lift the lid on the kale and stir in your grated grana padano & butter. Scoop stroganov and greens into a large chunky bowl & enjoy. Low carb doesn’t get much better than this!

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

King Prawn, Courgette & Mascapone Roulade – an elegantly simple masterpiece! Low-carb and perfect for diabetics. Keto-heaven!

prawn roulade

This is one of those dishes I often reserve for dinner-parties. It looks so amazingly impressive and professional, but in actual fact it couldn’t be easier to do. If you’re not a fan of prawns, these can be substituted with salmon, crab, shredded smoked-ham or chicken.

Start by lining a baking-tray with tinfoil. Grease this with a layer of oil to stop the roulade from sticking. Next grate your courgettes on the fine side of the grater. How much? Sufficient to cover the base of your baking-tray to circa 1/2 cm in depth.

Beat your eggs in a mixing bowl, adding a pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper. You should judge the egg by eye, to a rough ratio of 1 part egg, 3 parts courgette. I used 3 large courgettes and 3 eggs. Pour onto the grated vegetables and then swirl the mix with your fingers, to ensure that everything is evenly coated. It shouldn’t be too ‘pondy’; rather a texture that’s more than damp, less than soaked; picture gravel in the rain!!

Bake on the bottom of the oven for circa 20 minutes, until set and spongy to the touch, but not too brown. Then after a couple of minutes, turn it over onto a large sheet of baking-paper, browned side down.

Whilst this is cooling, season your mascapone and ‘marble’ the mix with a little basil pesto. Once the roulade has cooled, spread the mix evening over the upturned surface and scatter on your prawns. Season and sprinkle with chopped basil.

prawn roulade 2

Using the paper like a large sushi-mat, roll the roulade towards you, starting at the top like a big swiss-roll. When it has completely rolled onto itself, pat down slightly so that it forms a flat base. Lift off the paper with a palette-knife and transfer to your serving-dish.

Serve the roulade with salad leaves in a tangy dressing, such as vinaigrette or fresh lime and sesame oil. Sublime!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

Insulin – your body’s OCD housekeeper!

When you eat carbohydrate, your body has two ways of processing it:

  1. You burn it as energy
  2. Your body stores it away for a ‘rainy day’, by converting it to fat.

Unless we’re incredibly active, the volume of carbs we consume is never feasibly going to be burnt off. Much of it goes straight into the store-cupboard; for that rainy day, which never comes. In this way, we get fatter and fatter.

So if we end up stock-piling all excess carbs as fat; what it is that actually does the piling? Who stocks the larder? Yes, you’ve guessed it; insulin!

Insulin is your body’s OCD housekeeper. It keeps the shelves nice & stacked with flawless efficiency! Every time you eat, it’s ready and waiting; obsessively keen to ‘tidy up’ and pack the glucose away in a never ending spring-clean.

Things might be okay if insulin just left things at that. But no.

Like all good housekeepers, insulin is fanatical about keeping busy. When it’s gainfully employed, it sends the brain a message to say “All’s fine, I’ve got plenty to do. You’re nicely full!” But when it begins to sense a lull in work, it sends the opposite message upwards: “Better eat something! You must be hungry! I need more sugar to clean-up! Eat something quick!”. You then get hunger pangs and reach for the nearest snack.

How many times have you thought to yourself: “How can I be hungry? I only had breakfast an hour ago?” Or equally: “I’m absolutely stuffed, but I suppose I could just squeeze in that one last chocolate!” That’s your brain telling you “I need more fuel!” In actual fact, all that’s happening is your sugar-levels are starting to drop.

Insulin therefore has two functions. First of all, it’s the hormone which prevents fat-burning and promotes fat-storage. And secondly? It is a satiety hormone, sending messages to your brain that you’re either full, or need more glucose!

The truly destructive thing about insulin’s secondary function, is that the message somehow gets lost in translation. The message “you’re full” actually translates to “you have enough fuel, don’t worry” The message “I’m making good progress at stockpiling all this glucose” is interpreted by your brain as “Panic stations! You’re running out of energy!”.

There’s a distinct language-barrier between the two; one that ends up in mixed signals, and leaves you craving sugar, despite the fact you’ve just had lunch!

So how do we get around this confusion in meaning? Is there a way to stop your brain thinking it’s running out of energy as soon as your blood-sugars start to drop?

The answer is ketones and saturated fat.

Your brain can burn either of two fuels: glucose or ketone-bodies (it can even burn both!). Unlike glucose, ketones are a constant source of energy for the brain. They’re produced by the body, so are not dependent on your food-sources to keep the brain happily fueled. Ketones are only produced when glucose is unavailable. Therefore cut your carbs.

Because fat is far slower to metabolise than glucose, it slows down digestion when it enters the intestinal-tract. When you’re busy digesting, your brain knows that you’re full and your appetite is decreased.

This message is fundamentally different from the ‘drama-queen’ signals fired off by your OCD insulin-housekeeper! It’s a reliable message, where both parties speak the same language. To take advantage of this message, eat more fat.

A fat-metabolism prompts you to eat when you’re hungry, then stop when you’re full.

Glucose drives you to eat to when your sugar-levels drop; it has nothing to do with how much you’ve eaten or whether you need food.

In understanding this, lies to key to harnessing your metabolism and regaining control of your relationship with food.

The ketogenic-diet allows you to lose weight with no hunger pangs. There’s no desire to snack, nor do you suffer the roller-coaster ‘highs and lows’ associated with drops & spikes in blood-sugar.

For me, it’s time my OCD housekeeper took a holiday. And I’m going to do all I can to make sure it’s a permanent one.

And no; I don’t need a postcard!

Thank you for reading,

Adam.

Classic Spaghetti Bolognese with a Twist… No Carbs! Perfect for gluten-intolerants, diabetics, or anyone who loves pasta but not its effects!

spaghetti

I’ve already waxed lyrical about the wonder of ‘zoodles‘ in an earlier post. I shan’t do it again (well maybe just a bit…) but they’re brilliant! I don’t even mind the silly name, they’re so good.

Bolognese has rather been off the menu of late, because it really needs something to go with it. Salad doesn’t cut the mustard here & steamed vegetables lack the ability to soak up all the sauce. As a result, I’d stopped making it, which is a pity as it’s cheap, quick & delicious! Stopped that is, until I discovered courgette-spaghetti…!

I’ve explained how straightforward this is in a separate post all of its own. The below therefore chiefly details how to make a low-carb bolognese sauce.

I really think you should  try this dish. When you stop having an old favourite because your dietary requirements forbid it; food very much begins to lose its charm. Inversely, when the same foodstuff can once again be welcomed back, it feels as if the prodigal son has returned! Well in our house, the red-carpet’s rolled out and the flags are flying for spaghetti. Long may she reign!

Place a thick-bottomed pan on the hob and leave it to heat through. Season your minced beef and then add to the pan. You really need the pan to be good and hot. If it’s too cold, the meat will start to steam, rather than seal. Supermarket mince especially can give off an unpalatable smell of ‘wet dog’, if it’s allowed to steam in this way. You want to hear a good strong sizzle from the pan, and the odour should be one of cooking steak, not brine!

Leave to seal on each side before stirring. Once sealed, add a finely sliced onion and chopped garlic & leave to cook until the onion has started to soften. Don’t pour off the fat – we’re on a ketogenic diet here, so it is very welcome. De-glaze the pan with a small glug of red-wine or port and then stir in a drained can of tomatoes.

Crumble in a stock cube or two and season. Dried or fresh herbs can be added, as can a very small squeeze of tomato purée. If you’re not trying to lose weight or are a diabetic who has a higher carb-threshold than I can currently manage; you can be more liberal with the wine, tomatoes and purée. Add a little water (just enough to cover) so that the mix doesn’t get too dry. Feel free to add any low-carb vegetables such as mushroom, spinach or green-beans to the mix; depending on your preference. Simmer on a low heat for 20 minutes until the sauce is rich and thickened.

Meanwhile sauté your courgette-spaghetti in a little butter. Two minutes should do it. You’ll need to add a little salt, but this can be easily adjusted when you check the zoodles to see if they’re done. You want them to still retain an al dente bite; just as you would with any pasta. No-one likes a plateful of texture-less slop!

Serve the noodles into a bowl, then ladle on a generous serving of bolognese sauce. Top with an almost indecent amount of grated cheese et voila! Dinner is served.

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

‘Zoodles’! The Vegetable Food-Revolution is Here! Low-carb, diabetic-friendly, vegan & gluten-free. They’ll change the way you eat forever!

zoodles

Like a lot of people, I’ve always loved pasta. But pasta comes at a price! Weight-gain & bloat!

Pasta must be one of the worst things for diabetics. Whether white or wholemeal, it sends an instant hit of glucose to the bloodstream, catapulting blood-sugars sky high! Once insulin-levels have kicked into overdrive, to clear ‘the glut’; energy levels come crashing down again & the glucose-cycle kicks in, leaving you craving more starch even though you’ve just consumed enough calories to run a mini-marathon!

Regrettably my life is better off without it. Until now!

Introducing ‘zoodles’ (zucchini noodles as the Americans would say; courgettes this side of the pond). They could not be easier and work in a multitude of dishes. Think of them as a far better substitute for pasta, oriental & european noodles.

Spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelli, pad thai noodles, vermicelli – suddenly carbonara is a low-carb ketogenic dish!

All you need is a julienne-peeler (or Spiralizer – on my Christmas list!!). Peel the courgettes for a more ‘traditional pasta’ look, or keep the skin on. Peel down the vegetable with the julienner and leave to sit on kitchen-towel for half an hour or so. You can use them straight away, but there’s a small risk they’ll go a bit soft due to the high water-content.

I like to sauté them on the hob in a little butter or oil for a few minutes, but you can equally boil them in water for 1 minute or microwave them (covered) for two.

Their versatility is only matched by how good they taste in everything you try. No impact to blood-sugar, no bloat, no insulin-induced hunger-pangs… You may be getting the feeling ‘I couldn’t recommend them highly enough’… Well I can’t!

Thanks for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

My own health v the planet? Can a ketogenic-diet be sustainable, both for me & for future generations?

Naturally this diet is having a considerable impact on my waistline! There are other impacts to be considered however, such as the potential environmental-impact that my food-choices may be having.

I must admit that this has been nagging at my conscience a little. Meat and dairy have an astronomically high environmental-footprint. Beef – 16kg of CO²e/kg, lamb 17kg CO²e/kg & butter 17.6kg CO²e/kg… Need I go on? Compare this to the humble carrot at circa 0.05kg CO²e/kg and I begin to feel a little uncomfortable…

This requires a lot more thought and research than I’ve yet had time to undertake. But is my diet so bad for the world that I can conscience continuing it? Are the polar-ice-caps going to melt any faster, simply because I’ve started to eat bacon for breakfast in place of muesli…?

This blog can’t go into the full detail of this conundrum; there isn’t sufficient space & my small audience would rapidly dwindle if I switched tack & went off at a tangent. The below details a few thoughts I’ve been having as a starter for ten! Hopefully this will introduce a few positives into the equation & guide the thought-process to pastures greener.

1. Calories v Volume

My calorific-intake on a fat-based metabolism remains the same as that of a glucose-fuelled diet (yet my weight is decreasing). Calories remain unchanged, but the volume of food I eat has more than halved! 

Fat is a far more efficient fuel-source than any other. The calorific-density of fat is 9 calories per gram v 4 calories from carbohydrate.

The high levels of saturated fat in a ketogenic diet mean that you feel full on a vastly reduced volume of food (I estimate that my portion-size has literally halved in comparison to when I was eating glucose). I’m therefore eating less.

2. Decreased Volume v Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Intensity 

It’s all well & good stating a positive that ‘I’m eating less’; if the food I’m eating is proportionately far higher in GHG-emissions than previously. But is it? Has my consumption of animal-products increased?

Portion-sizes of meat and dairy have actually decreased a little in my evening meals. This is due to the ketogenic-diet’s ability to make you feel full on a lower volume of food. This is naturally counteracted if I’m adding additional quantities of animal-protein to both breakfast & lunch.

Am I eating more meat & dairy at lunchtime? Arguably not. My lunches have invariably always consisted of either leftovers or things like cheese or tuna salad. I would say that the same rationale applies here, as it did to dinner. I’m eating less by volume, but for lunch the animal-product ratios haven’t changed from before (a cheese salad is a cheese salad). Carbohydrate has simply been substituted for fat, so I therefore feel full on a smaller amount. Again; so far so good.

What about breakfast? This is the one thing that has changed. I now eat eggs, cream, cheese & meat for breakfast, whereas I’d previously been eating muesli. In this one area then, I’m eating a higher quantity of animal-products than before. Is this volume-increase greater than the slight reduction I’ve experienced in dinner? I suspect it may be. I’ll have to give this some thought and get back to you.

3. Severed-Ties to Industrial Agriculture

For the last 4 weeks, I’ve consumed nothing that’s a product of modern intensified agriculture. No grain, sugar, wheat, barley, rye, potatoes, carrots &tc. (I claim one exception to this – gin!).

Modern industrialised agriculture drips fossil fuel. From the artificial fertilisers which are liberally broadcast over the land, to the energy-intensive refining-processes required to translate the arable-crops we farm into something we eat. I cannot quantify that reduction, but the thought is something which interests me and deserves greater scrutiny.

4. Increased Levels of Seasonal Produce, Animal-Welfare, Use of Organics, Food-Provenance, Shorter Supply-Chains &tc

When you cut a large food-group out of your diet, the quality of your remaining foodstuffs tends to increase. What do I mean?

I’m eating a HUGE QUANTITY of vegetables. Far more than before. When vegetables make up three-quarters of your plate, you want to get maximum taste from your restricted food-pool. This means that you increase the variety of seasonal produce you use, not just using the same old things day-in, day-out.

I’m going to the greengrocer’s & farm-shops far more regularly now in an effort to get the freshest, tastiest produce I can find. Local ‘home-grown’ organics are now a daily staple, as are trips to the butcher. The meat and dairy we buy now has the highest degree of provenance and traceability that I’ve ever managed. Simply because the restriction in food-diversity means we want the best of what’s available to us. This equally applies to organic meat, allotment produce and fresh free-range eggs.

In this respect at least, I feel better about the food I’m eating than ever before.

5. No Processed Food Whatsoever!

I’ve never been a processed food kinda guy! Because processed food is often where the ‘nasties’ lie (poor food provenance, low-welfare standards, e-numbers), these are totally ruled out of a diet which takes ‘real food’ as its main focus.

A LCHF diet has a lot in common with a number of other food-movements, such as the following:

  • The Slow Food Movement
  • The Organic Movement
  • The Local-Food Movement
  • ‘Real-Food’ cooking-movements in all forms!

The one negative therefore seems to remain the GHG-intensity of what I’m eating. Will this always then be a problem?

No. Currently I’m in the weight-loss phase of a restricted-carbohydrate diet. Once that phase is over, I’ll be able to reintroduce a lot of the things that I’ve currently ruled out. Picture pulses, oats, fruits, root-vegetables, nuts, seeds, yoghurt &tc.

Once this initial restriction-phase is over, I envisage my ketogenic-diet to be one of impeccable food-ethics. All ingredients will be unprocessed, unrefined, fresh, seasonal, traceable, local (where applicable) & HEALTH-PROMOTING!

In my mind at least, that’s no mean feat!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Week 4 – Sun 26th October

Well, I’m four weeks in now. Just to remind you all, I started the ketogenic diet at 15 stone, 10 pounds. My goal is 12 and a half stone, by mid-March 2015. This means a target weight-loss of 2lb per week.

Week Four’s target weight therefore? 15 stone, 2 pounds.

It’s also a nerve-racking day, because it’s the first of my monthly waistline-measurements. When I started the diet, my waist-circumference was 45 inches. Above 40 inches and you enter the danger-zone for developing coronary heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. My partner is already type 1 diabetic; so if I developed type 2 through poor lifestyle choices, then that would verge on the ridiculous!

I step onto the scales…

15 stone, 1 pound. Ahead of target and a 3lb reduction from last week! I’m now 9 pounds lighter than I was four weeks ago. I’ve crossed the half-a-stone barrier, which is brilliant; and I’m rapidly approaching the ’15’ milestone, which feels really positive.

I’ll be so pleased once I make it back into the ’14 stone’ territory. I’d been so shocked when I stepped on the scales some 6 weeks ago. In my mind, I’d maybe put on a couple of pounds; I’d thought I was ’14 stone something‘…; but to then discover I was 15 stone 10 was horrific! It had crept up so gradually, that I’d never really noticed it.

I’m a little nervous of the tape-measure. Scales are fairly ‘plain speaking’ when it comes to weight. Yes, you can shimmy around on tiptoes or balance on one leg to try and get ‘a more favourable reading’, but ultimately you know you’re just cheating yourself. The tape-measure is a little harder. Have I measured at exactly the same point as last time…? Is it completely level…? Am I breathing in too much, or am I pushing my stomach out artificially to go for ‘worst case scenario’…? In short, the tape-measure feels a little bit like an audition!

With trepidation, I stand in front of the mirror and ask myself all the above questions, to try and come up with a realistic answer. 44 inches definite! I’ve lost one inch from the circumference of my waistline, which is brilliant! Just four more to go before I’m out of the danger zone.

As I said last week; there’s a stage of weight-loss when you start to feel a bit slimmer. I’m definitely there now. Because I love cooking, I spend a lot of time in an apron. Four weeks ago, this tied under the stomach, which looked and felt dreadful. Now, it’s back to tying around me! The trousers are starting to follow suit, but I’ve never particularly been a fan of ‘armpit-huggers’, so these tend to sit more around the hips than the stomach.

And physically? How am I feeling aside from the weight?

Pretty brilliant actually. The headaches have completely gone and energy-levels are incomparable to what they were before I started this. I feel active and want to be moving around outside a lot more (whereas previously the sofa and a book were the main draw!). Mood is so much better and grumpiness nearly gone. As before, the fact this is working is definitely boosting my optimism!

I’m still thirsty a lot of the time. I haven’t yet discovered whether this has to do with ‘losing weight as the fat cells deplete’; or whether it’s a side-effect of the ketosis itself. Body-temp feels normal, but as I haven’t been tracking this, I have no point of comparison!

The one thing I’m slightly paranoid about is acetone on the breath – a side-effect of ketosis. I’m sure this hasn’t been a problem (certainly no-one has said anything), but I hate the fact they might! To counter this I’ve been sucking sugar-free mints. I’ve always been a peppermint-tea drinker throughout the day, so this also helps combat my paranoia. I’m hoping that, as ketogenic-adaptation kicks in (more on that in another post); this side-effect and others will disappear completely. Only time will tell on this one!

All in all, it’s been a really good week. Motivation is very high; and I really feel that I can 100% achieve my goals if I stay focussed. Still missing trips to the pub, but as these were part of the problem, it serves me right!

With a bit of luck, I’ll dip down below 15 stone by next week. That only requires one & a bit additional pounds from here, so if I stay in ketosis, this should be do-able.

Please do ‘look in’ on me next week, to see if I meet my targets. I find it really positive to have people read this – the support is a massive encouragement!

Thanks for reading, and have a great week,

Adam.