When you first start following a keto diet, overthinking is pretty much part of the package. For better or worse, keto newbies spend a lot of time learning what they can and can’t eat, meticulously weighing and measuring food, and tracking everything that goes in their mouths. Weighing, tracking, and restricting become understandably tedious after a while. I do know some people who are happy to maintain this level of dietary vigilance for months or even years, but most people fizzle out. Those who don’t want to return to a more relaxed way of eating like Primal look for a compromise position—a keto diet without all the fuss. This raises the question: is monitoring and careful control of your food intake simply part and parcel of keto, or is it possible to follow a keto diet intuitively? What Does Intuitive Keto Even Mean? There’s an apparent contradiction between eating intuitively and keto dieting. Eating intuitively means listening to your body, honoring the signals it sends you, and not controlling or restricting your food intake based on external rules. Keto diets come with an inherent set of rules and restrictions. At the very least, keto diets have to be low-carb by definition. In practice, this means there are many high-carb foods that you can’t eat in any appreciable amount. Even a small serving could interfere with ketosis. Many folks also set parameters around their keto diets, like they have to be gluten-free or sugar-free. As I have explained previously, that’s not technically true, but those are common values in the keto community. If your inner voice urges you to eat a couple candy bars, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, or even a large bowl of mango, you can’t comply and still be ketogenic. You can’t listen to your intuition. Thus, if such a thing as an intuitive keto exists, it has to involve some sort of compromise. That said, I believe when people say “intuitive keto diet,” they mean keto without all the fuss and micromanaging. That is possible. Lots of people do it by: Eating mostly animal products, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fats (all low-carb foods) Eating when they are hungry, not rigidly adhering to a set eating window Allowing hunger to guide how much and how often they eat in any given day Not tracking macros That’s how I would define an intuitive keto diet, anyway, and the definition I’ll use for the rest of this post. One could argue, though, that that’s neither keto nor intuitive, not really. Eating Intuitively Versus Intuitive Eating It’s impossible to talk about intuitive keto without clarifying the difference between eating intuitively and Intuitive Eating (with a capital I-E for clarity). The former is loosely defined as eating according to your body’s hunger cues and desires for different foods. The latter is a specific eating philosophy developed in the mid-1990s by two registered dietitians, Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, that is still popular today. Any kind of purposeful … Continue reading “Can You Eat an Intuitive Keto Diet?”
Dear Mark, A friend of mine just found out that I’ve been eating a keto diet for the past few months, and they told me I should stop right away and get my selenium levels checked. They said I could be at risk of a heart attack because of keto. Now I’m freaking out a bit. Help? Don’t freak out. Let’s look at the evidence. First Off, What is Selenium, and Why Do We Need It? Selenium is an essential trace element that we get from our diets. Enzymes called selenoproteins play a variety of important roles throughout the body. Notably, selenoproteins in the thyroid gland facilitate the conversion of T4 to T3. Selenoproteins require adequate selenium intake. Selenium deficiencies can be very serious. Selenoproteins act as antioxidants. Without enough selenium—or really, selenoproteins—to offer protection, heart muscle cells can sustain free radical damage. This is the case with Keshan disease, a potentially fatal cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle). Keshan is a region in China where the soil is depleted of selenium. As a result, residents were suffering high rates of heart disease before a supplementation program was introduced. Selenium deficiencies can also lead to male infertility because a selenoprotein known as GPx4 protects spermatozoa from oxidative stress. However, your friend might want to know that aside from severe deficiencies, the jury is still out on the role of selenium in cardiovascular disease. Some, but not all, observational studies have found that low selenium is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Others have found that high selenium may also be a problem. Selenium supplementation doesn’t appear to prevent heart disease, but clinical trials have mostly been carried out in adult males who already get enough selenium from their diets. In any case, selenium deficiencies are rare except in certain parts of the world where the soil is significantly depleted. Most adults in the U.S. get at least twice the recommended daily intake. So already, your friend’s basic premise seems shaky, but let’s do our due diligence here and ask whether following a keto diet puts you at greater risk. Is There Any Evidence that Keto Causes Selenium Deficiency? Yes, specifically among children who were prescribed a therapeutic ketogenic diet to treat intractable epilepsy. As of 2020, there were at least 66 documented cases of selenium deficiency among children on a therapeutic ketogenic diet. Three deaths were attributed to cardiomyopathies associated with low selenium. A fourth child died after experiencing QT prolongation (abnormal heartbeat, essentially). However, QT prolongation can be triggered by acidosis, so selenium might not have been the culprit here. It’s unclear exactly how prevalent selenium deficiency is among pediatric epilepsy patients on keto. One study of 110 kids found that nearly half of them had low selenium. None of them showed evidence of cardiomyopathies as a result. Another study followed 91 children who were following a variant of the keto diet and receiving vitamin and mineral supplementation, including selenium, for 12 months. Selenium levels decreased over time, with … Continue reading “Dear Mark: Keto and Selenium Deficiencies – Something to Fear?”
Short answer: Yes. Anyone can go keto, including vegans. It might be a lot harder to stay vegan, but they can certainly go keto. Nothing stopping them. The more the merrier.
Jokes aside. Can someone go keto while remaining vegan?
That’s a tougher problem. Not intractable. But real tough.
Why is it so hard?
It’s a story I hear over and over again: A woman is cruising along, feeling like she has her diet and workout routine pretty well dialed in. Then, some time in her 40s, her body composition suddenly starts changing, sometimes rapidly, despite no apparent differences in her food intake or exercise.
Women’s bodies often go through profound transformations in their 40s, mostly due to hormonal shifts associated with perimenopause. Most women start noticing symptoms of perimenopause in their mid-40s, although they can begin as early as mid-30s for some, or as late as mid-50s. This phase may last anywhere from four years to more than a decade (!) before women experience menopause, defined as no menstrual period for 12 months, and transition into postmenopause. In addition to changes in body composition—different fat storage patterns, weight gain, even changes in muscle mass and bone density—many women experience brain fog, low mood, fatigue, hot flashes, and low libido.
Perimenopause can leave women feeling bewildered and like they no longer have control over their bodies. When they try to figure out how to respond, they quickly discover that there’s very little research targeting middle-aged women, especially in the nutrition realm. Premenopausal and postmenopausal women are represented well enough. Those of us in the middle? Not so much.
Hey folks! Erin is here for another round of Ask a Health Coach. If you’re sleep-compromised, stressed out about carbs, or you’re a chronic snooze button pusher, today’s post is for you. Keep your questions coming in the Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group or share them down in the comments section. Alicia asked: “I’ve been trying to get up early to exercise, but I always end up hitting the snooze button and falling back asleep. Got any tricks to get myself up on time?” I love that you’re setting goals for yourself. It proves that you don’t have to wait until New Year’s or (another) Monday to make a change in your life. But I get it. Any routine that’s different from your normal one can be a challenge to start, let alone stick with. The good news is, this is kinda my specialty. I love teaching my clients to nurture their own personal accountability. When you’re responsible for your own actions — and the outcomes of those actions, it puts you in the driver’s seat. You’re in control when it comes to what you’re doing and not doing. It also sends a positive message to yourself that you’re worth it and that this change is important enough for you to make it a priority. On the flip side, when you just toss a plan out there, cross your fingers, and hope for the best with a lukewarm attitude (and zero consequences), you’re pretty much setting yourself up to fail. The first rule of accountability? Getting clear on your goals and the reasons why you want to achieve those goals. For your situation, I’d start by asking: What time am I waking up? What kind of exercise will I be doing? What type of equipment or gear will I need? Where will I be doing it? How long will I be exercising? Why does this matter to me? What will happen if I don’t break my snooze button habit? Why is all of this important? Because there’s a big difference between people who set goals and those who actually succeed at them. There’s a great piece of research that shows that having a concrete plan makes you three times more likely to achieve your goals. In the study, 248 participants who wanted to build better exercise habits were divided into three groups. One group was asked to track their workouts, one group received motivational information about exercising, and the third group was asked to formulate a plan for when and where they would work out. More specifically, they were asked to complete the following sentence: During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on (day) at (time) in (place). For you, that might look like: I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on weekdays at 5:15am in my bedroom. Or dial it in even more by saying: I will partake in 20 minutes of weightlifting on weekdays at 5:15am … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: Sleep, Stress, and the Snooze Button”
Before I had kids, I thought I’d be that mom who cooks and bakes endlessly with her kids. After all, I enjoy being in the kitchen, so why wouldn’t I want my sweet offspring by my side as I lovingly prepare meals for the family. Ah, to be that young and idealistic again. Every year we get busier and more pressed for time, and—in my experience, at least—cooking with your kids makes everything take three to eleven times longer. Gone are my ideas of being Betty-Crocker-meets-Mary-Poppins in the kitchen. I have new priorities now: I need to be time-efficient. I want to feed myself and my kids nutritious foods. I refuse to prepare separate meals or snacks for kids and adults. My kids should learn their way around the kitchen, which means giving them age-appropriate tasks. Most days we manage dinner together, but the rest of the day is a whirlwind. Snacking is something of a contentious topic in the ancestral community. Sincere kudos if your family can stick to set meal times with perhaps one planned snack interlude. Realistically, though, snacking happens here. Rather than fight it, I try to have quick, healthy options that check my four boxes above. These are some of my top picks. Add yours in the comments section. Instantly download your free Guide to Cooking Fats and Oils Dips & Spreads Veggies with ranch dressing. Use raw vegetables like celery, carrots, snap peas, broccoli, cauliflower, and mini sweet bell peppers, or leftover roasted asparagus or Brussels sprouts. To make a thicker dip, mix the ranch with sour cream to get the consistency you want. Frozen chicken skewers (I get mine at Costco) dipped in barbecue sauce or a quick peanut sauce. This one uses tahini, or you can use almond butter instead. Guacamole with raw vegetables or pork rinds. To uplevel the experience, try this recipe for Bacon Guacamole with Cheddar Chips. Apples, pears, or celery with nut butter. Hummus with veggies. Classic hummus is easy to make or buy pre-made if you eat chickpeas, but you can also make delicious legume-free versions like this Roasted Cauliflower & Macadamia Nut Hummus. How kids can help: Wash and cut raw vegetables and fruit with supervision and depending on age. Pour dipping sauces into ramekins. Smash avocados for guacamole. Run the food processor for hummus. Arrange the food on plates. Stuff You Can Eat with Toothpicks Cubed melon wrapped in prosciutto. Caprese skewers: cherry tomato + pearl mozzarella + basil leaf. Optional Italian or balsamic dressing to dip. Meatballs, like these kid-approved Teriyaki Meatballs. Steak “salad” bites. Leftover cubed steak topped with a few leaves of baby spinach and cheddar or blue cheese. Dip in BBQ sauce or dressing of choice. For the grown-ups, add Quick Pickled Onions. How kids can help: Cube melon or steak. Wrap prosciutto around melon. Assist with cooking meatballs. The steps are easy enough for even young kids, supervised. Assemble the skewers. Pour dipping sauces into ramekins. Charcuterie Plates Charcuterie plates … Continue reading “Keto and Primal Snacks for Busy Mom Life”
Keto egg wraps provide nearly endless options for make-ahead breakfasts, quick keto burritos, and tacos, as well as wraps for easy keto lunch and dinner recipes. These low-carb egg wraps cook quickly in a cast-iron skillet in the time—about 30 seconds per side—it takes to warm a grain-free tortilla or store-bought egg wrap with cauliflower. These fast, versatile, and neutral-tasting egg wraps give keto dieters a budget-friendly alternative to spendy packaged keto-friendly tortillas, wraps, and substitutes for carb-filled grains. Not to be confused with keto egg roll wraps or wrappers, our keto egg wrap recipe starts with a simple egg pancake or thin egg omelet. You could use this egg wrap in place of traditional egg roll wrappers made with flour; simply fill the egg wrap with cabbage slaw and ground pork. To keep it easy, roll up this egg roll bowl recipe in one of these egg wraps. Our keto egg wraps are seasoned simply with salt and pepper to allow the flavors of the other ingredients added to the egg wraps to shine. If you remember the bland taste of flour tortillas—homemade corn tortillas possess a bit more oompf—you want the same thing here. Pile veggies, protein, a bit of cheese or smashed avocado, keto-friendly sauces, or mayo inside the egg wrap, and you’ll appreciate the nuances of the fats, meats, or plants. The keto egg wraps serve as a vessel for holding flavor and fade into the background; that’s what you want. Keto egg wraps are part omelet, part crepe but less fussy than both to prepare. 5 Easy Steps to Cooking Keto Egg Wraps Spray a seasoned cast-iron skillet with avocado oil spray. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and place the pan in the oven for 10–12 minutes to heat up. Combine eggs, water, salt, and pepper in a bowl, and whisk together with a fork. Remove the hot skillet from the oven (use oven mitts!) and place the hot pan on the stove turned on to medium-high heat. Swirl ½ tablespoon of avocado oil in a hot skillet with a few gentle wrist circles. Pour egg mixture into the skillet and spread it out evenly with a spatula. Once the eggs start to pull away from the sides of the skillet, tilt the skillet and gently pull the egg from the edges. Doing so will allow the raw egg in the middle to fill the pan’s spaces so it can set—this should take about 30 seconds. Run the spatula underneath the egg, place one hand over the top of the egg wrap and carefully flip the egg over. Allow it to cook for another 30 seconds on the other side. Remove the egg wrap from the pan, fill, and wrap. How to Roll Egg Wraps Like a Pro We use parchment paper to help roll the egg wraps neatly and provide a ready-to-grab-and-eat vessel for storage. If you don’t have parchment or don’t want to use unnecessary paper, leave it out. The wraps will roll … Continue reading “Keto Egg Wrap with Collard Greens Recipe, 3 Ways”
Hi folks, in this week’s Ask a Health Coach post, Erin is answering your questions about the “keto flu”, what to do when you’re hungry all the time, and how to fulfill your need for human connection during the pandemic. Keep your questions coming here in the comments or over in our Mark’s Daily Apple Facebook Group. Jared asked: “I’ve been doing Mark’s Keto Reset for a few days. At first, I felt great, but now I’m achy and all I want to do is sleep. What happened to all that energy people talk about with Keto?” Ah yes, the keto flu. There’s no mistaking it. Well, at least to those of us who have been through it and safely made our way to the metabolically flexible side (which you will Jared, trust me). As you might have read, eating lower-carb — especially if you’re transitioning from a Standard American Diet can cause all sorts of uncomfortable symptoms. Everything from headaches and fatigue to nausea. But don’t let that keep you from sticking with it. When you’re faced with a challenge, it’s easy to give up. And even easier to convince yourself that whatever it is you’re attempting to do isn’t right for you. So, when the going gets tough you jump ship. No shame, that’s just how it rolls sometimes. On the flip side, a lot of people decide that punishing themselves is their only course of action. They put on a brave face and decide that they must deserve every ounce of discomfort they have coming their way. That’s the price they have to pay to “get healthy.” As crazy as it sounds, they’ve actually done studies about this. In this one, researchers asked undergraduate students to remember a time when they felt guilty, sad, or (in contrast) did something boring and non-emotionally driven like grocery shopping. Then, they gave participants six mild electrical shocks (stay with me here), with the option to increase the voltage for each subsequent shock. The students who recalled feeling guilty, chose to raise the voltage well into the mildly painful zone, while the other groups didn’t. The use of self-punishment to reduce feelings of guilt are, unfortunately, well-documented in research. Now, let me offer you a third perspective. What if you took this opportunity to give your body what it needed — without guilt, shame, or judgement? It may sound simple, but if you’re extra tired, why not take a midday nap or go to bed earlier? If you’re feeling achy, how about taking a few rest days or doing more gentle workouts? Also, think about positive steps you can take to make you transition more pleasant. Most of the time the low-carb flu is caused by an electrolyte imbalance. So, drink some bone broth, eat more leafy greens, or try this homemade electrolyte drink that Mark swears by. Hang in there Jared, your symptoms won’t last long and if you can get through this preliminary phase, you’ll be home free. Sue … Continue reading “Ask a Health Coach: Tuning in to What Your Body’s Telling You”
After cutting back on sugar and carbs for a while, you understandably start to miss sweets. A common misconception is that you have to skip sweets to meet your goals, which isn’t the case at all. There are plenty of sugar alternatives that fit within the Primal and keto lifestyles, and stevia is one of them.
Stevia is widely used in the low carb community to satisfy sugar cravings or simply add a touch of sweetness to a hot beverage or dessert, but should it be? What is stevia? Is it safe? What is its effect on insulin, if any, and does it have a place in a Primal Blueprint eating strategy? Let’s investigate.
What Is Stevia?
A lot of people categorize stevia as an artificial sweetener, but it’s important to note that stevia is not an artificial sweetener at all – it’s a plant-derived natural alternative to sugar.
Stevia is an herbaceous family of plants, 240 species strong, that grows in sub-tropical and tropical America (mostly South and Central, but some North). Stevia the sweetener refers to stevia rebaudiana, the plant and its leaves, which you can grow and use as or with tea (it was traditionally paired with yerba mate in South America) or, dried and powdered, as a sugar substitute that you sprinkle on. It’s apparently quite easy to grow, according to the stevia seller who tries to get me to buy a plant or two whenever I’m at the Santa Monica farmers’ market, and the raw leaf is very sweet.
One of the biggest challenges of going Primal (or Keto or anything that goes against the norm of the Standard American Diet) is dealing with people who have no clue why you’d ever do such a thing. Even though there have been tons of studies on the risks of eating processed foods, grains, and industrialized oils, there are just as many folks panicking when you pass on the rolls. It’s even harder when those folks are your spouse or significant other. If you’ve ever heard your partner say… “I’d die if I couldn’t have bread.” “One cookie isn’t going to wreck your diet.” “Your body needs sugar!” “You’re having bacon again?!” …then you know what I’m talking about. As a health coach, I see this more often than I don’t. One half of a couple decides they’re done feeling foggy and carrying around extra fat, while the other feels “fine” and finds no reason to change how they’re eating — even though they’re pre-diabetic and their blood pressure numbers are sky high. Signs You’ve Got a Difficult Partner As you take steps toward improving your health and growing as a person, you might find that, instead of support, you’re suddenly on the receiving end of someone who’s sabotaging you, acting irritated and jealous, or just not willing to grow with you. Your partner may come home with armloads of chips and cookies and refuse to eat anything that resembles a vegetable. Or make you feel bad when you ask for your burger lettuce wrapped. Or look at you like you’ve got two heads when you grab the full-fat yogurt off the grocery store shelf. Sound familiar? These are all signs that you’re dealing with a difficult partner. Here are some other indicators: They’re quick to blame you for their actions They seem to try to sabotage you They’re controlling They avoid or resist conversations with you They minimize your wins or your progress They judge you based on their beliefs They use guilt as a way to control the situation Here’s the thing though. You can’t change other people. I don’t care how right you are, how much progress you’ve made in your own health journey, or how much time you spend cooking epic protein-forward meals. People only change when they want to change. That said, you don’t have to let someone else’s resistance derail your own goals. How Difficult Partners Affect Your Health Aside from it being downright frustrating to live with someone who refuses to take responsibility for their own health, it can increase your risk of certain health conditions. One study from Montreal’s McGill University Health Centre evaluated the environmental factors, social habits, and eating and exercising patterns of couples and found that participants had a 26% higher chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes when their partner had the disease. The good news is, it works the other way too. In a trial funded by the National Institute of Health, researchers looked at the ripple effect of … Continue reading “8 Ways to Deal with a Difficult Partner (Who Doesn’t Eat Like You Do)”