What Exactly is Ketosis and is it Good or Bad For Me?

When you eat carbohydrates, they break down into glucose which is the main source of fuel for your bodies.  If however you eat very few carbs and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can be converted to blood sugar), your body will look for alternate ways to get energy from and it starts to produce ketones.  Ketones are produced in the liver, from fat. They are then used as fuel in the body, including the brain. This is important because the brain is a hungry organ that consumes lots of energy every day.  It’s a common misconception that the brain needs carbs. The truth is that the brain happily burns carbs when you eat them. But if you don’t eat too many carbs, the brain is happy to burn ketones instead.  Your body cannot run on fat alone, it can only run on glucose…or ketones.

On a ketogenic diet your entire body switches its fuel supply to run almost entirely on fat.  Insulin levels become very low and fat burning increases dramatically. It becomes easy to access your fat stores to burn them off.  This is obviously great if you’re trying to lose weight, and studies show that ketogenic diets lead to more weight loss.  Being in ketosis also reduces hunger and cravings so you lose weight effortlessly and even reverse type 2 diabetes.  Also, by giving your body and brain an almost unlimited supply of energy, you can increase your physical and mental endurance.

Some people think that ketosis is extremely dangerous.  However, they might be confusing ketosis with ketoacidosis, which is completely different.  While ketoacidosis is a serious condition caused by uncontrolled diabetes, ketosis is a natural metabolic state.  In fact, ketosis and ketogenic diets have been studied extensively and shown to be very safe for long periods of time.

So how do you get your body into ketosis?  Cut the carbs!  Remember that everything, with the exception of meat and fat, is a carb which breaks down into glucose.  So how many carbs per day can you eat and still get into ketosis?  Approximately 20-50 NET carbs.  NET carbs are not the same as TOTAL carbs.  For example, fiber is a carb but the human body doesn’t absorb and it requires no insulin to metabolize and thus it has no glycemic response, so we subtract it from the total carb.  So if your bread has 30g total carbs but 5g of fiber, the net carb is only 25g.  You would be amazed at how many carbs you are eating if you are not counting or cutting them.  Other carbs that have no glycemic effect are sugar alcohols (xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol etc) which are used as a calorie free sugar substitute.

It is important to check your ketone levels by using Ketone sticks or “ketostix”.  You can get them in the drug stores.  You pee on the stick and it turns a color.  Basically the more ketones that are in the burning, the darker red-purple the stick will turn.  There is a chart on the bottle so you see if you are burning negative, small, medium or large.  If you are negative, you are not in ketosis and are not burning fat this way.  This is the best way to know if you are eating too many carbs or not eating enough good fats.  I find when I add MCT oil, I burn larger, faster.  You can put the MCT oil (which comes from coconut oil) in your shakes, drizzle it on steamed veggies or use it for your salad dressing with vinegar and spices.

So, get into ketosis…it’s good for you!

What to Look For in a Low Carb/Low Sugar Protein Bar

When hunger hits and it’s not meal time, I go for a protein bar.  Since I follow a low carb diet, I only buy bars but there are many very healthy bars that are not so low carb but are all natural, made from raw ingredients which include nuts and seeds, dates etc.  For the purpose of this article, I am going to stick with the low carb protein bars.  So here is a list of things to look for in a low carb, low sugar bar:

  • Protein content: This is the first thing I look at.  I look for a minimum of 20 grams of protein.  The higher the protein the more filling it will be and will keep you fuller for a longer time which ultimately reduces your  cravings as well.  Protein has a high thermic effect which means it requires a lot of energy to break it down. This means that up to 30% of the calories you consume from protein are used in the digestive process.  Most proteins come from milk and whey so they are not good for anyone who has a lactose intolerance.  For those of you with this issue, you would have to choose a vegan or vegetarian protein bar
  • Low sugar/Low carb: This is the 2nd thing I look for.  You would be surprised how much sugar are in some bars.  Most of the vegan bars are high carb but they are good carbs.  So to get a low carb bar you will most likely have to get one made from dairy/whey.  It is important to understand the difference  between total carbs and NET carbs.  Most low carb bars use sugar alcohol (xylitol, sorbitol, erythritol) etc.  Sugar alcohols always end with “itol” where sugars end with “ose” such as sucrose, fructose etc.  Sugar alcohols cannot be absorbed so they pass through the system and do not have a glycemic response, meaning that they do not require insulin to be metabolized.  Also, many low carb bars contain a high amount of fiber which like sugar alcohols, are not absorbed by the human body.  They pass right through, so…we can subtract them since neither of them have a glycemic response.  As an example:  Let’s say the bar has 28g protein, 17g fiber and 10g sugar alcohol.  28-17-10=1 NET carb.  This one carb left over has a glycemic response and is the only carb you count for your daily carb amounts.
  • High fiber: As mentioned above, the higher the fiber content the lower the total carbs. Also, fiber is great for blood sugar balance
  • When you’re choosing a protein bar that is quite low in total carb count, then they often will contain sugar alcohols. While many people will have no problem tolerating these, some people experience bloating, diarrhea, cramps, and bad gas as sugar alcohols draw water into the bowel. You will have to try them out for yourself to see if you react this way, but if you don’t these can be a very helpful fat loss aid. If you suffer from chronic constipation, they may be helpful for you

There are many high protein bars that are low carb and low sugar.  You have to learn how to read the labels to know.  Some of the low carb/sugar bars would include the Quest bars, B-Up bars and Oh Yeah ONE bars but there are many, many more to choose from.  Enjoy a guilt free snack that provides great protein and fiber without the guilt of carbs!

 

 

Alternatives to Sugary Foods/Drinks

Finding Alternates to Sugary Foods/Drinks:

If you’re addicted to sugar or carbs and want to reduce/eliminate them but don’t know how, here are some alternatives to some of them:

Soda pop:  One can of regular soda pop has at least 10 teaspoons of sugar in it.  Many of you drink more than one can per day.  Regular diet soda is typically sweetened with aspartame however you can buy pop that is sweetened with Stevia, it’s called Zevia and you can purchase it in many grocery stores or some health food stores.  You could also get a “Soda Stream” which carbonates water or other drinks.  You can then add some lemon or you can get water flavorings but be sure they are sweetened with stevia.  Or you can purchase different flavored stevia drops from nutrition house or other health food stores.

Juice:  If you took one orange and squeezed it, how much juice do you get out of it?  Not much.  Now imagine how many oranges it takes to fill an entire glass.  One medium orange has 12 NET carbs and 9 grams of sugar.  Also, when you are juicing the orange, you are eliminating all of the fiber.  Fiber helps to slow the absorption of sugar so you are losing this as well.

Fruit:  As much as fruit is good for you, it is very high in sugar and carbs.  You should not eat more than 2 fruits per day if you are trying to follow a low carb or low sugar diet.

Candy:  Candy is pure sugar…that’s it, pure sugar.  If you must have candy, you can buy sugar free candy but be sure it is sweetened with Stevia or Sugar Alcohols

Cereal:  Cereal is very high in carbohydrates and sugars.  On average a 30g serving has between 25-30g of sugar.  Keep in mind though we typically eat more than 30g at a time so you may double or triple that amount.  If you must have cereal, choose ones that have a lot of fiber in them.  All Bran with Psyllium has 22g total carbs, 11g fiber and 7g sugar.  Subtract the fiber from the total carbs and you have only 11 NET carbs (the absorbable carbs).  You can also use a vanilla protein shake mixed with water to use as a milk substitute.  It adds protein which slow down sugar absorption.  Keep in mind though that if you are following a gluten free diet, you will need to find gluten free cereals but all gluten free cereals re very high in carbs.  You’re best to give up cereal altogether.

Are Sugar Substitutes Bad For You?

Sugar Substitutes

So we have to give up sugar but what about sugar substitutes?  A sugar substitute is a food additive that provides a sweet taste like that of sugar while containing significantly less calories.   Some sugar substitutes are produced by nature, and others produced synthetically.  Here is the low down on popular sugar substitutes:

Aspartame:  Aspartame is by far the most dangerous sweeteners on the market today.   According to Dr Mercola, “Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of the adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are very serious, including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as part of aspartame dangers are:

Headaches & migraines, dizziness, seizures, nausea, numbness, muscle spasms, weight gain (yes gain), rashes, depression, fatigue, irritability, insomnia, vision problems, hearing loss, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, loss of taste, tinnitus (ringing of the ears), vertigo, memory loss and joint pain.”

“According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting of aspartame: brain tumors, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, chronic fatigue syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, mental retardation, lymphoma, birth defects, fibromyalgia and diabetes”

“Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. The book Prescription for Nutritional Healing, by James and Phyllis Balch lists aspartame under the category of “chemical poison.”

It is used in diet pop and other diet beverages, gum, candy, yogurt, desserts, condiments, meal replacements, jello, ice cream, frozen fruit treats, hard candy and even in prescription medicines and over the counter medicines, to name just a few!  Stay far away from this sweetener!

Saccharin (sugar twin, sweet ‘n low) are found in those colorful little packages found on the tables in the restaurants and coffee shops, as well as in grocery stores.  It is 200-700 times sweeter than sugar.  There have been some studies with rats that suffered from bladder cancer when consuming saccharin. Although this has not appeared in human studies, the concern is still there. If something causes cancer in rats, long-term effects on humans are a serious issue.  Saccharin can cause allergic reactions in some individuals. Commonly reported reactions to saccharin use in some individuals include headaches, diarrhea, skin issues and headaches.

Sodium Cyclamate  got a very bad name in the 1960s when tests showed the development of tumors in rodents if fed large quantities over a prolonged period. It was banned in the US in 1969 and has remained so ever since. However it is approved in almost every other country and is a popular sweetener today.   It is often mixed with other sweeteners like saccharin to make saccharin taste better.   Have you ever read the back of one of those colorful sweetener packages? It says “this product contains 35% sodium cyclamate.  Cyclamates should be used only on the advice of a physician”.  Why do you suppose they have that on the back?

Sugar alcohols commonly found in foods are sorbitol, maltitol, mannitol, xylitol and isomalt.  Sugar alcohols come from plant products such as fruits and berries. The carbohydrate in these plant products is altered through a chemical process.  Most sugar alcohols have little to no effect on blood sugar and insulin levels, with the exception of maltitol.  Are they safe?   For the most part our bodies cannot digest them in the small bowel.  Common side effects of over consumption of these include gas and bloating and abdominal pain.  One of the reasons for this is because they draw water into the bowel.

Sucralose (Splenda) is a very popular sweetener, whether you buy it in the grocery store or in pre-packaged products.  Splenda (sucralose) is actually NOT sugar, despite its marketing slogan “Made from sugar, so it tastes like sugar.” Rather it’s a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, and with proven negative health effects to match.  It was approved by the FDA in 1998 for use in products such as baked goods, beverages, gum, frozen dairy desserts, gelatins, candy etc.  It is allowed as a general purpose sweetener for all processed foods.   Studies show that sucralose reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50% and it increases the pH level in your intestines.  They also found evidence that sucralose is absorbed by fat.

Acesulfame Potassium (AKA Acesulfame K) is a potassium salt containing methylene chloride, a known carcinogen. It is an agent that is also used as a propellant, de-greaser and paint stripper. Reported side effects of long-term exposure to methylene chloride can include nausea, headaches, mood problems, hypoglycemia, impairment of the liver and kidneys, problems with eyesight and possibly cancer.

Stevia is not actually a sweetener, it’s an herb but this herb tastes 200+ times sweeter than sugar so it is used as a sweetener.  Studies on stevia for the most part have been quite safe however some processed stevia products in the supermarket have other ingredients added to it which are highly processed so if you want to use this herb, purchase it from a natural health food store and look for 100% stevia.