Tag Archives: low carb

Q&A: Keto diet

Q: Is the ketogenic diet safe? Does it work?

A: Thank you as always for the question. I always enjoy responding to reader questions.

The ketogenic is a popular low carb diet right now. Different from Atkins or South Beach diet, the keto diet focuses on high fat, moderate protein, and very low carbs. The diet has been used for years in neurological settings, helping with uncontrollable seizures.

The idea behind the diet is a bit complicated, but, similar to intermittent fasting, focuses on burning fat and lowering insulin. Our body wants carbs for energy. When we don’t consume them or have anymore stored, the body will break down fats into products called ketones (the source of the name ketogenic). The body then uses these ketones somewhat like carbohydrates. (This is an oversimplification, but works for our purposes). Since the body is burning fat (consumed and stored), insulin isn’t triggered.

There are some risks with this diet, like any.

-It could be lacking in vitamins and minerals. Over a very short term period, this isn’t as concerning as in the long term. Fruits and vegetables are often the most diverse sorts of micronutrients in our diets, so restricting these as strictly as many keto diets recommend could be dangerous.

-If you have liver or kidney problems, a diet very high in fat could exacerbate these problems and would not be recommended.

-This diet is low in fiber. The benefits of fullness seem to be covered by the full feeling provided by fatty foods. But you could become constipated.

-High ketones in the blood can alter neurological functions. This can be good in the case of epilepsy, and possibly Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s (there is promising research here). But for normal, healthy adults, it could lead to difficulties in memory and fuzzy thinking.

-Risks for heart health and diabetes. The keto diet is often very high in saturated fat. Some studies have even shown increases in LDL or bad cholesterol with heart health. Experts have mixed thoughts on diabetes. Very low carb diets are not recommended for those with diabetes. And people with diabetes are at increased risk of heart disease, so our previous discussion on saturated fat applies. However, some carb restriction could lead to lowered insulin. Just likely not as low as keto diets recommend.

There are not enough long term studies yet to know if the keto diet is safe and effective in the long term. Short term studies do show it is very effective at weight loss.

Personally, I would not recommend this. I doubt it is sustainable in the long term, and question it would be healthy to do so. A more mild approach would likely be fine.

Hope that helps!

Do you have a question? Comment here, on Facebook, or email me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com.

Sources: Harvard Health, US News, Cleveland Clinic

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Sesame-Peanut Zoodles

We are almost halfway through January. Have you given up on your New Year’s resolutions already? I hope not. I’m still in the trenches with you. While not my resolution, I know many people choose to cut back on carbs. I am too attached to my carbs to make that leap, especially since we try to not eat a ton of meat. But I understand the logic behind the decision and many people find success with carb restricted diets.

One of my many carb hang-ups is pasta. I’d seen all the recipes for “zoodles” out there, and I was skeptical. Could zucchini really taste like pasta? I finally tried it. The answer: sort of. It definitely doesn’t taste like pasta, but you don’t miss the pasta either. And it definitely doesn’t taste like you are eating a giant pile of zucchini. I liked these with a side of salmon (and rice, even I’m being honest). Enjoy!

Sesame-Peanut Zoodles (serves about 2)

Sesame-Peanut Zoodles

3 small zucchini
½ red bell pepper, shredded or julienned
¼ red onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup crunchy peanut butter peanut butter
½ tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon sriracha (or to taste)
½ teaspoon ginger powder or 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger

1. Spiralize zucchini, or make into “noodles” with a vegetable peeler. Toss with bell pepper and red onion.

2. Combine remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Stir until well combined. Microwave about 30 seconds to 1 minute, then stir again to incorporate better and it reaches a “sauce” consistency. Let cool for 3-5 minutes.

3. Toss vegetables with sauce. Serve room temperature or chilled.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 246
Protein: 12 g
Fat: 17 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 17 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 684 mg

Recipe Notes: I know the nutrition looks a little crazy on the fat. But that is from the peanut butter, and the saturated fat is low.

Source: adapted from online

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Spaghetti Squash Primavera

A few weeks ago, I was visiting several family members who are following a low-carb diet to lose weight.  Some have lost 50+ pounds with the diet, so it is working for them.  They were nice and made carbs with the meals for me to eat.  And I got to feel like the pig when we went out and everyone else ordered a salad, except me.  I ordered the burger.  With fries.  Just rub those carbs in their faces, why don’t I?

One of them mentioned how she had rediscovered spaghetti squash while on this diet, which inspired me to get in the kitchen.  This has been one of my favorite meals in a long time.  The veggie-packed sauce is super creamy and delicious, but doesn’t have a ton of fat in it.  If you aren’t wanting to low-carb, this is also yummy over pasta, potatoes, bread, rice…pretty much any carb.  Enjoy!

Spaghetti Squash Primavera (Serves 4)

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½ tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 yellow squash, sliced
1 zucchini, sliced
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup green beans, chopped into bite size pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 cups spinach
¾ cup low fat or fat free cottage cheese
2 ounces fat free cream cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
1 spaghetti squash (see here for cooking instructions)
½ cup grated parmesan cheese

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion; sauté for 3-5 minutes, until it begins to soften. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute more. Add squash, zucchini, carrots, and green beans. Cook for 5-7 minutes, until veggies are beginning to soften. Add tomatoes; cook for 3 minutes more. Add spinach.

2. While veggies are cooking, combine cottage cheese, cream cheese, and Italian seasoning in a food processor. Blend until smooth and creamy.

3. Add cottage cheese mixture to pan once spinach has wilted. Stir to combine well. Cook until the cheese is melted and a creamy sauce forms.

4. Scrape spaghetti squash onto plates or into bowls. Scoop veggies and sauce over each portion. Top each portion with 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 203
Protein: 15 g
Fat: 7 g
Saturated Fat: 3 g
Cholesterol: 14 mg
Carbohydrates: 24 g
Fiber: 5 g
Sodium: 553 mg

Recipe Notes: You could really mix up the veggies with whatever you like and have available. Chopped up asparagus would also be yummy. I wouldn’t skip on the tomatoes, though. The juice from the tomatoes helps make the sauce.

Source: adapted from online

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In touch with your inner caveman – paleo diet review

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Through media coverage and people I know, I have been hearing more about the paleo diet recently. I even frequently see food bloggers post “paleo-friendly” versions of foods.

First off, what is the paleo diet? The paleo diet is based on the idea that we would be healthier if we followed the diet our ancient ancestors did before the beginning of agriculture. Basically, a hunter-gatherer type of diet. No grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, salt, refined sugar, or processed foods are allowed. Meat, fish, fruits, vegetables, eggs, nuts, seeds, and plant-based oils are permitted.

Does the diet work? We don’t really know yet. Like most low-carb diets, there is some research showing weight loss or improved blood sugar control while following the diet. But conclusive evidence on long-term health is not available at this time.

My opinion: like all “diets”, it has good and bad points. Getting away from processed and refined foods is a good thing. Eating more fruits and vegetables is also great. I don’t agree with cutting out all grains, legumes, and dairy. Bone health is one of my pet concerns, so I’m never happy to see calcium sources being cut out of the diet. Whole grains and legumes provide wonderful fiber and great protein with less fat than meat.

I also read an interesting comment about the premise of this diet. The author mentioned that there was no single diet in the paleolithic era. People all over the world ate different foods based on where they were. Some people were able to gather wild grains, others weren’t. Stone-age people also often died fairly young due to the extreme conditions they lived under, making it difficult to know if the diet was actually “healthy” in the long-term.

This adds further fuel to my fire. There wasn’t one perfect diet 12,000 years ago, and there isn’t one today. Eat a balanced, mixed diet of foods that will nourish and sustain your body. Happy eating!

Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!

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Spaghetti Squash with Marinara

Now that it is fall, we can start talking about fall and winter squashes, which are my favorite.  First up, spaghetti squash.  I had honesty never tried this until last year, and I was blown away by how much I liked it.  You really do feel like you are eating spaghetti!  It isn’t carb free, but it is definitely lower in carbs than regular pasta.  Only 10 g of carbs for 1 cup cooked squash compared to 37 g of carbs for 1 cup cooked spaghetti.

This spaghetti squash with marinara is so incredibly simple but it hits all those satisfying, homey notes of a regular spaghetti dinner.

Enjoy!

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Spaghetti Squash with Marinara Sauce (Serves 2-3)

1 medium spaghetti squash
2 cups marinara sauce

1. Slice spaghetti squash in half widthwise. Scoop out seeds. Pierce with a fork a few times.

2. Pour sauce into bottom of crockpot. Place squash on top of sauce, cut sides down. Cook on high for 3-4 hours or low 5-6 hours, until squash is tender when poked with a fork.

3. Remove squash. Shred pulp into spaghetti like strands. Serve with sauce.

Nutritional Information (Amount per serving):

Calories: 160
Protein: 4 g
Fat: 3 g
Saturated Fat: less than 1 g
Cholesterol: 0 mg
Carbohydrates: 34 g
Fiber: 8 g
Sodium: 232 mg

Recipe Notes: You can also cook meatballs in the crockpot along with this.

Source: adapted from recipes online

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