Sometimes folks who are interested in losing weight or getting healthier get so focused on the minutia of ”optimizing” their diet, supplements, exercise, and lifestyle that they gloss over the basics. This is a mistake. No matter your goal, you have to lay a good foundation before worrying about the finishing touches. When starting a keto diet, that means gradually reducing carbs to build a base of metabolic flexibility and get into ketosis. To be clear, you can slam your body into ketosis by dropping from several hundred grams of carbs per day, typical in a modern diet, straight to the very low carb intake required for keto. I don’t recommend it, though. For one thing, jumping from a high-carb diet into keto sets you up for the world of hurt known as keto flu. When you suddenly deprive your body of glucose, you can expect to experience headaches, lethargy, brain fog, and an inability to perform your typical workouts. Gradually reducing carbs gives your body the opportunity to upregulate its ability to burn fat for fuel, a necessary prerequisite of ketosis. Not for nothing, a gradual transition also gives the people in your life time to get on board. You might be excited about your big lifestyle change, but I hear all the time from people who are struggling because their partners, kids, or roommates aren’t exactly supportive of them tossing all the junk food and refusing to go through the drive-thru on the way home. Even if you’re already following a moderate-carb Primal way of eating, I still recommend taking the time to make your transition as seamless as possible. No matter where you’re starting, the best way to reach ketosis is to gradually and systematically reduce your carb intake. This is the same approach that I describe in The Keto Reset Diet, and it’s worked for the thousands of people who have participated in our Keto Month challenges. What Is Ketosis? Ketosis is a metabolic state in which your liver is making ketones, which are molecules that any mitochondria-containing cell can use for energy. Your brain and heart especially thrive on ketones. To get into ketosis, you must deplete liver glycogen (the glucose stored in your liver) and keep insulin levels low. Very-low-carb diets and fasting, or a combo of the two, will get you there. Glycogen-depleting exercise helps, too. Ketogenic (“ketone making”) diets are popular for everything from losing weight to lowering insulin and blood sugar to augmenting traditional cancer treatments. Inflammation is at the root of every chronic illness, and ketones are anti-inflammatory. They are also an efficient fuel source, and athletes across the sport spectrum are experimenting with using low-carb diets to burn fat and ketones during exercise. The Primal Blueprint qualifies as a low-carb eating style, especially in comparison to the high-carb Standard American Diet, simply by virtue of the fact that it eliminates the major sources of carbs in the typical modern diet: grains and sugar. The version of keto I recommend … Continue reading “How to Gradually Reduce Carbs to Reach Ketosis”
The health world is fixated on fiber, constantly telling us how important fiber is and how we should all be eating more of it. Back in the day, our cultural obsession with fiber was all about being “regular.” You had to load up on fiber to keep things moving, so to speak. Nothing was more important. So we started our days with bland, tooth-cracking breakfast cereal that tasted like tree bark and sparked no joy. But hey, it was loaded with fiber and therefore good for us, right?
I’ve long been skeptical of that particular story, mostly because every major health agency that recommends higher fiber intake also says that we should get much of that fiber from whole grains. And you know how I feel about that. If whole grains aren’t essential (or even healthy, if you ask me), then how could the fiber they provide be essential? It doesn’t add up.
Now, though, as we learn ever more about the emerging science of the microbiome, the fiber story is starting to shift. It’s become less about pushing “roughage” through our colons to create bulkier, more impressive bowel movements (although some people still promote this supposed benefit). Certain types of fiber, it turns out, are essentially food for the microbes living in our guts.
Grains are fixtures of modern life. Pastrami on rye, spaghetti dinners, corn on the cob, birthday cake, apple pie, endless breadsticks, pizza parties, taco nights.
Studies about “heart-healthy whole grains” in the news. “AHA Approved” icons affixed to any concoction in the grocery store that contains a few grams of wheat—never mind all the sugar and seed oils.
Grains are “staples,” bread is the “staff of life,” and most people can’t imagine a meal without some type of grain on the table.
Yes, grains are solidly etched into our modern Western psyche—just not so much into our physiology. For the vast majority of human evolution, we were hunter-gatherers eating meats, nuts, bitter wild greens, regional veggies, tubers and roots, and fruits and berries. We ate what nature provided. If we ate any grains at all, they were wild and scarce—never staples.
Though I was (and still mostly am) content to toss grains on the “do not eat” pile, I think we’re better served by more nuanced positions regarding grains. Not everyone can avoid all grains at all times, and not everyone wants to avoid all grains at all times. For those situations, it makes sense to have a game plan, a way to “rank” different grains. The reality is that grains exist on a spectrum of suitability, from wheat (avoid) to rice (fine if you need the glucose). What about oatmeal? Where do oats rank?
Today, we’ll go over the various forms of oats and oatmeal, along with any potential nutritional upsides or downsides.
I’m trying to stay strictly primal/paleo, but I always run into problems when I need to thicken sauces or soups. I grew up learning to use flour/cornstarch like everyone else, but is there a good low-carb/primal alternative?
I received this email a while ago, but it wasn’t the first. A number of readers have expressed their confusion when it comes to thickening sauces, gravies, or soups without using traditional floury methods. The question of thickening sauces is one of the hurdles I face every time I put up a recipe post – it’s become a bit of an internal struggle (as seen with last week’s beef and broccoli stir fry recipe, in which I hesitatingly called for a teaspoon of flour as a thickener) because while adding a bit of flour or cornstarch to a larger recipe may not drastically impact the carb count, it does complicate the consistently Primal message I try to convey. This post, I hope, will resolve that struggle.
We’re lucky over here at Mark’s Daily Apple. We’ve got a solid group of individuals committed to improving their health by educating themselves on the oh-so-harmful effects of the Standard American Diet. But if you step outside this tiny corner of the Internet, there’s a whole world out there singing the praises of freshly baked bread smothered in butter substitute, hot-from-the-oven oatmeal raisin cookies, and bowls of “heart-healthy” cereal swimming in non-fat milk.
Not coincidentally, a lot of those same people are struggling with achy joints, brain fog, and extra weight, completely oblivious that a diagnosis of diabetes or high-blood pressure may soon be on the horizon.
This could, in fact, be where you are right this very second. Maybe you’ve been on the fence about cleaning up your diet. Or you’re finally fed up with being fat and foggy and have decided that you really do deserve to feel better. Or maybe you’ve been watching someone in your family deal with a chronic health issue. No matter what’s prompting your change, I’m glad you’re here, because the more people we can get to understand how food affects our bodies, the bigger impact we’ll have.