Top 10 Low-Carb Starters

If you’re just starting a ketogenic- or low-carb diet for the New Year, food choices can sometimes seem a little daunting!

Never fear however; County Walks in Ketosis has a huge library of delicious LCHF recipes to help along the way.

The ketogenic-diet has no restriction on calories, portion-control or the quantity of food you eat. As a result, delicious starters are very much to be enjoyed, as long as they adhere to the broad range of keto-friendly foodstuffs. This range is so wide however, that the only problem you’ll experience is deciding what to cook first!

To provide a little inspiration, I’ve assembled my top 10 ‘starter’ recipes from this blog. Simply click on the title/hyperlink below to take you straight to the relevant page.

All recipes can be browsed by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.

Top 10 salads:

1. King-Prawn, Courgette & Mascapone Roulade

2. Oven-Warmed Camembert with Truffled Bresaola & Rocket Leaves

3. Thai Smoked Haddock Fish-Cakes

4. Creamy Broccoli & Stilton Soup

5. Smoked Salmon, Prawn & Quail’s Egg Florentine

6. Asparagus, Cream-Cheese & Parma-Ham Tartlets

7. Timbale of Leek, Parmesan & Crayfish Tails

8. Norfolk Crab, Avocado & Brown Shrimps

9. Fiery Padron Peppers

10. Pan-Seared Fillet of Cod in Vermouth & Basil

Enjoy browsing and thanks for reading. Bon ap!

Adam.

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Top 10 Low-Carb Puddings / Desserts

If you’re just starting a ketogenic- or low-carb diet for the New Year, food choices can sometimes seem a little daunting!

Never fear however; County Walks in Ketosis has a huge library of delicious LCHF recipes to help along the way.

Life isn’t complete without puddings! And unlike a low-fat diet, the ketogenic-plan permits a full range of delicious, indulgent and fuss-free desserts, which will still allow you to lose weight and enjoy your food to the max!

To provide a little inspiration, I’ve assembled my top 10 pudding recipes from this blog. Simply click on the title/hyperlink below to take you straight to the relevant page.

All recipes can be browsed by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.

Top 10 salads:

1. Velvety Vanilla Cheesecake

2. Malibu, Coconut & Chocolate Brownie Pots

3. Tira Misu Cake (personal favourite!)

4. Chocolate Almond Roulade with Brandy Cream

5. Sparkling ‘Gin Fizz’ Jellies

6. Indulgent Dark Chocolate Layer-Cake

7. Madagascan Vanilla & Pecan Crowns

8. Rich Spiced Cranberry Cheesecake with Macadamia Crunch

9. Chocolate Orange Mousse with Almond Stars

10. Dark & Delicious Coffee & Walnut Cake

Enjoy browsing and thanks for reading. Bon ap!

Adam.

New Year’s Diet? Why not try the ketogenic plan? Lose weight & become a fitter, happier, healthier ‘you’!

Looking to lose a few pounds in the new year? Why not give the ketogenic diet a go…?

  • Delicious, satisfying food
  • No hunger pangs
  • Fast, sustainable weight loss
  • Great for diabetics
  • A diet you can physically ‘test’ to be sure it’s working (take the guesswork out of progress)
  • Increased energy levels
  • Stable blood-sugars – no more energy peaks and troughs!

Browse the following links to find out more:

What is the ketogenic diet?

How does it work?

What can I eat?

To give you a flavour of the mouth-watering food, take a look at my recipes & browse by picture on my pinterest page: country walks in ketosis pinterest.

Give it a go and feel for yourself the difference it can make!

Make 2015 a year of change!

Good luck and thanks for reading,

Adam.

The Big Switch – a diabetic’s move from glucose to a low-carb ketogenic diet…

As the homepage of this blog informs, one member of our household (Nicholas James) is a type 1 diabetic.

My own research on the subject highlighted that a ketogenic diet can also be brilliant for diabetics. This is due to its ability to lower insulin-dependence and stabilise blood-sugars. Two weeks into my own diet, NJ also decided to take the plunge and try it for a day. The results were so good, so immediately, that he’s still going strong and hasn’t looked back!

The ‘big switch’ was a nerve-racking thing however. We did it as a process of experimentation unsanctioned by the medical profession! After all, it is not current guidance in the UK for the treatment of diabetes and there is precious little information available on the subject, particularly if you’re a type 1 diabetic.

The only way to see whether it worked therefore was to try it! We took small steps but soon found that it was far easier than we’d thought (if you’re not eating carbohydrate, you don’t need much insulin – bingo!!!). But enough from me; over to someone who can tell you more with specific regard to diabetes. Over to you NJ…

“Hello again.

Last time I wrote about my experience in the summer of 2013, when I found out I was a Type 1 diabetic. It’s funny to think that my life just 20 months ago was a time when bread, pasta, chocolate and fruit juice could be consumed without a second thought. Just over a year on, and it feels as if I’ve always been this way, and the strange thing is, I really don’t mind it.

As a nurse pointed out to me in the hospital, the good thing about diabetes is that it makes you far more aware, on a daily basis, of the things that your body doesn’t really appreciate. Of course, I can’t now have a sugary treat each day, drink apple juice with breakfast, snack on a cake between meals or be care-free with food like a ‘healthy’, ‘normal’ person can. But, in my mind, this unexpected disease that hit me in my early 30s, was a wake up call to make sure I took active care of my body into middle age and beyond. Something maybe people without diabetes wont do until it’s too late.

So for one year I followed the NHS guidelines for a diabetic diet: Low fat, healthy, carb intensive and accurately balanced out with appropriate doses of insulin.

A typical daily food intake would be:

Breakfast: Porridge with sweetener, nuts and berries.

Snack: Banana and digestive biscuit.

Lunch: Tuna Salad and oatcake biscuits, banana.

Snack: Apple

Dinner: Chicken leg, pearl barley, green beans, low fat fruit fromage frais.

It worked well and I was very pleased with my results. A 12 unit dose from an Insuman Comb25 pen before breakfast, and the same again before dinner saw my blood glucose levels maintained between 5 and 10…most of the time.

I say most of the time, because I had a daily dip at around 10.30am where my sugars crashed down to around 3.1, then post lunch I may jump up to 12.0, before dipping again in the afternoon. Pre-dinner I tended to be around 6.0, but then could be, depending on what time we ate, anything up to 10.0 before bed.

Despite being told by medical staff that “it was the blood glucose score before eating that mattered”, I just didn’t like this constant see-sawing action between lows and highs. Indeed, I later discovered that it is the fluctuations between high and low blood sugars that cause a lot of damage to the body and ultimately lead to the complications associated with diabetes.

Adam was moving towards a ketogenic diet for weight-control, so I thought I’d look into whether this could work for diabetics. In his best selling book, Dr. Richard Bernstein seemed to advocate that the LCHF diet offers a solution to this constant battle between injecting insulin and topping up glucose, that many diabetics face.

Without the advice or guidance from any of my doctors I decided to give it a go. Carefully at first, by lowering my insulin to 8, and dropping my carb intake slowly over a couple of days, until I reduced it to no carbs at all. The immediate effect was that my insulin dose was far too high, and I went quickly into hypoglycaemia. By adjusting this down to a dose of 3, I plateaued to a constant reading of 5 on my blood metre. Not just 5 before food, but a consistent and constant reading of between 5 and 6 no matter what time I tested my blood, which I did so frequently during this trial. This was proving a success!

However, the effects were not all positive – but I had been reading ahead and was expecting the consequences of chyanging to a keto-regime. The increased thirst, headaches, queasy feelings and nausea lasted for a couple of weeks. I also started losing weight more rapidly than Adam, which worried me as I thought I was re-entering a state of ketoacidosis. However, my weight then plateaued at 12 stone, which was my ideal weight according to the BMI.

So far, so good! I’m delighted with my blood sugars, I’ve lost a bit of weight and I feel that I have more energy, particularly when I’m running. What’s not to love about this take on healthy diabetic eating – I just hope my doctor agrees.

I wonder what he will say…”

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

The Low Carb Christmas – Beautiful Low Carbohydrate Recipes to Celebrate the Festive Season!

hall

Heap on more wood! the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deem’d the new-born year
The fittest time for festal cheer:

Christmas is truly a time of unrivalled joy. As the days count down, the home is slowly transformed into a place of magic and wonder. Once familiar rooms suddenly spring to life, as garlands of bright green holly & ivy are brought in to ‘deck the halls’ with festive cheer. The delicate glass-baubles, hung so lovingly on the Christmas Tree; softly reflect the glow of a roaring fire and the light of a myriad dancing candle-flames.

As presents are wrapped and cards written; the kitchen too makes ready, and sings its own unique carol of joy. Pan lids clatter and best china is scrubbed; a busy hubub of merriment against a backdrop of fragrant spices & delicious roasting meats. For it is in the kitchen that magic occurs. The well-stocked larder seems boundless in its plenty, and mealtimes, so often rushed; become a ritual symbol of merriment and togetherness.

I absolutely love Christmas. It’s without doubt my favourite time of year. To honour this, I’ve devoted December’s recipes to a selection of festive dishes which will proudly grace the Christmas table. There’s a whole host of delicious low-carb food which is there to be enjoyed. And I hope you’ll enjoy it with me!

For the next couple of weeks, Country Walks in Ketosis offers The Low Carb Christmas. Starting first of all with a delicious take on the classic Christmas dinner.

I hope your run-up to Christmas is a happy one.

Thank you for reading and bon ap!

Adam.

xmas

Week 7 – Sun 16th November

Well, I’m seven 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 Sevens’s target-weight therefore? 14 stone, 10 pounds. Waistline measurement only once a month, so not this week.

The last seven days have been really hard. Last week I experienced a 1lb weight-gain for no reason, to find myself 2lb behind target. The week has consequently been filled with a rather unhealthy cocktail of paranoia and stressing.

I’m absolutely amazed at the kind, supportive responses I’ve received however. Wow, I’ve got a positive and encouraging audience! This makes the whole thing so much easier and the feedback is immensely gratifying. One lovely reader in particular (Janet) wrote:

Adam – Don’t worry about your weight this week. Your body doesn’t know its Sunday! You will probably have lost inches rather than lbs. Two weeks ago I reached my goal weight […] Then last week I put on 2.5lbs without doing anything different from normal. Devastating – but this week I lost 2lb. No rhyme nor reason. Keep going and don’t be disheartened. The weight will come off eventually. A normal weight loss is between 1lb and 2lb per week so you’ve done really well to lose as much as you have.”

Thank you so much for the kind words Janet. They were really motivating. And a huge congratulation to you for achieving your own weight-loss goals. You’re a lesson to us all!

So, have I fared any better this week? If I’ve actually gained weight again, I think I’ll go into a state of despair… I tentatively step onto the scales…

14 stone, 12 pounds. Thank goodness. The upward trend has stopped! A 2lb weight-loss from the week before and a sign at least that this is all working. Okay so I’m still behind target by a whole 2lb, but if I’m honest with you, as long as I’m losing weight I don’t particularly mind. And besides, I’m now 12 pounds lighter than I was seven weeks ago, so that’s got to be a big positive right? I’m also back into the ’14-stone bracket’ which feels great.

Do I think I’ll catch up the 2lb target-lag at any stage? Probably not, but that hardly matters. This is a life-change, not a race. As long as I get there in the end, that’s the important thing!

As I said last week: body-fat is a strange thing. It’s like a stubborn squatter – impervious to eviction! I’ve been in a constant state of ketosis the whole time; surely the weight should be literally ‘falling off’! My body feels slimmer, only the scales don’t reflect that. I went on the Atkins in my mid 20s. Every time I sneezed I seemed to lose a pound! Ten years on however, the weight-loss seems to be increasingly difficult. It certainly doesn’t fall off the way it did when I was younger. This gives me even more motivation to get it right now. If it’s harder in my mid-thirties, I can only imagine it’ll be harder still in my mid-forties! Best tackle it now therefore, before health problems ensue & I double the difficulty of meeting my targets with age.

As I also said last week, a further positive is that the diet is still incredibly easy to follow. I have no hunger pangs whatsoever and in no way feel that a ketogenic-diet lacks variety. Take a look at my pin-board here, to see the breadth of food we’ve being eating over the last seven weeks. It doesn’t feel like a diet, just simply a change!

And physically? Any changes to how I’m feeling?

No, still feeling in great shape! Because ketosis is a constant source of energy (unlike glycolysis which fuels in fitful peaks and troughs); there’s a strange sense of ‘background power’ when I exercise; almost as if I could go on forever. This feels really amazing, like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

Nicholas-James says that he’s finding the same. In fact, last week he ran his old 3-mile jogging-route without even getting out of breath! And this without any requirement to refuel on diabetic top-ups such as jelly-babies or fruit-juice. Now his body simply does it all for him! It just goes to show therefore that a ketogenic diet is brilliant for type-1 diabetics!

All in all then, I think I’m over the negativity of last week. The positives of this hugely outweigh the negatives, and we’re both feeling a lot better. I feel motivated to continue, and who knows, maybe even catch up a little lost ground!

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 again for reading, and have a great week,

Adam.

Fat-Cells & Body-Fat – the bitter truth! “Adipocytes – a fat-cell by any other name would swell as we eat…”

It’s difficult not to feel an irrational hatred towards fat-cells. Admittedly they’re there for a reason, and they play an incredibly important role. I just wish they weren’t quite so ‘visible’.

When I say ‘they play an important role’ – what is it they actually do? There are three primary functions of fat-cells (adipocytes):

  1. They act as a fuel-reserve in times of energy depletion
  2. They provide insulation and conserve body-heat
  3. They act as padding to protect the organs

Fat-cells come in two different forms:

  1. Brown adipocytes – the fat contained within these is utilised for heat-production. It cannot generally be metabolised as energy
  2. White adipocytes – fatty-acids secreted by white fat-cells can be used by muscles & tissue as a ready source of energy.

Because white fat-cells are the ones which secrete a fuel-source; these will form the principal focus of this post. It’s the harnessing of energy from white fat-cells that forms the basis of ketosis. As such, we ought at least to understand a little bit about them.

I recently discovered a fact about fat-cells that left me feeling cold – fat-cells never die; they just shrink!

When I say ‘they never die’, yes they do have a finite lifespan; but when they come to the end of that lifespan, the cells simply get replaced. They never truly decrease in number.

As someone who was happily losing weight, secure in the belief that their fat-cells were dissolving; this came as quite a shock. It almost verged on the depressing!

So what does this actually mean to someone who’s trying to shift a few pounds? Does everyone have the same number of fat-cells? If you’re overweight, are you condemned to stay that way for the rest of your life?

Babies are generally quite pudgy. The degree of ‘pudginess’ is pretty universal; it certainly in no way corresponds to the breadth of body-shapes displayed in the adult population. At what stage then does this divergence occur?

Men & women store fat in different places. Men around the stomach, chest & buttocks; women around the buttocks, hips, waist & breasts. As with babies, this differentiation is not marked in childhood; it’s during puberty that white fat-cells are laid down. After this point, the number of fat cells in your body remains unchanged throughout your lifetime. I wish someone had told me this when I was 13!

The only exception to this is found in the case of the clinically obese. In this state, the existing fat-cells cannot contain the sheer quantity of fat generated by the body. New fat-cells are therefore generated to store it. What a lovely thought.

It’s the sex-hormones (testosterone & estrogen) which prompt how and where our body-fat is stored. And these only kick in during the teenage years.

So, if the number of fat-cells our bodies contain is determined at puberty; how come our waistlines expand and contract in response to what we eat? How is it that going on a diet makes us slimmer? If we’re not losing fat-cells, how do we lose weight?

The answer is, that fat-cells shrink. And if we eat too much, they expand. Each cell is like a small plastic-bag, constantly topping-up or depleting its fat-levels in response to our energy-intake & expenditure. When metabolic times are hard, our fat-cells shrink. That’s because the fat they contain is being burnt as energy (the joyous state of ketosis!).  As times improve & energy becomes more plentiful; our bodies ferret away the excess and store it in the form of triglycerides in our white fat-cells.

When our adipocytes are full, we expand like a balloon and look fat. When they’re emptied, we lose weight and slim down.

And what’s the best way of achieving this? Ketosis.

In order to lose weight most effectively, we need a diet where our body switches to stored-fat as its principal energy-source. The body will always burn glucose first, because it’s easy & rife. Glucose is the body’s “energy-path” of least resistance.

Accessing the fat-stores requires enzymes that we’ve chiefly put into retirement. Our bodies have become so dependent on glucose-energy that we lose our ability to burn fat. The only way to make the switch, is to remove glucose from our diet entirely. This way, the body cannot simply (and lazily) go down its trusted path of least resistance, because that path’s no longer available!

Once the required enzymes have been built up in sufficient quantity, we enter a state where our bodies can burn either fat or glucose as energy. This is called ketogenic-adaptation (more on this is another post). It’s the state in which our ancestors lived, able to access whichever fuel-source was most readily available, with no great ‘metabolic shift’ required.

But if you need to lose weight and shrink your fat-cells; the fastest, most reliable and healthiest way, is to cut out the carbs which provide us with glucose. You’ll then enter a ketogenic state and start to burn your stored-fat as fuel.

So give your fat-cells a spring-clean and make sure it’s a good clear-out! Don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Enough for now and thanks for reading,

Adam.

The role of salt in a ketogenic-diet. ‘Keto-Flu’ explained!

I was keen to understand why all the low-carb diet resources tell you to eat more salt. I therefore decided to look into this in greater detail. The problem I encountered was that nothing actually states the reasoning behind it; sources merely allude to the requirements, then make recommendations on how to achieve them.

What I was keen to understand in particular, is the role of insulin in causing the kidneys to retain salt. The below is what I’ve managed to piece together.

As always, I must state that 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!

So here goes… Salt!

When you switch over to a ketogenic diet, you’re effectively changing the way your body creates and burns energy.

On a glucose-based metabolism, the energy-form ‘glycogen’ is produced in the liver. This energy is water-soluble and transported around the body in your blood. The blood-stream is therefore our ‘road-network’ for distributing energy to all the cells and muscles that need it. Glycogen is also stored in the muscles, so the blood-motorway serves to ‘top up’ these stores when required.

Because glycogen is transported in liquid & is water-soluble; it’s unsurprising that glycogen itself contains a lot of water. In fact, it’s stored in liquid form; three to four parts water to one part glycogen (sources state 3-4g water to 1g glycogen).

When you restrict carbohydrate, you stop consuming glucose, the raw-material from which glycogen is made (see Fuel versus Energy for more details). Your stores of glycogen therefore deplete as your body burns energy, and because glycogen carries 3-4 parts water; your body loses a heck of a lot of liquid with it! This is the reason why weight-loss is often rapid at the start of a LCHF diet. You’re shipping the water stored alongside glycogen; and water is quite heavy!

What’s this got to do with salt?

We’ve identified that depleting glycogen stores also ships water. How is that water excreted? Predominantly in your urine.

Salt is vital to the body for survival; so important in fact that your tongue has special ‘salt-sensors’ in it, to detect its taste and prompt you to add more if levels are insufficient. If something is especially salty, your body prompts you to drink. This is why many pubs offer salty snacks such as peanuts or crisps – they want you to drink more! A high concentration of electrolytes in the body triggers our thirst mechanism – salt is an electrolyte!

So in entering a state of ketosis, your body is excreting water and salt through the depletion of glycogen. If high salt-levels trigger the thirst mechanism, but salt-levels are going down (as is water); it naturally follows that the thirst-mechanism is not sufficiently triggered to cover this water-loss. Our body’s water-balance gets temporarily thrown out of sync and we become dehydrated. This combination of mineral-deficiency and dehydration can leave you feeling incredibly nauseous, tired, weak and highly prone to headaches.

There is something else to throw into the mix – insulin.

This is a very difficult thing for a lay-person to research. The science is prohibitively complex and the information tends not to deal directly with this subject; rather simply referring to it as an aside.

One of the lesser known functions of insulin is to signal salt-retention in the kidneys. When you eat carbohydrate, your insulin levels rise. The insulin then tells your kidneys to retain salt and not excrete it. By eating carbohydrate, we’re not only getting fatter, but the salt we eat is not being released by the body, which then has adverse effects on blood-pressure. A low-salt diet can also lead to insulin-resistance, the precursor to type-2 diabetes (your body no longer responds to the insulin you produce).

Conversely, when you cut carbs; your insulin-levels decrease, which then tells your kidneys to release salt. The healthy ‘salt-cycle’ is restored and the body slowly adjusts to its normal, natural pattern.

In addition to water-loss through glycogen-depletion; insulin-reduction tells your kidneys to release salt from the body. For these two reasons, it’s important to up your salt in-take when first adopting a ketogenic-diet.

To prevent dehydration and the above symptoms (sometimes termed ‘keto-flu’), remember to drink lots of water and top your sodium levels up by drinking bouillon (stock cubes in water) and adding sufficient salt to your meals to cover the loss.

That way, your changeover to a healthy keto-plan will be a happy and safe one. Enjoy the journey!

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

Life’s Lessons! Testing for Ketone-Bodies Part II…

Life is a learning curve; and life’s lessons often come in the most surprising and unexpected places. Usually when you least expect them.

In an earlier post, I detailed the standard way of testing for the presence of ketone-bodies (hyperlinked below).

Testing for Ketones…

Yesterday, life delivered me of these impromptu lessons, which I feel the need to share as a short piece of advice.

Never test for ketones in the urine, when you’ve just been chopping scotch-bonnet chillies!!!!!

I hope this helps, and thanks for reading.

Adam.

Keto-Cocktails – Gin is ‘in’!

gin

Alcohol is never great for a diet, but let’s face it; we’re all human! As long as a degree of moderation is applied, a little bit of what you fancy won’t go too far astray! When first starting a diet, it’s best to avoid alcohol for two weeks; but after that, it can start making the odd guest appearance of an evening. I’ve lost 11 pounds in 5 weeks, drinking alcohol from week 3. The proof is therefore in the pudding!

I must admit to being partial to a good stiff tipple. The carb-count of beer and wine is prohibitive for weight-loss; but thankfully one of my firm favourites is well and truly on the cards – the majestic & dependable gin & tonic.

This has been a stalwart of English life for the past 300 years. Also known as “mother’s ruin”; I can think of few things I’d rather be ruined by than this. Sadly, so many people get it wrong, and produce something which is wholly disappointing and indifferent at best. Like everything in life, gin must be done properly. There’s no excuse for failure.

Crisp, clean and refreshing is what you’re aiming for. The glass must be long, with lots of ice and a good squeeze of lime. Nothing else will do. I’m not snobby about which gin you use. Yes, some are better than others; but how you make it is by far the most important factor.

The bottle states 0g of carbohydrate; the Atkins website states 0.1g net carbs per 100ml. Either way it’s no great shakes! A couple of these whilst preparing dinner, adds verve and pizzaz to the cooking experience. So try it my way, and get back to me with the results!

Take a tall glass. Yes, tall. Half fill with ice, then run a lime wedge liberally around the rim of the glass. Pour in your gin, then squeeze the lime wedge over the gin and swirl the glass. Fill to the brim with fresh, fizzy Indian tonic-water (diet), then take a good long sip whilst the bubbles are still effervescent enough to tickle your nose.

Heaven in a glass!

Thanks for reading and bottoms up!

Adam.

P.S. – one gin and tonic; two gins and tonic. Getting this wrong in polite English society will mean you’re never invited back!

The Low-Carb Shopping-List – Keto-GO-GOs!

Shopping can be a little intimidating when starting a low-carb, ketogenic diet. A once-familiar supermarket can suddenly become an alien place, full of ‘out-of-bounds-foods’ and temptation.

To ease this process, I’ve put together a shopping-list to cover all the main areas; fresh-produce, meat, dairy & store-cupboard. This list is also applicable to diabetics and those on a gluten-free diet.

For specific items which may not be on this list; remember to follow the golden-rule of net-carbs. I hyperlink this below for reference.

Further information on carb-content for specific vegetables can be found on the second link.

Calculating Net Carbs

List of Low-Carb Vegetables

Keto-GO-GO Shopping List:

Fruit & Vegetables
Aubergine
Avocado
Blackberries (few)
Blueberries (few)
Broccoli
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Celeriac
Celery
Chillies
Courgette
Cucumber
Garlic
Green Beans
Herbs
Leeks
Lemons
Lettuce (all sorts)
Limes
Mange Tout
Mushrooms
Onions
Peppers
Radishes
Raspberries (few)
Spinach
Sugar-Snap Peas
Watercress

Dairy
Butter – Salted & Unsalted
Cheese – Blue e.g. Stilton
Cheese – Hard e.g. Cheddar
Cheese – Hard Grating e.g. Parmesan
Cheese – Slicing e.g. Emmental
Cheese – Soft Salad e.g. Feta
Cheese – Soft Rinded e.g. Brie
Cheese – Spreading e.g. Philadelphia
Double Cream
Eggs

Meat
Bacon
Beef
Chicken
Cured Meats e.g. Salami (check label for carbs)
Duck
Game – e.g. Pheasant
Ham
Lamb
Pork
Sausages

Fish
Crab
Lobster
Mackerel
Mussels
Prawns / Crevettes
Salmon (Smoked & Fresh)
Scallops
Shrimp
Sole
Squid
Tuna (Fresh)

Store-Cupboard / Larder
Anchovies
Bicarb of Soda
Cocoa
Dried Herbs
Dried Spices – All e.g. Paprika
Flaked Almonds
Flaxseed
Ground Almonds
Maccadamia Nuts (few)
Mayonnaise
Mustard (Unsweetened)
Oil – Olive
Oil – Sesame or Stir-Fry Oil
Oil – Sunflower
Olives
Seasoning (Salt / Pepper)
Stock Cubes
Suet
Sweetener – Baking e.g. Xylitol
Sweetener – Table e.g. Splenda
Tinned Tuna
Vanilla Pods / Seed Powder

The list is by no means exhaustive, but it should serve as a fairly comprehensive guide to the basics. There’s no need to buy it all at once. That would bankrupt most of us! Especially for the store-cupboard section; if you don’t already have something, then stock up your larder week by week.

It all may seem a little expensive in comparison to the cheap, high-carb nasties. It’s worth keeping in mind however, that after a week or so, the volume of food you’re consuming will decrease rapidly. This is because saturates make you feel full on a smaller quantity and the ketogenic-diet is brilliant at suppressing hunger-pangs! After a month, it should all balance out nicely, as your food-cupboard & fridge gets fully stocked with the basics.

I hope this helps. Happy shopping and 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.

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.

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.

What are Net Carbs? The role of fibre in a low-carb / ketogenic diet..

Fibre is a wonderful thing! Not only does it ensure that the food we eat ‘keeps moving’ through the digestive-system; it can actually help lower cholesterol and aids the prevention of a whole host of nasties… (NHS states heart disease, diabetes, some cancers &tc).

Whilst I can’t comment on the ‘preventative’ health-qualities of fibre; I can tell you a little bit about it, and why it’s so important to the ketogenic-dieter or diabetic.

People are often surprised to learn that fibre is actually a form of carbohydrate (alarms bells ring for all low-carb readers everywhere!!!). Having said this; it comprises the parts of plants which we cannot digest and is therefore not absorbed by the body. As such; it’s not a nutrient and contains no calories or vitamins.

Examples of indigestible plant-fibres include cellulose (the plant’s cell-walls), lignin (derived from the Latin word for wood & the thing which makes vegetables crunchy); and suberin (a waxy, rubbery material which is water-resistant, therefore acting as a barrier to moisture-loss in roots, bark &tc). Such fibres are not absorbed in the small intestine and pass straight through to the large intestine intact.

Because fibre is ‘rough’ and combines with other foodstuffs to ‘shift’ them through the digestive-tracts; it contributes to feelings of ‘fullness’/ satiety. This is a major advantage to both dieters and weight-stable people alike! The fuller you feel, the less you’ll eat!

Fibre comes in two forms:

  • Soluble fibre
  • Insoluble fibre

So what’s the difference?

Soluble fibre does as the name suggests: it attracts water and dissolves into a form of ‘gel’ in the gut. This gel helps to slow-down the digestion of other foods, including (yes!) carbohydrate and sugar. This is particularly important for diabetics. Why?  The slower the rate of carbohydrate-absorption in your system, the more stable your blood-sugars, and the lower the risk of glucose-spikes in the blood-stream.

Stable blood-sugars = better insulin management = improved health!

Examples of soluble fibres include fruits, legumes, oats (all forms of fruit & vegetables to varying extents).

Insoluble fibre is equally aptly named. It’s made of the more structural parts of plant (the lignins &tc). As a result, it also attracts water, but instead of forming a gel; it ‘puffs up’ & adds bulk/softness to other less fibrous foods. In-so-doing, it regulates the passage of foodstuffs through the intestines, thereby promoting digestive health in general.

Examples of insoluble fibres include bran, beans, green leafy vegetables, nuts & seeds.

So we know what it is and what it does. But why is fibre of special importance to a low-carb diet?

Firstly, low carb diets often consume a higher proportion of meat & dairy products than other regimes. These require good levels of fibre to secure their transit through the digestive-system

Secondly (and of supreme interest!) – because dietary-fibre is a carbohydrate which comprises the indigestible parts of edible plants; fibre should be subtracted from the total carbohydrate-content of foods, because we cannot digest it!

Yes – we minus fibre from carbohydrate whenever we calculate the carb-value of what we’re eating. This reduced figure is termed the ‘Net Carbs’ (i.e. the true nutrient-value of the carbohydrate we’re consuming; not the parts which pass straight through intact).

For many foods, this will render what seems like a high carb-value into something that’s both acceptable, and can be eaten freely on a ketogenic-diet.

Example: Carbohydrate 10g minus fibre 8g = net carbs 2g.

Sugar-alcohols should also be subtracted, but these are often hard to distinguish on UK food packaging, so are omitted from this post.

Armed with this quick and easy ‘carb-counting-tool’; shopping, cooking & ‘living’ a low-carb diet all become instantly easier and more accessible!

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

Keto-NO-NOs; Keto-GO-GOs… Vegetables

‘Ketogenic Shopping’ is fairly straightforward.

At the start however, it can help to have a list of the good things to buy (keto-GO-GOs) and the things which are higher in carbs, thereby posing risks to ketosis (keto-NO-NOs)!

For specific foodstuffs, the New Atkins Carb Counter is a brilliant tool! It calculates the ‘net carbs’ of any food for you; which can often take away the guesswork! (More on ‘net carbs’ in a later post…)

In this blog, I aim to provide a quick reference-guide as to what to put into your shopping-basket; starting this week with vegetables.

As the guide is ‘quick reference’, it doesn’t detail the exact carb-count per item; rather groups them into three classifications:

  • Keto-GO-GO-GO: 2g or less
  • Keto-GO-GO: 5g or less
  • Keto-GO: 8g or less
  • Keto-NO-NO: 8g or more!

The below details ‘total carbs’ (not net). The reason for this? Net carbs will always be a lower figure. If you start with the higher of the two, you’ll never go wrong!

Keto-GO-GO-GO! – under 2g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Bamboo Shoots

Broccoli (Green & Purple)

Cabbage (Green, Spring, Chinese not Red!)

Celery

Courgette

Kale

Cucumber

Chicory

Fennel

Lettuce (Romaine, Cos, Iceberg & other ‘Leafy Greens’)

Marrow

Radishes

Spinach

Watercress

Keto-GO-GO! – under 5g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Artichoke (Globe – Boiled or Tinned)

Aubergine

Asparagus (Boiled & Canned)

Avacado

Beansprouts

Beetroot (Raw, not Pickled or Cooked)

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage (Red, Savoy, White)

Chard

Green Beans

Green Peppers (Capsicum)

Cauliflower

Celeriac (Americans call Celery-Root)

Baby Sweetcorn (not Boiled or Tinned)

Endive

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Mushrooms

Okra

Olives

Peas

Pumpkin (Raw)

Tomatoes (Tinned, Cherry & Salad)

Turnips

Keto-GO! – under 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g:

Beetroot (Pickled)

Red Pepper (Capsicum)

Carrots (Boiled & Raw)

Onions

Butternut Squash

Water-Chestnuts (Tinned)

Keto-NO-NOs – over 8g total carbs (not net) per 100g. Best avoided on a ketogenic diet!:

Jerusalem Artichoke

Beetroot (Boiled)

Cassava

Sweetcorn (Tinned or Boiled, not Baby)

Potatoes (All)

Parsnip

Sweet Potato

Yam

If you look at the GO-GO sections, you’ll notice that anything green will pretty much be fine to eat!

How much of these should you eat?

GO-GO-GO: the name says it all! As much as you like!

GO-GO: a healthy portion-size (picture a handful), but don’t overdo it!

GO: be a little sparing. A small handful, especially when you’re trying to lose weight.

NO-NO: need I say more?

I hope this helps and thanks for reading,

Adam.

The slow onset of diabetes…

Finding out that Nicholas James was diabetic was a huge shock! It took us totally by surprise.We’d never dreamt it happened to people ‘our age’ and had always assumed it was a ‘lifestyle’ thing.

In short, we knew nothing about it! Summer 2013 saw the start of a long and unwelcome learning curve.

But enough from me… NJ was the one experienced it; far better to let him tell it in his own words!

I’m 31 now, and I have been diabetic for only one year, which surprises many people, not least the nurses in the endocrinology department. It’s uncommon but certainly not unheard of for a person to become a Type 1 diabetic after childhood, despite the condition also being known as ‘Juvenile Onset Diabetes’, as the average age for acquisition is 14. It remains a mystery to this day why I got it, or took so long to get it – it certainly doesn’t run in my family. After much thought and pointless deliberation I can only assume that, and I think Adam would vouch for this, I just took a very long time to grow up.

My story begins in August 2013, a couple of weeks into my school summer holiday. As a teacher who had just finished a very busy Summer Term, I wasn’t surprised to be feeling rather tired and lethargic, it’s often the case that the ‘full burn’ of a hectic job only catches up with you when you finally stop for a break. However in addition to this, I had a creeping thirst that slowly, over the course of a couple of weeks, became unquenchable despite drinking pints of water at a time. Again, it was the summer, and a particularly hot one at that, so I just put it down to the heat and the extra exercise I was attempting to fit into my day.

I say ‘attempting’, because I couldn’t believe how hard it had become to do just a basic run. My usual routine of running down to the end of the drive and round the village (a route of about 2 miles) had become a laborious and exhausting trial. I remember one day, just half way to the village, I had to stop and sit amongst the cow parsley on the verge. I was sweating profusely, dizzy, shaking and my heart beat was racing. It felt like I had quite simply run out of all energy. Fortunately a neighbour happened to be driving past and upon seeing me, stopped and said through her open window, “Christ Nick, you look like death.”

Again, I ignored the signs, and put it down to tiredness and heat. She offered to drive me home, but I insisted I would walk back, even though my calf and thigh muscles were now beginning to ache and cramp.

Another reason I was tired was because I was getting up at least twice a night to go for a wee, which interrupted my good night’s sleep. I had no explanation for this, maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the amount I was drinking because of the heat, maybe it was because I was soon to turn 30 and midnight visits to the bathroom were, in my mind, something that just happens when you get over that hill!!!

The final straw happened when I went to visit my sister down in Buckinghamshire a week later. She hadn’t seen me for a couple of months and during our initial hug she put her arms around me and jokingly said “God Nick, where have you gone?”  Weighing myself in her bathroom, I had indeed shrunk down to just under 11 stone from my regular 12.5. I had been aware of some weight loss, but my excuse this time? I put it down to the extra healthy summer diet I was on working particularly well.

My sister wasn’t convinced. Especially when I told her about the other strange things I’d been experiencing. Upon her insistence, I booked an appointment with my GP the following week, who took a urine and blood test. The results confused me a little. A little stick she dipped in my urine turned dark purple and my blood came back with a score of 31…both of which meant nothing to me. She explained, “The purple colour shows that there are a lot of ketones in your urine, a sign that you are burning your own fat for fuel because your body can’t make energy from the food you’re eating, as a result your blood is full of glucose, unable to go anywhere. A normal level is should be about 6. You are diabetic.”

I was stunned. “So, I’ve got Type 2, I need to eat different food to make me better?”

“No. I’m afraid it’s not that simple. You have Type 1, which means…” She paused, “Brace yourself. The next few months are going to be a bit of a rollercoaster, your life is going to be very different.”

I sat in shock thinking about all the things she was hinting at. Daily injections, sugar crashes, blood testing. No more cake and biscuits.

What followed was a bizarre week in hospital being treated for ketoacidosis. It turns out that it wasn’t just my fat that had been depleted, but in an urgent attempt to survive, my body had started breaking down my major organs. I was more or less eating myself, and within another week or two, I’d have been in a coma and possibly dead.

I have gone on to learn a lot about diabetes over the last year, but no lesson has been as important as the first: don’t ignore the symptoms. The strange thing is, I remember feeling perfectly well at the time of that first visit to my GP, and I was worried I’d be wasting her time. When she said I’d have to go to hospital, I said I could drive myself, but she shook her head. “Not in your condition.”

That’s when the gravity struck me.

It was a difficult adjustment but he’s come on in leaps and bounds! We’re all incredibly proud of him and keen to see what a ketogenic diet can offer for the future!

More from Nick when he’s finished the washing-up…!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Cholesterol – when it’s good it’s very very good; when it’s bad it’s horrid!

The science behind weight-loss can be a little intimidating! Every time I try to research the bits I don’t understand; the explanations uncover 50 more things I’ve yet to learn! The terminology is often complex & confusing; and the experts all disagree in their viewpoints. Never more so than with cholesterol.

This blog attempts to relay my own understanding of the science. It relates the basics from my own personal perspective & reading. I preclude the below with the statement that I have no medical or scientific training. If I’m wrong on any of this, then readers’ corrections will help improve my knowledge and are gratefully received!

So here goes…

Cholesterol is a fat (or lipid, to use the scientific term!). It’s present in all cells, in the form of cell-membranes. It also helps make vitamin D, hormones & bile acid for use in digesting fat in the intestines.  To reach all the places it’s needed, it travels around in the body’s own ‘high-speed motorway’; the bloodstream.

If you’ve ever tried to combine oil & water, you’ll have noticed that the two don’t mix. Because cholesterol is a fat & your blood is water-based; the very same principal applies. Fat would just be floating around in your blood-stream in lumps. We couldn’t utilise it for it’s purpose (the construction of cell-membranes, hormones & intestinal bile-acids) & I suspect our blood would become a little bit messy! (I’m picturing washing-up water, after pans have been soaking overnight).

To allow the fat to cohesively travel through the blood, the body encapsulates it in protein. This makes it a definitive ‘particle’, rather than just a blob of free-flowing oil. These particles of fat in ‘protein-wetsuits’ are called ‘lipoproteins’. The proteins which form the wetsuit have a rather pleasing name: apolipoproteins. The same process is applied to all fats in the bloodstream.

The protein-wetsuit should potentially be termed a ‘submarine’, because it’s made to carry more than just cholesterol. Along for the ride are 2 other things: triglycerides (produced from the food we eat) & phospholipids (the ‘glue’ which holds the whole lot together).

Our lipoproteins contain varying ratios of fat to protein. Some have more, some have less. It’s the ‘density’ of this fat-to-protein which determines the type of cholesterol. There are many different forms of lipoprotein, but the two we shall focus on here are ‘High-Density Lipoproteins’ (HDLs) & ‘Low-Density Lipoproteins’ (LDLs). Particles with more fat and less protein have a lower density. Particles with more protein & less fat have a higher density. It’s therefore the ratio of protein to fat which determines whether the particle is HLD or LDL.

In most people, 60-70% of cholesterol is carried in LDLs. These act as a taxi-service; transporting the cholesterol to where it’s needed. The important part here, is the statement ‘where it’s needed!’. If we have too many LDLs then we effectively have more cholesterol than the body requires. What does it do with the excess? It dumps it in the arteries as plaque, which then builds up and can cause blockages. This is the link between cholesterol & heart-attacks. A blockage in the blood-supply to the heart.

Because of this, LDLs are typically termed the ‘bad cholesterol’. They carry more fat than protein, & therefore pose a risk of blocking arteries if we have more cholesterol than the body can use.

If LDLs are ‘bad’, then why does this post mention ‘good cholesterol’? Is there such a thing?

Every cloud has a silver-lining. The ‘cholesterol silver-lining’ is HDLs.

Because these contain more protein & less fat, the taxi still has room for a few more passengers! HDLs are like a taxi-driver on a sunny Wednesday afternoon. They cruise around, looking for work! When HDLs encounter a bit of excess cholesterol, they pick it up from the cells & tissues, and take it straight back to the liver. The liver then unpacks it and either uses it to make bile or recycles it. It’s a self-perpetuating process where the body conducts its own clean-up exercise. If only my washing-up did the same…

But what’s this got to do with the ketogenic diet?

A high-fat diet will naturally raise cholesterol-levels. What’s important to understand is that a high-fat diet also raises the good HDLs! Raising your HDL-levels increases your body’s ability to scour bad cholesterol from the bloodstream. This makes our bodies more efficient at removing excess fat and bad cholesterol. The higher your HDL level, the less ‘bad cholesterol’ you’ll have in your blood! And that means fewer blockages which cause heart disease.

But what about the bad cholesterol. Doesn’t this just go up too?

Remember our submarine? Cholesterol was not the only thing contained in our lipoproteins. We also have phospholipids & triglycerides.

If you remember from our introduction to ketosis; insulin enables the conversion of food into energy, and stores away what energy we don’t use in the form of fat. Well, that excess energy is derived from glucose. When your body has more glucose than it requires, insulin prompts the liver to convert glucose into triglycerides (the second passenger in our submarine).

If you restrict dietary-carbohydrate (thereby glucose); you decrease insulin-levels.

If you decrease insulin (which converts glucose to triglycerides); you decrease triglyceride-levels.

If bad cholesterol is made up of high fat lipoproteins (LDLs); then lower triglyceride-levels mean less bad cholesterol in the blood!

Restricting dietary-carbohydrate prevents the conversion of glucose into the fatty triglycerides which contribute to bad cholesterol. If you ‘up’ your fat levels & reduce your carbs; you raise HDL levels, which in turn removes bad cholesterol from the blood. LDLs are reduced because you’re not producing fat from glucose.

I hope that about covers it. The process is hugely complicated and I’ve gleaned this from many different sources (all of which seem to contradict one-another). I naturally have a lot more to learn, so any comments which can increase my understanding will be hugely welcome!

Thanks for reading,

Adam.

Meet & Greet Part 2 – Nicholas James; our type 1 diabetic…

This blog’s homepage entreats you to ‘picture a house of three: one type-1 diabetic, one carb-intolerant who needs to shift a couple of stone; and a spoilt Burmese cat’.

My name is Adam, and we have already been introduced in my earlier post: Meet & GreetIn the above description, I am the one who is ‘carb-intolerant’ and needs to shift a couple of stone! (In case you were wondering…).

You have also encountered the third member of our household, Zadok (the spoilt Burmese cat). You’ll have met him in my post Mascots.

Now it is time to meet the second; Nicholas James; who will also be contributing to this blog from time to time.

In case the process of elimination hadn’t quite managed to signpost the fact; Nicholas James (NJ) is our type-1 diabetic.

My own research on the subject highlighted that a ketogenic diet can also be brilliant for diabetics, due to its ability to lower insulin-dependence and stabilise blood-sugars. Two weeks into my own diet, NJ decided to take the plunge and try it for a day. The results were so good, so immediately, that a week later he is still going strong and hasn’t looked back!

But this is supposed to be his introduction, not mine. So over to him…

“Now, time for a different voice on this blog.

A voice that, unlike Adam’s, is not so much concerned with early morning walks, dewy cobwebs and planks. My name is Nick, and as much as I love living in the countryside and the outdoor pursuits it offers, my real interest in contributing to this blog comes from the fact that I am a Type 1 diabetic. As I’m already in fairly good shape and not wanting to shift pounds, I am keen to investigate the effects of a ketogenic diet on blood glucose levels rather than weight loss.

nick

Here I am cooking dinner on one of our camping trips BK (Before Ketosis). If memory serves me well, it was a pork and bean casserole with pak choi and basmati rice, which is typical of the wholesome, carbohydrate centred food both Adam and I would eat BK.

I’m very excited to be making this journey into the unknown with regards my blood-glucose, not because they are currently drastically out of control, but because I know they could be just that bit more stable.

I know the idea of low carb diets for diabetics is not a new concept, a dieticians manual from 1917 advocated just that, but today no diabetics I know seem to be following it, and it has never been suggested to me by any medical professional.  Maybe I’m about to find out why, but I truly hope by the end of this journey I’ll be able to ask them ‘why not’?”

As time goes on, we’ll be hearing from NJ with his own thoughts, views and findings on how a ketogenic diet works for diabetics. This is not something I can personally comment on because I (thankfully) do not suffer from that affliction.

NJ has coped with it brilliantly and we are all proud of his progress (no more than he himself, I am sure). I am just grateful that he can join me for the ride, and provide a little light relief along the way, for when you get bored of my own repetitive ramblings….

Well, you have now met all three of us. As always, thank you for reading and we’ll update you on soon on our progress!

Fond regards,

A.