All posts by Jeff Fidler

Intermittent Fasting – Can It Help Weight Loss?

Intermittent Fasting – Is It Worth It?

Are you thinking about trying intermittent fasting? Here’s everything you need to know before you get started.

Intermittent fasting can seem daunting at first, but once your body gets into the rhythm of it, there are a lot of potential benefits. These include higher energy levels, improved brain function, weight management and even reduced sugar cravings – a common experience when starting a ketogenic or low carb diet. Fasting like this can also help regulate insulin levels so it is a good option for diabetics. Let’s go deeper into how intermittent fasting can provide these benefits:

Weight Loss

This is usually the most popular goal when choosing to intermittent fast because it is a simple and effective way to lose some extra weight. When you fast, your body will naturally use up available stored glucose and then transition into burning stores of fat – this is how the weight loss occurs. If you’re looking to burn fat, fasting is one tried and true way to get rid of it. Note that it can be dangerous to fast for too long, but intermittent fasting is the perfect solution that still allows you to get your favourite meals in during the day.

Cellular Detox

The cells in your body naturally accumulate waste, which can interfere with healthy cellular function. Intermittent fasting allows your body more time to remove this waste and you won’t generate any additional waste in the meantime.

Healthy Aging

Intermittent fasting can protect the cardiovascular system and help manage blood sugar levels, which can prevent a number of diseases with later life onsets. Fasting has also been shown to promote tranquility which can reduce the aging effects of stress on the body.

We are not recommending intermittent fasting as a long-term lifestyle, but it can certainly help with specific short-term goals. Intermittent fasting even just once or twice a week has been shown to have significant health benefits.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting (not eating) and periods of eating. This means you consume all of your daily calories within a shortened time window, typically 6-10 hours of the day. It is fairly simple and highly rewarding.

Here is a breakdown of what 24 hours of intermittent fasting might look like:

  1. Stop eating around 8:00pm the night before.
  2. Go to sleep! (Sleep is a natural fasting period.)
  3. Skip breakfast the next day.
  4. Eat your first meal of the day in the early afternoon (12:00-2:00pm).
  5. Eat 1-2 more meals and stop eating at 8:00pm again.
  6. Repeat!

The times above can obviously be adjusted to your lifestyle and how long you can comfortably go without eating.

If you struggle with skipping breakfast, try some of these tips:

  • Exercise when you wake up to kill time and work up an appetite.
  • Drinking an appetite suppressant (make sure it’s zero calories), such as black coffee or tea. You could add cinnamon or nutmeg to your coffee for a little extra flavour, or even a zero-calorie natural sweetener!
  • Drink water. It’s very important to stay hydrated during fasting periods.

The good thing about intermittent fasting is that when you shorten your eating window, you tend to consume less calories in a day than you would if you began eating early in the day because you will need less snacks to keep you satiated between spread-out mealtimes. This is another way that intermittent fasting can help with weight loss.

Not eating in the evening is also essential to this process. It might be hard to resist snacking before bed, but it can actually improve your digestion and sleep quality if you resist eating 1-2 hours before bed.

Bulletproof Intermittent Fasting: Debunked! 

A lot of people on a ketogenic diet may wonder if they can consume bulletproof coffee in the morning if they are intermittent fasting. Let’s go deeper:

What is bulletproof coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is an emulsion of coffee and MCT oil, butter or full fat cream. Therefore, it has a very high fat content and low to no carbs.

Will bulletproof coffee break your fast?

The short answer is yes – drinking bulletproof coffee in the morning will break your fast, which is not a good thing if you are trying to make it until lunchtime. This is because it provides an additional source of fuel for your body, much like eating food. If your goal is weight loss, then having bulletproof coffee is not a good idea. Instead of burning stored fat, your body will use the ketones produced from drinking bulletproof coffee (specifically the MCT oil and cream) as a fuel source instead.

The Role of Caffeine During Intermittent Fasting 

Although bulletproof coffee is a no-go, black coffee has actually been shown to enhance the benefits if intermittent fasting, especially if you are on a keto diet. This is because caffeine has been shown to support the production of ketones and help stabilize blood sugar levels. Try one of these keto-friendly coffee boosters to increase the vitamin content and energy boost from your cup of joe!

Tea Can Improve Your Fasting Experience 

Tea has also been shown to help manage and even make intermittent fasting more enjoyable! Here’s how tea can enhance the benefits of intermittent fasting:

  1. It helps increase satiety

Green tea has been proven to support healthy ghrelin levels – a hormone that is responsible for feelings of hunger. Stabilizing levels of ghrelin can alleviate hunger pangs and other feelings of discomfort that can occur when you first start fasting.

  1. Promotes a state of “calm energy”

The caffeine from tea is unlike that found in coffee. In comparison, tea can promote a more focused awareness and you won’t get the jitters. Tea also provides more sustained energy so you won’t experience a crash that can often occur when you drink coffee. In addition, many teas promote feelings of calmness, tranquility and ease which can help with any hunger-related mood swings.

  1. Supports cell health

Tea is a powerhouse when it comes to antioxidants. The polyphenols in tea help your body fight off free radicals which can in turn leave you feeling energized, support gut health and digestion, improve your mental focus and even make your skin glow! 

So, which types of tea are best for intermittent fasting? Here’s a few that we recommend:

  • Green tea – Packed with potent antioxidants and ghrelin-stabilizing compounds, green tea is a great option for whenever you feel hunger pangs or want an immune boost.
  • Black tea – Did you know black tea leaves are really just fermented green tea leaves? This means it is a prebiotic – great for promoting gut health! Black tea also contains higher levels of caffeine if you need a bigger boost in the morning to get your day started.
  • Ginger tea – Ginger is known for its ability to alleviate nausea and it can also increase satiety. This is a great one to have after dinner to help with digestion and prevent late night snacking!
  • Hibiscus tea – Naturally caffeine-free, hibiscus tea is praised for its skin benefits and vitalizing antioxidant content. It tastes light and fruity so it’s perfect in place of a sweet dessert.

To unlock the full antioxidant benefits of tea, it is recommended to drink a minimum of 3 cups of high-quality tea per day. But be prepared to make an investment in higher quality teas because some of the inexpensive teas often use improper methods of processing that can strip away the original nutrients in the tea leaves, or they’ve been sitting on the grocery aisle shelves for much too long.

Here are some other tips for tea brewing to get the most out of your cup:

  • Don’t use boiling hot water (let it cool after it reaches boiling point) or try cold brewing your tea. This is easier than it sounds – but it takes a little longer since heat normally speeds up the steeping process. The good thing is you can make a big batch that will last you at least a couple of days. A cold brewed cup of tea contains 2 to 3 times the antioxidants of a hot brewed cup! This means you actually have to drink less in order to get the same benefits as 3 hot brewed cups per day.
  • Cover the top of your mug while your tea steeps to make sure all the benefits stay inside your cup and don’t float away with the steam!
  • Use a tea filter for loose leaf teas, some are disposable and biodegradable. Great for making cold brew or tea on the go!

Stay Connected 

If you have tried intermittent fasting, share your experience and tips with us on Facebook or tag us on Instagram. We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products and special sales. Also, please leave us a Google Review with your Low Carb Grocery experiences!


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How To Understand Canadian Nutrition Labels

Decoding Food Nutrition Labeling in Canada

Do nutrition facts labels confuse you? Read our guide below for how to read them with a keen eye for what’s good and what’s bad.  

Nutrition labels can be helpful yet cryptic. It is not only useful to know how to read them and what to pay attention to, but also to take the information with a grain of salt. We recommend cross referencing the ingredients list to ensure that the nutrients you see in the nutrition facts label are coming from good sources.

There are good and bad types of almost everything. Here’s our breakdown of good and bad calories, fats and carbohydrates.

Good vs Bad Calories

Calories are not necessarily bad, but they can be an indication of what’s inside the product you’re holding. Certain things will seriously drive up the calorie count in foods:

  • Fats
  • Sugars
  • Starches

In addition, food processing can increase the number of calories in food. This is because the body can break down processed foods more completely (since most of the work is already done). In today’s modern world, calories are not far and few. In fact, we tend to over-eat and under-exercise. So, these extra calories in processed foods are not helpful, especially for weight loss.

Good vs Bad Fats

You probably already know that trans fats are bad, but there are other kinds of fats, too.

Specifically, there are unsaturated (with subtypes monounsaturated and polyunsaturated) and saturated fats. While this may sound very confusing, it’s really just describing the chemical structures of these different fat molecules. Some are more reactive or more stable than others, affecting the way they are processed by our bodies.

In simple terms, follow these two rules for fats:

  • Unsaturated fats are healthy and safe to consume.
  • When it comes to saturated fats, it depends on the source. Look for plant-based sources and foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids for your best options.

If you are interested in this topic, we wrote a whole article about the different types of fats and how to distinguish them.

Good vs Bad Carbohydrates

Carbs can be a confusing subject since many different things fall into the category of carbohydrates. For simplicity’s sake, the three main types are sugars, starches and fibre.

If you are counting net carbs, then you can subtract fibre from the total carbohydrates listed on a nutrition facts label. Sugar alcohols are also typically used instead of sugars in keto-friendly foods because they are not absorbed by the bloodstream, so these also do not count towards net carbs.

Whether you are counting your net carb intake or not, it is important to look at the source of the carbohydrates. There are two generally classified types of carbs: complex and simple.

Simple Carbohydrates

Simple carbohydrates typically refer to sugars, which have very simple molecular structures. This type of carbohydrate is processed easily by the body and quickly converted into glucose that can be used by the brain, muscles, liver and fat cells.

Simple carbs are like “quick-fix” solutions for energy. Eating a large amount of them can cause major spikes in blood sugar levels throughout the day as they are used up just as quickly as they are converted into energy.

Simple carbs can occur naturally in some foods such as:

  • Fruits
  • Milk
  • Milk products (cheese, butter, etc.)

They can also be found in processed and refined foods such as:

  • Candy and chocolates
  • Table sugar
  • Syrups
  • Soda
  • Cereals
  • White bread
  • Bakery items (cookies, donuts, cakes, etc.)

You can probably guess from these lists that you should avoid or limit your intake of simple carbs. Keep an eye out for things like fructose, maltose, sucrose, lactose, dextrose (and other variations of these names) when reading ingredients lists. As a general rule, avoid anything that ends with “-ose” as these will send your blood sugar levels through the roof. Aim to consume mostly complex carbs for more sustained energy throughout the day.

Complex Carbohydrates 

Complex carbohydrates include starches and fibre. They are processed by the body more slowly than simple carbs, meaning that we can use these fuel sources for longer periods of time before needing another boost of energy.

Starches are the way that plants store energy they get from the sun (meaning that they can also carry a lot of calories). Plants produce their own glucose molecules from their energy sources, just like us, and these chains of glucose molecules form starches. The longer the chain, the longer it takes to break down in our digestive systems. Long chain starches can be found in foods such as legumes, root vegetables, cracked wheat, brown rice, barley, quinoa and oats. Note that these are probably the types of carbs you should avoid if you are following a low carb or ketogenic diet, or if you are watching your calorie intake.

When it comes to fibre, there are two types: soluble and insoluble. Both are important to consume, and do not count towards net carbs.

Soluble Fibre

When eaten, soluble fibre attracts water and turns into a gel-like substance that aids digestion. Consuming soluble fibre has also been shown to help lower blood cholesterol levels, inflammation and blood pressure, as well as improve heart health.

Sources of soluble fibre include:

  • Oats
  • Flaxseed
  • Beans and peas
  • Potatoes
  • Whole grains
  • Citrus fruits
  • Apples
  • Strawberries
  • Pears
  • Avocados
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Broccoli
  • Turnips

One vegetable that is very high in soluble fibre is okra! You can tell because of its characteristic “slimy” insides, that some people either love or hate. Depending on preparation, you will get varying levels of sliminess and thus soluble fibre. One of the newest products to hit the market, Oh My Okra, is a vacuum fried version of this fibre-rich vegetable. The vacuum frying technique allows for the water content of the slime to be removed but the preservation of over 80% of the original nutrients. Try a bag today – you won’t be able to put it down!

Insoluble Fibre

Insoluble fibre cannot be digested or absorbed by the body. Instead, it helps to move everything else through the digestive tract, which is a very important function. Eating foods rich in insoluble fibre can help with regular bowel movements and keep you feeling full longer (a great way to prevent excessive snacking).

Sources of insoluble fibre include:

  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Root vegetables
  • Celery
  • Cucumbers
  • Cauliflower
  • Fruits with edible seeds (for example, most berries, pomegranates and tomatoes)
  • Beans and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds (flax and chia are good sources)

Insoluble fibre is often found in the skins of many fruits and vegetables. Keep the skins on your eggplants, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers and apples (just make sure to wash them first thoroughly).

As you can see from the two lists above, many foods have both soluble and insoluble fibre. This is good because eating as many fruits and veggies as you can during the day ensures you are getting a good amount of both types of fibre.

Try our favorite high-fibre products from The Low Carb Grocery that top our list of high fibre foods:

KZ Clean Eating Low Carb High Fibre Crispbreads, Chia Flavour

               

Smart Sweets Stevia-Sweetened Gummies with 28g of Fibre per pouch

Reading Nutrition Labels 

Now that you are well-versed in the different types of calories, fats and carbs, you can start to apply this knowledge to reading nutrition facts labels. Below is an outline for how to read these labels in stages and what to look for at each stage:

1. Serving Size – This is often overlooked, but worth noting. Something could appear great, but you might need to multiply all the nutrition facts by 2 or 3 for the actual amount you plan to eat.

2. % Daily Values ­– although these percentages are based on mainstream dietary recommendations, you should consider these values when it comes to the micronutrients listed on a nutrition facts label (i.e. everything besides fat, carbs and protein). A % daily value of ≤5% is considered a little, while anything above this is considered a significant source of that nutrient.

3. Calories – If something is high in calories, cross reference the ingredients list for possible sources. Does the food include a lot of added sugars, trans fats, simple carbs or starches? If so, the energy sources of these calories are not very high quality.

4. Fats ­– Review what we covered above for the types of carbohydrates to look out for, according to your diet. If you are lucky, you might even get a breakdown of omega-3, 6 and 9 fatty acids. Always make sure there is a higher amount of omega-3s relative to the others.

5. Cholesterol – This can get controversial because there are good (LDL) and bad (HDL) types of cholesterol. Again, look to the ingredients list to find the source(s) of cholesterol, if made available in the nutrition facts label.

6. Sodium – % Daily value is important here, but acceptable sodium levels will vary by food type. For example, if the soy sauce you’re using has high sodium – that’s fine (use sparingly). But if the bread, cereal, soups or sauces you eat are high in sodium, it might be time to look for a different brand.

7. Carbohydrates – Review what we covered above for the types of carbohydrates to look out for, according to your diet.

8. Vitamins and Minerals – You will almost never find an excess of these, and the more the better! Unfortunately, this section of nutrition facts labels can vary between products and, in general, it often lacks comprehensiveness. There are a few minerals and vitamins that are almost always listed such as Vitamin D, iron, calcium and potassium. You can search items from the ingredients list online for a better idea of the other nutrients present in your food.

Stay Connected 

If you applied any of these suggestions or have any of your own tips for reading nutrition labels, let us know with a comment on Facebook or tag us on Instagram. We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products and special sales. And please leave us a Google Review with your Low Carb Grocery feedback!


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Low Carb Potato Substitutes

Pitching the Potatoes – Low Carb Alternatives

That’s mashed cauliflower – who would have thought!?

For centuries, meat and potatoes have been a way of life; a mantra of meal planning so deeply engrained in our collective psyche, that it’s almost a religion. But potatoes are a high glycemic side dish and could bring you out of ketosis very quickly. The answer? We have seven below.

  1. Cauliflower (2g net carbs per cup)

Cauliflower is quickly becoming the superstar of the low carb world, with many people praising it for its similarity to mashed potatoes, rice and even pizza crust when prepared certain ways.

This cruciferous vegetable can imitate more starchy, high carb vegetables due to its similar texture and bland (versatile!) flavour. Other great transformations could include cauliflower breakfast hash, cauliflower grilled cheese, cauliflower mac and cheese, cauliflower fried rice, buffalo cauliflower bites, cauliflower chowder, or even cauliflower eggs benedict. We support getting creative and coming up with your own recipes incorporating cauliflower. The possibilities are endless!

Check out these two innovative products made from cauliflower: Hippie Snacks Cauliflower Crisps and Keto And Co Dry Riced Cauliflower. Available at the Low Carb Grocery in stores and online!

Or, try out this recipe for cauliflower tater tots—you’re welcome!

  1. Cut a head of cauliflower into small chunks
  2. Steam the chunks over boiling water on the stove
  3. Remove from heat and strain the cauliflower, then place it in a bowl and mash.
  4. Mix in 2 beaten eggs, half a cup of parmesan (or dairy-free alternative), and onion or garlic to taste.
  5. Form the mixture into bite size balls and bake at 400° for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Other Benefits of Cauliflower

  • High in fibre for good digestive health
  • High in B vitamins
  • High in antioxidants that can protect against cancer
  • Can improve learning and memory
  • Helps the liver produce detoxifying enzymes (try some cauliflower in the morning, after an “eventful” night)
  • Contains almost as much Vitamin C as oranges
  1. Turnips (4g net carbs per cup) 

A turnip looks similar to a radish that is mostly white with a purple top. Bright colours like this in vegetables and fruits are always a good indicator of a rich nutrient profile! Turnips are related to other cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts and kale, but their texture can resemble that of potatoes and other root vegetables.

When buying turnips, make sure to choose ones that are small but heavy for their size. This will ensure they are sweeter and milder in flavour and have a higher water content (drinking water is not the only way to hydrate your body!). Make sure to store them in a cool, low-light area to mimic their natural subterranean environment and maintain their freshness.

Challenge yourself to making classic potato dishes with turnips instead! Some ideas include: oven roasted turnips, turnip gratin, turnip latkes, slow cooker turnips, turnip soup, or mashed turnips with bacon bits.

Other Benefits of Turnips

  • High in fibre which can help relieve intestinal problems
  • Promotes bowel health
  • High in antioxidants that can protect against cancer
  • Contains important minerals such as iron, zinc and folate
  • Promotes healthy bones
  • Can prevent eyesight problems 
  1. Daikon (2g net carbs per cup) 

Daikon is a type of radish that looks like a large white carrot. However, unlike the more common small red radishes that have a characteristic peppery and potent taste, the daikon radish is milder, sweeter and crispier.

Due to its high-water content (85%-95% depending on preparation), daikon is a perfectly crunchy low-carb addition to salads, which will make them feel a lot more satisfying. It can also be added to soups, stews and curries. Warm and comforting dishes like these are especially great because daikon tends to be in season in the wintertime. But unlike a lot of high-carb starchy vegetables we’re used to eating around the holidays – like squash, potatoes, and pumpkin – daikon will not raise your net carb intake drastically.

Other Benefits of Daikon

  • High in B vitamins and Vitamin C
  • High in fibre (helps digestion)
  • Has fat burning properties
  • Boosts immunity (another reason to consume in the wintertime)
  • Has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Helps detoxify the body
  • Nourishes skin due to high mineral and water content
  1. Kohlrabi (2 g carbs/27 calories per 100 g)

Here’s a riddle for you…

Q:  Which vegetable looks like a large green or purple turnip, grows above the ground like a cabbage, and tastes similar to broccoli stems?

A: Kohlrabi!

Kohlrabi is not considered a root vegetable, despite its similar appearance to radishes and turnips. It actually falls within the same category as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and other vegetables that grow above ground. When eaten raw, kohlrabi has a slight crunch and spicy taste similar to a radish or turnip, but it is sweeter and milder. Smaller kohlrabi usually taste sweeter than larger ones, as this vegetable develops a more potent radish-like taste the further it matures. This mysterious vegetable can also be roasted, steamed, baked, stuffed, made into fritters or pureed into a soup. These methods of cooking will bring out more of the sweet, mild flavours of kohlrabi, similar to the beloved potato. But all this talk about sweetness does not mean that it is a high glycemic vegetable – kohlrabi can safely be consumed by those looking to watch their carb intake.

Other Benefits of Kohlrabi

  • Helps to prevents anemia due to its high iron content
  • Improves vision
  • Boosts energy levels
  • Increases the metabolism
  • High in fibre (helps digestion)
  • Has anti-cancer properties
  1. Rutabaga (5g net carbs per cup)

A cross between a cabbage and a turnip, a rutabaga is a sweet and nutritious root vegetable. Similar to the other items on this list, it can be eaten both raw and cooked in a variety of ways.

Try these roasted rutabaga fries to see for yourself:

  1. Peel a rutabaga and cut into long thin strips like fries.
  2. Toss with olive oil, salt, pepper and whichever other seasonings you like.
  3. Lay the pieces flat on a baking pan with parchment paper.
  4. Place in the oven for 25–35 minutes at 400° or until your desired crispiness is achieved.

You can try adding some flavour with the following Hot Mamas Spice Mixes and Rubs that are zero sodium and sugar free. Adding spice mixes to recipes can transform the same basic, healthy ingredients into a number of different dishes.

Other Benefits of Rutabaga

  • High in vitamins B, C and E
  • High in iron
  • High in antioxidants that may prevent premature aging
  • Can improve eyesight
  • Promotes good bone health
  • Stimulates healthy regeneration of cells throughout the body
  • Has anti-cancer properties
  • High in fibre to promote digestive and bowel health
  1. Celery Root (7g net carbs per cup)

Did you know you can eat the roots of celery, too? Also called celeriac, the celery root grows beneath the ground and is packed with nutrients from the soil. It has a comparable earthy texture and taste similar to a turnip, but also slightly reminiscent of the celery that grows from it.

Try it in a slow cooker to add some hearty nutrients to big-flavour dishes. Or, it could be used in a side dish by cutting or grating it into fine pieces to form a fresh tasting coleslaw or light salad. For something similar but a bit more culinarily challenging, you can search recipes for its classic use in French remoulades.

Other Benefits of Celery Root

  • Boosts the immune system
  • High levels of Vitamin C help heal wounds
  • Vitamin B5 helps keep skin healthy and smooth
  • Other B vitamins can reduce risk of Parkinson’s disease
  • Reduces arthritis and inflammation
  • Promotes good bone health
  • High in fibre to promote digestive and bowel health
  1. Zucchini (2g net carbs per cup)

Zucchini is technically a fruit, but it can still be a great replacement for starchy vegetables in various kinds of recipes. Its mild sweetness and floral taste is great in herby recipes. Its earthier flavours come out when its oven roasted, pan fried or grilled.

Zucchini noodles have become increasingly popular in recent years. While this isn’t exactly a potato substitute – it’s a great carb substitute in general and can be paired with delicious meat sauces to make your own homemade zucchini Bolognese or zucchini lasagne!

Other Benefits of Zucchini

  • Can help cure asthma
  • Helps balance thyroid function
  • High levels of important minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium
  • Good for eyesight
  • High in antioxidants (especially in the skin of the zucchini) that can slow down aging and prevent certain cancers
  • High fibre content contributes to healthy digestion
  • High in soluble fibres can promote gut health

Goodbye, Spuds. Hello, Low Carb Goodness!

It may be surprising to learn about the different superfoods that exist out there, especially when you are used to your routine of meat with potatoes. But there are so many other nutritious and tasty veggies out there that won’t leave you missing anything about the high carb vegetables of your past.

Stay Connected 

If you try out any new recipes with these potato substitutes, we’d love to know! Share your photos and recipes with us on Facebook or tag us on Instagram. We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products and special sales. And please leave us a Google Review with any and all of your feedback!


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Mental Benefits To A Low Carb Diet

What Are the Mental Benefits of a Low Carb Diet? 

Ketogenic and low carb diets have not only been shown to result in weight loss, but they can also provide mental health benefits. Read on to learn how our brains may function better on a low-carb high-fat diet.

Did you know that your mental health is largely influenced by the nutrients you obtain from food? While diet is not the only factor that influences mental health, it is certainly one that deserves a lot of attention. A high carb diet can have very different effects on mental function when compared to a diet based around fats. A lot of recent research has shown the benefits of eating a ketogenic or low carb diet for certain mental disorders such as depression, epilepsy, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Many mental illnesses stem from the same things that cause physical health problems, such as inflammation, oxidative stress and hormonal imbalances. These conditions can be a result of consuming foods that are high in refined carbohydrates, industrial-use oils, artificial preservatives and added hormones. The higher quality your diet is, the better your mental function will be. Feeding your brain the right nutrients has the potential to prevent and even reverse some of the symptoms of mental illnesses.


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What Causes Mental Health Disorders?

There are two common causes of mental illness when looked at from a biological standpoint: an imbalance of important brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters, or low brain cell energy production. Both of these causes can be controlled or alleviated with proper dietary nutrition.

Neurotransmitter Imbalances

One cause of mental health disorders is an imbalance in the types and levels of neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are chemicals that are released by nerve cells in the brain that send signals to other nerves, organs, muscles or tissues to perform some kind of function. Depending on the type of neurotransmitter, these signals can have different effects on the mind and body that range from inhibitory to stimulating responses. The brain requires a balance of different neurotransmitters to function normally, and if these levels get thrown out of balance for long periods of time, mental illness can result.

Depression, anxiety and other mood disorders are said to be caused by an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain. There are 4 main neurotransmitters that regulate moods: serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine and GABA; each producing different effects on our moods and behaviour. The food we eat affects the levels of these chemicals because dietary nutrients are needed to manufacture neurotransmitters. Dietary nutrients come from proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Proteins are the essential building blocks of neurotransmitters, as well as muscle tissue, organs, blood, enzymes and antibodies. Carbohydrates and fat are primarily used as fuel sources, but they can also have an effect on levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain.

Low Brain Cell Energy Levels

Another cause of mental disorders is low energy production in brain cells. Without enough energy, brain cells may slow down or cease to function, which can result in a number of mental illnesses such as depression and Alzheimer’s.

There is a common belief that your brain needs glucose (produced when we eat carbohydrates) to function. While this may be true, glucose is not the only fuel source that the brain can use, and your liver can produce all of the glucose it requires on its own without you having to consume any carbs. When you consume fats, the liver produces ketones, and your brain can use these as a primary fuel source instead. Some research has shown that ketones may be a more efficient fuel for the brain than glucose. This is because ketones can increase the number of mitochondria – the part of the cell responsible for converting nutrients into energy – in brain cells and therefore boost the overall amount of energy produced by these cells.

Reducing Your Carb Intake Could Improve Mental Function

High Carb Diets and Mental Function

If you are not in ketosis, then your brain is using glucose as its main fuel source. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, if you have any mental health concerns, you may consider switching to a low carb high fat diet instead.

Two neurotransmitters that are produced when we consume carbohydrates are serotonin and dopamine, both pleasure-causing chemicals. While this may seem like a good thing, any imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain can have very negative consequences. Having excessive levels of serotonin in the brain can result in anxiety from over-stimulus and depression due to withdrawal. Having too much dopamine has also been known to result in various degrees of psychosis and mania, including binge eating, gambling, bipolar disorders, aggression and schizophrenia.

Low Carb Diets and Mental Function

Being in ketosis – that is, consuming a ketogenic diet that is about 75% healthy fats, 20% high-quality proteins and 5% carbs – can increase the production of the GABA neurotransmitter due to the different nutrients provided by this kind of diet. Having a good balance of GABA in the brain has been shown to increase mental focus and reduce stress, while low levels of GABA have been linked to anxiety, depression, poor memory and insomnia.

Other Mental Benefits of a Low Carb Diet

Reduces Inflammation and Oxidative Stress

The ketogenic diet has also been shown to reduce inflammation caused by oxidative stress in the brain. This is why the keto diet is often recommended to those suffering from brain seizures and epilepsy, because of the anti-inflammatory effects of a diet that is rich in omega-3s and essential vitamins and minerals from high quality fats, proteins and vegetables.

The keto diet is naturally anti-inflammatory because it also requires you to cut out inflammation-producing foods such as refined sugars and carbohydrates. But you still need to be sure that you are consuming antioxidant-rich foods daily. Keto-friendly anti-inflammatory foods include:

  • Dark leafy vegetables
  • Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower
  • Aronia berry – higher in antioxidants compared to cranberries, blueberries and most other fruits, and low carb.
  • Fatty fish
  • Eggs
  • Healthy oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, and flaxseed oil
  • Avocados
  • Camu camu – a rainforest berry that contains powerful antioxidants and is loaded with Vitamin C which can help fight inflammation.

Can Reverse Hormonal Imbalances and Adrenal Fatigue

Hormonal imbalances or adrenal fatigue can result in a number of physical conditions that may lead to more serious mental disorders. For example, they can show up as symptoms of tiredness, body aches, problems sleeping and digestive issues but can escalate to anxiety or depression.

Hormonal imbalances may be due to certain developmental changes such as puberty and menopause, but our diets also largely effect our hormonal levels. Some of the foods we eat may cause us to be ingesting inappropriate levels of hormones that can throw our hormonal levels out of balance. This is especially true for low quality animal products because hormones can be added, and when consumed, can seriously disrupt our bodies’ hormonal balance. It is important to eat high-quality protein from both animal and plant sources, even if you are on a fat-based diet. Look for non-GMO grass-fed beef, free range chickens, and sustainably caught wild fish. Tempeh, tofu, edamame, hemp seeds, nutritional yeast and nuts and seeds are great low carb plant-based sources of protein as well.

Foods that cause inflammation can also disrupt our hormonal balances. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands in the kidneys can no longer function properly. The adrenal glands are responsible for the production of vital hormones such as our sex hormones and cortisol, the stress hormone. Cortisol, if produced in moderation, can help us perform in certain areas of life. However, adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands overproduce cortisol, resulting in inflammation and not producing enough of the other important hormones. Stress and inflammation can have a number of damaging effects on the body. If you suspect that you may be exposed to high levels of cortisol, you can modify your diet to reduce these effects.

Some foods recommended to reduce hormonal imbalances and adrenal fatigue include high protein foods, dark green and red vegetables and fruits, and unrefined or gluten-free carbohydrates (consuming gluten can cause inflammation in people with mild to severe gluten intolerances). Again, foods you should avoid are refined white sugar and flour, alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and highly processed or fast food.

Let’s Make This Easy

The Low Carb Grocery carries a number of low carb, anti-inflammatory, adrenal fatigue-reducing foods that can help you manage your diet for improved mental health:

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Seasonal Fruits – The Low Carb Way

Your Guide to Seasonal Low Carb Fruits

Using seasonal fruits in your smoothies means better prices and better taste. Learn which fruits are in season and how you can use them in low carb and keto-friendly recipes!

When you browse the fruit section of your local supermarket or grocery store, you’ll likely see many of the same options year-round, thanks to global sourcing. But, if you pay close attention, you’ll also see many fruits come and go from the aisles as the months change through the year as local suppliers conduct their harvests over the different growing seasons. Prices may also change, giving you an idea of what is in season (lower prices) vs out of season.

When shopping for fruit, it is helpful to know what times of year are best to find certain types of fruits so you can get the most bang for your buck; fruits that are in season will not only have better prices, but they will also taste better! Knowing the best time of year to buy certain fruits will also help you reduce waste as in-season fruits tend to spoil less quickly.

The following guide will help you break down the best fruits to buy during each season of the year. We’ve kept our focus on the types of fruits that can be found in Canada. We’ve also included the net carb count per cup for each fruit. If you are following a low carb diet, look for the fruits listed in bold for your best low carb options!

Spring Fruits: April – June

Although spring is still too early to harvest most fruits, especially in Canada, there are still several fruits that grow quickly as the weather starts to warm up. We also see many of the fruits in the springtime from global suppliers. Here’s a list of fruits that are in season during the spring:

  • Apples – 12 net carbs per cup
  • Avocados – 3g net carbs per cup
  • Bananas (year-round) – 20 net carbs per cup
  • Coconut (year-round) – 5g net carbs per cup
  • Mangos – 25g net carbs per cup
  • Rhubarb – 4g net carbs per cup 

Here’s a great recipe we found for low carb rhubarb crisp. If you don’t already have them at home, The Low Carb Grocery carries many of the ingredients you will need for this recipe, including almond flour, ground flaxseed meal, cinnamon, liquid stevia, chia seeds and erythritol.

Summer Fruits: July – September

Summer, of course, is prime season for growing a wide variety of fruits. Here are some of the delicious fresh fruits that you can expect to be in season during the summer months:

  • Apricots – 14g net carbs per cup
  • Avocados – 3g net carbs per cup
  • Bananas (year-round) – 20g net carbs per cup
  • Blackberries – 6g net carbs per cup
  • Blueberries – 12g net carbs per cup
  • Cantaloupe – 7g net carbs per cup
  • Cherries – 10g net carbs per cup
  • Coconut (year-round) – 5g net carbs per cup
  • Honeydew Melon – 15g net carbs per cup
  • Nectarines – 13g net carbs per cup
  • Peaches – 10g net carbs per cup
  • Plums – 10g net carbs per cup
  • Raspberries – 5g net carbs per cup
  • Strawberries – 6g net carbs per cup
  • Watermelon – 7g net carbs per cup 

Try this fun summer recipe for low carb frozen yogurt popsicles!

Autumn Fruits: October – December

Many of the fruits that come into season in the late months of the summer continue their growing season into the fall as well. Here are some of the most common fruits you’ll find in season during the fall.

  • Apples – 12g net carbs per cup
  • Bananas (year-round) – 20g net carbs per cup
  • Cranberries (raw) – 8g net carbs per cup
  • Coconut (year-round) – 5g net carbs per cup
  • Grapes – 16g net carbs per cup
  • Kiwi – 12g net carbs per cup
  • Limes – 5g net carbs per fruit
  • Mandarins – 10g net carbs per cup
  • Pears – 12g net carbs per cup

Try this recipe for low carb cranberry walnut bars. For this recipe, you will need low carb powdered sugar. We recommend using Swerve Icing Sugar for its similar consistency and taste to traditional powdered sugar – its “the ultimate sugar replacement”!

Around the holidays, you can also try out this recipe for keto cranberry sauce, flavoured with monk fruit sweetener and cinnamon and orange zest.

Winter Fruits: January – March

While it may seem odd to consider some fruits as “in-season” during the winter months in Canada, you can still find a number of fruits at their best during this time of year:

  • Apples – 12g net carbs per cup
  • Bananas (year-round) – 20g net carbs per cup
  • Coconut (year-round) – 5g net carbs per cup
  • Grapefruit – 11g net carbs per cup
  • Kiwi – 12g net carbs per cup
  • Lemons – 6g net carbs per cup
  • Oranges – 9g net carbs per cup
  • Pineapple – 12g net carbs per cup

We found a great recipe for Keto-Friendly Hummingbird Cake here. If you’ve never heard of hummingbird cake before – well, you’re missing out! It is a layered (optional rum-soaked) cake with a cream cheese frosting that originates from the Caribbean, so it traditionally features lots of fresh fruits including bananas and pineapples. However, these fruits can be tricky to incorporate if you are on a low carb diet. Don’t worry – this recipe takes into account the amount of net carbs in these fruits and uses just a small portion of fresh pineapple and banana extract instead. If you still find that it isn’t fruity enough, try adding a few drops each of Flavorall Liquid Stevia in Banana, Pineapple, Coconut + more than 20 other flavours. Customize this recipe to make it your own!

Note that this recipe requires a good quality, extra-fine blanched almond flour. Anthony’s Goods carries this type of almond flour that can help you perfect this recipe and many more! Bring this Keto Hummingbird Cake to your family gatherings around the holidays – but don’t expect to bring home any leftovers!

When in Doubt, Buy Frozen!

If shopping according to the seasons proves too difficult for you, another way to always ensure you have fresh fruit is to buy it in frozen packages. Frozen fruits are always packaged when they reach their peak ripeness and, of course, they will have much longer shelf lives than fresh produce.

Here’s a recipe for low carb ice cream using frozen fruits.

Low Carb Fruit Smoothies

So, you might be wondering. What else can you do with all of these great low carb fruit options on a daily basis? Well, for starters, don’t get too carried away. As you can see from the net carb counts above, it can be very easy to go above your daily recommended carb intake if you are following a ketogenic or low carb diet. But, small amounts of low carb fruits can still be incorporated into delicious keto-friendly smoothies that taste great!

Here’s how to build your own low carb smoothie:

1. Choose a milk base.

This can be dairy or non-dairy, depending on your preferences. Note that regular fat milk can easily kick you out of ketosis, so if you choose the dairy route opt for a higher fat content. Non-dairy options are great sources of fibre and still contain good amounts of healthy proteins and fats. Always opt for unsweetened versions to avoid hidden carbs. Try one of these options with your next smoothie:

2. Add ½ cup – 1 cup of low carb fruits (choose seasonally for the best taste!). 

3. Add some fat and protein to your shake.

4. Add a boost of fibre for smooth digestion.

5. Add some natural zero-carb sweetness (optional).

6. Spice it up or add some low carb flavour (optional).

  • Cocoa Powder (note that this is pure cocoa powder, so it will add a bitter but chocolate-y taste to your smoothie. Best paired with a natural sweetener!).
  • Cinnamon – opt for Ceylon or “True” Cinnamon rather than cassia cinnamon (commonly found in supermarkets) as it contains less coumarin, a toxin that can be harmful if eaten in large quantities.
  • Vanilla extract
  • Flavorall Liquid Stevia Drops – available in 25 flavours! A great way to replace the taste of some of those higher carb fruits.
  • Ginger Powder
  • Turmeric for its anti-inflammatory properties (FYI – it will make your smoothie a vibrant yellow colour! Try it with mangoes, bananas and citrus fruits for a tasty tropical smoothie blend.)
  • Moringa for a boost of essential vitamins and minerals. Try out this Peanut Butter Berry Smoothie Recipe featuring Wild Tusker Moringa Powder.

7. Blend together all the goodness and enjoy!

 

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Sandwich & Wraps – The Low Carb Way

Delicious Low Carb Sandwiches & Wrap Alternatives

Sandwiches and wraps can still be enjoyed no matter what your dietary restrictions are. Learn about the different ways to customize your favourite lunchtime meals whether you are on a low carb, gluten-free, plant-based or other diet/program.

There’s no need to give up sandwiches and wraps at lunchtime, even if you are on a low carb diet. Not only are they fast and easy to make, but they taste great and can be made in any number of combinations according to your circumstances and preferences. And, there are a number of alternative ways to make them to suit different lifestyles and diets. That’s the beauty of the sandwich – its versatility and endless possibilities!

Low Carb Concerns?

Fortunately for low carb dieters, the deli counter is one place where you can definitely count on what you’re buying to fit your diet. Meats and cheeses are great low carb and keto-friendly toppings to add to your sandwiches or wraps. Balance it out with some fibre-rich vegetables and an oil-based sauce to ensure that you stay in ketosis. Oh – and the bread? Read on to learn how to navigate the question of what to put your keto sandwich innards between.

Choosing low carb meats is not hard; high-fat meats will ensure that you to stay in ketosis, such as pork or beef. Or, you can opt for a lighter meat like chicken or turkey and add fats in other elements such as avocado, oil-based dressings, or cheese. Either way, make sure to look for natural, non-GMO and farm-raised meat that is free from artificial preservatives and any other additives. Natural types of preservatives include salt and/or celery. The key is to find good quality meat, because this is what matters. Low quality meat raised with added hormones and chemical preservatives strip the original product of its nutrients and can have very damaging effects on the body including – but not limited to – inflammation, weakening the immune system, lowering fertility, and increasing your risk of chronic diseases. Also be sure to avoid any deli meats with glazes or spice rubs that may have added sugars as these can cause you to unknowingly raise your net carb count.

The main issue with eating sandwiches and wraps while trying to stay in ketosis is the bread or bun replacement. Luckily, there are a number of low carb bread options available that still taste great! Many are made from almond flour, which adds a great boost of Vitamin E and healthy fats to your ‘wich. Alternatively, they can be made with flaxseed meal, coconut flour or other types of nut and seed meals that all provide high amounts of fibre, healthy fats and essential vitamins and minerals.

Gluten-Free Concerns?

It can also be hard to find the right gluten-free bread or wraps for your sandwiches. Luckily, some of the keto-friendly options mentioned above fit into this category, too. Some other gluten-free brands of breads and wraps that we love are Slice of Life Carb Wise Bread and Live Organic Food Raw Wraps.

The Low Carb Grocery carries a number of gluten-free products. Just look for the purple “Gluten-Free” tag on our product web pages:

Keto diets are naturally low in gluten, as wheat and grains are the main carb culprits! Even if you are not gluten-intolerant, it can be a good idea to try out some of these amazing gluten-free alternatives, or they could naturally fit into your diet. Some people report better digestion and increased energy levels by eliminating gluten from their diet. Being gluten-free can also have other indirect benefits. By not consuming wheat or grains, you are inadvertently forced to consume more fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts in their place. These alternatives also usually have higher fibre content, which is why they help with digestion and feelings of fullness for long-lasting energy throughout the day.

Plant-Based Concerns?

There are a lot of plant-based options for sandwiches and wraps. In fact, you can usually find products that are suited for a number of overlapping diets and lifestyles. A lot of keto-friendly, paleo-friendly and gluten-free products can be made from plant-based ingredients.

The good thing about plant-based alternatives is that they usually add other nutritional benefits to your meal, including important vitamins and minerals as well as healthy omega-3 fatty acids. These are often found in different kinds of nuts and seeds, which, when ground into a fine powder, are a great substitution for traditional white or wheat flours.

The main issue when trying to build a plant-based sandwich or wrap is finding replacements for the fillers such as the typical deli meats and cheeses. Not to fear – there are many plant-based options to choose from!

These days it is not hard to find plant-based alternatives for meat. Some good replacements include tofu, tempeh, large mushrooms such as portobello, and quinoa, lentil or bean-based vegan patties. All of these are not only rich in protein (that is just as beneficial for building muscle tissue as animal protein) but also tend to be higher in fibre which can help you feel fuller, longer. If you are following a low carb diet, protein-rich legumes could be high in net carbs – so be sure to double check before you indulge in a veggie burger and accidentally fall out of ketosis.

As far as vegan cheeses, you can usually find nut-based versions at most specialty retailers. These are a more sustainable dairy alternative and there are a number of allergen-friendly options to find. You can also add other creamy elements to your sandwich or wrap that can replicate some of the same sensations as cheese. For example, avocados, tahini (sesame paste), vegan mayonnaise, hummus, very soft tofu or nutritional yeast can add that familiar texture and flavour of cheese, while also being high in other nutritional benefits.

Make Your Own at Home!

Still concerned about your low carb bread options? Try making your own! It’s not as hard as it sounds, and you can totally customize it to your personal preferences and dietary needs.

Anthony’s Goods provides a range of products that can be used for making your own bread (and other baked goods!) from the comfort of your own home. All of their products are guaranteed either premium quality or organic, and cover a range of cooking and baking needs.

Baking at home is one of the best ways to ensure that the food you are eating is clean, free from any artificial ingredients and tailored to your specific dietary needs. Plus, it can be really fun! Read on to learn how to make your own homemade low carb bread:

Start with a base of one or all of these:          

+ baking powder and a pinch of salt!

Add the following fibre boosts:

 

Mix the dry ingredients with a healthy oil or fat to make it all stick together:

  • Avocado oil
  • Olive oil
  • Coconut oil (melted)
  • Egg whites
  • Grass-fed butter (melted)

Finally, add your own personal touch with any or all of these:

Bake in a glass baking dish or deep baking pan lined with parchment paper at 350˚ for 10-15 minutes, or until you see a golden-brown colour and small cracks on the top of the bread. Test ready-ness with a toothpick by sticking it into the centre of the bread. It should come out clean with very little to no crumbs when the bread is done baking.

If all this sounds too hard, you’re still in luck. KZ Clean Eating offers a grain-free, high protein bread mix that comes ready to bake with its own tin container. All you have to do is add water, bake and enjoy fresh, warm homemade bread (it still counts, right?).

Stay Connected 

If you try making your own low carb bread at home, we’d love to know your recipes and tips! Share photos and recipes of your delicious homemade bread on Facebook or tag us on Instagram! We also love to stay connected with our Weekly Newsletters for updates on the latest products and special sales. And please leave us a Google Review with your feedback!


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