Researchers Nix Low-carb Diet?

I stumbled across an article yesterday that seemed a bit odd. Here’s a link so you can check it out yourself. It essentially says that Atkins is bad for you – I’ve seen these kinds of articles before – but what seemed odd was that it said that the Zone diet was much better.

What struck me odd? The comparison of Atkins to another low carb diet rather than to a low-calorie or low-fat diet. And the other low carb diet was the Zone diet. There’s a lot of low carb variants and it struck me odd that this one was chosen.

For those of you following Atkins too weak to click the link above, here’s an abbreviated list of all the bad stuff Atkins does to you:

  • “many biomarkers being negatively affected by the severely low-carbohydrate intake.”
  • “The downside of severely low carbohydrate intake is that dieters go into what’s called ketosis, or the inefficiency of the body to oxidize fat”
  • “the ketogenic diet may increase bone loss because of an increase in acid in the body and not enough intake of alkalizing minerals, such as potassium, to neutralize this effect.”
  • “a higher percentage of calcium was found in the urine of those on the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diet, leading the researchers to believe that the bones are “leaching” calcium.”
  • “Diets that severely restrict carbohydrates, particularly potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, may have deleterious effects on bones.”
  • “those following the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diet experienced a greater increase in LDL cholesterol than those following the NLC [non-ketogenic low-carb] diet. HDL cholesterol did not seem to be significantly affected”
  • “And because there is an overall lack of energy, the KLC [ketogenic low-carb] diets actually may thwart attempts to combine diet modifications with increased physical activity”

Ok – my takeaway from this is: Atkins might cause bone loss, a need for potassium, the need to monitor your cholesterol, and lack of energy.

Well, if Atkins works for you, you might be able to compensate by having your doctor check for bone loss, a need for potassium, bloodwork – and for most of us, our energy increases after the first few weeks.

Also – there’s a leap on the bone loss item – might the extra calcium be from an increased intake of meat and dairy products? They are drawing a conclusion that they don’t seem to have the evidence for – they way it’s phrased it seems to be an inference – they’re just guessing as to where the calcium comes from.

I personally like to read these types of articles. I’m the type of person that wants to know the whole story – even the parts that don’t quite fit my world view.

I read this and see that it’s good I take potassium as part of my supplements, I plan to get my bloodwork done mid February – Atkins recommended waiting 6 weeks after starting induction to have it checked – and I personally know that, for me, the energy is not an issue.

But still…there was something odd.

I took a look at the bottom of the article and it mentioned:

“All the research was supported by a grant from the Inflammation Research Foundation.”

Never heard of the folks – who are they?

A Google search revealed that it is a foundation started by none other than Barry Sears – the creator of the Zone diet that is so favorably compared to Atkins.

So – Barry Sears sponsors research and – surprise! – it says that the diet he created is better than the other guy’s.

Whoda thunk?

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In Search of the Perfect Low Carb Pasta

If you are like me, living low carb makes you give up the fattening delight of a big plate of noodles. I’m fond of Italian recipes as my mother was part Italian and growing up we always had ravioli, spaghetti, lasagna, and the like.

You can prep a low carb pasta sauce or buy them – and you can have meatballs (without breadcrumbs), Italian sausage, mozzarella cheese, romano cheese, ricotta cheese – but when it comes to the noodles, what can you use as a substitute?

The title of this post is a bit misleading. Frankly, there is no ‘perfect low carb pasta’ – it’s an impossibility because pasta is by definition empty carbs if it’s perfect.

What follows is my list of replacements – each has it’s Achilles heel.

Whole wheat pasta. Ugh. The texture is so wrong. Yeah, you can make it look like just about any pasta, but it still tastes like boiled cardboard. The only reason anyone eats the stuff is because they think it’s healthy. Well, even whole wheat pasta has way too many carbs for induction – and it’s pushing it even if you have reached your target weight and are maintaining. Why waste your carb limit on this stuff? Forget it.

Shiritaki Noodles. Weird. These are an Asian noodle with almost no calories and no carbs made from a plant called devil’s tongue. They are ‘wet noodles’ – you find them in the refrigerated section and they are in a bag usually. They are stretchy and somewhat slimy noodles with no flavor so you can use them without the taste issues I find with the whole wheat pasta. I made a fried spaghetti with them once and it wasn’t half-bad, but their cost and the effort to track them down was a deterrent for me to pick these up very often. You can eat these on induction. There is also a variety made from tofu which I have not tried – anyone out there tried these?

Dreamfield’s Pasta. This is the best tasting of the lot, but you can’t eat this on induction – at least I can’t. I can’t tell the difference between this and regular pasta – except in my wallet because it’s pretty expensive. It’s high carb, but it’s a slow-to-digest carb so it supposedly doesn’t spike your blood sugar. That great, but it’s not enough for those of us in induction. I’ve also heard some people have digestive problems eating this stuff. If it doesn’t give you stomach upset, then it’s a great product if you are in maintenance and can afford it.

Spaghetti Squash. This isn’t bad. It’s pretty good, actually, but the fact is – it isn’t noodles. Unlike the others on the list, it isn’t trying to pretend it’s something it isn’t. It’s squash, and it does have it’s own flavor and it ain’t bad – but it ain’t noodles either. This is the best of the lot as you can have it in induction, it’s good for you, and it’s a decent stand-in for the junk it replaces.

There are others I haven’t tried – there is a soy pasta that looks promising, but with 11 grams net carbs per serving, it isn’t on anybody’s induction menu. I also haven’t seen it locally, and as I have never incorporated mail order food into my lifestyle, I doubt this one will end up regularly on my table even in maintenance.

Really – to ask for a low carb pasta you can eat in induction is like asking for low carb popcorn – it just doesn’t exist. The good news is that when you’ve reached your goal weight you can eat Dreamfield’s pasta for an honest-to-goodness ‘can’t tell the difference’ pasta dish.

Book Review – Men’s Health TNT Diet

Men’s Health TNT Diet: The Explosive New Plan to Blast Fat, Build Muscle, and Get Healthy in 12 Weeks by Jeff Volek and Adam Campbell

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not looking for another diet – I’m looking for more information on the diet I’m already on – low carb. Men’s Health has published a book about combining a low carb diet with weight training to build muscle and lose weight at the same time – and does so through carefully chosen exercises that require only 3- 30 minute workouts per week to achieve it.

What I like about this book is:

  • The book takes a practical approach in it expects that we’re pressed for time and need a program that we can shoehorn into a busy life
  • The science behind low carb is explained clearly and concisely
  • The science behind weight training as complementing a weight loss program is also explained clearly and concisely – this was a learning experience for me – I didn’t know this stuff, but again, I’m not big into exercise
  • It claims that you can have your cake and eat it too – it embraces carb cycling at predetermined times to help build muscle, and claims that you can have any carbs you like when following their formula without impacting your long-term health. While they recommend quality carb-laden foods, they do admit (with a wink) that you can have junk food as well
  • Their diet is based on clinical research – they tested this on real people as opposed to conjuring this up without testing

What I don’t like about this book are quibbles and annoyances, but I’ll note them:

  • Men’s Health is a men’s magazine that I’ve always found a bit patronizing. To me, it takes the formula for your typical woman’s magazine and applies it to men. In doing so, it goes too far at times – I once remember an article that told you how many calories you burn when carrying a case of beer. Go ahead – read some articles on their site and see if you pick up the stereotyping as well. The book reads like that.
  • It claims that it’s for women as well, but I’d bet the gals would feel a bit out of place the way it’s written – sort of like if they were the only woman tagging along with a bunch of guy on a ‘men’s night out’.
  • I question some of the fact-checking – they claim that ricotta cheese is high in carbs. If that’s true, then how can I eat it in induction and still be in ketosis? I checked my ricotta cheese label – 2 grams per serving. That’s low enough if you aren’t overdoing it.
  • The recipes are a bit…spartan. Perhaps it’s to not intimidate the guys who don’t cook – an example of the stereotyping I describe above? It’s not a show-stopper as I’m not at a loss for resources with plenty of low carb recipes.

Again – these are quibbles – it’s a good book, in my estimation. For more info on the book, one of the authors has a blog – you can find that here. There is also a forum to discuss the book hidden away on the site – you can find that here.

So…did I start the exercise? Am I pumped up yet?

Um…no.

I want to, and I have on my to do list to try this, but as I’ve revealed in in this post and this post, I’m not fond of exercise. Someone once said: “whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until the feeling passes.”

I like that – but the fact is I sit on my ass most of the time and I feel it – I’m sore and I’m losing my flexibility. As I’m not just living a low carb lifestyle to lose weight, but to maintain my health, I feel I need to incorporate exercise into my life – and this book provides a formula for exercise that might just be sustainable for me – an exercise-hater.

Kitchen Experiment #11 – Italian Fried Spaghetti Squash

Spaghetti squash is a particular type of squash that you cut in half, clean out the seeds and boil for 20 minutes to get a nice amount of spaghetti-like strands. using a fork, you scrape out the insides to create the ‘spaghetti’.
They taste good by themselves with some butter, salt and pepper, but I’m experimenting a lot lately and thought I try to recreate a childhood comfort food: fried spaghetti.

Fried spaghetti was the way my family reheated leftover spaghetti before microwaves. You would take a prepared plate of spaghetti (spaghetti, sauce, meatballs) and fry it in butter.

So here’s what I came up with:

  • 1 cup spaghetti squash
  • 1/4 cup pasta sauce (Contadina canned sauce is about the lowest carb you can find without breaking the bank
  • 4 slices pepperoni, diced
  • garlic powder
  • 2 tblsp butter
  • oregano
  • parm cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • ricotta cheese

Put in a pan and fry up. Throw the parm & mozzarella cheese on toward the end. Cover with ricotta cheese prior to serving

THE VERDICT: Yum! Hit the spot. I was really looking to fill that ‘noodle hole’ I’ve felt since going back on low carb on December 31. This I will make again. I have not foisted this on the Low Carb Confidential Taste Panel, but I did have the youngest member eat the spammed meatloaf with great gusto, and I think that non-low carbers will like this one as well.

Leave out the pepperoni and you have a lacto-vegetarian dish (vegetarians that eat cheese, that is) if you or someone you know is into that sort of thing.

Should be safe for induction – use the ketostix to ensure that it doesn’t cause you problems. I ate it and stayed in ketosis.

Kitchen Experiment # 10 – Spammed Meatloaf

No – it’s not a meatloaf who gets a lot of junk mail.

It’s an old theme here. A fridge with various items and someone willing to put ’em together. There was half a can of SPAM in there, and I had defrosted some ground beef I needed to cook.

So I thought – why not?

Spammed Meatloaf

  • 2 lbs. ground beef
  • 1/2 can SPAM – diced
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tbls. almond flour (almonds I pulverized in the food processor for 5 minutes)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1/2 cup low-carb ketchup

Mix all of the above ingredients together in a mixing bowl, place in casserole dish. Criss-cross top with ketchup straight from the squeeze bottle and place in 375 degree oven for 1 hour 15 minutes, making sure the internal temperature is at least 165 degrees.

I bought a countertop convection oven – the Hummer of toaster ovens – for $70 a few months ago and used that. I find it faster and easier to use than our stove’s oven, and I think it encourages me to try more oven dishes. The nice thing about oven dishes is that once the prep is over you set the timer and the oven takes care of the rest.

THE VERDICT: I don’t know exactly what made this work, but the mixture of flavors worked well. The ketchup on the top made a nice pattern and added a lot of flavor to the meat.

It also ended up being a good place to dump the remaining SPAM.

You have to be careful eating in my house – you never know what will turn up where.

This will probably be my lunch more than once this week and is fine for induction.

Kitchen Experiment #9 – Fried Eggs with Goat and Cheddar Cheese

I was hungry and thought I would make some eggs, but I wanted to add a little twist to it.

This can always be dangerous because of the potential of making something inedible, but on the other hand, it gives the dog a shot at a home-cooked breakfast.

I thought of adding some cheese, checked the fridge, and found some goat cheese that seemed abandoned. Goat cheese, if you haven’t tried it, has a pretty strong flavor. I like big flavors, but I thought that it needed something else, so I thought – how about some cheddar?

So in a well-buttered fry pan I put in 6 eggs without breaking the yolk. I let them cook until sorta firm on the bottom, then put about 5 tablespoons of both the goat cheese and cheddar – the cheddar was in slices, actually, but would have equaled about 5 tablespoons.

I then used a trick I learned reading George Stella’s cookbooks – put the eggs in the broiler to cook the top. This allows me to cook the top of the eggs and melt the cheese. It also prevents me from having to flip them, which usually ends up making my dish look terrible.

I took it out when the cheese was nicely melted.

THE VERDICT: The combination of the goat and cheddar cheeses complemented each other well. There was no need to put salt on the eggs, but pepper went nicely with it.

I’ll most certainly make this one again. Fine for any phase of Atkins.

BREAKING NEWS: Idiot On Low Carb Diet Loses 20 lbs. by Day 16

I myself find this hard to believe.

I’ve felt that I wasn’t trying hard enough – had a piece of low carb bread here, some blueberries there, ate until full – and then a little more. I had gone out for lunch and had a steak salad with balsamic vinegar – balsamic vinegar is not recommended in induction as it has sugar in it…it just didn’t feel like I was in the groove suddenly. I didn’t even measure my ketones the other day.

I was eating low carb, but the quantity of food seemed a bit high – and I’d already lost 15 lbs in 2 weeks – what was I expecting? I had mentally prepared myself for a stall that I’d ride out and on the other side of it would be the loss of the remaining weight.

Yesterday evening I came home and checked my ketones. The strip turned a dark red – hey – still in ketosis – didn’t expect that.

Got on the scale and I was 195.

That’s down another 5 lbs. from my 2 week mark, for a total of 20 lbs. lost – I’m now halfway to my goal of losing 40 lbs that I set December 31st.

I think this confirms that, at least for me, low carb works the second time around.

What’s interesting is the psychological effects – if they are intertwined with physiological effects because I am messing with my body chemistry, I don’t know, but they are a follows:

  • My cravings for high carb foods has further diminished. I am surrounded by these. The temptation is there, but I’m not all that tempted. I think it’s not willpower as much as I’ve completed withdrawal from carbs and the physical craving just isn’t there.
  • I feel a bit calmer. I feel a bit more centered. It’s not that I’ve had an easy two weeks in terms of events in my life – I most certainly haven’t – but I do feel a subtle change in my mind for the better.
  • My craving for alcohol has diminished. I’d have my glass of wine (or two) each night. Nothing wrong with a little wine – or any low carb alcohol in moderation – but it ain’t gonna fly doing induction. I went out to a restaurant last night and saw someone drinking a martini – my preferred drink – and I had a certain wistfulness toward the thought of having one rather than an all-out obsessive craving. When I started this new low carb go-round on the 31st. I promised myself that martini (or two) when I reach 175 – not before.
  • I most certainly got a buzz from seeing the 195 on the scale. It felt great to be on the lower side of 200 again. While I know that weight loss like this is fragile – it would be very easy to put it back on with only a small amount of cheating – and I have to expect the stall to set in now as my body readjusts itself to it’s new weight, it still feels good.

What I’ve been eating would make those of you new to low carb feel a certain cognitive dissonance – as I do myself. Over the weekend I decided to pull out my George Stella cookbooks and try some of his recipes. I found one for some ham and cheese biscuits but needed ham. My wife just happened to call to tell me she was at the store – did I need anything?

I told her I needed ham.

She brought back SPAM.

I told her: “SPAM? I asked for HAM.”

“I was sure you asked for SPAM.”

“No. I asked for HAM.”

Now – I am rethinking my food choices long-term, and I think that I’d like to reduce my consumption of a number of foods that I am currently eating – low carb junk food, in my estimation. SPAM must qualify as high on the list of one of those.

I also have an ambivalent relationship with SPAM. It is very similar to how I feel toward White Castle hamburgers – I don’t know how I could like them, but when you are carbing out, those little murder burgers can be satisfying in some primitive way – a guilty pleasure that I only indulge in maybe every other year.

If you were to ask me, I’d have to quote Monty Python: “I don’t like SPAM.”

But it was in the house, and I certainly wasn’t going to make a trip to the store just for ham.

I opened the can and tried a bite – way too salty – but there’s a certain something that made me take another bite. Then another.

Ok – I’ll take a chance. I baked up SPAM and cheese biscuits made from soy flour. They came out very good. I will probably make adjustments to the recipe the next time I make it (like no SPAM), but they were much better than I expected. Fluffy and moist. Of course I used soy flour instead of real flour, but I didn’t notice any difference.

These are great with a little butter – or even a slice of SPAM on top. I’ve also been melting american cheese on top of one-half – nuke for 20 seconds.

I’m not proud to report all of this, but the facts are the facts.

And the fact is: I’ve lost weight eating SPAM. I’m so ashamed.