The Ultimate Keto Shopping List

Many people say diet success starts in the kitchen, but it actually starts somewhere else—the grocery store.

Making the wrong choices at the grocery store might lead you to make bad decisions in the kitchen as well. This is particularly true if you plan on following the ketogenic diet. Just like any other diet, keto requires adherence to certain macronutrient breakdowns for success.

What is Keto?

Unless you have been hibernating for a period of several years, chances are you’ve heard of the keto diet.

The word “keto” comes from the term “ketogenic.” Keto is a low-carb (<50g/day), high-fat, moderate protein diet which forces a metabolic adaptation where the body relies on fat stores for energy, resulting in the production of ketones.

Ketones exist almost as a safety mechanism for the body. When our cave people ancestors went days without food, the body needed an ability to tap into stored energy; our bodies store seemingly infinite amounts of fat compared to carbohydrates. But the brain can’t use fat for energy (it loves carbs).

So, when the body began turning to fat stores for energy, it resulted in the production of ketones to fuel our brains.

Ketones are a fundamentally different energy source than the carbohydrates your body is typically designed to utilize for energy. Ketones are produced through a process known as ketosis. The body achieves ketosis when blood ketone levels exceed 0.5mM.

Tapping into that evolutionary adaptation, the main goal of the keto diet is, above all else, to trigger ketone production.

The body can produce its own ketones through diet or fasting (endogenously) or through an external means (exogenously) such as H.V.M.N. Ketone Ester.

Exogenous ketones are ketones that are consumed—meaning ketone production does not occur within the body. Exogenous ketones provide the body with fuel and allows us to enter a metabolic state that wouldn’t occur naturally, because you don’t need to fast or diet to be in ketosis.

The body’s metabolism is not black and white. Most people don’t go straight from using carbohydrates as a fuel source to immediate ketosis at the drop of a dime; there’s a period of adaptation which sometimes results in the “keto flu” (flu-like symptoms while the body learns to tap into fat as fuel instead of carbs).

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Benefits of Keto

From weight loss to cardiovascular health, there are several potential benefits to ketogenic dieting. The diet isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution (despite what you’ve maybe heard, with all the keto hype). And no matter what diet, it’s important to consider your own personal needs before embarking on a lifestyle change.

Let’s take a closer look at what the keto diet may be able to do for you.

May Increase Weight Loss

A reduction in carbohydrate consumption usually leads to weight loss. This is especially true of those consuming a Western diet, in which you may consume 50% of your calories from carbs.

In a meta analysis performed on low-carbohydrate diets, individuals were assigned to either a low-carb diet (less than 50g per day) or a low-fat diet (less than 30% of calories from fat). Five different studies showed decreased bodyweight, lower diastolic blood pressure, and increased HDL (good) cholesterol for patients using the low-carb diet when compared to low-fat diets.

A second study followed 120 overweight people who were assigned an extremely low-carb diet (less than 20g per day) or a low-fat diet (less than 30% calories from fat with a 500 calorie deficit).4 Both groups also exercised regularly as part of the diet plan. The results showed patients lost on average 4.8kg on a low-carb diet vs. 3.3kg on a low-fat diet.

Both of these versions of low-fat diets illustrate that for weight loss purposes, a low-carb diet might be better than a low-fat diet (all other factors being equal).

Can Help Improve Satiation

Many people believe high-fat, low-carb diets are better for satiation purposes. This can result in less overall calories consumed, which might result in weight loss.

In one study, 119 overweight volunteers were assigned either a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet or a low-fat diet. The study sought to assess weight loss diets on mood, food cravings, and other self-reported symptoms, including negative effects, fatigue, somatic symptoms, physical effects of hunger, insomnia, and stomach problems. The results showed those following a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet experienced less hunger compared to those following the low-fat diet.

It’s likely the high fat content of the ketogenic diet that plays a role in keeping you feeling fuller for longer. In turn, people may eat less food and potentially lose weight as a result.

May Help Diabetic Patients

Maintaining blood glucose levels at a healthy level is imperative for diabetics (type 1 and type 2). The lower intake of carbohydrates on a ketogenic diet can help reduce the large spikes in blood sugar, and thus, reduce the need for insulin.

A study was performed on 49 diabetics who followed a low-carb diet (less than 20g) or a reduced-calorie diet (-500 calories). Both groups also exercised regularly.

The low-carb group experienced greater improvements in hemoglobin (1.5% vs. 0.5%), bodyweight (11.1kg vs. 6.9kg) and HDL cholesterol (+5.6mg vs 0). The results of this study leads us to believe lower carb diets may help improve glycemic control and lowering risks associated with type 2 diabetes.

May Lessen Cardiovascular Risks

Cardiovascular disease is often a result of a complex collection of symptoms. Weight, activity level, diet—these all might play a role in the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In relation to keto, fat consumption is usually the hotly debated topic in the medical community. For decades, low-fat diets were thought to be the answer; but now, it may seem like eating more fat is linked to weight loss. This is simply an example of the way we learn, how studies change, and how advice medical professionals may give based on those learnings will also, undoubtedly, change too.

All that said, let’s look at how the ketogenic diet may play a role in lessening the risks of cardiovascular disease.

A study was performed on 60 participants who followed either a higher-carb or lower-carb diet for 12 weeks. The lower-carb group experienced greater weight loss (13.6 pounds) compared to the higher carb group (7.5 pounds). The lower carb group also experienced better blood lipid levels compared to the higher carb group.

A separate study was conducted on 63 obese men and women who followed either a low-carb, high protein, high-fat diet or a low-calorie, high-carb, low-fat diet. The results were clear; patients on the lower-carb diet lost more weight after a six month period compared to the low-fat group (7 pounds vs. 3.2 pounds).

How to Use the Keto Shopping List

The grocery store may feel like a whole new world after using this shopping guide.

Although keto may appear simple in practice, choosing the wrong foods can take you out of ketosis or prevent you from ever getting there.

As you’ll see, we stress the importance of whole food purchases and staying away from processed goods.

This food list will provide several dietary options fitting within the confines of the keto diet, but keep in mind this is not a comprehensive list.

Before we dive into the food choices, let’s go over some basic fundamental steps before setting foot in the grocery store. This is like laying the foundation of a lifestyle change.

Set a Budget

When beginning a new diet, it’s easy to get carried away. You want to purchase every single product possible because you think it’ll help you reach your goals.

Before you max out that credit card, take a deep breath.

Assess your finances and try to set a reasonable budget so you don’t overspend. Many people buy too much food at the grocery store and much of the food expires before they ever get an opportunity to consume it.

Maybe your budgeting will even involve shopping at different grocery stores. Many people will purchase all their meats from a local butcher, while getting other items, like fruits and vegetables, from big-box stores. Think about where you live and what the best option is for you.

Stick to the Basics

Many people tend to get caught up in new food items the moment they pop up on the shelves; has there been a new superfood announced this week? When it comes to food choices, you should always try to stick to the basics.

Most of the foods you purchase will include combinations of the following:

  • Meats
  • Veggies
  • Eggs
  • Dairy
  • Healthy cooking oils
  • Nuts

The key is shopping the edges of the grocery store and staying away from processed foods in the aisles. Once you have the basics down, you may be able to incorporate other food items.

The key is not to overcomplicate the minor details when starting out.

Now that you have a firm grasp on the basics, you’re ready to go to the store. Grab that shopping cart and break out this list.

To make this more user-friendly, we’ve broken the list down in the most logical way possible.

Meats to Buy

The keto diet is a high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb diet at its most basic and fundamental level. Consuming different types of meat is one way to ensure you keep your fat content high.

Some of the meats you should purchase include:

  • Ground beef and ground turkey
  • Chicken thighs and chicken breasts
  • Bacon
  • Pork chops
  • Ham
  • Sausage
  • Steaks (we like NY strip)
  • Salmon and other fatty fish, like tuna
  • Eggs

Meat selection should go beyond simple caloric values. While the caloric and macronutrient content may be similar, the quality of the meats can vary.

When possible, you should strive to purchase grass-fed beef, pasture-raised chicken and pork, and wild caught seafood. Some of this will vary depending upon season and location. Certain parts of the country may not have as many meat choices available.

Some meats also contain hormones and antibiotics so be wary of this as well. Consume higher-quality fatty meats if they fits within your budget.

Veggies to Buy

Most vegetables are considered healthy and fit within the ketogenic diet, although higher carb choices such as white potatoes, sweet potatoes, and carrots should be avoided.

Stick to non-starchy veggies such as:

  • Spinach
  • Asparagus
  • Cauliflower
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Bell peppers
  • Celery
  • Cucumber
  • Mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Zucchini
  • Spaghetti squash
  • Peas
  • Artichokes
  • Cabbage
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Bok choy

Do not consider this an all-inclusive list as there are several other vegetables you may purchase that are also keto-friendly.

You’ll be making many new dishes that may call for vegetables you’ve never heard of. Don’t be afraid to try something new.

Fruits to Buy

Most fruits are off-limits on keto due to their carb content. Cherries and berries are probably the most keto-friendly fruit, specifically, raspberries and blackberries. And since we’re in the fruit aisle, best to stock up on all the avocados to get a dose of healthy fat.

Some of the most keto-friendly fruit choices include:

  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Raspberries
  • Cherries
  • Cranberries
  • Blackberries
  • Avocados

Generally, it’s best to consume fruit in moderation; we like to use them as dessert.

Dairy Products to Buy

The carb content of dairy products can vary depending upon the item. Be sure to look at all the nutrition labels before making a purchase.

Some keto-friendly dairy options include:

  • Full-fat yogurt
  • Heavy cream
  • Butter
  • Sour cream
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • Cheese
  • Parmesan
  • Cheddar
  • Swiss
  • Mozzarella
  • Feta
  • Brie
  • Colby
  • Goat cheese
  • Blue cheese
  • Ricotta cheese
  • String cheese
  • Cream cheese
  • Cottage cheese

Many dairy products will be keto-friendly while others not so much—just be sure to focus on those with full fat content. If you consume dairy in moderation you should have no problem keeping it keto.

Nuts and Seeds

Some nuts are considered low-carb and keto-friendly, while others have higher carb content and should be avoided as snacks. Keto-friendly options to consider include:

  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Pecans
  • Pistachios
  • Walnuts
  • Sesame seeds
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Peanut butter
  • Almond butter
  • Flaxseed
  • Chia seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Brazil nuts
  • Sunflower seeds

Other nuts such as peanuts and cashews are higher in carbs, so stick to the ones we’ve listed.

Healthy Cooking Oils

High-quality fat sources are an important part of a diversified keto meal plan. Some of the best healthy cooking oils for keto include:

  • Olive oil
  • Avocado oil
  • Coconut oil
  • MCT oil
  • Avocado oil

You should stay away from oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids, such as vegetable oil and canola oil. The healthy fats listed above are high in healthy Omega-3s and should be consumed regularly as part of the keto diet.

Baking Ingredients

When it comes to baking, there are high-carb options that should be avoided, such as white flour.

The good news is you can still create keto-friendly recipes by using lower carb ingredients. And if you need to add a source of high-quality fat when baking, two great options of H.V.M.N.’s MCT Oil Powder and Keto Collagen+. Both of these powders contain C8, the world’s most ketogenic fat, with a base of the gut-friendly prebiotic, acacia fiber. They’ll settle right into your pantry as keto diet staples.

Some of the best low-carb keto choices include:

  • Vanilla extract
  • Baking soda
  • Sea salt
  • Cocoa powder
  • Coconut flour
  • Almond flour
  • MCT Oil Powder

If a recipe calls for traditional flour, you can substitute it for one of the alternative flours we’ve listed above.

Condiments

Condiments can oftentimes be a hidden source of carbohydrates. Be sure to stay away from sugary condiments such as BBQ sauce in favor of vinegar-based options.

The following condiments are safe to use on the keto diet:

  • Mustards (yellow, grain, deli, dijon, etc.)
  • Soy sauce
  • Salsa
  • Hot sauces
  • Mayonnaise
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Vinegar-based dressings, like an Italian dressing
  • Sugar-free maple syrup
  • Classic lemon and lime juices

People don’t realize that ketchup and BBQ sauce can add several hundred calories to daily caloric intake if unaccounted for. Try to use options listed above to stay keto.

Snacks

One reason many diets fail is that people eat too many unhealthy snacks.

A handful of candy or a couple of cookies from the jar may not seem substantial, but just a few of these can wreak havoc on your ability to stay in ketosis.

Some of the best keto snacks include:

  • Pork rinds
  • Yogurt
  • Beef jerky
  • Low-carb nuts
  • Hard Boiled eggs
  • Cottage cheese with diced avocado

This is not a complete list, as there are more low-carb snacks on the market than ever before. You should never take a low-carb item at face value, but should read nutritional labels to be sure you’re adhering to a keto diet.

Foods to Avoid

Generally these items are considered a big no-no. Anything filled with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is definitely not considered keto.

The foods to avoid include:

  • Sugary snacks and desserts
  • Soda
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Chips
  • Processed goods
  • Fruit juice
  • Beer/wine

If you want to play it safe, simply throw these foods away to completely eliminate the temptations from sight. If these foods aren’t within arms reach, there’s less of a chance of you cheating on your diet.

Things to Remember

Sticking to a keto diet doesn’t have to be difficult or overly complicated. Meats, starch-free veggies, full-fat dairy, and nuts should lay the foundation for most of your dietary choices.

Be cautious when shopping at the grocery store and check all nutrition labels if you aren’t sure of the carb content. Also look at serving sizes to make sure you are adequately accounting for nutritional content. Consume carbs in moderation if you want to follow a strict keto diet.

The best diet is the one you can stick to long-term. No matter the diet always try to eat healthy to maximize your health and longevity.

This article was originally published at HVMN

References:

Cahill, G.F., Jr. (2006). Fuel metabolism in starvation. Annu Rev Nutr 26, 1-22.
Masood, W. (2019). Ketogenic Diet. Treasure Island, FL: StatPearls Publishing.
Bueno, N. B., de Melo, I. S., de Oliveira, S. L., & da Rocha Ataide, T. (2013). Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr, 110(7), 1178-1187.
Yancy W, Olsen MK, Guytib JR, et al. A Low-Carbohydrate, Ketogenic Diet versus a Low-Fat Diet To Treat Obesity and Hyperlipidemia: A Randomized, Controlled Trial. Ann Intern Med. 2004;140(10):769-777.
Mcclernon FJ, Yancy WS, Eberstein JA, Atkins RC, Westman EC. The effects of a low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet and a low-fat diet on mood, hunger, and other self-reported symptoms. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2007;15(1):182-7.
Westman EC, Yancy WS, Mavropoulos JC, Marquart M, Mcduffie JR. The effect of a low-carbohydrate, ketogenic diet versus a low-glycemic index diet on glycemic control in type 2 diabetes mellitus. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2008;5:36.
Aude YW, Agatston AS, Lopez-jimenez F, et al. The national cholesterol education program diet vs a diet lower in carbohydrates and higher in protein and monounsaturated fat: a randomized trial. Arch Intern Med. 2004;164(19):2141-6.
Foster GD, Wyatt HR, Hill JO, et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med. 2003;348(21):2082-90.
St-pierre V, Vandenberghe C, Lowry CM, et al. Plasma Ketone and Medium Chain Fatty Acid Response in Humans Consuming Different Medium Chain Triglycerides During a Metabolic Study Day. Front Nutr. 2019;6:46.

What Are Net Carbs- In a Nutshell

In recent years, carb counting has become a major point of dietary emphasis. With many low-carb diets such as keto and Atkins becoming more commonplace, it’s crucial to account for carbohydrates properly.

Highlights:

  • Let’s Define a Carbohydrate
  • Net Carbs Explained
  • Why is Fiber Different?
  • Insoluble Fiber
  • Soluble Fiber
  • What are Sugar Alcohols?
  • How to Calculate Net Carbs
  • Net Carbs from Fiber
  • Net Carbs from Sugar Alcohols
  • Should You Use Net Carbs?

The problem is, there’s an ongoing debate between whether carbs or “net carbs” should be counted as part of one’s macronutrient profile. While some groups argue total carb count is a more precise measurement, others disagree with this sentiment.

Not all carbohydrates have the same effect from a dietary perspective. While some are more digestible, others tend to pass through the body without being absorbed.

It’s important to understand the differences between carbs and net carbs so that you can determine which form of measurement is most conducive to your lifestyle and goals.

Let’s take a deeper look at various types of carbs and what roles they play within your body.

Let’s Define a Carbohydrate

Before we dive into net carbs, it helps to know what a carb actually is in the first place.

Carbohydrates are an umbrella term for molecules containing carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms. There are two main types of carbs found in the foods we eat—simple carbs and complex carbs.

Simple carbs are found mostly in sugary foods and contain only one or two sugar unit molecules which can affect how quickly the food is digested and absorbed. Some examples are fruits and foods containing table sugar, like soda or cookies.

Complex carbs are slower-digesting in nature and contain several sugar units linked together. They are often found in whole grains, starchy vegetables, white and sweet potatoes, carrots, and oats.

While simple and complex carbs can be used as an energy source or stored as fat.

If a person consumes more carbs than needed, the body will convert excess carbs to fat.

There are other types of carbs which are not readily digestible by the body.

Fiber is different from the other two forms of carbohydrates. While it is similar in molecular profile, it does not provide a direct form of energy—it passes through the body without being digested and absorbed into the bloodstream for energy. The main role of fiber is to feed friendly bacteria in the digestive system.

Sugar alcohols also fall under the carbohydrate umbrella. They are typically used as a form of sweetener and contain only half the amount of calories as traditional carbohydrates. They are added to food as a reduced calorie sweetener and as a bulking agent.

Although each of these are considered carbs, the body handles each of them differently. It’s these differences that allow us to think that not all carbs are created equal, and we shouldn’t look at them as all playing the same role without our body.

Net Carbs Explained

Net carbs refers to carbs that are absorbed and processed by the body.

Simple and complex carbs are found in foods we eat. They are broken down in the small intestine and later become used as a source of energy in the body.

Those other types of carbs, such as fibers and sugar alcohols, can’t be broken as easily. 

Because our bodies don’t actually absorb these types of carbs (to use them for energy), many people subtract fibers and sugar alcohols from overall carbohydrate amount.

This is often where debate tends to arise.

While some count every single carb in their diet, others subtract fiber and sugar alcohols because the body does not retain these macronutrients in the same manner.

Why is Fiber Different?

Unlike other forms of carbohydrates, fiber is not directly used as a natural fuel source for the body. It passes directly into the colon and can’t be broken down by enzymes in the digestive tract. Because of this, less than half the total carbohydrates from dietary fiber are metabolized to glucose.

Fiber is best known for its ability to relieve constipation, especially soluble fiber (hello fruit, oatmeal, avocados and broccoli!), but can also provide several other health benefits.

Elevated fiber intake has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer in one study, but as mentioned earlier, this cause and effect action is now being debated among the scientific community. Another review looked at 22 publications and found dietary fiber was associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease.

Fiber consumption may be linked to lowering the risk of developing serious diseases.

The FDA Daily Value for fiber (the daily recommended amount) is 25 grams per day based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Even within fiber, there are two main types—insoluble and soluble fiber.

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and can help speed the passage of bowel movements thereby preventing constipation. It contains no calories, nor does it spike blood glucose or insulin levels, and isn’t broken down by the gut.

Insoluble fiber helps keep bowel movements regular and helps maintain a healthy digestive system. It’s typically found in the stalks, skins, and seeds of foods such as whole grains, nuts, and veggies,

Common foods with insoluble fiber include:

  • Beans
  • Whole wheat
  • Bran
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Nuts
  • Green beans

Insoluble fiber is an important part of a healthy diet that can help support several bodily functions.

Soluble Fiber

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is digested by bacteria in the large intestine.

One of the benefits of soluble fiber is its ability to help you feel full (and potentially, this can help you lose weight). A study performed on soluble fiber found that consuming 14g per day was associated with a 10% decrease in energy consumption (less food eaten) and weight loss of 1.9kg over a four month period.

As soluble fiber goes into your colon, it becomes short-chain fatty acids, which can help improve gut health and reduce inflammation. A meta analysis also looked at those with high fiber consumption and found soluble fiber can also help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Read related: Quick Guide to Healthy Fats- In a Nutshell

What are Sugar Alcohols?

Sugar alcohols are processed in a manner similar to fiber—they are not directly absorbed by the body. They’re found naturally in foods and can be used as low calorie sweeteners and bulking agents. Typically, they are used as sugar substitutes that contain about half the amount of calories as regular sugar.

As the name suggests, they’re a hybrid of sugar molecules and alcohol molecules.

Their chemical structure is similar to sugar, and thus have the ability to activate sweet taste receptors on your tongue. That’s part of their allure: sweet taste, far fewer calories.

You will typically find sugar alcohols in foods such as chewing gums, ice creams, frostings, cakes, cookies, candies, as well as some foods that claim to be low in carbs or sugar.

The most common sugar alcohols used today include:

  • Erythritol
  • Isomalt
  • Maltitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Xylitol

Erythritol has the least amount of net carbs. 90% of it is excreted in urine and only 10% enters the colon.

There are limited studies available on sugar alcohols, but no known studies have shown raised insulin or blood sugar levels as a result. Studies have shown, however, that some individuals do not process sugar alcohols well and report excessive gas and sometimes, diarrhea. This is because sugar alcohols are fermented by the gut microbiome (fermentation produces gas as a by product) and because they affect the osmolarity within your intestine (they cause excess water to end up in your stool/colon). This response often depends on the amount consumed, so if you’re thinking of adding sugar alcohols to your diet or increasing the amount, do so cautiously.

How to Calculate Net Carbs

If you choose to use net carbs as a basis of your dietary calculations for macronutrients, it will help to make sure you are accurately accounting for them. Net carbs are calculated differently for both fiber and sugar alcohols. Be sure to read nutrition labels closely as “net carbs” are not listed separately.

Net Carbs from Fiber

Calculating net carbs using both carbohydrate and fiber amounts is super simple.

If you are eating whole foods containing fiber, simply subtract the fiber from total carbs to calculate the net carbs.

For example, an apple contains 25g of carbohydrates and 5g of fiber. The result would be 20g of net carbs. This is a little more difficult when consuming those whole foods because they don’t have nutrition labels. But a simple online search should help you give you a pretty accurate estimation.

If you’re consuming foods with a nutrition label, both carbs and fiber should be listed and thus, net carbs easily calculated.

Net Carbs from Sugar Alcohols

In most cases, half the carbs from sugar alcohols can be subtracted from total carbs. For example, if a food contains 8g of sugar alcohols, you can subtract 4g from total carbs to determine net carbs.

One exception to the rule is Erythritol. The carbs from Erythritol can completely be subtracted from total carbs.

Most of the time, you’ll be subtracting fiber from carbohydrate amount to determine net carbs. Sugar alcohols are less common, but check nutrition labels to see if what you’re eating contains them, and make this part of your calculation when determining net carbs

Should You Use Net Carbs?

People debate about whether counting net carbs provides a more accurate representation compared to total carbs.

Using net carbs will allow for more dietary flexibility because you’re able to eat fiber-rich foods without consuming too many carbohydrates. There are also numerous health benefits associated with fiber consumption; a study performed on individuals who regularly consumed fiber showed improved blood sugar levels and lower cholesterol.

People trying to avoid carbohydrate intake may tend to eat more sugar-free problems, which can lead to other health problems such as weight gain, metabolic disorders, and type-2 diabetes.

When it comes down to it, using net carbs can be an imperfect science. Using total carbs can help provide a better framework for helping you to stick to your diet. However, if you eat lots of fibrous foods such as vegetables, using net carbs may be the perfect choice for your lifestyle. Or, if you’re on keto, and you find yourself constipated, consuming more fiber might be advantageous. You may have avoided those carbs to stick to your macros, and in the process, avoided fiber as well.

No matter if you choose to use net carbs or not, always make the dietary choices that best fit your individual lifestyle and goals. The best diet will always be the one you can stick to long-term.

Originally published on HVMN by Ryan Rodal

Maternal Nutrition: All you need to know about food, exercise and rest

The health of the mother is crucial for healthy birth outcomes hence, there is a need to meet the high nutritional demands of a woman during pregnancy. Preconception care optimizes both a mother’s health and that of her child.

 Preconception means knowing how health conditions and risk factors could affect a woman or her unborn baby if she becomes pregnant. Preconception care involves a visit to health centers in the months before pregnancy.

It includes routine checkups, behavioral and social health-related interventions, to both husbands and wives that involve nutrition counseling, diet diversity, healthy weight gain, and exercise tips before actual pregnancy.

First 1000 days of life: A milestone for brain development

The first 1000 days of life from the time of conception to the second birthday of the child is the opportunity window for laying the foundation of cognitive development, optimal health, and growth of the baby.

Milestones of brain development:

In the first trimester– Nervous system of the baby develops rapidly

Second trimester- Brain, spinal cord, and nerve network becomes fully functional. Also, the baby’s reflexes and hearing improve making the baby respond better to sound and touch.

Third trimester- Fat stores build-up and the brain grows in size along with lungs and other vital organs

The process of brain development is adversely affected if malnutrition occurs in a pregnant woman. A healthy woman will give birth to a healthy child a vice versa.

A developing fetus is highly vulnerable to birth defects such as intrauterine growth rate and other problems during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, a time when women may not realize they are expecting.

In South Asia, one out of every five women is underweight, one in ten is malnourished as per UNICEF report.

In developing countries, many children are devoid of proper nutrition during their early years of brain development.

Moreover, there is a prevalence of pre-pregnancy overweight over underweight in developing countries like India and Bangladesh.

The majority of adults are not aware of the importance of nutrition and lifestyle factors such as diet and exercise, including obesity and underweight impact maternal nutrition status and health of a child.

Malnutrition is an umbrella term that includes both undernutrition and overnutrition that has the potential to affect brain development.

Undernutrition is the unavailability of proper diet along with the inadequacy of nutrients in it, whereas overnutrition is the unbalanced diet leading to obesity and foods contaminated with potential toxins.

A healthy weight at BMI 18.5- 23.9 improves a woman’s chances of conception, while excess body fat or insufficient amounts may interfere with her fertility.

Pregnancy when maintained at healthy weight results in lower pregnancy-related complications for mother and the baby.

Pregnant women with anemia, gestational diabetes, and hypertension are at higher risk of preterm deliveries, increased bleeding during and after delivery, stillbirth and low birth weight babies.

 In India, according to the 2015-16 National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 50% of pregnant women in the country are anemic. Despite the government mandate of consumption of iron-folic acid tablets for 100 days during pregnancy, only 30 % of pregnant women have consumed iron-folic acid tablets for at least 100 days (NFHS-4).

Role of nutrients during Pregnancy:

To maintain good health during pregnancy, macronutrients (energy, protein) and essential micronutrients (iron, iodine, calcium, vitamin A) are important for the body.

Also, the consumption of Iron-Folic acid (IFA) rich foods and supplements from the 4th month of pregnancy helps in the prevention of neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly.

During pregnancy, the consumption of calcium from the 4th month helps in bone strengthening. The use of iodine fortified salt in food helps in the mental development of the child.

Inclusion of vitamin A sources such as milk and milk products, fish, yellow and orange-colored fruits and vegetables in the diet helps in eyesight improvement.

Diet rich in protein such as milk and milk products, pulses, eggs, meat (fish and chicken) and vitamin C such as lemon, guava, oranges, and amla) enhances iron absorption.

Point to remember: It is normal to experience morning sickness (or vomiting and nausea) in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Note: Meals should be made primarily from whole foods, including vegetables, fruits, cereals, and legumes, healthy fats, and proteins.

Caffeine intake during Pregnancy

 Caffeine is a stimulant found in tea, coffee, cola-type soft drinks, chocolate, and also in some over-the-counter medicines. Reduce the daily consumption of caffeinated beverages to 2 cups of coffee and/or tea/green tea/soft drink. Excess caffeine may be associated with a higher risk for low birth weight and pregnancy loss.

Close the Micronutrient gap during Pregnancy:

During pregnancy, there is a need to maintain a nutrient reserve of the pregnant woman to ensure proper growth and development of the fetus.

Consume iron and folate-rich foods like Bengal gram whole, soybean, fenugreek leaves, mustard leaves, chickpea, pumpkin and carrot, spinach, orange, beans, fish respectively.

Calcium-rich foods such as milk, buttermilk, curd, cottage cheese, sesame seeds, ragi and green leafy vegetables (spinach, amaranth leaves) are beneficial for the proper development of baby’s brain and spinal cord.

Along with dietary sources of folate and calcium through foods, consumption of iron-folic acid and calcium supplements/tablets is also advised from the second trimester of pregnancy until 6 months after delivery of the baby.

Importance of Iron folic acid (IFA) in pregnancy

Women should consume one folic acid tablet (400 micrograms) daily in the first trimester only. Folic acid helps prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida within the first month of pregnancy when the neural tube forms. The neural tube develops into the spine and brain. 

IFA tablets help in blood formation and prevent anemia and other pregnancy-related complications like fatigue, shortness of breath, etc. As anemia during pregnancy increases the risk of preterm birth, low birth weight, infections.

Dosage recommended: In the second and third trimester consume one IFA (400mg) tablet daily till 6 months after delivery. It is recommended to consume IFA tablets one hour after the meal in case of gastritis, nausea, and vomiting.

Note: IFA tablet when consumed with citrus food sources (lemon, guava, oranges) enhances iron absorption.

Do not consume IFA tablets along with tea, coffee, milk, or calcium tablet.

Importance of calcium in pregnancy

Consumption of calcium alleviates the risk of pre-eclampsia/eclampsia and high blood pressure during pregnancy and delivery. Therefore it is recommended to take 2 calcium tablets daily from the second trimester till delivery and continue for six months post-delivery. Calcium also helps in strengthening bones.

Dosage recommended: Consume one calcium tablet in the morning or afternoon meal and one in the evening meal. Avoid eating calcium tablets on an empty stomach as it may cause gastritis.

Note: Calcium and IFA tablets should not be taken together as calcium interferes in the proper absorption of iron in the body and vice versa.

Pregnancy and physical activity:

Women who are overweight are more susceptible to type 2 diabetes and during pregnancy have a greater risk of developing gestational diabetes and other related complications. Regular exercise before pregnancy is beneficial to both mom and baby, and it may involve light exercise, yoga, and meditation.

A pregnant woman should undertake regular physical activity as it helps in improving physical fitness, preventing metabolic disorders, reducing stress.

It also helps maintain healthy weight gain during pregnancy. With the help of a yoga increase in flexibility, strength, endurance, and proper breathing are attainable for healthy childbirth.

 Two and a half hours of yoga or brisk walk per week for about 20-25 minutes every day is beneficial during pregnancy. Always begin with 5 minutes of slow walking or stationary cycling with a low resistance to warm up your muscles.

Note: Exercise is essential to a healthy lifestyle and is a key to maintain a healthy weight.

Pregnancy and Rest:

Adequate rest of 2 hours during the day and sleep of 8 hours at night daily is beneficial during pregnancy as sleeping for 6 or fewer hours is associated with the risk of preterm birth.

 Sleep on the left side to increase blood flow to the fetus as reduced blood flow can lead to late stillbirths. Whereas, sleeping flat on the back, especially in late pregnancy can cause a reduced supply of oxygen to the women’s brain leading to a fainting attack.

 Avoid doing heavy physical work such as lifting heavy equipment and work requiring a long duration of standing time or 46 hours or more hours of work in a week as they may lead to preterm birth or low birth weight baby or fetal growth retardation.

Husbands, Because your presence matters

Husbands play an important role in pregnancy. Their contribution helps in healthy motherhood and safe child.

As a responsible husband and future father they can encourage right nutrition practices for their wife for healthy birth of baby.

There is no greater gift you can give to your wife allowing them to be positive throughout the pregnancy. Support of husband only becomes useful when you incorporate the pregnancy related knowledge and awareness in practice.

References:

  • WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. Geneva: World Health Organization (WHO); 2016.
  • United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)Stop Stunting: Power of Maternal Nutrition. Scaling-up the Nutritional Care of Women in South Asia 2018. UNICEF Regional Office for South Asia: Kathmandu, Nepal.
  • Pietro Cavalli. Prevention of Neural Tube Defects and proper folate periconceptional supplementation. J Prenat Med. 2008; 2(4): 40–41.
  • National Iron Plus Initiative for Anemia control, Operational Guidelines. Available from: http://www.nrhmhp.gov.in/sites/default/files/files/Iron%20plus%20initiative%20for%206%20months%20-5%20 years.pdf

A Quick Guide to Sports Nutrition

Nutrition for Sports

Specialized exercise training is an integral part of sport performance and proper nutrition is an important component of the total training program, allowing for optimal growth and development in athletes. Sports nutrition for athletes is similar to essential nutrients needed by a non-athlete person with varied increases in their calorie needs from macronutrients and micronutrients.

Therefore, nutritional needs before, during and after exercise should be maintained for optimal sports performance.

Nutrition Assessments in Athletes

Nutrition status of athletes can be assessed by ABCDE method as follows:

A- Anthropometrices (measurement of weight and height)

B- Biochemical analysis (blood and urine test)

C- Clinical signs and symptoms of excesses or deficiency

D- Diet history to assess what a person is eating over a period of time

E- Economic status is assessed for additional factor that should also be taken into account

Note: A study reported by National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) suggested  that 7 days dietary records are necessary in case of athletes in each of the training phase ( pre-event and event phase including post-event phase) as the training duration and intensity vary considerably vary from day to day.

What are the Basic Nutrients:

Dietary pattern of athletes is influenced by many factors such as meal time, food sources and frequency. The nutrients in the food provide energy for every cell in the body, growth and repair of tissue, maintenance of metabolism, and provision of water for every cell.

A well-balanced diet with appropriate amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein and fat) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) is important to provide enough energy for proper growth and activity. Fluids are also essential for hydration supports growth and better athletic performance.

Macronutrients: 

Body needs a large quantity of macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fats) on daily basis and have a caloric value.

Calorie is defines as amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

Carbohydrate:

Carbohydrate is main source of fuel for working muscles and make up to 50-60% of your diet. Each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 k cal of energy.

A minimal daily amount of carbohydrates recommended for an athlete is 250-300 grams if the total intake is 2000 k cal (WHO)

Carbohydrate Loading

The aim of the carbohydrate loading phase is to increase muscle’s capacity to store glycogen above their normal level. As certain endurance events (< 90 min) (such as marathon running, endurance swimming and triathlon) require additional amount of glycogen storage to be
spared during the events.

In such events appropriate carbohydrate loading method may be adopted if the carbohydrate stores are below normal.

Note:  Recent studies have reported that as along as the intake of carbohydrate is within the recommended levels, carbohydrate loading technique is not desirable because it will limit intake of other essential nutrients which are required for optimal performance.

Protein:

Protein are needed for proper growth and repair of tissue. Each gram of protein provides 4 K cal of energy. For a healthy individual  diet should contain approximately 10-15% of protein.

Protein Calculation:

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for protein for:

  • Sedentary people- 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight
  • Endurance athletes-1.2 to 1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight
  • Strength training- 1.2 to 1.7 grams per kilogram of body weight

Calculating Protein Requirement for a Person Weighing 70 Kg.
RDA for Protein = 0.8 gm of protein / kg of healthy body weight/day
Therefore a 70 kg person needs:
70 kg ( 0.8 g protein = 56 g protein/day)

Fat:

Fats are concentrated source of energy and each gram of fat provides 9 K cal of energy. For a healthy individual  diet should contain approximately 30-35% of fat. Fats can be classified into 4 categories as follows:

Monounsaturated: Olives, rapeseed oil, nuts, avocados, canola
Polyunsaturated (Omega-3) Salmon, mackerel, trout, walnuts, flax seeds
Polyunsaturated (Omega-6) Sunflower seeds, wheatgerm, soybean, corn

Saturated: Butter, cheese, meat and meat products, full-fat milk, pastries, coconut oil and palm oil
Trans fatty acids: Baking fats like hydrogenated vegetable oils (Vanaspati), fatty meat

Micronutrients:

Vitamins and minerals are termed as micronutrients needed in small amount on daily basis needed for-

  • Proper metabolic functioning of the body
  • Prevention of free radicals and
  • Boosts immune function

Water and fat soluble vitamins and inorganic trace minerals are required in small  amount in the body but they contribute in the vital metabolic
functioning responsible for energy release in the body.

Need of Hydration

Fluids vital to the life of every cell in the body. It is a-

  • Solvent
  • Lubricant
  • Medium for transport and
  • Temperature regulator that makes up the majority (about 2/3) of our body and yields no energy.

Pre-event Hydration:

1. Athletes should consume 1.5 to 3 L of fluid above their normal intake the day before the event.
2. Athletes should consume 0.5 L of water 1-2 hours prior to the event and 0.6L of water / other fluids 10-15 minutes before event.
3. Empty their bladder 15 minutes prior to the event is a must.
4. Athletes should drink cool water during the event as it is absorbed faster and cools the body better than water at room temperature.

During Event Hydration:

1. Athletes should drink 150 ml to 250 ml every 10-15 minutes to maintain fluid balance.
2. Athletes should sip the water, and not gulp it down.

After activity Hydration:

  1. Begin immediately to compensate loss in body weight
  2. Athletes can sip plain water, diluted fruit juice and electrolyte glucose drinks

Example of Pre-event Meals

Pre-event Meals: Less than 1 hour Before Exercise (100 K cal approx)

  • Sports Drink
  • Half of energy Sports Bar
  • Fresh Fruits such as banana or orange slices
  • Canned Fruits
  • Dried Fruits
  • Salads & Soups

Pre-event Meals: Less than 1-2 hours Before Exercise (300-400 K cal approx)

  • Fruit flavored yogurt
  • Fresh Fruits like apple, papaya or pineapple
  • Cereal Bars
  • 1 Sports energy bar
  • Milk shake/ fruit smoothie with berries, banana, 1 scoop soy or whey protein
  • Breakfast cereals with milk or oats shake

Pre-event Meals: Less than 3-4 hours Before Exercise (700 K cal approx)

  • Cottage cheese on toast
  • Baked potato with grilled chicken
  • Bread roll with cottage cheese/ meat filling and a banana
  • Pasta with baked vegetables
  • Fruit salad with scrambled egg whites and toast
  • Glass of milk with 1 fruit

Role of Sports Nutrition:

Sports nutrition assumes critical importance because it permits the athlete
to achieve the maximum possible physical performance and is adequate
to cover energy expenditure, and for tissue maintenance, repair and growth. The nutritional needs differ from individual to individual based on
age, sex, body size and composition, occupation, physiological condition etc.

It is essential to take into account all the factors like (physical, physiological, sport specificity etc.,) in recommending dietary allowances not only
to improve the ultimate performance in each individual athlete, but also to achieve desirable body size and composition suitable to the event.

In addition, the post event dietary needs of athletes are also important for repair and regeneration of the tissue and replenish the glycogen stores.

Muscle building Supplements:

Muscle building Supplements include amino acids, creatine, HMB, protein, protein fortified beverages and bars.

Protein or amino acid supplementation in the form of powder or pills should not be taken into large amount as it may lead to dehydration, weight gain, stress on liver and kidney.

Branched chain Amino Acids (BCAAs):

Branched chain amino acids such as leucine, isoleucine and valine are essential amino acids. Consumption of branched chain amino acids before and after exercise have been shown to increase protein synthesis and muscle gains.

Some research studies reported a significantly greater weight gain in lean mass on intake of 14 gram of BCAAs during 8 weeks of weight training.

Dairy products and meat are excellent source of BCAAs. Other food sources of amino acids like leucine, isoleucine and valine are-

         Amino acids                                  Food Sources

  • Leucine-        Whole wheat, brown rice, beans, soy, nuts, dairy, meats
  • Isoleucine-    Chickpeas, chicken, egg, fish, nuts and seeds
  • Valine-           Grains, dairy, peanuts, soy protein, meat and mushrooms

Sports supplements including vitamin and mineral supplements should be taken only in case of their deficiency and only after consulting a Doctor
and of prescribed potencies to avoid any adverse effect on health.

Research studies suggests that vitamin and mineral supplements are unnecessary for the athlete receiving a balanced diet.

Read more: Post exercise recovery techniques

Reference:

  1. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process – By L. Kathleen Mahan, Janice L Raymond, Sylvia

Post Exercise Recovery Techniques

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Image credits: Mauricio Campino

Facts about Exercise

There are different forms of exercise such as high-intensity-short duration, high intensity interval training (HIIT) and moderate- to low-intensity exercises. 

The intensity and duration of exercise is important in determining what energy source (carbohydrate, protein, fat) will be used as a fuel by the contracting muscles during exercise. 

 Metabolic Pathways for Energy Production for Exercise:

  1. Aerobic metabolism: Dependent on oxygen
  2. Anaerobic metabolism: Independent of oxygen

A person who is exercising may utilize one or more energy pathways that is aerobic or anaerobic metabolic pathways. The anaerobic pathway provide fuel for short-duration, high-intensity exercise such as sprints, competitive races etc.

Whereas, aerobic pathway provides energy for moderate intensity exercise such as swimming, cycling, gymnastics for a longer time. 

 When the duration of exercise increases, fats are the principal source of energy. On the other hand, carbohydrate is the energy source for high-intensity exercise.

For better athletic performance proper training is required but recovery after intense exercise is the key to get stronger and faster.

Post exercise remedies to recover from aches, pains and tissue repair is the most important part of an exercise regime.

A number of studies provide evidence that recovery techniques like stretching, cryotherapy, pills, metabolism and hydration have different beneficial effects on post exercise recovery.

Post Exercise Recovery Techniques

Stretching

In 2011, a research review done by Australian scientists on 12 studies reported that: muscle stretching do not have a  significant role in reduction of delayed onset of muscle soreness in healthy adults. In 2016, another research review concluded that stretching improves flexibility in the long term but does not help alleviate risk of injury after exercise.

Neurotransmitters

Cryotherapy methods such as post-exercise body cooling in cold water baths reduces inflammation and speeds recovery from soft-tissue injury. A 2011 meta-analysis study found that this could reduce perceptions of muscle soreness.

According to sports scientists due to a conditioning effect as per Pavlovian theory, an expectation of benefits triggers the release of natural painkilling neurotransmitters such as endorphins and dopamine involved in sensations of pleasure and pain. 

Anti-oxidant Supplements

Oxygen consumption increases 10-15 fold during an exercise and  produce free radicals as part of the metabolic processes that causes muscle fatigue, muscle damage and inflammation. Free radicals can be neutralized by anti-oxidant vitamins like vitamin A, C and E.

Whether exercise increases the need of additional anti-oxidants in the diet is unclear. As per a cochrane review of 50 studies, no beneficial effect of anti-oxidant supplements was seen on muscle pain post exercise either in a pill or food form.

Metabolism

Intake of carbohydrate post exercise is beneficial when planning for a second heavy session that day. Earlier, carbohydrate in food turned rapidly into fuel for immediate use and turned into glycogen to be stored in muscle and liver. Also protein is required to build muscle and repair tissues.

A 2013 meta-analysis reported that evidence suggesting benefits from immediate post-exercise protein consumption was based on a comparison with training after fasting.

Athletes who train early in the morning without eating or drinking develops risk of lower glycogen stores that can impair performance especially exercise that involves endurance training.

Hence, intake of protein after exercise increase glycogen re-synthesis rate and promote anabolic hormonal profile.

During a post-exercise “window of anabolic opportunity” or metabolic window of 30-45 minutes, a period during which nutrition shift body from catabolic to anabolic state.

Therefore, intake of 25-30 g of protein immediately after exercise helps in muscle growth if you did not have meals for more than 4 hours before an exercise. 

Hydration

Proper hydration supplies blood to the skin for body temperature regulation. because during exercise heat is produced which must be eliminated from the body. Any fluid deficit may potentially affect exercise bout.

Note: One should not restrict fluids before, during and after the event. Do not consume alcohol and caffeinated beverages before, during or after exercise due to their diuretic effect that may prevent fluid replenishment. 

Nutrient Needs of Athletes

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A diet should provide the right amount of energy, protein, adequate water, essential vitamins and minerals. A variety of food is needed every day. The intensity of an individual sports or training cause some athletes to have higher calorie and fluid requirements.

Incorporate variety of foods that contain appropriate amounts of carbohydrate, protein, vitamins and minerals to meet increased calorie needs during exercise.

Some Easy to Prepare Post Exercise Meals:

Post training consume carbohydrate and protein rich snacks or drinks within 20 minutes to recover quickly.

 

Ragi Chocolate Milkshake

After a tiring workout you can enjoy tasty Ragi chocolate milkshake, which is one of the healthiest option to go for after workout.

Add 2 tablespoon of ragi flour with 1 tablespoon of chocolate powder in a pan and add 3/4 cup water and whisk well to avoid lumps. Cook until it becomes thick and shiny. In a blender add 2 cup of low fat milk and cooked ragi mixture. Drink chilled milkshake topped with chocolate pieces and 1 teaspoon of grounded flaxseeds.

Oatmeal with Nuts, Blueberries, Banana and Yogurt

Oats is referred to as one of the most healthiest post workout options. It is gluten free, wholesome and excellent source of soluble fibre. Nuts are loaded with minerals and omega 3 fatty acids. Foods rich in omega 3 fatty acid promotes healing. Banana will help thicken up your smoothie, along with providing another source of electrolytes, that is potassium.

Eat this: Take 1 cup low-fat unsweetened yogurt and add steel-cut oats, slices of banana and nuts and frozen fruits.

Healthy Fruit Pops

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It is a healthy post workout snack that only takes few minutes to prepare. Sometimes, after exercise it is difficult to consume carbohydrate-rich foods. It is convenient to consume fruit pops made from fresh blueberries or strawberries, banana, orange slices and apple juice with no added sugar. Blueberries delivers a source of energy rich in antioxidant vitamin C and antioxidants prevent exercise induced muscle tissue damage.

Eat this: Cut all the fruits in thin slices or small pieces and put in a popsicle mold. Then add apple juice on it and freeze it for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Note: These are some of my recipes for general fitness program. You can choose recipes and ingredients as per your specific training.

Successful athletic performance is a combination of favorable genes, proper training and better approach to nutrition.

References:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2019/apr/21/the-secrets-of-sports-recovery
  2. Krause’s Food & the Nutrition Care Process Book by L. Kathleen Mahan, Janice L Raymond, Sylvia 

Keto and Intermittent Fasting: A Beginner’s Guide

The ketogenic diet and intermittent fasting have more in common than you may believe. When combining the two practices, they may be able to synergistically work together toward common goals of fat loss and improved metabolic health. Despite the differences in the diets, they have two big similarities: both increase ketone production and can also burn the body’s fat stores. In tandem they may help to expedite your weight loss goals.

The Highlights:

  • Ketosis
  • Increasing ketone levels
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Science behind intermittent fasting
  • Advantages of Intermittent fasting
  • Eating windows
  • Water fasts
  • Starting a Keto and Intermittent fasting Hybrid diet
  • Tying it all together

But where do they fit in together? Practicers of intermittent fasting are using the technique to improve weight loss, insulin sensitivity and other health biomarkers. The keto diet targets many of the same goals, like helping to reshape metabolism and improve body composition.

If you’re trying to decide between one or the other, why not try both at the same time? Let’s look at some of the benefits of each, and how they can work together to encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Ketosis

The ketogenic diet has been around for several decades, but has gained increasing popularity over the last several years. While some diets encourage consumption of fewer calories, the ketogenic diet is based on low carbohydrate intake rather than focusing on calorie intake. Keto can be described as a low-carb, high-fat diet which induces production of ketones from fat, leading to a state of ketosis: the presence of ketones in the blood at greater than 0.5mM. This is much different than the traditional western high-carb diet.

Our bodies are biologically programed to run on a mix of carbohydrate and fat depending on what’s available.

Dietary carbohydrate gets taken up and used as energy via blood glucose (blood sugar), or it is stored as a molecule called glycogen in the liver. Glycogen is slowly released between meals to keep blood glucose energy levels stable. Once carbs are removed from the equation, the body eventually learns to use alternative fuel sources for energy as glycogen stores are depleted.

There are two ways to induce ketosis. The first, called endogenous ketosis, is when ketosis is triggered through diet or fasting. In this case, the body is making its own ketones, meaning the body is ketogenic. It can take days of fasting or weeks of dieting to achieve endogenous ketosis.

The ketogenic diet is often misconstrued by the masses as a high-fat diet that features bacon, butter, and oil as its main components. While you may choose to indulge in these particular types of foods, the main attribute of keto is that it requires dieters to consume little to no net carbs. If you’re on keto, you should aim for a carb intake around 50g per day—a really low amount.

The second was to induce ketosis is called exogenous ketosis. This means that ketones are introduced to the body from an external source, from ketone supplements. This body is still in ketosis (because its blood ketone levels are elevated) but it’s not ketogenic (because the body isn’t producing its own ketones).

Increasing Ketone Levels

Several supplements exist on the market to raise blood ketones through exogenous means. The goal with these types of products is to spur a faster, deeper ketosis without the need to diet or fast.

There are medium chain triglycerides, or MCT oils, which are a special type of fat found naturally in coconut oil, palm kernel oil, and butterfat. They do not contain ketones, instead possessing a fat that’s readily converted to ketones.

The choice between relying on exogenous or endogenous ketosis depends on your health and performance goals.

Although endogenous ketosis from the keto diet is a great recipe for weight loss, there are several other potential benefits of ketosis as well. Other benefits include:

  • Improved mental focus 
  • Better satiation
  • Ability to control diabetes 
  • Better cholesterol readings 

Interestingly, the body and brain can both use ketones as energy (like glucose). That’s why there are subjective reports of increased focus and less brain fog from keto dieters and people using exogenous ketones.

These are also some of the subjective feelings reported by intermittent fasters, likely due to the increased ketone levels from carb-depletion.

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Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is exactly what it sounds like: not eating for a certain period of time. On the surface, cutting out meals for a set period of time seems beautifully simple. But new research is advancing our knowledge of the best timing for meals and the helpful changes to our biology that occur during fasting.

Science Behind Intermittent Fasting

When you consume carbohydrates, the pancreas begins to release insulin-triggering carb uptake and storage.

Virtually every meal we eat triggers a metabolic response in our body.

Carbohydrates in our food (and to a lesser extent, protein) trigger the release of the hormone. The insulin in turn tells the body to store any excess energy as glycogen or as fat for later use. Some of the fat is stored in the liver, but most of it becomes fat deposits in the body. Insulin also switches off the processes that release fat from fat deposits, meaning that fat is going into storage and not used as fuel.

When you practice intermittent fasting on the other hand, energy intake is lower, insulin levels begin to fall and fat burning increases.

By increasing the amount of time the body is in a fasted state, there will be more time to for the body to tap into stored energy. Across evolution, most species would regularly enter a fasted state. Predators tend to eat larger portions at one given time and may not consume food for several days. There is nothing wrong with occasionally fasting for longer periods of time and it actually has several health benefits (but of course, consult your doctor before doing this).

Caloric Restriction

Simply put, restricting the amount of calories you consume will put the body into a fasted state.

There is a common belief that skipping a meal is bad for your metabolism or overall health. Truth is, we’re seeing more data support the idea of restricted eating. The three-meals-a-day convention has been standard in American diets for decades. But obesity has increased. Diabetes and pre-diabetes have also increased.

Obviously, something isn’t working.

In studies performed on animals, those in a fasted state had longer lifespans compared to those that did not fast. It seems the benefits of fasting can not only be seen short term, but over the course of a lifetime as well.

An interesting diet that mimics fasting is called the Prolon Diet. The idea is to really decrease insulin release while still providing nutrients. It’s a low-protein, low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet with calorie intake ranging from 770 – 1,100 calories per day. Studies have shown a fast-mimicking diet can improve biomarkers for aging, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Advantages of Intermittent Fasting

Besides benefits for body composition or weight loss, there are a number of advantages that accompany intermittent fasting.

  • Easier to manage than traditional dieting: Preparing a single (or a couple, depending on your feeding window) meals per day is logistically easier than preparing several meals from a time management standpoint. Plus, intermittent fasting saves you the headache of rigorous meal prepping, or finding foods that comply with a specific diet
  • Decrease in fat mass: Individuals who practiced intermittent fasting showed a decrease in fat mass while maintaining muscle mass and strength.
  • Longevity: Studies have shown that populations who fast on a regular basis can appear to have increased longevity. A study  was performed on rats that ate only once per day and it found that compared to other groups, those rats had a longer lifespan regardless of the amount of food consumed.
  • Improved health and metabolism: Metabolic health may be improved with fasting by way of circadian biology, the gut microbiome, and modifiable lifestyle behaviors, such as sleep. Research has shown that intermittent fasting may help improve blood lipids, glycemic control, control insulin levels, decrease blood pressure, and decrease inflammation.
  • Boost brain health: Fasting robustly is a strong trigger for neurogenesis and beta-hydroxybutyrate (or BHB, one of the three ketone bodies), which can trigger the release of brain growth factors.
  • Speed up endurance adaptation: Fasting promotes pathways involved in fat metabolism, which may help endurance performance—for example, growth of new mitochondria
  • Reduced risk of diabetes: Through intermittent fasting, reduced insulin resistance can help those with type 2 diabetes lower blood glucose levels and improve blood sugar. Intermittent fasting can also decrease inflammation

Unlike many other diets, intermittent fasting deals not with what you eat, but rather when you eat.

This dietary convention is all about timing rather than eating certain varieties of food. When you choose to partake in intermittent fasting, you are eating within a certain window of time. By forcing the body to stay in a fasted state for a longer period of time, the body will turn to fat stores to use for energy (since it doesn’t have carbs).

The body stores way more fat than carbohydrates, and will eventually learn to tap into those fat stores for energy. Simply choosing to eat in certain windows of time can have a positive long term effect on your body composition and overall health. Your body fat can decrease as well.

There are different variations of intermittent fasting, so it is not a one size fits all type of practice.

Eating Windows

The most common method of intermittent fasting is choosing a certain times for food intake (sometimes called “feeding hours”).

You may choose to eat over a four, six, or eight-hour window. This means you only eat during this particular timeframe and the remaining hours of the day are spent fasting.

Some people fast for 16-hour periods, eating only between the hours of 12pm – 8pm, and not eating outside of that time frame. Some do a 24-hour fast every week. Some of the most dedicated intermittent fasters will do a 36-hour fast every week. Employees at HVMN even did a seven-day fast.

Here are a couple ways to work eating windows and fasting windows into your normal eating schedule:

  • Four-hour window: First meal of the day at 3:00pm and the last meal of the day is consumed by 7:00pm
  • Six-hour window: First meal of the day at 2:00pm and the last meal of the day is eaten by 8:00pm
  • Eight-hour window: First meal of the day is at 12:00pm and the last meal is enjoyed by 8:00pm

Some people may take their fasts a step further and may choose to only eat once per day. This becomes a 24-hour (or near 24-hour) fast. You should use your sleeping hours to your advantage, almost like free fasting time (unless you’re sleep-eating). A common way to do this is to consume your last meal at 8pm, then wait to eat until 8pm the following day. Often, this is referred to as one-meal-a-day or OMAD fasting.

Regardless of the eating window, the total caloric intake for the day should remain the same.

Some may argue that there are advantages to having a longer period of fasting, but your choice of eating window is entirely up to you. The best fasting protocol is the one that you stick to. Find a way to work this into your everyday schedule for the best, most consistent results.

Water Fasts

It’s supremely important to stay hydrated while you fast. Though, some fasters consume only water during both shorter and longer fasts. Another popular beverage choice during a fast is black coffee, but this can be seen as a crutch because it reduces appetite.

Alternate day fasting (ADF) is a form of intermittent fasting, but takes a bit more of an extreme approach: no food for 24 hours every other day. However, alternate schedules allow for 500 calories to be consumed on fasting days, which have shown to be easier to stick with.

No matter the protocol, ADF diets have shown positive results for weight loss. Interestingly, studies in animals showed that ADF may modulate risk factors for chronic disease, and can help retain muscle mass in humans (something of a concern with fasting).

Longer water fasts can last anywhere from 36 hours to several days.

Studies in both animals and humans have suggested water fasts can have health benefits.

Most cited benefits include stimulating autophagy and reducing the risk for chronic disease. With these longer fasts—and really, fasting in general—always consult your doctor.

Starting a Keto and Intermittent Fasting Hybrid Diet

Although starting a hybrid type of diet sounds complicated, it can be simplified very easily. Here’s a look at what a single day might look like if you’re on keto and intermittent fasting. Follow these steps for an example keto meal plan that could be employed while intermittent fasting.

6:00am: Wake up, drink water and/or black coffee.

9:00am: Drink another cup of coffee if you’re feeling especially hungry or low on energy.

12:00pm: Begin eating window with eight ounces of chicken breast and a salad with olive oil dressing and feta cheese. Other lunch additions include hard boiled eggs, salmon, and avocado.

3:00pm: Snack on a handful of almonds and some blueberries.

6:00pm: Eat eight ounces of fish accompanied by vegetables like Brussels sprouts, string beans or asparagus.

8:00pm: Blueberries or nuts as dessert, for the final food consumed of the day.

If you’re considering a week of intermittent fasting interspersed with your keto diet, here’s what that week might look like.

Monday: Feeding hours between noon – 8pm. If you exercise on Mondays, try a midday workout when you’re fully fueled. Enjoy your last meal at 8pm. Keto meals might include a smoked salmon and avocado plate, or a steak and sweet potato dinner.

Tuesday: Fasting day. No calories consumed until 8pm.

Wednesday: Try a fasted workout in the morning. Begin eating at noon—you’ll probably be hungry. Reward yourself with a big chicken BLT salad for lunch and cheese omelette for dinner.

Thursday: No workouts, no all-day fasting. Since energy requirements are less on these days, begin eating at noon and try a turkey, cheese and avocado wrap for lunch, then salmon and asparagus for dinner.

Friday: Maybe the fasted workout didn’t go your way. Today, try a workout later in the day, planning your last 8pm meal as one high in protein. Try roasted chicken paired with creamy broccoli.

Saturday and Sunday: Here is another opportunity to try an extended fast, if you’re feeling up for it. But if you’re working out, ensure to properly fuel until you fully become fat-adapted. Maybe a nice long run outside is an option here. And use Sundays to meal prep, making the rest of the week easier!

This is an extremely simplified version, but starting this style of diet does not have to be complicated. Eat keto-friendly foods in a predetermined window. In this case the standard eight-hour eating window was followed, however, you may choose to follow a shorter eating window if so desired.

Tying it All Together

Keto dieting and intermittent fasting can go hand-in-hand when done correctly. Both should encourage the body to enter a state of endogenous ketosis, and hopefully, boost the results.

But remember—this is a process. It’ll take a bit of time to find out the best schedule that fits your lifestyle. Don’t be afraid to experiment and adapt. The best diet plan is the one that you’re able to stick to.

Have you tried intermittent fasting combined with keto? Share your experience in the comments.

This article was originally published at HVMN.

References:

  1. Collier R. Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. CMAJ. 2013;185(9):E363-4.
  2. Walczyk T, Wick JY. The Ketogenic Diet: Making a Comeback. Consult Pharm. 2017;32(7):388-396
  3. Partsalaki I, Karvela A, Spiliotis BE. Metabolic impact of a ketogenic diet compared to a hypocaloric diet in obese children and adolescents. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2012;25(7-8):697-704
  4. Paoli A, Rubini A, Volek JS, Grimaldi KA. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;67(8):789-796. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2013.116
  5. Hallböök T, Ji S, Maudsley S, Martin B. The effects of the ketogenic diet on behavior and cognition. Epilepsy Res. 2012;100(3):304-9
  6. Sumithran, P., Prendergast, L. A., Delbridge, E., Purcell, K., Shulkes, A., Kriketos, A., & Proietto, J. (2013). Ketosis and appetite-mediating nutrients and hormones after weight loss. Eur J Clin Nutr, 67(7), 759-764
  7. AJMC. Type 2 Diabetes: Changing the Paradigm From Management to Reversal. https://www.ajmc.com/contributor/sarah-hallberg-do-ms/2017/04/type-2-diabetes-changing-the-paradigm-from-management-to-reversal. Accessed February 14 2019
  8. Dashti HM, Mathew TC, Hussein T, et al. Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients. Exp Clin Cardiol. 2004;9(3):200-5
  9. National Institute on Aging. Longer daily fasting times improve health and longevity in mice. hhttps://www.nia.nih.gov/news/longer-daily-fasting-times-improve-health-and-longevity-mice. Accessed February 14, 2019
  10. Brandhorst S, Choi IY, Wei M, et al. A Periodic Diet that Mimics Fasting Promotes Multi-System Regeneration, Enhanced Cognitive Performance, and Healthspan. Cell Metab. 2015;22(1):86-99
  11. Walker G, Houthoofd K, Vanfleteren JR, Gems D. Dietary restriction in C. elegans: from rate-of-living effects to nutrient sensing pathways. Mech Ageing Dev. 2005;126(9):929-37
  12. NIH Research Matters. Fasting increases health and lifespan in male mice 2018. hhttps://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/fasting-increases-health-lifespan-male-mice. Accessed February 14, 2019
  13. Alirezaei M, Kemball CC, Flynn CT, Wood MR, Whitton JL, Kiosses WB. Short-term fasting induces profound neuronal autophagy. Autophagy. 2010;6(6):702-10
  14. Castello L, Froio T, Maina M, et al. Alternate-day fasting protects the rat heart against age-induced inflammation and fibrosis by inhibiting oxidative damage and NF-kB activation. Free Radic Biol Med. 2010;48(1):47-54

A blueprint of Self-care Approach

             Identify your unique plans to change as per your ikigai. The word ‘Ikigai’ involves planning your routines and work schedules daily with a purpose. Every day is a new day, and if you miss any self-care goal due to procrastination, you always have the option to start a healthy routine each day.

             1. Time:

             Time plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Not just the wall clock set the internal biological clock as per a healthy routine. Get ready to go to bed by 9 pm. Read a book or do a breathing exercise to prepare for good night sleep. Switch off all the gadgets as possible that can hamper your sleep pattern. Work as per schedule the next morning to avoid anxiety and confusion. If you win the morning, you win the day.

            2. Food:

             Comfort your body by eating healthy. Food works as a fuel in your body to keep you going throughout the day. Our diet plays a crucial role in our overall health and well-being. Do you believe, one type of food can fulfill the demand for nutrients? Diet diversity is the key to meet the nutrients needed. Add a variety of colors in your diet with at least one food item from each of the food groups.

             The healthy foods include-

             Energy boosting foods: Whole grains and cereals are packed with energy dense nutrients. Add oats, brown rice, quinoa, nuts and seeds in your breakfast.

              Immune-boosting foods: Green leafy vegetables and yellow-orange colored fruits that are seasonal are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fibers.

             Muscle building foods: For growth and muscle developments gorge on protein-rich foods in your diet. Such as homemade fruit smoothies, eggs, oatmeal, roasted lentils, milk, and cottage cheese keep hunger at bay for a longer duration.

             Replenish water regularly: Consume plenty of fluids such as buttermilk, lemonade, coconut water, and fruit infused water to keep of symptoms of tiredness, headache, and loss of concentration.

            3. Health & Fitness:

             For overall health, a shift in focus from weight-centric to weight inclusive approach is the need. Eat a well-balanced diet to enhance your metabolism. This also helps you ward off any symptoms of illness. Walk around 10000 steps daily. The key to health is diet diversity not dieting. Achieve a healthy weight; do not focus on weight loss.

             4. Hobbies/ Skills:

             Try to learn new skills each week or month as per your schedule. Learn a new foreign language, do painting, and indulge in playing the piano and cooking or other fun activities.

             5. Self-compassion:

             Journal daily, practice mindfulness, do breathing exercises for body kindness. Soak in the morning sunshine to enhance serotonin your happy hormone.

             “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. – 14th Dalai Lama

              6. De-Stress: To overcome stress and other difficulties in life positive psychology techniques can sail you through ups and downs of life. These include:

             Acceptance Therapy:

             With the use of mindfulness technique when a person observes and accepts negative thoughts is more aware of their rather caught in the negative thoughts. A self-compassion practice adds a new dimension to the acceptance of ourselves when one is in pain and grief.

            Gratitude:

             Count on your blessings, be optimistic, focus on positive thoughts, savor pleasure and socialize with other people. Write a letter to yourself describing your thoughts, experiences, accomplishments, and learning. This helps to nurture positive feelings.

            Strength:

             Do not wait for big accomplishments rather enjoy small achievements at each step. This releases happy hormones that light up your mood and boost your health.

            Mindfulness:

             Mindfulness practice includes simple breathing exercisesthat help you focus on the ‘present moment’ rather magnify future thoughts. As thoughts affect your body and mind both.

  • Start with giving attention to your body sensations and thoughts in mind.
  • Then breathe in and out.
  • Give attention to your thoughts and other sensations like touch, sight, and sound. If you notice your mind getting distracted try to bring your focus again to the sensations of the moment.

              Key Takeaway:

  • Never skip your breakfast- include one fruit, whole grain, milk or milk products and healthy fat in your diet.
  • Stay hydrated- consume plenty of fluids and water-rich foods throughout the day. These include water chestnut, watermelon, and coconut water. Try to keep water nearby at all times.
  • Meditate for a few minutes to relieve stress and anxiety.
  • Practice mindfulness and gratitude towards oneself and others to enhance happiness.

Related: Tips to wellness concepts around the World

Tips to Balanced Diet for Healthy Living

What is a Balanced Diet?

 A balanced diet is a combination of basic food groups that contains a variety of cereals, legumes, dairy products, meat, egg, fish, poultry, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. Along with nutrient-dense foods such as carbohydrates, proteins, visible and invisible fats, a balanced diet is also packed with vitamins and minerals.

 Food Groups

 Cereals and Millets (Energy giving foods)

 Cereals (rice, wheat) and millets (Sorghum, finger millet, pearl millet) are rich in healthful components like energy, protein, dietary fibre, B vitamins and minerals like calcium and iron.

  • Replace refined wheat flour with whole grains like whole wheat flour and millets etc.
  • Dietary fibre or roughage is a kind of carbohydrate that cannot be easily broken or digested by our body. Good sources of dietary fibre are whole grain cereals, pulses, nuts, seeds, fruits and vegetables.
  • Incorporating fibre rich foods in our daily diets aids in weight loss, stabilizes blood sugar, balances appetite and satiety by making one feel full for longer and keep our digestive system healthy.

 Pulses and Legumes (Body Building Foods)

 Pulses and legumes are plant-based source of protein, provide energy, B complex vitamins, fibre and phytonutrients.

  • Proteins are body building foods, an essential nutrient for our body that takes care of wear and tear of muscles.
  • Consume pulses (the seeds of plants in the legume family), such as soybean, kidney beans, Bengal gram and chickpeas, at least three times a week.

 Note: Try to incorporate sprouted and fermented pulses and cereals in your daily diet. Sprouting increases absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body. Fermented foods (sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, tempeh etc.) are easily digestible.

  Fruits and Vegetables (Protective foods)

 Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients, fiber and antioxidants like vitamin C and carotenoids, low in calories and carbohydrate (sugar and starches).

  • Antioxidants present in fruits and vegetables are protective substances that prevents free radical formation in our body and provide protection against certain diseases like cancer, atherosclerosis, asthma and diabetes etc.
  • Consume 4-5 servings of seasonal fruits and vegetables per day to maintain healthy body.
  • Eat dark green leafy vegetables like fenugreek, mustard, and amaranth as they are good source of iron.
  • Eat bright orange-yellow colored fruits like oranges, lemons, mangoes, papaya and vegetables like carrots, pumpkin, orange and yellow bell peppers as they are good for eyes, fights harmful free radicals in the body and boosts immune system.
  • Include fruits, vegetables, or both with every meal. For example, include fruit with breakfast and as a snack, and vegetables with lunch and dinner.
  1. Milk and Milk products (Body building foods)

 Milk and Milk products are a good source of calcium, protein, fat, vitamin A and vitamin B (B12 and B2).

  • Calcium is essential for strong bones and Vitamin A promotes healthy vision. Vitamin B12 is important for better cognition function.
  • Choose low fat milk and milk products like cottage cheese, yogurt etc. over whole fat milk.
  • Include 2-3 portions (1 portion=100ml) of milk and milk products in your daily diet.

 Nuts ans Oilseeds

Nuts and Oilseeds are dense source of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals and helps in lowering the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

  • Nuts are high in vitamin E, folic acid, fibre, potassium and unsaturated fat- a great choice to help you eat healthy.

Consume nuts and oilseeds in moderation for optimal health benefits.

 Fats and Oils

 Prefer unsaturated fats (fish and nuts and, vegetable oils like mustard oil, olive oil etc.,) over saturated fats (cheese, butter, fatty meat) and trans fats (found in processed foods like pizza, burgers, cookies and fries).

  • Avoid using of re-heated fats and oils while cooking.

Read: A quick guide to healthy fats in a nutshell

Meat, Fish, Chicken and Egg

 Animal food sources like lean meat, fish, chicken and egg are good source of protein along with iron (heme), vitamin A, vitamin B and fat.

  • Animal proteins are of high quality as they provide all the essential amino acids in right proportions which are easily absorbed in the body.
  • Limit/avoid the intake of organ meats such as kidney, liver and meat. Eat fish (100-200g/week) and 3 eggs/week.

Salt

 Limit intake of salt to less than 5g in your diet (5g=1 teaspoon) per day.

  • Avoid table salt and salt sprinklers over fruit and salads.
  • Consume iodized or double fortified salt, which is essential for optimizing people’s mental function in general.

Sugar

 Added sugar or free sugars should be avoided in foods because it is readily digested and absorbed in the body and spikes blood sugar levels. Whereas, natural sugar in fruits has fiber that facilitates slow absorption.

  • Cut down on processed foods and drinks rich in sugar because sugar present in processed foods provides empty calories.
  • WHO recommends to reduce the intake of free sugars to less than 10% of total energy in both adults and children.

Water Intake

Water is an essential for our body and intake of water is important for hydration of our body for physical and mental performance.

  • Drink about 8 glasses (2 litre) of water regularly throughout the day.
  • Choose healthy beverages such as coconut water, herbal teas, buttermilk, lemon water and fruit infused water over carbonated beverages.
  • Limit/ Avoid alcohol intake
  •  A normal healthy person needs to drink about 8 glasses (2 litres) of water daily.
  • Choose healthy beverages such as coconut water, herbal teas, buttermilk, lemon water and fruit infused water over carbonated beverages.
  • Limit/ avoid alcohol intake

 Physical Activity

150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week is recommended to maintain a healthy weight.

  • Regular physical activity helps in building strong muscles, bones and joints.
  • Exercise helps lower high blood pressure, improves blood circulation, risk of pre-diabetes or diabetes medications. It also makes you feel happier and healthier.

Dietary Tips:

  •  Drink plenty of water and consume beverages in moderation.
  • Eat variety of foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and proteins to ensure a balanced diet.
  • Eat small meals at frequent intervals daily.
  • Avoid overeating to prevent overweight and obesity.
  • Regular physical activity helps maintain ideal body weight.
  • Restrict salt consumption to minimum.
  • Ensure consumption of clean foods and safe handling of food.
  • Adopt right pre-cooking processes and other appropriate cooking methods.
  • It’s good to stay away from fried and processed foods as they are high in trans-fat.
  • Ensure moderate intake of edible oils and animal foods and reduce intake of butter and trans fats.
  • It is recommended to get sunlight (richest source of vitamin D) exposure from 11 am-2 pm for a minimum 30 minutes daily.
  • After the age of 30 years, get yourself checked for blood sugar, blood pressure and lipid profile at least biannually.

References:

  1. Dietary guidelines for Indians by NIN-ICMR

         http://ninindia.org/DietaryGuidelinesforNINwebsite.pdf

       2. Physical activity and Adults by WHO

           https://www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_adults/en/

       3.  Nutrition by WHO:

            https://www.who.int/topics/nutrition/en/

5 Health Benefits of Quinoa as a Prebiotic Food

Health benefits of Quinoa as a superfood comes down to two important factors that I’ll discuss in this article.

  •  It has a rich nutritional profile and
  • . Environmental stress tolerant properties

Health Benefits of Quinoa (Pronounced as Keen-wah) you should know:
Quinoa also known as ‘Mother Grain’ is a psuedo-cereal (not a grain but a fruit) lauded for its prebiotic health benefits originating in Andean region of South America. With  many health benefits, it is an excellent grain to have in your diet.

 Nutritional Profile of Quinoa: 1 cup cooked (185g)

Calories: 222 Kcal, Carbohydrate: 39 g, Protein: 8 g, Fiber: 5 g, Fat: 4 g

Healthy Quinoa Salad Recipe:

Revamp your unhealthy food choices with a healthy Quinoa salad. Packed with antioxidants, complete protein and fiber, quinoa is a gluten-free grain.

You can enjoy this salad topped with nuts and fruits also.

Health Benefits of Quiona

Ingredients:

1 cup Quinoa, boiled

1/2 cup carrot, chopped

1 tsp chopped ginger

1 tsp chopped green coriander

1/2 cup cucumber, sliced

1/2 cup spring onion, chopped

1/4 cup green bell pepper, chopped

For Dressing:

4 tbs Lemon juice

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs Sesame seeds

salt as per taste

Directions:

  1. Add all the finely chopped vegetables to the quinoa in a bowl.
  2. Sprinkle olive oil to the mixture and garnish with green coriander and sesame seeds.

Setting it Apart:

Quinoa is a superfood that confers health benefits to humans due to its prebiotic potential. A prebiotic is a specific nutrient and food component positively affect the biological functions of the body.
Bioactive substances have the potential to cure a variety of diseases as they provide medicinal and health benefits.
It aids in growth and development, regulation of metabolism and defense against oxidative stress.

Prebiotics:

Prebiotic food is dietary compounds mainly fiber that promote good bacteria and intestinal health. They are non-digestible fermentable carbohydrate (oligosaccharide).

Prebiotics thrives good bacteria within the gut to confer health benefits to the host.

 How to classify food ingredients as Prebiotic:

  • Fermentation by gut flora
  • Confer health benefits to host
  • Stimulation of probiotics selectively
  • Stable on food processing treatments
    The commonly used Prebiotic Fibers are Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), Xylo-oligosaccharides and Gentio-oligosaccharides (XOS) and Lactulose.

Functions of Prebiotics: Prebiotics are available in both supplement and natural form, but powdered form is stable to heat, acid, and cold.

Prebiotic effects of Quinoa:
Quinoa has nutraceutical benefits due to its high content of amino acids, polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA), vitamins, minerals, fiber, carotenoids, and polyphenols.

Quinoa is a good source of oxyprenylated umbelliferone and ferulic acid derivatives.

Consumption of Quinoa helps in improving dysbiosis of gut microbiota (a condition in which there are less good bacteria in the gut that facilitates digestion).

In an experiment done on mice showed a decrease in levels of harmful E.Coli, Shigella and dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) induced dysbiosis and improves intestinal health.

Quinoa (known as Chenopodium quinoa) is a pseudocereal and a native crop in the Andean region of South America. In recent years, its higher consumption is due to its high nutritious value which comes with a lot of benefits and health-boosting effects.

A randomized trial proposed effects of quinoa on serum lipids, hormone, and body composition in overweight and obese individual. The finding showed that on consumption of 50g of quinoa per day lowered serum triglycerides (TGs) in obese and overweight participants.

Around 70 % of reductions in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome were also observed.

Quinoa is one of the superfoods identified to affect BMI, blood pressure, glucose and HDL levels due to its prebiotic health benefits.

It is an alternative plant protein source over animal proteins. It is a rich source of protein due to the balance of the essential amino acid profile.

The total essential amino acid is 41.5g/16gN in pearled quinoa in minimally processed commercial products.

Quinoa may be bitter in taste due to the presence of saponins (anti-nutritional factor) that hinders digestion and absorption of nutrients. Thoroughly rinse under cold water or soak in water for about 8 hours to remove them.

Phytoecdysteroids, an active compound in Quinoa is involved in pharmacological effects in humans and plant defense.

          5 Naturopathic Health Benefits of Quinoa in Humans:

  1. Quinoa and Celiac Disease/ Gluten Intolerance: Consumption of quinoa is better tolerated by people who suffer from gluten sensitivity. Quiona along with buckwheat and amaranth is a potential gluten-free and healthy diet. Quinoa is a better food alternative for people having gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Consumption of 50 gram of quinoa has beneficial effects as per studies.
  2. Quinoa and Type 2 Diabetes: Quiona ranks low on GI (Glycemic index) food range about 35-53 depending upon the cooking time. A study showed that a low GI diet that included Quiona lowered HbA1c levels over high fiber cereals by 50% and increased good cholesterol levels (HDL).
  3. Quinoa and CVD: Quiona helps in reduction of total serum cholesterol, LDL, triglyceride, and glucose by 26%, 57%, 11%, and 10% respectively in a 5-week study done on 24 male Wistar rats. In another 4-week study done on overweight and postmenopausal women showed the positive effect of quinoa flakes (25g) in reducing bad cholesterol (LDL) and total serum cholesterol over cornflakes consumption.
  4. Quinoa and Obesity: Quiona consumption helps control body weight. Due to its high content of dietary fiber that includes 78% of insoluble fiber and 22% of soluble fiber facilitates weight reduction.
  5. Quinoa and Autoimmune disease: The presence of 6:1 ratio of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acid in quinoa, makes it more desirable in reducing inflammation. High content of unsaturated fats in quiona leads to a reduction in autoimmune diseases and metabolic disorders such as CVD and type 2 diabetes.
       

Environmental Stress tolerant properties:

  • Quiona is a sustainable plant low in water, carbon, and ecological footprints. This makes quinoa an excellent alternative protein source over beef.

         Have you tried any Quiona recipe at home? Do share your views.

Note: The product is not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease.             Always consult your doctor or dietician for more information.

Tips to Boost your Brain Chemicals Naturally

Put your Neurotransmitters at Work for Better Mental Health through Diet and lifestyle Management

The problem of stress arises when you put your work at first and your brain health at second. Mindfulness is your happiness factor.

Happiness has a biological dimension to it with the release of certain chemicals from the brain known as neurotransmitters or happy hormones.

Being always on autopilot getting distracted constantly when connected to your phone and social media undermines your happiness.

You probably find it challenging to stay away from distraction and stress. Although there are mindful practices to reduce stress and enhance your happiness quotient through yoga, meditation and gratitude exercise.

But, what if you can get to include some other practices to stay happy.  For a healthy body and more productive at work the best approach is to have a fresh, healthy and curious mind.

Happiness is a state of mind that dwindles with our expectations and stress make it seem complex. Happiness has a connection to good health as positive thoughts reduce stress levels and improve health consequently in the long-term.

Little facts about Neurotransmitters:

Neurotransmitters or brain chemicals transmit signals from one nerve cell to another for communication across brain cells, gland cells or muscle cell.

  1. Dopamine: Neurotransmitter for ‘Pleasure’

Dopamine initiates the reward system in the brain for pleasure and also addiction, associated with positive emotions, and desire. In which people develop an urge to repeat pleasurable behaviors leading to dopamine release.

Tips to balance Dopamine levels:

Try to focus on single tasks rather multi-tasking to avoid any hindrance to your pleasure. While eating try to focus on the taste, aroma, flavors of the food and avoid reading emails simultaneously and just enjoy the food. Avoid watching T.V while reading a book and so on.

Take a pause and celebrate: Break down your goals in small targets and celebrate the achievement at each step rather waiting for complete success.

Say ‘No’ to too many options: With each day try to narrow your options to avoid any burden and confusion. Stick to your commitments if made to avoid second-guessing.

Go for quick pleasure activities: playing with your dog, painting and drawing, cooking, celebration with family and friends helps keep anxiety at bay.

Dietary sources of Dopamine

Fruits: Banana (8µg/g), plantains, avocado (4-5µg/g) has a high content of dopamine.

Leaves and beans of Velvet beans have high levels of dopamine known for its anti-parkinsonian effects.

Low levels of dopamine in citrus fruit (oranges), apple, tomato, spinach, pea, and beans.

  1. Serotonin: Neurotransmitter for ‘Happiness’

Serotonin is responsible for happiness, good mood, well-being, better sleep and regulation of digestion.

Serotonin levels are affected by stress, exercise, and sunlight. A lower level of serotonin leads to anxiety and obsession. Meditation and mindfulness enhance serotonin levels.

A study conducted in 2013 reported a significant reduction in cortisol levels with supplementation of Bacopa monnieri (also known as waterhyssop, brahmi, thyme-leafed gratiola).

Bacopa monnieri’s calming effect has been attributed to reduce depression. It also helps to improve levels of serotonin and dopamine that generally declines with age. 

Simple hacks to de-stress:

  1. Break your relationship with negative emotions: Eliminate negative thinking by restructuring cognition pattern. Spot the negative thoughts around you and notice the negative self-talk. When you manage to do that you can build a better emotion to mental fitness.
  2. Practice Mindfulness: Every morning try to sit down for 10-15 minutes or any other time in the day if you are under a busy schedule. Being in the present moment try to notice your thoughts, physical sensation, and emotions in awareness. Mindfulness is not about deliberate effort to focus or concentrate rather an observation of the present situations (thoughts, desires, pain) and letting it go without any mental conflict.

Dietary sources of Serotonin

Foods rich in folates such as broccoli, dark green leafy vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits, eggs, and beetroot helps to lower depression.

Foods high in fiber such as oats, whole grains, and vegetable, pears enhance serotonin levels hence feel-good factor.

Vitamin D fortified food sources such as milk and milk products, soy milk, egg, and orange juice have been found to reverse seasonally related mood disorders.

  1. Endorphins: Neurotransmitter for ‘Euphoria’

Endorphins are Opiate-like chemical produced internally in response to pleasure and excitement such as while eating chocolate, chili peppers or runners high.

Endorphin release in the brain affects the increase or decrease of serotonin levels.

A feel of physical sensation like an increased heartbeat, twinkling of eyes, clapping of hands, smile or laugh generates a rush of passion is accompanied by chemical changes in the brain leading to a feeling of pleasure.

Endorphins relieve anxiety and pain, reduce stress, improves mood and strengthens the immune system.

Food and Endorphins: During the condition of stress or pain consumption of certain foods trigger the release of endorphins.

For instance, chocolate produces more endorphins.

Chili pepper (contain active chemical ‘capsaicin’) stimulate the release of endorphins as a part of reducing chronic stress. Powdery donuts release endorphins and dopamine that helps feels elated.

Sugar-induced euphoria (calm and happy) comes from eating cakes, fudge, and cookies.

Ways to enhance Endorphin release naturally: Go for activities like meditation or yoga, quality sleep, breathing techniques, and acupuncture treatments.

  1. Glutamate: Neurotransmitter for ‘Memory’

Glutamate the most important neurotransmitter that regulates development and creation of nerve connection also enhances memory and learning.

Learn new skills: Research proves that learning new skills helps you learn and retain better. This enhances white matter in the brain responsible for improving performance.

Dietary sources of Glutamate

Seafood, tomato and products, spinach, mushrooms, seaweed, soy, fermented beans, miso, parmesan cheese, fish sauces.

  1. GABA: Neurotransmitter for ‘Calming effect’

GABA (Gama-Amino butyric Acid) involved in improving focus and vision, and regulates the nervous system. Its low level may cause depression or anxiety.

There is a need for efficient GABA levels to balance the high glutamate levels is an excitement neurotransmitter. Excess of glutamate is involved in seizure and low levels in a coma. Glutamate being a precursor of GABA (that is glutamate is converted into GABA in the body naturally) there is a need of balance in levels of these chemicals for calming effects.

Dietary sources of GABA

Vegetables: Tomato, spinach, mushroom, potato, sweet potato, pea

Whole grains: Oat, wheat, barley, buckwheat, rice

Nuts: chestnut

Natural ways to improve GABA levels:

  1. Be active: Study shows that physical activity lowers depression and mood swings.
  2. Try yoga and meditation: Daily practice of meditation reduces stress hormone (cortisol) and improves GABA function.
  3. Take probiotics: Gut health has been associated with GABA function hence include probiotic food in your diet. Such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut for healthy microbiome.
  4. Have a cup of green tea: Presence of epigallocatechin gallate (a natural anti-oxidant) in green tea stimulates GABA function.

Key Takeaway:

Serotonin in the body can be enhanced by aerobic exercise that helps improve mood and promote relaxation. A good night sleep also enhances serotonin levels.

Endorphin hormones work as an analgesic or a natural pain killer to give a feeling of happiness.

A release of endorphins lowers blood pressure, chronic pain and pathological symptoms.

Holy basil (also known as Tulsi in India) acts as an anti-stress agent due to the presence of three phytochemical compounds. Namely, Ocimumosides A, Ocimumosides and 4-allyl—1-O-beta-D-glucopyronosyl-2-hydroxybenzene. These anti-stress compounds lower stress-producing hormone corticosterone.

References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5986471/
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3185238/