16:8 diet

The 16:8 diet

The 16:8 diet is a form of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. The numbers in the ratio stand for 16 and 8 hours (of fasting and eating, respectively).

Intermittent fasting vs time-restricted feeding

These days, the term “intermittent fasting”, is being thrown around all over the place. Prof Valter Longo is the opinion that we need to stop using term “intermittent fasting” because it’s being used to talk about different protocols that have different effects on health (minute 1:01 in the video below).

Simply put, fasting = not eating. If you do it intermittently (i.e. not all the time), you are intermittent fasting. Humans, and all creatures, have fasted since the beginning of time. It can be argued that intermittent fasting is what our bodies are hard-wired to expect.

Time-restricted feeding is a specific type of intermittent fasting that happens every day (in contrast, intermittent fasting can be done, for example, once a week). The focus here is placed on the number of hours in which eating is “permitted”, i.e. 8 in the case of the 16:8 diet.

In some forms of fasting and all forms of time-restricted feeding, the idea is not alter the quantity or quality of food, but to consume it within a fixed window of time.

One more nuance: circadian rhythms

Circadian rhythm is what underlies any biological 24-hour cycle. Many organisms, including our own human cells, function according to a circadian rhythm that is influenced by the natural light/dark cycle and feeding/fasting periods. During the fasting periods, the body has an opportunity to repair damaged cells, proteins, etc. (2, 3).

Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles with 24/7 artificial light stimulation, disrupted sleep and eating patterns interrupt our body’s natural processes, predisposing us to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. Hence, the aim of time-restricted feeding is to re-establish the body’s innate circadian rhythms (2, 3).

Prof Satchin Panda is dedicated to the study of circadian rhythms and health.

Benefits of fasting

The health benefits of fasting have been well documented thanks to large observational studies of populations who practice religious fasting. There have been also numerous studies in mice and other creatures that have given insight into the physiology of fasting, due to the fact that several cellular processes are conserved across species (2, 3).

Fasting promotes ketogenesis, increased cellular stress resistance, breakdown of fats (lipolysis) and cell destruction (autophagy). Clinical applications include the treatment of neurodegenerative, metabolic and inflammatory diseases, aging and certain types of cancer (particularly to reduce side-effects of chemotherapy) (1). Fasting may also help lower blood pressure and body fat (2).

Does the 16:8 diet work for weight loss and health?

A recent paper reported on a 12-week pilot study with 23 obese sedentary adults who followed a 16:8 diet. Subjects were allowed to eat from 10am to 6pm and their results were compared to matched subjects from another weight loss study. The experimental group more lost body weight and systolic blood pressure than the control group, but no relative fat mass, lean mass, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin nor homocysteine (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). The authors of the paper acknowledge that alternate day fasting may be more effective for weight loss than time-restricted feeding (4).

On the flip side, an 8-week study with 34 lean young adult subjects explored the effects of combining a 16:8 diet with exercise. All subjects had been lifting weights for at least 5 years and followed a classic bodybuilding protocol 3 times per week. The time-restricted group ate between 1pm and 8pm and lost more of the following: fat mass, total testosterone, IGF-1 (but maintained fat-free mass), blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, TNF-α and IL-1β (pro-inflammatory cytokines) (5).

Any fasting protocol may have detrimental side effects, so consult with your doctor or dietitian before trying the 16:8 diet, especially if you have health challenges or risk factors.

In the media

The 16:8 hour in the media was popularised under the name of 8 hour diet by American publisher David Zinczenko of Men’s Health back in 2012.

My experience with fasting

I don’t follow a structured fasting protocol but I do try to do some sort of fasting at least once a week. Sometimes it’s a 24 hour fast, sometimes it’s a protein fast (which triggers autophagy without requiring an actual fast), sometimes it’s a 8-12 hour time-restricted feeding period. The day and length depend on what else I have going on, i.e. training and social events. I try to implement fasting on recovery days, in which I do minimal physical activity (such as stretching, yoga or sprints). I learned the hard way: I tried fasting on a day I did clean heavy singles and I almost fainted.

References

  1. Longo VD and Mattson MP. Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Cell Metab. 2014 February 4; 19(2): 181–192.
  2. Longo VD and Panda S. Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan. Cell Metab. 2016 June 14; 23(6): 1048–1059.
  3. Melkani GC and Panda S. Time-restricted feeding for prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic disorders. J Physiol. 2017 Jun 15;595(12):3691-3700.
  4. Gabela K et al. Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2018 Jun 15;4(4):345-353.
  5. Moro T et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med (2016) 14:290.

[Photo by petradr on Unsplash]

Recipe: Sudado de pescado (Peruvian steamed fish)

Sudado de pescado can be considered a soup or a stew. I guess it depends on how you serve it: with boiled cassava or with boiled cassava and rice. The verb sudar means “to sweat”… in this context, it means the fish is steamed on top of a bed of onions and tomatoes with a delicious broth.

One of the broth ingredients is chicha de jora, a fermented beverage made from malted maize (corn), commonly used in Peruvian cuisine. It is also served as a drink in many towns in the highlands to children and adults, despite its alcoholic content. Back in the day, the fermentation was kickstarted by chewing the corn kernels and spitting them in a bucket. Thankfully, these days it’s made through a more modern and hygienic process. Taste-wise, it’s similar to apple cider vinegar and plain kombucha. You can buy it from Latin food shops such as Tienda Latina in Ashfield.

Chicha de jora

Sudado de pescado was one of dad’s favourite dishes. I didn’t appreciate it until mum started making it with scallops. The addition of seafood elevates the dish to another level. I asked her for the recipe and she wrote down a paragraph with instructions but no quantities (for a change!). I think I got my version pretty close; dad would have approved.

As you can see below, sudado de pescado is a very simple and healthy dish to make, provided you have the ingredients at hand. I have indicated substitutions and ingredients that can be omitted.

Sudado de pescado

  • Servings: 3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 3 white fish fillets
  • 12 scallops (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 red onion in thick slices
  • 2 tomatoes in thick slices
  • 1 tbsp ají panca paste (or other red chilli paste, preferably smoked)
  • 1 tbsp ají amarillo paste (or other yellow chilli paste)
  • 3/4 cup chicha de jora (or plain kombucha or a combination of apple cider vinegar and white wine)
  • 1/4 cup fish stock
  • 30ml (2 tbsp) pisco (optional)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 500g frozen cassava, to serve
  • rice or cauliflower rice, to serve (optional)
  • fresh chilli, to serve
  • coriander leaves, to serve

Directions

  1. Boil cassava until tender (25-30 minutes).
  2. While the cassava is cooking, heat oil in a large saucepan at medium heat. Add garlic, onion, tomatoes, ají panca and ají amarillo. Cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Add chicha de jora, stock and pisco (if using) to the saucepan. Place fish on top of vegetables and scallops on top of fish. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Drain cassava.
  5. Serve sudado with boiled cassava and rice/cauliflower rice (if desired). Garnish with fresh chilli and coriander.

weightlifting categories

New weightlifting categories

Olympic weightlifting is a weight class sport, meaning you compete against athletes that are within your particular weight range (plus gender and age range). A few days ago, the International Weightlifting Federation (IWF) announced new weightlifting categories, which hadn’t changed essentially since 1998 – there was one extra category added for women in 2017.

Current weightlifting categories

There are 2 sets of categories, one for competitions organised by the IWF and one for the Olympic games (approved for Tokyo 2020), which is essentially a subset of the former.

These are the changes for men’s weight classes (seniors and masters):

Previous Current
N/A 55 kg (IWF only)
56 kg 61 kg
62 kg 67 kg
69 kg 73 kg
77 kg 81 kg
85 kg 89 kg (IWF only)
94 kg 96 kg
N/A 102 kg (IWF only)
105 kg 109 kg
105+ kg 109+ kg

And below are the changes for women’s weight classes (seniors and masters):

Previous Current
N/A 45 kg (IWF only)
48 kg 49 kg
53 kg 55 kg
58 kg 59 kg
63 kg 64 kg
69 kg 71 kg (IWF only)
75 kg 76 kg
N/A 81 kg
90 kg 87 kg
90+ kg 87+ kg

What does this mean for athletes?

Apart from having to change their social media handles (kudos to Ursula Garza), some athletes might choose to adjust their weight up or down to fit into the new weightlifting categories. Typically, you want to be at the top end of your category to have a competitive advantage. This is because strength is usually proportional to body mass; this is why weight categories exist in the first place.

Most athletes train a few kilograms heavier than their competition weight in order to maximise their output. Then they “make weight” just before the weigh-in using a variety of methods, which normally involve water shifting (e.g. dehydration through sweating or simply not drinking water). There is a period of time between the weigh-in and the actual competition in which athletes recover fluids, electrolytes and energy to get ready to lift.

Weight manipulation strategies

Unfortunately, there is no single strategy that works for all athletes. It’s important to know your body and how it reacts to different strategies, which means you need to experiment and keep track of the results. A savvy dietitian can suggest strategies that are likely to work for you without compromising your performance or nutritional status.

A few things to keep in mind:

  • Don’t feel you need to go up to the next weight category just for the sake of lifting more weight. Some people feel/perform better at a lighter bodyweight.
  • If you decide to train above your weight category, just go over by a small percentage, i.e. a couple or a few kilos. The more weight you need to cut, the more difficult it will be and the more the cut will impact your output.
  • If you’re a female athlete, know how your weight fluctuates during your menstrual cycle and plan your competition strategy accordingly.
  • Test different strategies and keep note of how much weight you are able to cut and how long it takes for your body to react.
  • Don’t manipulate your weight if this compromises your health, nutritional status, strength or performance.

For more information, read this fact sheet by Sports Dietitians of Australia.

Why have weight categories changed?

I don’t know the actual reasons but isn’t it interesting that most categories have gone up by 4-5 kilos (men) and 1-2 kilos (women)? Does this reflect the fact that we, as a population, are getting heavier?

[Photo by Victor Freitas on Unsplash]

turmeric latte

What is turmeric latte?

Turmeric latte (a.k.a. golden latte) is a beverage, usually served hot, similar to a regular latte but made from a powder than contains turmeric instead of coffee. Nowadays it’s available in most coffee shops and, because it’s popular with dairy avoiders, it’s often made with soy or nut milk.

What is turmeric?

Turmeric is a plant related to ginger (latin name Curcuma longa). It’s used in Asian and other traditional cuisines (in Perú we know it as “palillo” and use it in dishes such as cau cau). Curcumin (a polyphenol) is the main active ingredient in turmeric, is responsible for its yellow colour and comprises 3-6% of the components in the plant (1, 3).

The properties of curcumin have been investigated in many studies, most of them in animal models or in vitro (i.e. on petri dishes). Curcumin has been found to be anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial (1, 2, 3, 4), anticarcinogenic (1, 3, 4) and antidiabetic (2), among other characteristics. Thus, curcumin has been identified as a potential agent in the treatment of diabetes (1, 2), metabolic syndrome (4), inflammatory conditions (1, 4), skin diseases (1, 3), rheumatism (1), certain types of cancer (2, 3), arthritis (2), anti-immune diseases (2), neurological diseases such as Alzheimers Disease (2, 3).

Unfortunaly, curcumin is poorly absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract (2, 3, 4), is not soluble in water (2, 3), has low bioavailability (2, 3, 4), and is quickly metabolised and eliminated (4). This has led to nanoformulations that can be easily absorbed by the body (1, 2, 3). Interestingly, turmeric has been used for centuries in traditional Ayurvedic Indian and Chinese medicine (1, 3) as a curative agent with no need of nano anything. It has also been found that the bioavailability of curcumin is greatly enhanced by piperine, an active ingredient in black pepper (4).

What are the ingredients in turmeric latte blends?

Below are the ingredients lists in popular blends sold in Australia:

  • Turmeric and Co Organic Golden Latte: Organic turmeric, organic Ceylon cinnamon, organic cardamom, organic black pepper.
  • Nature’s Way Golden Milk: Turmeric powder (50%), coconut milk powder (44.5%), natural sweetener (stevia), xanthan gum, black pepper powder (0.1%), cardamom powder (0.05%), ginger powder (0.05%).
  • Amazonia Golden Latte: Organic turmeric*, organic mesquite*, organic cinnamon*, organic clove*, organic ginger*, natural vanilla flavour, Himalayan pink salt, organic black pepper*. *Certified organic
  • Macro Turmeric Latte: Turmeric powder (69%), ground spices (ginger, cinnamon, pepper), vanilla bean powder
  • Nutra Organics Golden Latte: Coconut milk powder*, turmeric powder* (17%) (5% curcumin), manuka honey powder (15.5%), ginger powder*, cinnamon powder, cardamom powder, vanilla bean powder*, cayenne pepper*, fine black pepper. *Certified organic

Note that all of the above contain black pepper to enhance the absorption of curcumin. Some brands also recommend using full-fat milk to prepare the beverage “for better texture”, although this might be more useful for making the curcumin soluble.

Is turmeric latte healthy?

It depends on the ingredients in the blend, what else goes in the latte (what kind of milk? what is in the milk? are you adding any sugar?) and your goals/health status. In general, if you are a healthy individual, a turmeric latte here and there won’t hurt anything else but your wallet. However, you shouldn’t take it as medicine.

As always, ask your doctor if you’d like to try a medicinal curcumin formulation to treat a particular health condition.

References

  1. Chattopadhyay I, et al. Turmeric and curcumin: Biological actions and medicinal applications. Current Science. 2004;87(1),44-53.
  2. Schaffer M, et al. An update on Curcuma as a functional food in the control of cancer and inflammation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2015 Nov;18(6):605-11.
  3. Amalraj A, et al. Biological activities of curcuminoids, other biomolecules from turmeric and their derivatives – A review. J Tradit Complement Med. 2016 Jun 15;7(2):205-233.
  4. Hewlings SJ and Kalman DS. Curcumin: A Review of Its’ Effects on Human Health. Foods. 2017 Oct; 6(10): 92.

[Photo by Charisse Kenion on Unsplash]

Keep Tone bread

Product review: Keep Tone bread

Keep Tone bread is a new brand of keto/paleo/low carb bread currently available at selected health food shops and cafes in NSW (I bought mine at Mr Vitamins Ashfield).

Health claims

The bread claims to contain “only wholefoods, no nasties”. It is gluten free, dairy free, soy free, yeast free, grain free and has no added sugar. I know most people would think this is no bread… until you try it.

What’s in Keep Tone bread?

Keep Tone bread currently comes in 3 flavours: rosemary blast, super seeds and divine chocolate. Below are the ingredients for the 2 savoury varieties:

  • Rosemary blast: Almond meal, golden flax meal, coconut flour, free range eggs, extra virgin olive oil, psyllium husk, apple cider vinegar, rosemary, Italian herbs, sea salt flakes, gluten free baking powder, Himalayan pink salt
  • Super seeds: Almond meal, golden flax meal, free range eggs, organic coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, linseeds, psyllium husk, gluten free baking powder, xanthan gum, Himalayan pink salt, stevia

All ingredients are Australian and most of them are organic, which drives the price a little high: $14.95 for the rosemary and $15.95 for the seedy one.

Keep Tone bread

Taste test

The bread loaves, which are smaller than commercial sliced gluten-free bread, come whole in a resealable bag with a desiccant packet. The bread has a great texture – it can be sliced easily and doesn’t crumble. Both savoury flavours are tasty – the seeded one is a bit sweeter so keep in mind when deciding what to eat it with.

I chucked the leftover bread in the freezer to test how it toasted from frozen. As expected, due to the fat content, it doesn’t toast the same as regular gluten-free bread (i.e. it doesn’t dry as much). Also, the seeds in the seedy variety tend to burn, so be careful.

Who is this bread right for?

People who are following a low carb diet/ketogenic diet for body composition or health reasons (e.g. people with insulin resistance), people who can’t eat gluten and do well on a lower carbohydrate diet.

I would also add the caveat that bread should not displace veggies out of your plate. Eat a piece of toast here and there but don’t use bread as an excuse to not eat vegetables.

The man behind Keep Tone bread

Gurpreet, the founder of Keep Tone, was kind enough to share his story:

“I’m a person who always thinks about the healthy lifestyle and keeps learning and searching for new research and any topics about health. About 2 years ago, I found a new lifestyle which is ketogenic. So I researched a lot about it and I studied health coaching where I learned about hormones and how the body uses fuel.

I’ve been doing a ketogenic lifestyle since then and also coached lots of people into this lifestyle including cyclists and weight trainers. My clients were perfectly enjoying all the benefits that keto has to offer but all of them missed one thing and that was BREAD. Being a problem solver and troubleshooter it got me thinking that how I can come up with the recipe of bread which will give bread-like pleasure but without spiking insulin, which is grain, dairy, gluten, yeast and soy free. Which is all natural just made from wholefoods no synthetic or preservatives or colours. So me and my partner chose all superfood ingredients that goes well with KETO, PALEO and all other low carb diets. After doing lots of taste testing on friends and clients we have received an outstanding response.

Now we have created a company known as KEEP TONE which has made Australia’s first Ketogenic superfood breads.

There are lot of other exciting food products coming along the way because I believe ketogenic was first type of lifestyle mankind knew and its very healthy lifestyle and KEEP TONE promises to offer the BEST.”

Gurpreet

Want to know more?

Follow @keeptone_aus on Instagram.

practice

Practice doesn’t make perfect

“Practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent” is one of my favourite quotes ever by Kelly Starrett. Why? Because, in principle, is true in so many aspects of life.

In Starrett’s area of expertise (mobility), this applies to movement patterns that we develop as a result of doing the same thing over and over again, which can lead to injury when not performed correctly. This same principle can be applied to music, sports, language, diet, etc. In Buddhism, karma is sometimes explained as the result of habits; the more we repeat a particular behaviour, the more likely we are to fall in either a vicious or virtuous cycle with corresponding consequences.

Patterns in diet

As mentioned before, this also applies to diet. Our dietary patterns (breakfast/lunch/dinner) are, in part, a result of habits, as it is eating at the same time every day. Same with our taste preferences. Some of us practice (or get conditioned to) favouring sweet things at breakfast. Some of us are used to finishing all our meals despite not being hungry because that’s the way we were raised.

Not so permanent

Repetitive behaviours (and movement patterns) are difficult to change but not impossible. Granted, it is easier for some people than for others. It is important to know yourself and what drives you to action (for example, Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendencies framework is a useful tool to understand how we respond to inner and outer expectations).

Steps for change

  1. Know yourself and the strategies that work for you. Do this quiz. Figure out whether you’re a moderator or an abstainer.
  2. Identify which behaviours have become habits that are working against your goals. You might need someone else to identify these for you: a coach, a physiotherapist, a dietitian (wink, wink), someone who knows how to spot “incorrect technique”.
  3. Pick your battles. We can’t do everything we want. Often times, if we try to change too many things at once, we fail miserably. Identify the one change that will bring the most benefit and practice doing it the right way every day, until it becomes second nature.

Remember changes don’t have to be big. More often than not, it’s the little things that hold us down. For example, the changes below can have a huge impact in our wellbeing:

  • Drink more water
  • Get some sunshine every day
  • Spend less time on social media
  • Meditate for 5-15 minutes every day`
  • Go to bed earlier
  • Go for a walk after lunch
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Cook X meals every week
  • Snack less
  • Eat with friends or family at least once a week

[Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash]

Açaí bowls

What are açaí bowls and are they worth the $?

Açaí bowls have gained popularity in the past 18 months or so due to the reported health benefits of açaí (and, in my opinion, the rise of healthy eating and veganism).

What are açaí bowls

“Açaí na tigela (“açaí in the bowl”) is a “typical Brazilian dish made of frozen and mashed açaí palm fruit. It is served as a smoothie in a bowl or glass, and is commonly topped with granola and banana, and then mixed with other fruits and guaraná syrup.” Wikipedia.

But before we get any further, please listen to the correct pronunciation of açaí in this Youtube video.

Health benefits of açaí

The polyphenols in açaí seem to have potent antioxidant activity, induce vasodilation (expansion of the blood vessels) and lower blood pressure. Açaí extracts may also be protective against heart failure from myocardial infarction, renal failure and metabolic syndrome (1).

There is also evidence that polyphenol-rich plants may inhibit platelet activation and improve lipid parameters, thus reducing the risk for thrombosis and other cardiovascular diseases (2).

What about açaí bowls?

As mentioned at the top of the article, the bowls are made with the fruit extract and a bunch of other things. Let’s look at the Original Açaí Bowl recipe from Amazonia‘s website, a popular brand in Australia. The recipe calls for:

  • 2 Amazonia Açaí Smoothie Packs
  • 80ml liquid (non-dairy milk, apple juice or coconut water)
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • Toppings: granola and fresh fruits such as bananas, strawberries and blueberries

Let’s say we use almond milk and add 1/2 banana, 3 strawberries, 6 blueberries and 1/4 cup granola. Our healthy breakfast now looks more like dessert, with 1650kJ (394Cal) and 63g of carbohydrate, of which 44g are sugars. Is the sugar load in one sitting worth the (perhaps modest) dose of polyphenols? Maybe not for some people, particularly those with insulin resistance. On the bright side, a regular-sized bowl will cover your fruit intake for the day. As always, check what’s in your bowl before you eat.

Value for money?

The lowest price for açaí bowls I’ve seen is $7.5. More often than not the price is $11 and over. For example, the chain Açaí Brothers sells their bowl varieties in 3 sizes, ranging from $11 to $37. Bondi Wholefoods has a Famous Açaí Antiox Bowl for $18.90, with the option of adding protein powder for $2. Sadhana Kitchen sells their Epic Acai for $17.50.

References

  1. de Moura RS and Resende ÂC. Cardiovascular and Metabolic Effects of Acai, an Amazon Plant. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2016 Jul;68(1):19-26.
  2. Santhakumar AB, et al. A review of the mechanisms and effectiveness of dietary polyphenols in reducing oxidative stress and thrombotic risk. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2014 Feb;27(1):1-21.

[Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash]

The Nordic Diet

The New Nordic Diet

The New Nordic Diet has been gaining traction as a strong contender against the Mediterranean Diet as one of the healthiest diets on Earth, particularly in the prevention of chronic disease.

What is the New Nordic Diet?

The New Nordic Diet was developed in 2012 as a collaboration between experts in nutrition, gastronomy and the environment, among other disciplines. The diet focuses on health, gastronomic potential and Nordic identity, and sustainability.

A great emphasis in gastronomy and the enjoyment of food was placed on the development of the Nordic guidelines, not coincidentally after Denmark’s Noma was named top 1 restaurant in the world by the prestigious San Pellegrino list. Before then, Nordic cuisine was generally regarded as bland and boring; however, the general consensus at the moment is that Nordic cuisine has many exciting flavours to offer.

Guidelines for the New Nordic Diet

The New Nordic Diet is based on 3 simple guidelines (1):

  1. More calories from plant foods and fewer from meat. Increasing the amount of legumes,
    vegetables, fruit, grains, potatoes, nuts, herbs, etc. as a means to prevent chronic disease and increase sustainability of the diet.
  2. More foods from the sea and lakes, because these foods are abundant in the region and contain beneficial nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, iodine and selenium.
  3. More foods from the wild countryside, such as plants, mushrooms, berries, fruits and meat. The argument here is that foraged foods are not only generally healthier but also more sustainable.

Composition of the New Nordic Diet

The New Nordic Diet advocates the daily intake of (2):

  • Fruits: at least 300g
    • Berries: 50-100g
  • Vegetables: at least 400g
    • Cabbages: at least 29g
    • Root vegetables: at least 150g
    • Legumes: at least 30g
  • Fresh herbs: as much as possible
  • Potatoes: at least 140g
  • Plants and mushrooms from the wild countryside: 5g
  • Whole grains: at least 75g
  • Nuts: at least 30g
  • Fish and shellfish: at least 43g
  • Seaweed: 5g
  • Free-range livestock (including pigs and poultry): 85-100g
    • Game: at least 4g
  • Milk: 500g
  • Cheese: 25g
  • Eggs: 25g

The average macronutrient composition is 17% of total energy intake from protein, 32% from fat (of which 10% should be saturated, 13% monounsaturated and 8% polyunsaturated) and 51% from carbohydrates, which should provide 41g of fibre. There is room for 1% of energy intake from alcohol and 4% from refined sugars.

Nutrient composition in the New Nordic Diet

Fat composition in the New Nordic Diet

Is the New Nordic Diet healthy?

There is no doubt that a diet following the above recommendations has the potential to be anti-inflammatory and prevent chronic disease for most people.

I like the fact that it explicitly includes cabbages, seaweed and free-range livestock. Cabbages (and all other cruciferous vegetables) are important for detoxification and rich in fibre. Seaweed is an important source of iodine and other minerals. Free-range livestock are raised in a more humane way and are likely to have a healthier nutrient composition.

New Nordic Food

This is a government initiative to promote the gastronomy of Nordic countries, which I think most governments should do. Head to www.newnordicfood.org to learn more.

References

  1. Mithril C, et al. Guidelines for the New Nordic Diet. Public Health Nutr. 2012 Oct;15(10):1941-7.
  2. Mithril C, et al. Dietary composition and nutrient content of the New Nordic Diet. Public Health Nutr. 2013 May;16(5):777-85.

[Photo by Oziel Gómez on Unsplash]

the keto diet

The keto diet

The keto diet is gaining popularity in the mainstream health conscious community. In fact, Google searches trends show that there has been a massive surge of interest in the past 1.5 years, particularly in the past 6 months.

Interestingly, while searches for “ketogenic diet” have remained fairly stable, searches for “keto diet” are on the rise (one has to wonder how many people don’t know that “keto” stands for “ketogenic).

keto diet worldwide

As shown below, trends are similar in Australia.

keto diet australia

What is a ketogenic diet?

Ketogenic diets were designed in the 1920s as therapeutic diets for the treatment of epilepsy. They are low in carbohydrate, moderate in protein and high in fat in order to generate ketones.

Ketones are simple compounds made of hydrogen, carbon, and oxygen made in the liver from fat. Ketosis is a metabolic state whereby the body generates most of its energy requirements from ketones rather than carbohydrate (1). This metabolic state has shown benefits in the treatment of epilepsy and other neurological conditions, metabolic syndrome, obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, certain cancers and mitochondrial diseases (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Ketogenic diets are typically constructed with ratios ranging from 2:1 to 4:1 of fat to protein + carbohydrates. This means that at least 2/3 of the dietary energy will be coming from fats. To put this into numbers, let’s take an average dietary intake of 2000 kilocalories (Cals).

keto diet macros

In the less strict version of the keto diet, the person would need to consume 148.1g of fat and 74.1g of carbohydrates and protein combined (1g fat = 9Cal, 1g protein/carbs = 4Cal). Let’s say this person weighs 60kg and wants to meet their dietary requirements by consuming 0.8g protein per kg of body weight, they would be consuming 48g of protein, leaving 26.1g of carbohydrate to consume per day. That’s not much, as you can see in the table below.

carbs in foods

Keto these days

As the terms “keto” and “ketogenic” become more common in the media and everyday conversations, there is more uncertainty as to what is considered a keto diet. Low carbohydrate and high protein diets are not necessarily ketogenic, because availability of glucose from carbohydrate intake or gluconeogenesis (where excess protein is converted into glucose) will prevent the body from generating ketones.

There’s also a long record of tricking the body into producing ketones. Medium-chain triglycerides (MCT) oil has been used since the 1960s to facilitate this process allowing patients to be less restrictive with protein and carb intake (3). MCT oil has had a resurgence in the past few years thanks largely to Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof coffee.

Ketone supplements (a.k.a. “exogenous ketones”) are another tool that can help achieve ketosis without severe carbohydrate and protein restriction. They are sold as ketone salts and ketone esters and have been used in the military special forces and sport (1). I’d argue that adding exogenous ketones so that they are available for utilisation does not equal generating ketones, and thus a diet that relies on those products should not be considered ketogenic.

Moreover, I’d argue that unless you’re measuring your ketone levels (blood measurement is the most accurate way), you can’t be sure your diet is indeed ketogenic, particularly because different people will produce different levels of ketones at different levels of macronutrient intake. For an indication, it appears that blood levels must be greater than 5mmol/L for ketones to use be as preferential fuel source for the brain (1).

Cons of the keto diet

Documented potential negative side effects of ketogenic diets include:

  • Short-term include gastro intestinal problems (5)
  • Hyperlipidaemia, hypercholesterolaemia (2, 5)
  • Kidney stones and possible kidney damage (2, 4)
  • Electrolyte and/or calcium deficiencies due to increased excretion (1, 2)
  • Gout (2)
  • Risk of nutritional deficiencies (1)

In addition, following a ketogenic diet can be difficult, particularly for people who eat out and/or travel a lot. Food must be weighed, measured and logged to ensure compliance to the protocol. Ketones must be measured to ensure adequate levels are being produced. As an anecdote, I ate less than 30g of carbs per day on low-carb days while trialling the AltShift diet. Even though my usual diet is generally low-carb, I found it hard to stay below the carb limit.

Who is the keto diet right for?

If you have a health condition that has been shown to benefit from a ketogenic diet (see “What is a ketogenic diet?” section above), you may consider giving it a shot. Please check with your doctor and/or dietitian before jumping into it.

One last thing to consider with this and any other diets, is that food quality is more important than anything else. Yes, you can do keto by eating bacon 24/7 but you would likely develop nutritional deficiencies.

Vegan keto diet?

While in theory is possible to do vegan keto, a lot of vegan staples (fruits, some vegetables, grains and cereals, legumes) are high in carbohydrates. Also, a lot of keto staples (eggs, meat, fish, cheese, cream) are not vegan. It would be extremely hard to construct a nutritionally adequate vegan keto diet.

vegan keto diet

References

  1. Scott, JM and Deuster, PA. Ketones and Human Performance. J Spec Oper Med. 2017;17(2):112-116.
  2. A Review of Low-carbohydrate Ketogenic Diets. Westman, EC et al. Curr Atheroscler Rep. 2003;5:476.
  3. Sinha, SR and Kossoff, EH. The ketogenic diet. Neurologist. 2015;11(3):161-170.
  4. Paoli A, et al. Beyond weight loss: a review of the therapeutic uses of very-low-carbohydrate (ketogenic) diets. European Journal Of Clinical Nutrition. 2013;67:789.
  5. Branco AF, et al. Ketogenic diets: from cancer to mitochondrial diseases and beyond. Eur J Clin Invest. 2016;46(3):285-98.

[Photo by Casey DeViese on Unsplash]

Recipe: Chupe de camarones (Peruvian prawn chowder)

Soup season is back! I would be hard-pressed to nominate my favourite soup, but chupe de camarones is definitely in the top 5. As it happens with most Peruvian dishes, it all starts with onion, garlic and ají (chilli). Ají panca (dried red Peruvian chilli) paste can be found in certain ethnic markets or you can sub another red chilli paste.

It also features Andean staples such as habas (broad beans), papas (potatoes) and choclo (corn). Rice is also an important ingredient, but you can sub cauliflower rice, quinoa, etc.

Chupe de camarones

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print



Ingredients

  • 4 whole king or tiger prawns (to garnish)
  • 450g peeled prawns (if you bought them unpeeled, follow the optional step below)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp ají panca paste
  • 3 cups fish stock
  • 2 small potatoes
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin, finely diced
  • 1 cup frozen or fresh broad beans
  • 1/2 cup frozen or fresh peas
  • 1/2 cup corn kernels
  • 1 cup cooked rice or 2 cups cauliflower rice
  • salt, pepper and oregano, to taste
  • 2 tbsp cream
  • 4 poached or fried eggs
  • coriander leaves, to serve

Directions

  1. Optional: If you bought unpeeled prawns, peel them (remember to reserve 4 to garnish) and pop the heads and shells in a pot and heat until bright red. Add the stock and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Drain and reserve the stock.
  2. Heat 1 oil in a pot. add onion, garlic and ají panca and cook at low heat for 10-15 minutes.
  3. Add stock, potatoes and pumpkin. Cook at medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add broad beans, peas, corn and cauliflower rice (if using). Season with salt, pepper and oregano. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Add cooked rice (if using) and all prawns, cook until prawns are bright red (approx. 5 minutes). Add cream, check seasoning and turn off heat.
  6. Serve soup and garnish with one whole prawn, a poached/fried egg and a few coriander leaves per bowl.