Before and after: how a low-carb, high-fat diet changed my life

Happy 2015 everyone! Today we have a guest post from my friend Adrian who changed his life on a low-carb, high-fat diet. Here is his story.

Before I started my low-carb regiment in December 2012, I would catch a flu bug once every two to three months. When I visited the doctor, he would give me the same cough syrup and pills to suppress my cough, fever and joint aches. I was extremely overweight with body mass index (BMI) of 31.7; I weighed 95 kg on my 173 cm frame. I suffered from borderline hypertension and high cholesterol. Even climbing two flights of stairs or brisk walking would cause me to be out of breath.

Screenshot_2015-01-07-20-31-26

After visiting the doctor for the umpteenth time about my cough, I was given two options: one, to start exercising or two, to be prescribed a medication to help lower my blood pressure. I chose the first option and started running on a daily basis.

My weight fell from 95 kg to 87 kg but soon plateaued. I ran more, ran faster and even introduced resistance training into my exercise regime but the weight refused to budge. At that time, I was still eating the typical USDA-recommended diet, with more than two-thirds of my calories coming from rice, pasta and bread.

It was only after I read “Good Calories, Bad Calories” by Gary Taubes did I suspect that my high-carb diet was keeping me from reaching my ideal weight. In his book, Taubes argued that the best diet is one loaded with protein and fat but very low in carbohydrates. Most health problems are due to refined carbohydrates, which raise insulin levels and promote the storage of fat. Hence, it is not so much about the quantity of calories we eat but the type of calories.

To overhaul my diet, I focused initially on cutting all refined carbs and grains, which were overloading my pancreas and causing my body to accumulate fat. A typical dinner would consist of a slab of meat – be it chicken thigh, grass-fed steak or pork chop – and accompanied by some greens and a handful of nuts. For breakfast, I would eat eggs, a lot of unsweetened cheese, such as gouda, brie, cheddar, camembert, port salut, emmental, comté, sausages, full-fat Greek yoghurt or Paleorina’s grain-free bread with peanut butter. Continue reading Before and after: how a low-carb, high-fat diet changed my life

Review: Chocoelf sugar free chocolates

The last time I tried sugar-free chocolate did not turn out so well. The brand was Sugarless Gourmet Fresh Mint and I wrote about how the chocolate, which used maltitol to replace sugar, didn’t taste genuine enough. It wasn’t dark enough, it was too sweet and the mint taste was too strong.

I told myself that I would just stick to my favourite Lindt Excellence Extra Dark Chocolate 85%, which was a “real” chocolate that didn’t use fake sugar. But I was craving for other flavours so when I came across Chocoelf’s sugar-free chocolates at NTUC Unity, I caved and bought two flavours – mint and green tea. Each sold for $6.80.

Chocoelf singapore

Cocoelf beat the Sugarfree brand by miles. The chocolate was creamy and had the right balance of chocolate, cream and sweetness. I find that fake sugar tends to be quite cloying, and I have written about how I hate Stevia with a vengeance. Chocoelf, on the other hand, was pleasant and well balanced. Continue reading Review: Chocoelf sugar free chocolates

Resistant starch can improve your health

Resistant starch is the new buzzword in health circles. It started with Richard Nikoley unearthing research at his blog Free The Animal and the excitement surrounding resistant starch has been picked up by the paleo world as a type of good starch that can be eaten even as part of a low-carbohydrate diet. Resistant starch’s main role is to feed the good bacteria in our gut, and subsequently, help to reduce leaky gut syndrome, improve allergies and autoimmune conditions, reduce colon cancer risk and improve blood cholesterol. Dieters also have cause for cheer. Resistant starch can aid in weight loss by increasing satiety; it is a carbohydrate that with virtually zero impact on blood glucose.

What is resistant starch?

Essentially, resistant starch is a type of carbohydrate that cannot be digested by your body, but becomes food for your gut bacteria. Normally, starch is digested in your small intestine and absorbed by your body. The remaining non-digestible portion is called resistant starch and travels to the large intestine, where it is broken down by bacteria for energy.

resistant starch
Bacteria using the resistant starch for energy in the large intestine

The subsequent by-product – butyrate – is the preferred fuel of the cells that line the colon. Butyrate may reduce inflammation in the gut and other tissues and may improve our immune system and metabolism. Continue reading Resistant starch can improve your health

Shirataki “no calorie” noodles

What would you say if there was a food that would fill you up and contain practically no calories? What if there was a food that was not just good for weight management was also good for diabetes control and lower cholesterol levels?

I first found out about shirataki noodles from someone who was using it for weight loss. These are traditional thin and chewy Japanese noodles made from a dietary fibre called glucomannan, derived from the konjac root. Although they may look unfamiliar in this form, I found out that it’s essentially the same thing as konnyaku jelly, minus the sugar, which was very popular in Singapore in my schooling days. The shirataki noodles pass through your colon unchanged and unabsorbed, which makes them perfect for helping you feel full.

I got hold of two packets thanks to my cousin who was shopping in Liang Court. They came to me packed in liquid and I stored them in the fridge for a few days because I didn’t know if I could leave them out in the open.

Shirataki noodles

The most common ways to eat them are to fry them or eat them in a stew. They absorb flavours very well and my cousin recommended that I put them in a beef stew or miso soup. With limited ingredients on hand, I decided to go for fried noodles instead. I cut up some vegetables I had on hand, included lettuce, mushrooms and tomatoes. For the sauce, I chose to mix together garlic, spicy bean paste and coconut aminos, which I used as a replacement for soy sauce.

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to prepare them for frying.

Step 1: Get rid of the smell

The noodles smell a bit funny when you first open the packet and the first way to get rid of the fishy smell is to rinse them quickly in hot water. Don’t cook them for too long as they will become rubbery. One or two minutes in hot water should be enough.

IMG_0306 Continue reading Shirataki “no calorie” noodles

Paleo vs low-carb, high-fat (LCHF)

I met a couple of people recently who are on low-carb, high-fat (LCHF) diets. This diet goes by other names as well, including the ketogenic diet.

Many of us have heard of low-carb diets. They have been popular in recent years and even my rice-loving mum would tell my brother not to eat so much rice if he wants to get rid of his tummy fats. So what is the difference between simple a low-carb diet and the LCHF/ketogenic diet?

People on simple low-carb diets tend to be less concerned about the other macro nutrients (protein and fats) and eat them in any proportion they want. So they may cut out the rice and bread from their meals and eat lean white chicken breast, for example.

The LCHF diet takes this idea one step forward by significantly increasing the fat percentage in one’s diet, which is supposed to force the body to use fat as energy. So instead of eating lean white chicken breast meat, the dieter eats the fattiest part of the chicken, while keeping carbs low at the same time. Jimmy Moore lost 180 pounds on this diet.

ketogenic diet
Typical low-carb high-fat diet

Continue reading Paleo vs low-carb, high-fat (LCHF)

What do you thrive on?

What do you thrive on?

What makes you feel alive? What kind of diet makes your skin glow, your hair soft and satiates you? What gives you energy to run for hours on end or helps you recover more quickly after an intense workout?

I like the word “thrive.” It implies not merely existing but living with vibrancy. It suggests a life bursting with energy. I thrive on good books, storytelling, exhilarating sports and the love of people close to me.

But here I want to focus on one specific thing: our diets.

I started thinking recently that it seems that there is no one perfect diet. Sure, there is general consensus that we should eat unprocessed food, avoid sugar and chemicals. But within this general consensus, you have vegans and you also have the paleo types. Within the paleo types, there are people who advocate a low-carb, high-fat diet as carbohydrates are unnecessary for our well being. Then there are others who eschew dairy. Then there are people who say that white rice is a safe starch and others who avoid it at all cost. It can all be very confusing.

Continue reading What do you thrive on?

Today I can call myself a baker

I started baking quite recently. The urge to bake paleo bread and muffins was what made me buy an oven, buy measuring cups and an oven thermometer, among other nifty baking gadgets. It made me attend expensive bread baking classes at Shermay’s cooking school. It drove me to spend hours poring over recipe books.

I’ve never counted myself as a “baker” until today. Today, I sold my first loaf of paleo bread.

paleo bread

This simple paleo herb bread contains the most nutritious ingredients: almonds, fresh coconut, kampong eggs, yoghurt, butter, flaxseed meal and thyme.

It’s grain-free, gluten-free and sugar-free. This bread has been very difficult for me to master because of the lack of sugar. I found that baking banana paleo bread or any sweetened bread was easier because the sugar would mask any strange tastes. But I was determined to make one that was sugar-free yet tasted good. Honey was not acceptable. Artificial sweeteners had no place in my bread. Continue reading Today I can call myself a baker

Review: sugarless Blues Gourmet Fresh Mint Dark Chocolate

First of all, this chocolate bar is NOT paleo. It is low-carb, low-sugar and gluten-free. But it is definitely something to be avoided on a paleo lifestyle. That being said, I am reviewing this because I didn’t pay attention when I picked it up. All I thought was, “Ooh chocolate! Ooh sugarless chocolate!”

chocolate no sugarlow carb chocolate

This Sugarless Fresh Mint Dark Chocolate bar, which I purchased from SunMoon, contains: Maltitol, Cocoa Paste (Minimum Cocoa 52%), Cocoa Butter, Inulin, Cocoa Powder, Soy Lecithin, Natural Mint Flavour. There are 12 squares in the package and each square contains 39 calories and 0.02 gram of carbs. Continue reading Review: sugarless Blues Gourmet Fresh Mint Dark Chocolate

Restaurant review: Dian Xiao Er

Dian Xiao Er seriously sells the best roasted duck ever. I would be perfectly happy eating their roasted crispy duck every day. Granted, Chinese restaurants are, in general, not paleo friendly at all, given the amount of soya sauce and starches that go into their sauces but I found that several dishes in this restaurant fall into my “tolerable” range.

This restaurant looks rather gaudy with its red lanterns and Chinese inn-style decorations. I would have never stepped into this place if not for my mum’s recommendation. She, who didn’t really like the taste of duck, said that the duck sold there was heavenly. Prices were also very reasonable.

dian xiao er singapore

Since then, I have been to Dian Xiao Er three times. It has become my family’s favourite weekend Chinese dinner haunt. Continue reading Restaurant review: Dian Xiao Er

Restaurant review: Red Pig Korean Restaurant

I found another paleo-friendly restaurant!

Red Pig is a Korean restaurant that specialises in BBQ meat. It has a similar concept to Mookata, the Thai BBQ place I reviewed recently. I think I prefer Red Pig because the meat have less sauce and feel less heavy in my tummy.

It was Alicia’s suggestion to go to Red Pig for a girl’s night out. We made a reservation for 730pm on a Thursday night because it was known to get packed really quickly.

Red Pig Singapore

All the tables came with a BBQ grill and some vacuum tube from the ceiling that sucks up the BBQ fumes. Nonetheless, be prepared for your clothes and hair to stink after Red Pig. Continue reading Restaurant review: Red Pig Korean Restaurant