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.
¾ c almond flour
½ c arrowroot starch
1 tbsp coconut flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
Hefty pinch sea salt
¼ c melted unrefined coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp molasses
Preheat oven to 350. Meanwhile, stir molasses, syrup, and melted coconut oil until evenly incorporated. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients. Slowly add the dry ingredients into the oil blend, mixing well. The dough should come together quite nicely.
Transfer the dough onto parchment paper about 8 in. long or onto a silpad. Both work. Wet your fingers (so dough doesn’t stick) and gently press out the dough until it’s about ¼-⅛ in thick (like a graham cracker!) and in a giant rectangle shape. Use a fork to pierce the dough like you see on store-bought graham crackers evenly throughout (this keeps the crackers especially flat and uniform). You can use a rolling pin or another piece of parchment paper to achieve this, but I find wet fingers works just fine.
Bake for 10-12 min until fragrant and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool just a bit before using a knife to slice into graham cracker shapes. I like squares but sometimes do long pieces. Let cool completely before storing in freezer for weeks!
Add ½-1 c chocolate chips for chocolate chip graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp turmeric + pinch black pepper for golden grahams
Add 2 tbsp cacao + 1 tsp vanilla for chocolate graham crackers
Add 1 tbsp pysllium + 1 tbsp flax seed for fiber graham crackers
Top with toasted oats + chopped pecans for a nutty fix!
No need for measuring cups and spoons- our wild weed pesto is as versatile as it is tasty. We encourage you to use your senses to make this tasty green dip rather than relying on exact measurements. There are two reasons for this:
Herb Girls' Wild Green-sto (Green Pesto)
Plants in the “wild” (or your backyard!) have more vitamins and minerals than those grown commercially and organically (though organically-grown crops are more nutrient-dense than commercial). This is because wild plants have to create all their own defenses since no one is looking after them and providing them nutrients and protection. Over time, we have selectively chosen those plants that are the juiciest and tastiest for cultivation, but in the process, we have bred out some of their wild medicine. For example, crabapples foraged in the wild aren’t as tasty as a Honeycrisp from the store, but they likely have way more phytonutrients (Check out Eating on the Wild Side by Jo Robinson for more information on this).
A simple way to ensure you are getting some wild plant power every day is to include some foraged plants in your daily life. This is very easy and tasty to do with a green-sto.
3 handfuls arugula or spinach
1-2 handfuls wild plants like violet leaves, nettle, dandelion leaves, yarrow, chickweed, young sassafras leaves, young hibiscus leaves, and/or young sourwood leaves
1/4 c tahini
1/3 c olive oil
1 handful pumpkin seeds
1 handful walnuts
1 tsp miso
1 squeeze dijon mustard
juice and zest of 1-2 lemons
½ c frozen peas (the sweetness really balances the bitterness of wild herbs)
Sea salt and crushed black pepper to taste
Add all ingredients to a blender/food processor and blend until smooth, adding more or less oil or lemon to get the right flavor profile. Store in bulk mason jars in the freezer or spoon into silicone ice cube trays for individual servings.
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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