The keto diet is buzzing right now, but what exactly does it mean, and is it for everyone?
Well, ketosis is pretty cool for a number of reasons. Whether you are aware of it or not, your body has likely entered ketosis from time to time.
We enter ketosis in 2 scenarios:
-when we deprive our bodies (almost completely) of glucose
-when we fast for ~12-15 hours
Ketosis isn't an all or nothing deal. We can be in mild or full-fledged ketosis, or not at all. When glucose isn't available as a result of one of the above scenarios, Ketones are created as an alternate fuel. At this point, some interesting things happen.
In even mild ketosis, our antioxidant production is ignited (up to 150 g antioxidants/day). Ketosis also stimulates the production of beta hydroxybutyrate, the ultimate source of fuel for mitochondria. These guys are the powerhouses of our cells and when they aren't firing correctly, you can expect disease to set in. Ketones help mitochondria produce ATP. By increasing ATP, ketones reduce the generation of free radicals, increase production of endogenous glutathione, and act as an anti-inflammatory agent.
Ketones also reduce inflammation and oxidation throughout the body but especially in the brain. This is because the brain rapidly takes up ketones, an easily digestible fuel source that is small enough to cross the blood brain barrier (the liver converts MCTs to ketones). If ketones are present even at low levels they increase cerebral blood flow as much as 40%. Studies have shown that increasing ketones is a great strategy to block ionizing radiation and for controlling tremors.
To maximize ketones:
-Reduce carbs. This doesn't have to look like cutting them out completely. In fact, having such a stark transition from a carby diet to none at all can cause some crazy symptoms like the carb flu, the keto rash, and other undesirable effects. Be gentle with your body and remember that it doesn't like extremes but rather thrives in moderation. We like to follow the diet recommended through the RESTART program, allowing for non-starchy vegetables and low sugar fruits while avoiding starchy carbs, refined sugars, grains, and processed foods (RESTART will be offered again in January 2020 Athens, GA peeps!)
-Use a form of intermittent fasting by eating in a 6-8 hour span. This could look like not eating after 7 pm and waiting until 11-noon to eat your first meal the next day. Use MCT oil, grass fed butter, coconut butter, or coconut oil in your coffee or tea to sustain you until your first meal
-make these keto muffins! Recipe below :)
6 large eggs
1/4 c olive or toasted sesame oil
½ cup tahini (on the runnier side is best-we love this kind)
1 c raw cashews
½ c raw pumpkin seeds
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
Sesame seeds and/or pumpkin seeds to garnish
Preheat oven to 350. Use butter and almond flour to grease and flour a muffin tin.
Add all ingredients listed in order to a food processor or high powered blender. Blend well until you have a completely smooth, creamy batter. You will likely need to scrape down the sides. Use a spatula to empty mixture into your lined loaf pan. It will be sticky! Wet your spatula and smooth out the top, or pick up the pan and drop it a few times on a hard table to even out the batter.
Top with sesame and flax seeds and put on middle rack in oven for 35 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes and then use overhanging parchment paper to transfer to marble slab or wire rack (you can also transfer to cutting board, it just won’t dry as quickly or evenly). When completely cool, you may slice and serve. I like to slice a piece as I need it and keep the whole loaf stored in the fridge in an airtight bag. Just make sure it is completely cooled before storing. It will last on counter for 3 days or in fridge for over a week, but you will eat it all before that time comes!
When we make dessert we like to make sure of a few things. It's paired with:
1. Lots of good fat
Fat slows down the absorption of sugar. This means two things: we stay satisfied longer and we don't overburden our organs- especially the pancreas.
The pancreas is an incredible organ taxed with the huge responsibility of getting sugar out of the blood. When we have too much sugar in the blood, those sugars bind with our blood cells rendering them clunky, ineffective and hazardous to our entire body. So basically, always eat fat when you eat sugar! We like grass-fed butter, ghee, and unrefined coconut oil for our saturated fats and extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and sesame oil for our unsaturated fats.
2. Sugar stabilizing herbs
In many clinical trials, Ceylon Cinnamon (Cinnamomum verum) has been shown to: promotes glycemic control, improve lipid parameters, reduce insulin resistance, and improve insulin action (Ranasinghe et al, 2012). It's likely no coincidence that cinnamon and sugar is a traditional combination. Our ancestors knew what was up!
This class of herbs could possibly be one of the modern human's greatest herbal allies. Adaptogens work by improving our body's perception of and response to stress, making us more resilient in the face of it. Think of it this way- we can't always control the amount of stress going on in and around us, but we can certainly control how we respond to these stressors. Our bodies are always responding to stressors large and small, emotional and physical, whether we are aware of it or not (if you haven't noticed, our bodies are really good at acclimating to sub-optimal environments and our minds are really good at distracting us from listening).
And the truth is- the modern world barrages us with constant, low-level stressors that our ancestral bodies have simply not adapted to handle. These chronic low-level stressors mean that our bodies are always pumping out stress hormones, leaving us depleted in some capacity at some point in time. Depression, autoimmune conditions, fatigue, inflammation, mood disorders, hormonal issues, lack of vigor- many argue that all these things could be traced back to chronic, low level stress (Sapolsky, 2004).
Adaptogens have been utilized by our ancestors in some form across the globe. They are tonic level herbs (meant to be taken regularly) that produce a non-specific response in the body (they increase our resilience to numerous stressors) while also having a normalizing effect (balancing us out no matter the direction we favor) (Winston & Maimes, 2007).
Science is in the midst of catching up to the magic of adaptogens, but the verdict is out: adaptogens rock! They come in all shapes and sizes and address countless modern complaints.
An important note on taking adaptogens: best practice is to stop any adaptogen routine during times of acute illness such as the flu.
1.5 sticks grass-fed butter
6 oz chopped bittersweet bakers chocolate
1 tsp instant coffee
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp ceylon cinnamon
1/4 tsp licorice powder
2 tbsp red Reishi powder
1 tbsp Shatavari powder
4 large eggs room temperature
1/2 c raw sugar
healthy pinch of sea salt
1/2 cup raw cacao
1 c heavy cream (coconut cream can work too!)
12 oz bittersweet chocolate
pinch sea salt
Preheat oven to 325 F.
Cut out a piece of parchment paper to fit a circular 8” pan. Place paper into pan. Set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan at a medium low heat. Add the Reishi and Shatavari, stirring constantly as the herbs infuse into the butter, about 5 minutes. Remove butter mixture from heat and add chocolate chips. Stir until smooth. Add the instant coffee and vanilla extract and set aside.
Whisk or mix eggs, sugar, and salt until your mixture has grown in volume (this takes around 5 minutes with a hand mixer). Next, slowly add your chocolate-butter mixture as you continue mixing. Fold in cacao, cinnamon, and licorice. Mix until completely combined. Pour the batter into your prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes at 325. The edges should appear "baked" but you want the center a bit gooey still. Remove from oven and cool at room temperature completely before transferring to a fridge. Let chill for 5 hours.
Bring 1-2" water to a low boil/simmer in a sauce pan. Top with a double boiler. Add chocolate and cream to the double boiler and let melt, stirring occasionally until you have a smooth consistency. Add a pinch of sea salt. Drizzle over your chilled cake until it's completely covered. Chill again for another hour. Serve with whipped cream and enjoy!
Engels, Gayle & Brinckmann, Josef. 2012. HerbalGram: Cinnamon, Issue 95. American Botanical Council
Ranasinghe, P., Perera, S., Gunatilake, M., Abeywardene, E., Gunapala, N., Premakumara, S., ... & Katulanda, P. (2012). Effects of Cinnamomum zeylanicum (Ceylon cinnamon) on blood glucose and lipids in a diabetic and healthy rat model. Pharmacognosy research, 4(2), 73.
Sapolsky, R. M. (2004). Why zebras don't get ulcers: The acclaimed guide to stress, stress-related diseases, and coping-now revised and updated. Holt paperbacks.
Winston, D., & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co.
Soasted = soaked + toasted
It's about time we wrote about soasted nuts because it is a GAME CHANGER.
Here's the thing about nuts.
1. Nuts is a blanket term for a TON of different nuts, seeds, beans, and pseudo nuts that we clump together as one food category when in fact, they are all quite botanically unique. For example, certain brands will put cashews, almonds, and peanuts together and call it a "nut mix" when these 3 foods represent incredibly diverse plants- one is a tree, one is a bean, and one is an exterior seed (check out Cashew apples- pretty crazy!). This means that some "nuts" might work fine with you, but others might be very irritating. Many people have allergies or sensitivities to some "nuts" but not others (which is a dangerous situation when you buy these "nut mixes"). Many nuts are also high FODMAP which means it can cause digestive distress in some individuals.
2. "Nuts" contain a TON of potential energy. Remember, a little walnut was meant to become a massive walnut tree one day. Plus "nuts" have been pegged as the ultimate health food, making people much more likely to over-indulge in handfuls of these potent tree droppings because they are "healthy". This has a doubly deleterious effect: excessiveness in any form or fashion is the antithesis to health AND you are consuming a ton of potential energy that will eventually wreck havoc on your metabolism and digestive system.
3. Store bought typically come in two categories = raw and roasted. Sometimes the roasted nuts are "dry roasted", meaning no extra oils have been added. More often than not, these nuts are roasted in one of the following oils : soybean, cottonseed, canola, rapeseed, or sunflower. While these oils are called "vegetable oils" to entice us into thinking they are healthy, the truth is that these oils are incredibly sensitive and the modern factory processes we use to extract them are caustic and dangerous. Vegetable oils are pulled out of their protective covering (be it sunflowers, cotton or rape seeds) using intense solvents, exposing them to light and heat which they are very sensitive to (because they don't naturally occur free from their protective covering- for a gruesome analogy, think of how sensitive we would be to the light if we scrubbed away our protective skin). This means they are not only exposed to intense solvents, but they also go rancid quickly because of all the heat, light, and plastic exposure. These unsaturated fats are high in Omega 6s, an essential fatty acid that our world is already rampant with. We function best with an Omega 3:6 ratio of 1:1. The Average American is working with an inflammatory ratio of 1:20. You can improve your Omega ratio by avoiding nuts roasted in these rancid oils.
4. Raw nuts don't have the dangers of being roasted in rancid oils, but they do contain naturally occurring anti-nutrients. Anti-nutrients represent a variety of phytochemicals that plants produce to protect themselves from predation and degradation. Historically, our ancestors used gentle means to dissolve these anti-nutrients, like soaking and slow roasting (aka, SOASTING) their nuts for optimal nutrition and ease of digestion.
Step by Step Guide to Soast your Nuts
Get a quart-sized mason jar. Fill is 3/4 of the way full with your favorite raw nuts. Pecans, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and brazil nuts are our favorite nuts to soast. Totally cover the nuts with filtered water and a hefty pinch of sea salt. Cover with a lid (but don't screw on the tight) and let sit on your countertop over night. In the morning. Strain off all the water. It will likely be a pale brown color. Give it another rinse with some more filtered water. Shake the nuts dry and spread evenly on a roasting pan. You can go the extra mile and drizzle with a few blobs of coconut oil, olive oil, or ghee and top with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. A bit of honey drizzle and turmeric is another lovely addition. Bake for 8-10 minutes at 350 F. Crank the heat down to 200 F and slow roast until the nuts are golden brown and smelling fragrant. This varies per nut variety but usually take anywhere from 25-55 minutes. Let cool completely before transferring back to an airtight mason jar, container, or bag. Store in the fridge or freezer for months! We have found these soasted nuts SO much more satisfying and tasty. They don't leave that heavy, dull tummy feeling we often get when eating raw or store-bought roasted nuts.
Adaptogens are all the rage these days, and it makes sense! We live in a chronically stressed world and adaptogens promise the ability to improve our stress-handling capacities. The only problem is this: we are using that same magic-bullet mentality with herbal adaptogens as we do with synthetic drugs. Got a headache? Take 2 tylenol. Mucusy? Take some mucinex. Stressed out? Take some Ashwaghanda!
There is some truth to this mentality: when we are hurting, we want to take action to resolve our issues. We crave a quick fix so we can get on with our busy lives. However, herbal medicine provides slow and steady solutions for long-term resolution. Herbal medicine practiced correctly promises ultimate alleviation from our maladies by seeking out the root of the problem.
There are over 20 known adaptogens, and while all of them do increase our adaptive energy, work on our nonspecific immunity, influence our HPA axis, and function amphoterically (balancing in nature), they all have different energetics.
Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera, Solanaceae), for example, is an amazing adaptogen and incredibly popular these days (I find it on the shelves at TJ Maxx of all places!), but it is powerful and not for everyone. While herbs can be safe, herbs used improperly can hurt you. Ashwaghanda is a very yang plant, energetically. By yang, we mean that it generates outward energy, as opposed to yin plants, that are more building, nourishing, and moistening in nature. Ashwaghanda is warm, hot, and generates energy for work and endurance. This is why athletes love it so much. However, Ashwaghanda might be too much for the average American who is already living a yang-dominant life, meaning they are always on the go and always exerting energy. Ashwaghanda can also irritate hyperthyroid conditions, so you definitely want to stay away from this plant if you have any sort of high thyroid condition. Lastly, many people are sensitive to Nightshade plants, such as tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Ashwaghanda is a Nightshade, so avoid this adaptogen if you have Nightshade-induced inflammation.
For our fat balls, we balance the yang (think of the hot, drying outward energy of the sun as yang) power of Ashwaghanda with the gently nourishing yin (think of the cool, moistening inward energy of the moon as yin) power of Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus, Liliaceae), a lesser-known but equally amazing adaptogen. Shatavari is generally "safer" than Ashwaghanda for it doesn't directly influence the thyroid and it moistens and restores exhausted, dried out tissue. Our culture has enough outward, busy energy. Focusing on nourishing tissues by using more moistening Shatavari is a good practice for adaptogen use.
We infuse our fat balls with the carminative, calming nature of Cardamom (Eletarria cardamomum, Zingiberaceae) and increase the bioavailabilty of our adaptogen medicine by decocting the powdered roots in coconut butter and grass-fed butter before making the batter.
We hope you enjoy our recipe, and please leave your questions in the comment section below!
Balanced Yin-Yang Fat Balls
1/2 c Coconut oil, melted
1/4 c grassfed butter
1/4 c coconut butter
10 green cardamom pods (or 1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder)
1/3 c Shatavari powder
1 1/2 tbsp Ashwaghanda
3 tbsp Red Reishi powder
1 cup coconut shreds (toasted if you prefer this taste over raw)1/2 c almond butter
1 cup raw cashews, soaked and toasted
2 tsp cinnamon
3 medjool dates (pitted)
1/3 c. almond or coconut milk
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
2 tbsp cacao nibs
In a saucepan, heat up coconut oil, coconut butter, grass-fed butter, vanilla, cardamom + Ashwaghanda, Shatavari, and Red Reishi powders. Bring to a slight simmer, stirring often. Let slightly simmer for about 5 minutes or until the butter is fragrant (this a crucial step to fully decoct all the medicine from the adaptogens).
In a blender, pulse all the other ingredients except the milk, cacao nips and chocolate chips. Add the milk a little a time, scraping down the sides and processing until a sticky dough forms. Add the cooled, decocted adaptogen mixture. Transfer the mixture to a sealable container and refrigerate at least 2 hours (this makes it easier to form into balls later on). Once refridgerated, roll into 1" diameter balls, coating in cocoa powder, extra shatavari powder, or coconut shreds for a decorative touch. I like to sprinkle with a bit more sea salt. In an airtight container, keep in the refrigerator for up to 10 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months
Relearning Traditional Wisdom
I learned about soaking grains and nuts after college- a time when the bulk of my diet came from the cereal aisle or trail-mix bag. College was also a time I found myself perpetually bloated with painful cramping attacks, inconsistent bowel movements, and constant confusion about my digestive situation: How could this be? I was eating so healthy- all these whole grains, nuts, and veggies - so why am I in so much pain?
Fast forward a few years to my first time seeing a Nutritional Therapist Practitioner (NTP). Diagnosed with IBS at a very young age, I was quite familiar with the routine visit to the doctor. This experience, however, was unlike any other. It was the first time a health professional spent more than 15 minutes asking me questions about my actual diet and lifestyle. My NTP spent a whole hour engaging me in detective-like work, digging deeper into my relationship with food and self. With his thorough, thoughtful questions, he was cluing me into the obvious (but overlooked) truth that if we don’t talk about our problems, they will never go away.
My visits to my NTP inspired a whole new trajectory for my health journey. Whereas I had previously been hyper-focused on herbal medicine (which is pretty easy to do because healing plants are amazing!!!), I realized now that if I didn’t seriously address my diet, then all my herb allies could never live up to their potential, and nor would I! I decided to become an NTP myself, and with it, I have acquired a whole new library of research and techniques focusing on ancestral preparation of food, bio-individuality, and intuitive eating.
Which brings us to the main point of the article: SOAKING GRAINS AND SEEDS. This ancient technique has gotten lost in the hustle-bustle of modern life, but there is a growing wealth of science-driven information confirming traditional wisdom. In this article, I am just going to focus on a few main points and give you the full-proof recipe for QUINOA, but check my resources for further research.
What Are Anti-nutrients?
The name says it all: anti-nutrients are highly biologically active substances that impede the absorption of nutrients and micronutrients, interfering with optimal organ function. Interestingly, they are found in virtually all seeds, nuts, grains and legumes and serve as a sort of defense mechanism for the plant to combat predation. These substances protect the plant’s offspring from being consumed by causing digestive irritation to whoever is brave enough to eat them.
For example, a prominent class of anti-nutrients are called phytates. They inhibit minerals like Zinc, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium, Manganese, and Copper from being absorbed. A recent study of 36 common grain products confirmed consistently high phytate levels in processed cereal- and legume- based products (Roos et al, 2013). This study confirms the need for people to reduce processed food intake and increase properly prepared food at home. Quinoa’s main anti-nutrients- saponins and protease inhibitors (which impede digestion of proteins)- are concentrated on the outside of each kernel. When we slow-soak our quinoa before cooking and eating, we serve to breakdown this tough exterior.
But never fear, a ridiculously simple technique ensures the elimination of these anti-nutrients. Ancestral food prep takes a bit of forethought at first, but that is the most difficult part. Once you get into the habit of soaking your grains and nuts, it will become second nature. In fact, I have found that my transition into a more ancestral way of cooking/living has made me more organized and thoughtful. Ancestral wisdom in the kitchen gives you the skills to flawlessly meal plan and prep, eliminating food waste and falling into a natural rhythm with the seasons.
Perfectly Soaked Quinoa
1 cup quinoa
2 cups warm filtered water, divided
Splash apple cider vinegar
Sea salt, pepper and herbs to taste
A few tbsp olive oil or butter
First, give your dried quinoa a quick rinse. Then, combine all the ingredients in a jar and cap with a lid, reserving 1 c of the warm water. Let soak overnight at room temperature. 24 hours is ideal, but 12 will do.
The next day, pour the quinoa, water, and vinegar into a large bowl. Add another cup of warm water and stir. Foam will appear. Tilt the bowl all around while scooping off the foam. The foam is bitter and filled with anti-nutrients, so don’t skimp here. Scoop out the rinsed, de-foamed quinoa (I like to use a mini strainer as a spoon) and put in saucepan with 1 c filtered water and generous pinch sea salt. Cover and simmer until no water is left. (12-15 min). Add butter or olive oil and top with more sea salt, black pepper, and herbs. Store leftover in the refrigerator for several days.
Roos, N., Sørensen, J. C., Sørensen, H., Rasmussen, S. K., Briend, A., Yang, Z., & Huffman, S. L. (2013). Screening for anti‐nutritional compounds in complementary foods and food aid products for infants and young children. Maternal & child nutrition, 9, 47-71.
Creative commons, flickr. Michael T. (photo credit); allispossible.org.uk
Coconut Mustard Aioli:
Eileen Schaeffer & Amy Wright
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