As I’ve written before, although most people’s lipid numbers improve across the board, some people get interesting cholesterol responses to Primal ketogenic diets. LDL skyrockets, even LDL particle number. The jury’s out on whether or not they indicate negative health concerns or if keto dieters are a special breed that hasn’t received enough study. (There may be a few genetic profiles, such as APOE4 carriers, that react differently to certain dietary inputs.) Either way some people just want their cholesterol numbers to look good in a conventional way. These days, whenever I run into someone in the real world with these or similar concerns, I tell them to try “Mediterranean keto.”
What is that, anyway?
I love dairy. As a man of primarily Northern European descent, my ancestors have been consuming the stuff for thousands of years. It doesn’t give me any issues. You won’t find me chugging tall glasses of straight milk these days, but I’m a big believer in cream, cheese, yogurt, and kefir. Very nutrient-dense food if you can handle it. Lactase persistence? I practically have lactase insistence.
My favorable response to dairy makes keto especially easy. High-fat and fermented dairy is high in nutrients and low in digestible carbs (the bacteria consume most of the lactose). Cheese, cream, kefir, and yogurt all happen to be the most nutritious forms of dairy and the most keto-friendly. Many others getting into keto lean heavily on dairy. It just makes keto easier, especially if you’ve grown up eating dairy.
But globally my reaction to dairy is pretty rare, and that changes the keto landscape for most people.
A criticism often leveled against the keto diet is that it’s more expensive than a “regular” (read: SAD) diet. There’s some truth to that. It does cost more to buy meat than ramen and beans. I personally spend more on groceries now than I did before finding Primal. Not only did I shift to buying different types of food, I also came to care more about food quality. I started choosing more pasture-raised meat and eggs, and more pesticide-free and organic produce and dairy.
However, my grocery bills haven’t changed noticeably since going keto. If you’re already eating Primally, your daily foods don’t have to change that much if you decide to try keto. You’ll remove some (okay, most) of the fruits and root veggies, and sub in more above-ground veggies and probably some healthy fats. It’s not a substantial overhaul. However, if you’re coming from a standard high-carb, lots-of-cheap-packaged-foods diet straight into Primal+keto, it can be a shock to the wallet.
I don’t like being told what to do. That’s why I’m not a fan of hard and fast food rules, as I’ve written before. Don’t get me wrong, that doesn’t mean I believe all foods are created equal. There are foods that aren’t health-promoting in any context. (I’m looking at you, processed chemical nacho cheese-like sauce.) Nevertheless, I’m incredulous when people suggest that they’re not “allowed” to eat certain foods on a Primal or keto diet.
Sure, we Primal folks choose to center our diets around the foods in the Primal Blueprint Food Pyramid. And once you go keto, higher-carb foods—even nutrient-dense ones—are harder to fit into your daily macros if staying in ketosis is important to you. However, I’ve found that keto people are overly prone to policing one another’s food choices based on their notions of keto.
It’s easy to forget how weird we all are.
You spend your days reading this and other health blogs, communing with Primal and keto folks on social media, staying abreast of the nutrition literature, arguing about arcane metabolic minutiae on forums, counting your linoleic acid intake, and you forget that most people don’t know 2% of what you know about diet.
So, when you hear people criticize keto, don’t get exasperated (even if the criticisms are silly). Be ready to respond. And hey, not all criticisms are unfounded. In many cases, wrangling with them will only make you more honest and informed about your diet. Let’s look at some of the more astute keto critiques….
For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering questions from the comment sections of the recent posts on daily keto carb limits, within-meal keto carb limits, and electrolytes. I’m addressing questions about alcohol, uniform carb allowances versus personalized, potassium supplementation, salt appetite, salt water, electrolytes after the transition, whether fruits fit in, and why I don’t count above-ground non-starchy vegetables.
Without further ado, let’s go:
If you look around the online keto-sphere, you’ll notice that 20 or 30 grams is often the standard daily limit for carbohydrate intake. Any more than that, they say, and you’ll never get into ketosis, never become fat-adapted, and waste all your efforts at reducing carbohydrate intake. And then you come to Mark’s Daily Apple, sign up for the June Keto Reset, or buy a copy of The Keto Reset book and see that I allow 50 grams of carbs per day and don’t even consider non-starchy vegetables as counting against that total carb count.
Why does the Keto Reset allow 50 grams of carbs per day? Why don’t I count non-starchy vegetables?
The one piece of advice all newcomers to the ketogenic diet receive is to “get enough electrolytes.” It doesn’t matter what flavor of keto diet you’re talking about—paleo, carnivore, Primal, standard, clinical, mainstream, salami-and-cream-cheese. They all mention the importance of getting your electrolytes, particularly during the transition from a higher-carb diet.
I’ve said it. I say it. It really is important. Heck, a major part of the much-maligned “keto flu” can be directly attributed to inadequate intake of sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Oftentimes, increasing your electrolytes stops the flu from happening in the first place.
How many carbs can you eat in a sitting and still “stay keto”? What constitutes a “keto meal”?
I’ve gotten many questions about this topic.
First of all, let’s get this out of the way: Keto is not a religion that punishes heretics with eternal damnation (or eternal reliance on exogenous sugar for energy). This post is not intended to make people feel guilty for eating five grams of carbs over the” limit.” It’s not even intended to set a hard limit in stone. It’s simply to provide people who care about this sort of thing a basic, admittedly rough, guideline for staying below the keto carb threshold within meals throughout the day.
If you read any of those “10 Reasons Keto is the Worst” articles out there, the common anti-keto argument you’ll see is that it’s too hard. The premise: keto must be unsustainable because eating meat, eggs, avocados, veggies, nuts, coconut, etc. is just too arduous long term. I’m sure you can guess how I feel about that.
Nonetheless, when you switch from a SAD diet to Primal or Primal-keto it genuinely becomes harder to grab convenience foods. It’s not that you can’t. The selection of packaged foods being marketed to keto folks has exploded in the past year or so. Rather, your growing awareness of ingredient quality, coupled with a desire to control your food and nutrition, makes it feel harder… and probably less desirable.