Modified Keto Diet

Many people (especially us older folks) have a hard time understanding how the popular keto diet can be healthy. Most of us have been warned about cardiovascular disease, so a high fat diet seems contrary to what we have been taught for years. The good news is, there are many versions of a modified keto diet. I have created one for myself by cutting way back on refined carbohydrates like sugar, potatoes, rice, bread and pasta. I was diagnosed with an allergy to wheat years ago, so already switched to gluten free bread and pasta, but even they contain not so good for you carbs.

Food items like pasta, rice, potatoes, bread, crackers and snacks contain high amounts of net carbs, so I have learned to avoid them. A great alternative to pasta and rice is cauliflower. You can purchase it (conveniently) already cut up in “pearls” (like the bags I buy, pictured below) or you can cut up a fresh head yourself.

modified keto
cauliflower pearls

As indicated on their label, these pearls of cauliflower contain a mere 2 grams of net carbs (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber) per 3/4 cup. This is a huge difference from pasta or rice. For example, pasta contains 62 grams of net carbs per 3/4 cup, brown rice contains 22 grams per 1/3 cup and white rice contains 32 grams per 1/3 cup. When you are limiting your net carbs to 25 grams per day, those numbers are quite significant. These cauliflower pearls can even be incorporated (with cheese) into a pizza dough!

Another great substitute for the high carb perils of pasta and rice is zucchini spirals. They too can be purchased already cut up, but you can buy them whole and cut them up yourself too if desired. I’m all about convenience. If an ingredient is easy to prepare, I will be much more likely to use it in a meal. Spaghetti squash can also be used as a substitute for starchy pasta.

I also make sure I have lots of crunchy salad ingredients on hand to throw together a quick lunch option. Leafy greens, broccoli slaw, seeds, avocado, tomatoes and cucumbers (all contain low net carbs) as well as a variety of low carb salad dressings are mainstays in my fridge. These choices of good carbs have always been staples in my diet, often incorporated into a morning smoothie.

For calories formerly taken up by bad carbs in my daily diet, I have increased my intake of fats, although I stick to good fats. Yes, believe it or not, there is such a thing as good fats. I don’t like the way so many animal fats (processed and fatty meats, butter, cream, lots of cheese) recommended on the original keto diet make me feel. Constipation and stomach cramps are no fun!

Therefore, to get my fat macros (that’s the keto term), I consume more plant based omega 3s. Fats like avocado, olive oil, almonds, almond milk, flax seeds and coconut oil are my favourites. It is easy to replace the fats suggested in keto menus with the healthier versions. For example, I substitute almond milk for full fat cream and olive oil for butter.

My protein intake remains about the same. Protein consumption is important to retain muscle mass, especially for post menopausal women like myself. I have always leaned (pun intended) towards lean meats and fish for sources of protein, so that aspect needed no modification.

For four weeks now I have been following this modified keto version. I have lost a few pounds, but weight loss was not my primary goal. More importantly, I have noticed increased muscle tone in my abdominal area. These are the muscles I have not seen in many years, not since before my kids were born. That is impressive (I think) since those four weeks included one week of vacation (lots of margaritas) as well as the holiday season during which tempting goodies were hard to resist.

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Salads work on any diet

Are you trying a new diet and having a hard time finding things you are allowed to eat? Most diets, especially the currently popular keto diet, restrict carbohydrates, but salads work well if you include the right kind of carbohydrates.

The good news about salad related carbs is that they contain lots of fiber which means their “net carbs” (what you actually count on keto) are negligible. To calculate net carbs, subtract the grams of fiber from the grams of total carbohydrates indicated on the labels.

For example, the broccoli slaw I love on my salads to add extra crunchiness displays this label:

salads
brocolli, cabbage, and kale slaw

You can see the total carbohydrates in 1 cup of this slaw is 6 grams, but the fiber is 3 grams, so the net carbs are 3 grams. Considering you might add one half cup of this to greens on your salad, that is very few net carbs! Of course, you could also eat this slaw like you would traditional coleslaw.

Broccoli by itself has even less net carbs (4 grams of carbs minus 3 grams of fiber per 1.25 cup equals 1 gram of net carbs) That means broccoli would be a great keto approved option for a side dish at dinner. Or cut up on your salad if you don’t like the slaw that I use.

The salad in a bag (romaine, carrots and cabbage) that my husband likes has a net carbs value of 2 grams per 2.5 cups (4 total carbs minus 2 fiber). I prefer my salad base to contain spinach and kale however, which have even fewer grams of net carbs. I also like cucumber, avocado, flax seed and cheese on my salad…

salad
spinach, kale, broccoli slaw, cucumbers, avocado and cheese

The cheese (shredded Tex-Mex in this case), avocado, flax seed and salad dressing contain the fat necessary on this keto diet. I top the salad with a creamy, roasted garlic and Greek yogurt salad dressing from (my favourite) Renee’s line of all natural, no preservatives added products. The assembled lunch plate looks like this.

I don’t really count the net carbs as they are so negligible in a salad like this. These carbs though (as opposed to the bad ones) are packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, a fact that I think is very important to overall health.

Protein is accounted for in the broccoli and cheese as well as the Greek yogurt based dressing and lax seeds. A sliced hard boiled egg or cooked chicken would also be great sources of additional protein.

Concoct your own salad, the variations are endless!

Carrots, Eggs or Coffee: Which are You?

Carrots, eggs or coffee, which are you? I love this analogy of personal strength and adversary by an unknown author:

carrots, eggs or coffee
carrots, eggs or coffee

A young woman went to her grandmother and told her about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed as one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her grandmother took her to the kitchen. She filled three pots with water. In the first, she placed carrots, in the second she placed eggs and the last she placed ground coffee beans. She let them sit and boil without saying a word.

In about twenty minutes she turned off the burners. She fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. She pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then she ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl. Turning to her granddaughter, she asked, “Tell me what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” the granddaughter replied.

The grandmother brought the girl closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they got soft. The grandmother then asked her granddaughter to take an egg and break it.

After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg.

Finally, the grandmother asked her granddaughter to sip the coffee. The granddaughter smiled, as she tasted its rich aroma. She then asked. “What’s the point, Grandmother?”

The grandmother explained that each of these objects had faced the same adversity–boiling water–but each reacted differently.

The carrot went in strong, hard and unrelenting. However, after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak. The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But, after sitting through the boiling water, its inside became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water they changed the water.

“Which are you?” grandmother asked granddaughter, “carrots, eggs or coffee? When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?”

Are you the carrot that seems strong, but with pain and adversity, you wilt and become soft and lose your strength?

Are you the egg that starts with a malleable heart, but changes with the heat? Did you have a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a financial hardship or some other trial, you become hardened and stiff?

Does your shell look the same, but on the inside you are bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and a hardened heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean actually changes the hot water, the very circumstance that brings the pain. When the water gets hot, it releases the fragrance and flavor. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and change the situation around you.

author unknown

The moral of this story? When life gets you down, elevate yourself to the next level.

Buy Local, Support Small Business

As a small business owner myself, I am all for supporting and promoting local entrepreneurs. When you buy local, from growers, artisans or crafters alike, you are investing into the economy of your own community. That’s healthier on so many levels.

TruLOCAL is such a business delivering their local meat products anywhere in Ontario. Your chosen products arrive frozen in airtight packages, packed with dry ice to keep the container cold for many hours. That means it can sit on your step until you get home. You also receive email notification of when it will arrive.

I have received several shipments now, and must say, I love the products and the ease of ordering online. You can easily change the frequency and size of your order as well as the products in each order. There are so many items to choose from. Each order is based on a point system, you simply fill your order until your “box” is full. For example, with BBQ season coming soon (I hope) I will be ordering more steaks and less roasts.

The best part? Their meat products come from locally raised, free run and grass fed animals, that are free of hormones and antibiotics. In this era of heightened awareness, these qualities cannot be ignored. Sustainable foods are popular today, cows raised in pastures instead of feedlots turn out healthier, tastier meat with more vitamins and minerals.

If I have convinced you to give TruLOCAL a try, use my referral code of
TRULOCAL2097 to get us both free products!

Tennis upsets feature Canadian Bianca Andreescu

After (painfully) witnessing the upset of our mens junior hockey team in the quarter finals we Canadians have moved on to a thrilling and unexpected (maybe not to her) surprise in world tennis action. Eighteen year old Bianca Andreescu has been on the pro tennis circuit since 2017, but suddenly bounced into focus last weekend when she defeated Venus Williams and Caroline Wozniacki in New Zealand’s ASB classic.

Despite the fact that she was defeated in the final of that event, Andreescu went on to qualify for the Australian Open a few days later. Young, talented, ambitious and resilient, Bianca is earning respect on the tennis courts as well as pride and admiration from Canadians.

With a shining future ahead, all of our eyes and hearts are on and with her!

tennis
Bianca Andreescu photo by Rogers Media

Laughter is (still) the best medicine

I know I have written about laughter before, but I saw this video Marc Cramer posted on Facebook this morning and just had to share…

laughter is contagious!

This video is proof that a good chuckle is contagious, to anyone and anywhere. It has also been proved to be medicinal with its amazingly positive affect on every organ in our body. Even our immune systems and the condition of our blood vessels are boosted by a good laugh.

Have you ever noticed that people who are asked what they look for in a partner say they want someone that makes them laugh? That’s because laughter makes everyone, from babies to seniors feel good.

I bet everyone watching and listening to that man (stranger) laugh felt great for a long time afterward. I know I did.

Drug Checking Technology Challenge

Health Canada is putting their money where their mouth is, asking for help with a drug checking technology challenge. Most of us are aware of the opioid crisis here in Canada and around the world. For more information, please check out the detailed article in the link above. It describes the challenge to discover or modify the technology involved in detecting lethal, potent drugs like Fentanyl as well as other toxic substances. The article also contains additional links for those wishing to increase their knowledge of the crisis we are facing as well as one for substance abusers too.

Drug checking technology is out there, it just needs to be improved for increased reliability, accuracy, adaptability, ease of use as well as affordability. Any innovative (for or not-for-profit) Canadian post secondary institution, company, research or industry association is eligible to apply, although only the selected semi-finalists will be able to compete for the pilot phase and grand prize.

This challenge was launched on October 2nd, 2018 and the deadline for application is February 1, 2019. That means there is no time to waste! Semi-finalists will be announced February, finalists in June and grand prize winner in January 2020. Oh, and the prize is a cool million dollars.

It must be my thirty years of laboratory work; this challenge certainly piqued my interest. Do you have an innovative, ambitious personality with the resources to create a design ? Where can you apply? At the bottom of the webpage linked to above. Or right here!


Fat bombs help you stay on a keto diet

Are you having trouble staying on the keto diet? Try some fat bombs. They are perfect and portable for a quick snack helping you stay on the keto track. The keto diet is not a quick fix or easy to imcomporate into your busy lifestyle. It can, however, be a successful way to lose weight and inches off those fatty areas.

Fat bombs are made of, you guessed it, fat. The fat in them is the good kind though, and consuming more fat than carbs and proteins is the key to the keto diet. They are rich but not overly sweet, and remind me of truffles.

There are quite a few versions of fat bombs out there, so experiment to discover your favourite. Most are made out of coconut oil and nut butter, avocado or cream cheese. Cocoa powder is optional, simply omit it if you are not a chocolate fan. You can add a bit of sweetener if you prefer. I prefer them unsweetened.

Mix 1/2 cup of nut butter, pureed avocado or cream cheese with 1/4 cup of virgin coconut oil. Add 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Stir over low heat until coconut oil is liquid and mixture is well blended. Add sweetener if desired. Pour into plastic containers or candy molds. I have been (successfully) using an ice cube tray as have not had a chance to pick up candy molds. Another option is to form the mixture into balls and roll the balls in flax or chia seeds. Freeze until solid, typically a few hours. Whatever you don’t eat right away you can store in the freezer.

A slightly fancier version combines 1/2 cup each of blueberries, soft goat cheese, and chopped pecans with 1 cup of almond flour and 1 teaspoon of pure vanilla. Blend in a food processor, form into 30 small balls, roll balls in unsweetened shredded coconut.

  • calories: 48
  • protein: 1g
  • fats: 4g
  • net carbs: 1g

Yet another delicious fat bomb recipe calls for 1/2 cup melted coconut butter (not oil), 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice and maple syrup and the zest of one lemon. Combine all in a food processor, then pour into candy molds or containers. Refrigerate or freeze to store.

  • calories 96g
  • fat 8g
  • protein 0.6g
  • net carbs: 1.8g

If strawberry shortcake is your passion, try these fat bombs. They have less calories than the other versions, so perfect for a light snack. Combine 3/4 cups almond flour, 1/4 cup each of coconut flour and shredded coconut, 1/2 cup strawberries, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Process until combined, form into 25 balls. If desired, roll in additional coconut. Freeze.

  • calories: 34
  • fats: 2g
  • protein: 0g
  • net carbs: 2g

By now you probably get the gist of these fat bombs. Just about any flavor imaginable is possible. Get creative and find your own favorite. Here are a few I have tried, as you can see the container is almost empty…they are delicious!

blueberry, goat cheese, almond and coconut
chocolate, almond butter and avocado (bottom)

Writers Write For Many Reasons

When I tell people I am a freelance writer, I often get “Why did you become a writer?”  Good question.  I have always been a bit anal about grammar and spelling, especially in published articles, stories, blog posts etc.  I don’t mind a more relaxed approach to sentence structure, in fact I quite like when writers write like they talk.  

I guess I like sharing my gift of gab and really love seeing my own thoughts in words.  Is that vanity?  Maybe, but if my love of words makes readers laugh, cry, learn and/or think, then I am happy to risk it.  I regard my writing as a sharing of information, expertise and even unsolicited opinions.

Another thing I enjoy about writing is the amount of knowledge I gain when researching an article or post.  You are never to old (or to young) to learn.  We can all learn from our mistakes.  Those that are written down are especially easy to learn from.   Looking back at some of my earliest articles and blog posts I like to think my writing style and technique has evolved. I certainly have learned a lot, especially about SEO and other technical lingo.

Writing also helps me solve problems.  Just as talking things through helps and inspires co-workers, writing words out makes me see things more clearly.  In fact, I used to write tons of study notes when studying for exams years ago.

Hand in hand with writing is reading.  I am often inspired by other people’s work.  That’s because I respect and value others’ opinions and expertise.  I also recognize the importance of supporting writing excellence.  Any excellence and talent actually, whether in the form of art, beauty, fashion or business etc.  Social media has taken criticism and negativity to a whole new level.  People need to realize that it takes nothing away from their own abilities to recognize the talent of others.  

I think the world needs more of this recognition and support, regardless of who created what.  Not respecting others’ opinions and thinking your own view or opinion has to be right and the best is just wrong.  That’s called narcissism, and it can be extremely destructive and divisive.  I won’t name and names here, but you all know which public figure I am referring to.

Writers and readers appear to have a special bond.  My readers and those I follow have become my writing family even though I have never met (most of) them.

 

 

Does Tryptophan in Turkey Make You Tired?

Authored by Nate Martins • November 20, 2018. Originally published on HVMN, adapted for use on Lorieb

Forks no longer clang against plates. Conversation lulls. Chairs scrape against the floor as family members make their way from kitchen table to Lazy-Z-Boy. The Thanksgiving feast is over. Now, eyelids drowse. Everyone starts to fall asleep, wine glasses are half full, football commentators hum in the background, crumbs stuck to mustaches flutter in the rhythm of each hot, heavy breath. Is this your Thanksgiving meal aftermath? Maybe your astute, know-it-all cousin points out that tryptophan, present in turkey (and many other foods) is causing everyone to fall asleep by 6pm.

You can tell them that’s just a myth. Tryptophan isn’t the reason your living room looks like an kindergarten nap time, it’s all the other stuff you’re eating alongside it.

What is Tryptophan?

It’s an amino acid. Amino acids form the building blocks of protein, the main structural and functional compound in the body. Tryptophan is one of nine essential amino acids, meaning it cannot be produced by the body and must be obtained directly through food.

This amino acid plays a part in some vital, bodily processes. It helps regulate nitrogen balance in adults and growth in infants. It also is important for production of creating niacin which is essential for creating serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter associated with sleep and melatonin levels. This is where the villainization of turkey comes in. But tryptophan isn’t just in turkey; it’s also in other high-protein foods. In fact, many foods such as seeds, cheese and soybeans, have more than turkey.

You’re Tired Because

You overate.

Yes, turkey can make you drowsy. But the other foods that contain tryptophan in high amounts don’t get the same bad rap as turkey. So what’s causing the sleepiness?

Really it’s mixing tryptophan-rich turkey with other carbohydrates–like, say, mashed potatoes and stuffing and bread and pie–that is to blame.

Consuming carbs triggers insulin release, which causes uptake of other types of amino acid into the muscles (but not tryptophan). This means that tryptophan levels are higher than usual, especially relative to other amino acids. Normally amino acids compete with one another for uptake into the brain, but when tryptophan is present at higher-than usual amounts, more of it gets in.

Without competition, the floodgates open, allowing more and more tryptophan to enter the brain. From there it’s used to produce serotonin and eventually, melatonin.1 Any big meal containing tryptophan and lots of carbohydrates can induce drowsiness. And of course other factors, like drinking alcohol, can also play a role in that sleepiness.

Even if you ate a large meal without any tryptophan, you’ll likely still be tired–especially if it’s rich in carbohydrates.2,3,4 Large portions of food force the body to digest, which requires significant energy use. You’ll get the signal from your brain to chill out while your gut kicks into overdrive. This feeling is likely unavoidable, because the parasympathetic nervous system (responsible for telling your heart to beat and your lungs to breathe) automatically triggers this process, informally known as “rest and digest.”

Tryptophan may play a role in post-meal tiredness, but it’s largely everything else you ate putting you into a food coma.

Scientific Citations

1.Fernstrom JD, Wurtman RJ. Brain Serotonin Content: Increase Following Ingestion of Carbohydrate Diet. Science 1971;(174)4013, 1023-1025.
2.Lyons PM, Truswell AS. Serotonin precursor influenced by type of carbohydrate meal in healthy adults. Am J Clin Nutr. 1988;47(3):433-9.
3.Wurtman RJ, Wurtman JJ, Regan MM, Mcdermott JM, Tsay RH, Breu JJ. Effects of normal meals rich in carbohydrates or proteins on plasma tryptophan and tyrosine ratios. Am J Clin Nutr. 2003;77(1):128-32.
4.Afaghi A, O’connor H, Chow CM. High-glycemic-index carbohydrate meals shorten sleep onset. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(2):426-30.