Welcome to Friday’s For The Love of Food, Summer Tomato’s weekly link roundup.

Next week’s Mindful Meal Challenge will start again on Monday. Sign up now to join us!

This week how to be perpetually healthy, questioning the sustainability of online meat, and what it means to be a supertaster.

Too busy to read them all? Try this awesome free speed reading app to read at 300+ wpm. So neat!

I also share links on Twitter @summertomato and the Summer Tomato Facebook page. I’m very active on all these sites and would love to connect with you.

Links of the week

What inspired you this week?

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When Kevin and I first decided to start a family I thought getting pregnant would be pretty easy. Even though I’m 37, I know I’m super healthy and that my mother and her four sisters all had children in their late 30s without issue.

I figured that despite my chronological age, biology would still clock me in under 30 (later fertility testing actually showed this to be true).

Still, after several months of trying it didn’t happen and I started to become concerned. Had we waited too long?

At that point we started to get more serious. First I made my husband adjust his twice weekly sauna sessions (fun fact: it can take 3-6 months for sperm counts to recover after intense heat exposure). He didn’t want to give up the practice completely, so he would bring Ziplock bags of ice to rest his junk on while in the heat.

I also started using at home ovulation test strips and learned that the app I had been using to track my cycle was off by nearly a week in predicting ovulation. Oops.

When neither of these fixes resulted in pregnancy by the end of a full year of trying we decided it was time to run some tests to see if something was biologically dysfunctional. We both went through the usual battery of fertility tests and learned what we thought we already knew, which is that both of us are really healthy (not just “for our age”) and capable of conceiving.

This was great news, but also disheartening. If nothing is wrong, then why isn’t it working?

It was shortly after this that we got a wonderful update from our friend Dr. Rhonda Patrick from FoundMyFitness and learned that she was expecting. Rhonda is the queen of nutrition and anti-aging hacks, and is one of the few online sources I really trust for solid scientific nutrition information.

When we told her we had also been trying to conceive, she casually mentioned that she “just gave up coffee and BOOM!” got pregnant a couple of weeks later after trying for 10 months. She said she had stumbled onto some research that caffeine, and especially coffee, increases risk of spontaneous abortion that may happen even before embryo implantation.

What?! Why had I never heard this before?

While I don’t drink a lot of coffee, I usually have one (pretty strong) cup each morning. After digging around a bit in the research myself I learned that indeed high doses of caffeine increase early miscarriage risk, and that coffee (even decaf) seems to be more of an issue than tea or other caffeinated beverages. Regular coffee intake by men may also decrease likelihood of a successful pregnancy.

I found this fascinating, but not particularly good news. I’ve been drinking coffee pretty regularly since I was 15 and was not excited to give up my habit. I’d feel extra bad making Kevin give it up as well. As a compromise I switched to green tea at the beginning of my next cycle, vowing to give that up next time if this wasn’t enough.

Then BOOM, I found out I was pregnant four weeks later.

I couldn’t believe it worked, and was actually pretty convinced it was a fluke. But I couldn’t keep the secret from my childhood best friend who I knew had also been trying to get pregnant for even longer than I had. I was certain she was drinking coffee (we were hanging out at cafes at 15 together, after all) so shared my secret.

She was also reluctant to give up her morning brew, but went off caffeine completely at the start of her next cycle and got pregnant right away. She’s due in January.

I’m very aware that this is anecdotal evidence backed up by some intriguing, but not fully conclusive, science. Obviously coffee and caffeine are not the only factors in fertility, and there are certainly women who can conceive while consuming it and those who can’t conceive but have never touched it.

But I’m also a bit blown away by how well it has worked for myself and friends this year, and there’s virtually no risk in giving up coffee for a couple of months if you’ve been struggling to conceive. It’s certainly cheaper than IVF, which you should probably give up coffee to do anyway.

For myself I continued to avoid coffee through the first trimester. Once I was a couple of weeks into the pregnancy this was easy, since it both smelled and tasted horrible to me.

But a few weeks into the second trimester my nausea turned into headaches and coffee started smelling and sounding good again. I let myself have a cup every now and then, and have slowly ramped up over time without issue. (If I’d had a history or miscarriages or other sensitivities I probably wouldn’t have done this).

Before trying to get pregnant I had never heard that coffee or caffeine increased miscarriage risk or made conception more difficult, and it was not mentioned to me by my doctors at the fertility clinic. To me it seems like knowledge worth sharing.

What’s your take on coffee and pregnancy?

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inline_sami_rowingKeto is red hot these days, and it’s not going away anytime soon. Call it the latest dietary fad, but keep in mind a great insight Robb Wolf told Joe Rogan on his podcastketo was “likely the default human metabolic state” over the past 2.5 million years of human evolution. Only with the extremely recent (on the evolutionary timeline) advent of civilization have we been stuffing our faces with carbs and snuffing out our magnificent ability to generate ketones as a clean-burning alternative fuel source to dietary carbohydrates. And we certainly were compelled to evolve a highly efficient mechanism to keep our high energy demand brains fueled with glucose or the glucose-like substitute of ketones at all times—for this was a matter of life or death in primal times. When our ancestors were starving, they needed to keep working hard, and concentrating hard, to find food!

The thought leaders and scientists in the keto scene have been establishing the case for keto very well: ketogenic eating really works for virtually everyone if you follow the correct approach. You can expect not only the efficient reduction of excess body fat, but a profound anti-inflammatory effect that can correct assorted autoimmune and inflammatory conditions; improved cognitive function and protection against the disturbingly prevalent conditions of cognitive decline (that are being increasingly connected to high carb, nutrient deficient diets); and assorted anti-aging benefits such as enhanced autophagy (the natural cellular detoxification process) and apoptosis (the programmed death of dysfunctional/pre-cancerous cells).

Keto has also been touted as potentially improving athletic performance for both endurance and strength/power efforts. However, this has become a matter of some dispute in the fitness world, as high calorie burning folks have a hard time embracing the idea that they can benefit from consuming fewer calories and rejecting the obsession with immediate refueling to restore glycogen after vigorous workouts. Today’s post will introduce you to the amazing Sami Inkinen, one of the world’s most accomplished endurance athletes who also has a high profile career as a Silicon Valley entrepreneur. Sami has taken keto experimentation to the extreme, and quantified everything beautifully to illustrate the amazing transformation that happens when you become a fat- and keto-adapted as an athlete.

The Keto Reset Diet goes into great detail about how keto can benefit endurance performance by making athletes virtually bonk-proof—able to perform for hours on end with a dramatically reduced need for carbohydrates as a fuel source. Sami’s story is told in further detail in Primal Endurance and on his blog. Here, he has taken the time from his busy schedule to share some extensive thoughts on how you really can succeed in endurance sports while eating ketogenically, if you follow the correct approach.

Being fat- and keto-adapted is an obvious benefit for endurance, since endurance performance is predicated on being burning more fat and sparing glycogen. The benefits of keto for strength/power athletes is less logical, because high intensity, high glycolytic (high glucose burning) workouts would seem to beget carbohydrate consumption in order to recover and replenish glycogen-depleted muscles. However, keto pioneers in the power scene have discovered amazing results, which are being increasingly validated by science at places like the Applied Science and Performance Institute in Tampa, FL, with Ryan Lowery and Dr. Jacob Wilson. Luis Villasenor, the legendary “DarthLuiggi” in the keto scene, has followed a ketogenic diet as a competitive powerlifter and bodybuilder for some 16 years! Through his KetoGains.com program, he and his team have coached thousands of high intensity athletes to improved performance and improved body composition. Luis is a living, breathing example that you do not have to destroy your health with massive overconsumption of carbs and protein to maintain a bodybuilder physique.

We’ll hear more from Luis and others about how to utilize keto for high intensity performance in the future. Briefly, fasting and ketogenic eating have been shown to have a remarkable protein-sparing effect. It makes evolutionary sense that your body would initiate assorted mechanisms to preserve lean muscle mass when you are starving. Unfortunately, in the carbohydrate dependency paradigm, your body routinely converts lean muscle tissue into glucose via gluconeogenesis to meet your energy needs, especially for the brain (only two percent of body weight, but consuming 20-25 percent of total calories!)— a ravenous consumer of glucose. For carb dependent athletes who don’t remain constantly glycogen stocked, bad things happen with fatigue, delayed recovery, and loss of lean mass. This is why bodybuilders have been urged to eat their six small meals throughout the day and obsessively overconsume protein and carbs to spur growth. Luis and others have shattered this paradigm by getting big, strong, and lean in full keto mode.

Back to endurance, where for decades the conventional thinking was to carb load with your evening pasta feeds and morning cereal troughs, train super hard so you can go harder and longer without falling apart, and possibly train the body to store more glycogen (yes, it’s possible to a minor extent, but soon you will learn how irrelevant this is), and to stuff sugary drinks, gels, and cubes down your throat, hopefully without gagging. Finally, it was believed essential to stuff your face with more carbs immediately after workouts in the so-called “window of opportunity,” when your muscles can restock glycogen optimally.

We are in the age of a transformation in the endurance scene to the extent that I might boldly proclaim that the endurance champions of the future will possibly be full keto or at least cyclic keto to gain a performance and recovery boost. To date, our endurance champions have fueled their efforts with sugar and beige glop—my pet nickname for grains. Who can forget when Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps’s diet was presented with great fanfare a decade ago as totalling 12,000 calories a day, featuring heaps of refined carbohydrates. Phelps later admitted to exaggeration, and readers at this site can appreciate the irony of his correction that he really only ate 8,000-10,000 calories…featuring heaps of refined carbohydrates. I still get giggles for a quip I wrote over 30 years ago in my first endurance training book relating to the prevailing ethos of the endurance community: “if the furnace is hot enough, anything will burn.” I related my impressive pre-race meal before my fastest marathon performance: a couple beers, a bag of frozen peas, and a half-gallon of rocky road ice cream—pretty much all that was available at my bachelor pad that night!

As our sophistication in training methods and health and nutrition science grows, we can all appreciate the destruction caused by eating garbage while pursuing ambitious fitness goals, especially when training patterns become chronic. The awakening is upon us, but unfortunately it seems like many athletes are stuck in the old paradigm. Sugary drinks, bars, and gels are still flying off the shelves, and the community as a whole is freely dispensing hall passes to each other and themselves to indulge in nutrient-deficient foods on account of their impressive workouts.

Sami and his mind blowing performances and self-experimentation results serve as a true inspiration for endurance enthusiasts to try something new with an informed and disciplined approach, and reap phenomenal benefits. Not just performance benefits (how about Sami moving his theoretical “time to bonk” value from 5.6 hours while carb dependent to 87 hours when fat adapted?!) but also health and freedom from disease risk factors driven by high carb eating and burning patterns. Enjoy the following commentary from Sami, encouraging athletes to consider a ketogenic approach.

Traditional advice for endurance athletes is to “carb-load” and to consume enough carbohydrates before, during, and after a race for fuel through the entire event and for recovery. But what if I told you that you could run or ride your bike for longer without hitting the dreaded wall? What if I told you that you could even recover faster and improve your metabolic health? All of this is possible, but only if you throw out the advice we’ve all been given about carbohydrates and exercise.

There’s a different path when it comes to fueling our bodies—a ketogenic diet. Restricting carbohydrates and relying on most of your calories as fat induces a state of nutritional ketosis, meaning that your body will use fat—both dietary and body fat—as its primary source of fuel. Even the most lean athlete has tens of thousands of fat calories on hand, so it makes sense to use them! The key is knowing how.

Here are 3 of what I believe to be the most compelling reasons for an endurance athlete to make the switch from a high-carb to a high-fat nutrition plan:

1. You can become virtually bonk-proof

As athletes, we want to be our best and be able to compete at our best. We prepare for months or even years with training plans for both our performance and our nutrition in hopes that we leave our best out on the course. Despite our strongest efforts, many of us know it’s possible to get to a point during exercise when we ‘hit the wall,’ regardless of how well-trained and prepared we are going into an event.

‘Bonking’ or ‘hitting the wall’ typically occurs after about 2 ½ hours into continuous, hard exercise, which corresponds to when glycogen (glucose stores) is really low. When exactly this happens depends on how long and how hard you’re pushing, but when your body can no longer meet the energy demands, it is essentially an energy crisis for the brain. You’re fatigued, not able to think clearly, and if you’ve ever experienced this during an event, you know that it’s simply miserable.

Ever since I experienced my first bonk on my bike, I’ve tried to figure out how to make myself bonk-proof, and eventually realized that I couldn’t do this by simply adding more and more carbs to my nutrition plan. When we eat and train with carbs, our bodies rely on them, but we have a limited ability to store them with a capacity of only 500-600 grams of glycogen (glucose stores), or about 2,000 calories. I’d have to eat gels and bars every 30 minutes to extend the point at which I’d run out of energy, but the ability to eat and absorb that energy while exercising is limited. Alternatively, we have the ability to store nearly unlimited amounts of fat. Even a very lean and small (~120lbs) athlete with low 7% body fat still carries about 30,000 calories of fat. Imagine being able to use that during a race!

So I learned how to rely on fat instead and my brain can rely on ketones (that are produced from fat by the liver) for a nearly unlimited supply of fuel. I’ve essentially made myself bonk-proof, and with fat as my primary source of fuel, I don’t need to eat anything at two hours anymore. It’s literally a game-changer! But becoming a fat-adapted athlete takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Just like training for an Ironman doesn’t happen in a week or two, neither does training your body to more efficiently burn fat. Once you become adapted to nutritional ketosis, or keto-adapted, there are several benefits. You rely less on the limited amount of carbs your body has and can more easily and quickly rely on your body’s fat for fuel. You increase the rate at which you utilize fat and you no longer ‘hit the wall’ at 2 ½ hours into an endurance event, even if you don’t have food available. In fact, the recent FASTER study demonstrated that fat-adapted athletes oxidize (i.e. burn) fat at a rate more than twice that of high carb athletes, which means the body has a better ability to access its fat and oxidize it for fuel.

2. You can recover faster

Being a successful high-performing endurance athlete isn’t just about the moments when you are working out or competing. It is also about how quickly you recover so that you can resume your usual workout regimen. Most athletes are familiar with the inflammation, soreness and swelling that comes after any hard workout or race. While some inflammation is necessary to increase muscle strength and is part of recovery from exercise, too much inflammation can interfere with the body’s repair process. It’s a balancing act. Many athletes will try just about anything to reduce post-workout inflammation, from ice baths to taking anti-inflammatory medications to chugging beet juice.

The less pain and soreness you have post-workout, the sooner you can go hard in your workouts again, and the better you might perform in the next race. After fully adapting to nutritional ketosis, I felt (subjectively speaking) a lot less sore and got rid of frequent nagging things like inflamed achilles tendons following the same workouts—racing my wife up Mt. Tamalpais [A 2,500-foot peak in Marin County, CA—just North of San Francisco], while just as strenuous as the times I had done it as a high-carb athlete, didn’t leave me with the same muscle soreness in the days after. It turns out that ketones don’t just function as important energetic molecules, but they have positive effects on cellular processes as well. Studies show that a well-formulated ketogenic diet reduces inflammation levels. Furthermore, I can get right back on the bike the very next day, meaning that I can train more frequently and don’t need as many recovery days.

3.  Your health may not be what it appears

The appearance of physical health and “fitness” can hide serious medical issues. Even if you are fit, strong, and lean, you may not be metabolically healthy.

I had no idea that this was true for me until around 2011-2012. I became a triathlon world champion in my age group and found out that I was prediabetic and metabolically unhealthy—my glucose values were consistently way above healthy ranges. Despite my years of high-level endurance sports, strict performance diets that perfectly aligned with the dietary guidelines, and very low body fat, I was on my way to developing type 2 diabetes. I was shocked to find out that following the low fat and ‘quality’ high carb dietary recommendations had led me to the brink of diabetes, but I was also determined to dig myself out of this hole. Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes are typically treated with medications (and, for some people, eventually surgery), but I wanted to try fixing my metabolic health myself. If following the dietary guidelines had led me to prediabetes, I thought there might be a way to reverse prediabetes—perhaps even by following the opposite approach.

My deep dive into published research led me to realize that the high carb diet recommended for athletes instigated my prediabetes by constantly spiking my blood sugar, and that my intense, regular, high-volume exercise had not been enough to keep my blood sugars in control. It turns out you can’t exercise enough to outrun bad nutrition advice. After finding peer-reviewed clinical research demonstrating that a high-fat, moderate protein, and low-carb ketogenic diet could help me reverse my prediabetes, I completely changed my nutrition plan and started tracking my blood sugar and ketone levels. I was amazed at how useful the regular biomarker information was to tweaking my diet around my body’s individual response.  Everyone truly responds differently to the same foods based on genetic differences, and you never know for certain until you test regularly. By switching to a well-formulated ketogenic diet and a data-driven approach, I successfully reversed my prediabetes and improved my metabolic health across the board.

The bottom line is that sustained nutritional ketosis has allowed me to:

  1. Increase my endurance capacity by providing me access to a larger fuel tank
  2. Reduce post-workout inflammation and thus recovery time, increasing valuable training time
  3. Reverse my prediabetes and improve my metabolic health

You can learn more about nutritional ketosis here in an FAQ by Dr. Stephen Phinney.

In Sami’s journey to becoming bonk proof, he painstakingly tracked his progress in repeated laboratory tests where he measured fuel substrate utilization while riding a stationary bike at a comfortable pace. The results as explained in this graph series (below) are astounding. Ditto for the details of the highly regarded FASTER Study, which compared the fat oxidation rates among elite ultramarathon runners who were on a low-carb, fat adapted diet to elite counterparts consuming a traditional high carbohydrate diet. Dr. Peter Attia, one of the most brilliant minds in the keto scene who now focuses on longevity medicine at his private practice in San Diego and New York City, has also chronicled his amazing transition from sugar burner to fat adapted cyclist. Attia went from burning 95 percent carbohydrate calories at anaerobic threshold to burning 25 percent carbs and 75 percent fat at the same threshold heart rate after a devoted period of dietary transformation. What’s more, Attia achieved an increase in wattage output at anaerobic threshold when fat adapted—in other words, he went faster on fat! This data shatters the notion that keto is only for long, slow endurance performance.

Take a look at Sami’s graphs from repeated performance tests in the Stanford laboratory, as he progressed from pre-diabetic sugar burning machine to a fat burning beast:


Graph 1 (above): Results of Sami Inkinen’s initial performance test from 2009. At 300 watts, he is burning almost all carbohydrates—destined to bonk after a couple hours, maybe three if he can slam down some gels en route.


Graph 2 (above): Sami’s second performance test at Stanford, coming off three months of devoted carb restriction and fat emphasis in the diet. Here, at 300 watts, Sami has doubled his fat oxidation to over 400 calories per hour, going from burning almost all carbs to about half carbs, half fat.


Graph 3 (above): Sami’s third performance test, on the heels of his amazing Clydesdale-style Wildflower victory, where he beat some of the nations best amateurs despite carrying 200 pounds (due to preparing for an interesting trip to Hawaii—details follow.) Notice the fat utilization at low intensity of around 85 percent of total energy and 750 calories per hour—triple that of the levels he delivered on his first test!

Sami’s successful transition to fat adapted athlete tee’d up one of the most remarkable endurance performances you will ever hear about. He and his wife Meredith Loring rowed a small boat from San Francisco to Hawaii—2,400 miles in 45 days. In the process, they raised $300,000 for the Institute of Responsible Nutrition, an advocacy group headed by anti-sugar crusader Dr. Robert Lustig. Because their journey was unsupported, Sami and Meredith traveled with some one million calories—ultra low-carb, high-fat selections like dehydrated beef, salmon, and vegetables, along with fruit, nuts and olive oil. Sami also lost 26 pounds on the journey, indicating that a combination of ingested fat and stored fat were his main fuel sources. A feat like this completely reframes the carb paradigm that endurance athletes have long existed in, whereby sustained endurance efforts were highly dependent upon successfully ingesting and absorbing a steady stream of carbohydrate calories. No, there was no bonking allowed aboard a twenty-foot rowboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! I don’t know how much more convincing you need to try ditching carb dependency and become fat adapted than this absolutely mind blowing data and enthusiastic message from Sami.

Check out our Primal Endurance Mastery Course to get the step-by-step guidance you need to achieve this objective without the high risk of backsliding and burnout that comes from an ill-advised approach. This online multimedia portal is the most comprehensive educational experience ever created for endurance athletes, with a robust video library of expert interviews as well as bite-sized video presentations that take you through the entire content of the Primal Endurance book. We also have a free sample video series so you know what your course experience will be like.

Note: After co-founding and selling the popular real estate website Trulia.com, Sami has embarked on a fantastic new venture as the CEO of Virta Health. They offer, “the first clinically-proven treatment to safely and sustainably reverse type 2 diabetes without the use of medications or surgery.” Their mission is to reverse Type-2 diabetes in 100 million people by 2025. Check out their cutting edge program.

Thanks for reading today, everybody. Let me know your thoughts below, and have a great week.


The post Can Keto Actually Work For Hard-Training Endurance or Power/Strength Athletes? appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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PrimalThis is a very simple recipe, with one secret ingredient: a little splash of fish sauce to add umami flavor to dark, leafy greens.

Sautéed greens are a quick and very healthy side dish for any meal. The most common set-up is olive oil, garlic and greens (which is delicious) but this recipe assumes that you want even more flavor, or perhaps a different type of flavor that will make greens more interesting (and less bitter).

Fish sauce is just the thing. It only takes a teaspoon of high-quality fish sauce to boost the flavor of greens. You can stop there, or add even more layers of flavor with ingredients like coconut milk, ginger, or red pepper flakes.

If dark leafy greens aren’t a regular part of your diet, use this recipe as inspiration to start eating more.

Servings: 2- 4

Time in the Kitchen: 15 minutes



  • 1 tablespoon Primal Kitchen® Avocado Oil (or other oil) (15 ml)
  • 1 bunch dark, leafy greens (try kale or collards), leaves torn from stems and cut into thin strips*
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce (5 ml)


  • Use coconut oil instead of avocado oil
  • Add ¼ cup/60 ml coconut milk at the same time as the fish sauce
  • Add red pepper flakes, or a sliced hot chili when garlic is added
  • Add chopped ginger when garlic is added
  • Try different types of greens: kale, collards, Swiss Chard, mizuna, bok choy



*The easiest way to chiffonade, or thinly slice, the leaves of greens is to tear or cut the leaves from the stems, stack a few leaves into a pile, then roll the pile into a tight cigar and slice

Heat a wide skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add green onions. Cook until lightly browned, 3 minutes. Add garlic, then quickly add greens in handfuls, stirring and adding more as the greens wilt.

Sauté about 3 minutes, stirring the greens several times and adding more oil if the skillet seems dry.

Add fish sauce. Stir and cook 20 seconds more, then turn off heat and put a lid on the skillet. Let the greens sit for 3 minutes, to steam and soften, before serving.

Greens with Fish Sauce 1


The post Midweek Quick Cooking: Easy Sautéed Greens with Fish Sauce appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Inline_SwerveAs we move into a new era of health awareness, there’s more variety than ever available to us. Overall, this is a very good thing—the average Primal consumer now has far greater access to a wider range of organic, free range, pastured, GMO-free, wholesome foods and products.

But this presents something of a dilemma when it comes to gray areas like sweeteners. While I don’t have much of a sweet tooth myself, I’m not a anti-sweetener purist either. While I lean toward stevia or monkfruit, I get a lot of questions about sugar alcohols, in particular a product called Swerve Sweetener, particularly from the keto crowd. 

What To Know

Swerve Sweetener is a “natural” sweetener blend. Loved by low-carb and keto bakers, Swerve provides a similar level of sweetness to sugar and an ability to caramelize, making it an easy sweet substitute in many recipes. According to the manufacturers, Swerve is “zero-calorie, non-glycemic and safe for those living with diabetes, since it has no effect on blood glucose or insulin levels.”

That all sounds dandy, but what’s actually in the stuff?  Swerve Sweetener is composed of erythritol, oligosaccharides, and natural flavors. Let’s break it down further.


Erythritol is a sugar alcohol that comprises the bulk of Swerve. In comparison to sugar, it’s said to be 60-70% as sweet and have a similar taste profile.

But that’s where the similarities stop. Containing a mere 0-0.2 calories per gram, erythritol is virtually calorie free.

As a sugar alcohol, erythritol is made from fermented glucose, usually sourced from corn. Considering Swerve uses only non-GMO corn, this probably isn’t too much of a concern for most folks, but it’s something to note. While the fermentation aspect is “natural,” there are certain synthetic processes along the erythritol production line, including hydrolysis to extract the glucose from corn or other fruits/veggies, and a crystallization phase to form the final product.

All in all, not too bad as far as sweeteners go. The scientific literature is positive regarding erythritol, showing no adverse effects on blood sugar and demonstrating beneficial effects on vascular function and oral health. Swerve also claims that erythritol is non-allergenic and less likely to cause digestive issues than other polyol sweeteners like xylitol. Good times.


Next down the ingredient list are oligosaccharides. These are a type of prebiotic fiber otherwise labelled as inulin, providing additional sweetness for your tastebuds and a beneficial food source for all the little good guys hanging out in your gut. The oligosaccharides found in Swerve are likely sourced from starchy root vegetables like chicory root, onions and garlic.

Once again we have an ingredient that’s natural (in origin, at least), provides a beneficial effect in the GI tract, and doesn’t adversely effect blood sugar. That being said, those folks sensitive to FODMAPs might not react well to Swerve, on account of the oligofructose found in plants like chicory root.

Natural Flavors

This is where Swerve lets the team down a bit. Under the FDA’s Code of Federal Regulations, any compound can be deemed a “natural flavor”, provided it was sourced from something natural. All well and good. But there’s very little legalities surrounding how that natural compound can be processed to form the end product (aka the natural flavor): it could be fried, distilled, squashed, roasted, acidified, discombobulated, or all of the above – just whatever takes the manufacturer’s fancy.

And by the time that natural compound makes it into your sweetener, it’s no more natural than the artificial flavors in the cheaper sweeteners further down the aisle. Can this flavor really be considered natural, then? I think not.

What’s more, Swerve has no legal obligation to disclose what that natural flavoring was actually derived from. On their site, there’s vague references to “natural flavor from citrus”, but really that doesn’t mean a heck of a lot in the grand scheme of things.

The Science On Swerve

Once again, the literature is overwhelmingly in favor of Swerve Sweetener. With regards to erythritol, high-dosage trials in rats (up to 4.6 g/kg) failed to show any chronic toxic or carcinogenic effects. Human trials at lower dosages (1 g/kg body weight—still a decent amount) didn’t reveal any gastrointestinal concerns or digestive upset, aside from higher fluid intake. That being said, there are anecdotal reports of some people personally not taking well to the stuff.

On the oligosaccharide front, it’s also reasonably smooth sailing. Oligosaccharides like those used in Swerve have been positively associated with improved gut microbial health and permeability, but there is a certain propensity for prebiotics like these to increase flatulence and have a mild laxative effect. Fair warning. Maybe it’s another reason to embrace the adage “a little goes a long way” here. 

Then there’s the natural flavors. There’s not a lot I can speak to here, not being privy to the actual contents of said natural flavors. It’s worth noting, however, that while the FDA requires natural flavors to be sourced from compounds that are considered GRAS, there have been times when GRAS ingredients and products have been taken off the shelves because the FDA didn’t do their homework.

Final Thoughts

At face value, and even below the surface, there’s nothing to complain about: Swerve Sweetener really does seem like the real deal. But it’s not my favorite sweetener when I reach for one, especially when I get that strange cooling sensation on the tongue after eating something sweetened with it. 

But the fact remains that most people tolerate Swerve well, and it’s won over much of the keto crowd—arguably some of the most discerning of all foodies. If you’re looking for a new sugar substitute, play around with Swerve, maybe mix it with other natural sweeteners to optimize taste, and see whether it works for you.

Thanks for reading everyone. Whats your take on Swerve? Do you use it? Tolerate it well? I’d love to hear your feedback. 

The post A Look At Swerve Sweetener appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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Dear_Mark_Inline_PhotoFor today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering three questions from readers. First, what do I make of the recent study showing a link between lung cancer in men and supplementation with vitamin B6 and vitamin B12? Next, how stable is folate in liver? Other foods with high folate content before cooking, like legumes and greens, lose a lot during cooking. And finally, what’s my take on the old study where subjects’ markers of oxidative damage improved after eating a diet bereft of produce?

Let’s go:

Mark, I wonder if you’ve seen the study linking lung cancer in men with vitamin B supplementation: http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/JCO.2017.72.7735

What do you think?

Interesting study, thanks.

Supplementation with vitamin B6 or B12 was not associated with lung cancer risk in women.

Supplementation with vitamin B6 or B12 was associated with lung cancer risk in men, but only if those supplements were taken separately. If they supplemented with either vitamin as part of a multivitamin, the risk disappeared.

In other studies, vitamin B6 appears to be protective against most types of cancer, including lung cancer. Circulating levels of vitamin B6 protect against lung cancer. People with low “functional” vitamin B6 status—meaning they have low levels of active vitamin B6—have a greater risk of lung cancer.

Here’s what I think is going on: The study is capturing people with vitamin issues and disorders that cause deficiencies. People who take high dose vitamin B6 or B12 are more likely to have those disorders. They’re more likely to have low levels of the vitamins. They’re more likely to be prescribed vitamin supplements to make up for the deficiency. They’re probably even more likely to be unhealthy; many people take vitamins as an antidote to poor health.

Maybe supplementing isn’t good enough to overcome the inherent deficiency, or the condition causing the deficiency. Maybe these people aren’t converting supplemental vitamin B6 into the active, “functional” form that protects against cancer. Many of the participants were smokers at baseline, and the vitamin-mediated risk of cancer went up in those who smoked. Maybe they’re taking vitamins in response to an underlying disease state.

Those underlying disease states change how vitamin B6 acts in the body. In one study, “functional” B6 status was protective against lung cancer, while another type of biomarker measuring the catabolism of B6 due to inflammation, was linked to a rise in lung cancer. Low-grade inflammation is often high in states of disease or general unhealthiness, and B6 catabolism is a strong predictor of all-cause mortality.

It does seem that cooking affects these folate sources differently. If you compare cooked (boiled, drained) legumes, lentils come out on top! (Although liver is still king.)

This is true.

Animal-sourced folate is quite stable whether you freeze it or cook it.

I should say that overcooking your liver will deplete the folate. 12 minutes of frying in corn oil until 158°F/70°C caused a 50% loss of folate. 16 minutes of broiling until 158°F/70°C caused a 40% loss. That’s an obscene amount of cooking. Cooked liver should be pink inside. Creamy, not grainy. Even then, you still maintain at least half of the already generous amount of folate.

Older studies got better results, with fried beef liver losing between just 11-15% of folate. They probably weren’t overcooking it.

A ghost said:

I’d love to hear your opinion on this study:

Man, I wish I could get my hands on the full study. I’ll comment, but keep in mind that I’m only going off the abstract. Consider this fun speculation, not iron-clad conclusion.

Researchers took 8 smokers and 8 non-smokers, removed all concentrated sources of flavonoids from their diet, and fed them meat patties dosed with green tea extract for 10 weeks. This amounted to a “fruit-and-vegetable-free diet,” as produce is the richest source of flavonoids.

Green tea extract had some positive effects on postprandial oxidative stress, but they didn’t last. The half life of the extract in the body was 2 hours. As the subjects peed it out, the antioxidant capacity returned to normal.

What’s weird is that oxidative damage to DNA, lipids, and blood proteins all decreased over ten weeks despite the subjects eating no produce and the green tea extract only improving antioxidant capacity for a few hours postprandial.

Maybe the diet was dense with vitamins and minerals. After all, vitamins and minerals serve antioxidant functions and provide building blocks for the production of endogenous antioxidants like glutathione.

Maybe most of the oxidative damage our DNA, lipids, and blood proteins face occurs immediately after eating. If so, the postprandial increase in antioxidant capacity could have made all the difference.

We don’t know enough about the rest of the diet to say anything else or do anything but make guesses. They weren’t only eating the green tea meat patties. They ate other stuff, too—a “strictly controlled diet” absent fruits and vegetables. I really wish I could get my hands on the full paper.

That’s it for today, folks. Help out down below if you have anything to add, ask, or proclaim!

Take care, be well, and Grok on.


The post Dear Mark: Vitamin B and Lung Cancer, Folate Stability in Liver, and Less DNA Damage on No Produce appeared first on Mark’s Daily Apple.

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The bikini pro and Olympia and Arnold champion shares her favorite tricks to achieve a head-turning midsection.

Have you heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”? I find this to be 100 percent accurate. Diet plays a major role in unveiling abdominal definition. But if you don’t develop solid muscle in this region of your body, you won’t have as much to show for your healthy eating choices.

Abs come in all shapes and sizes, with genetics playing a big role in their exact form. Some are wide, while some are narrow. Some are symmetrical, while others are “crooked.” These specific traits cannot be changed, but you can work with what ya got! You may naturally have a little extra flesh in the middle, but you shouldn’t lose hope. You may just have to work a little harder. Hey, we all have our strengths, weaknesses and unique beauty!

I try to work my abs twice a week. They can be trained in a short amount of time if you work them out efficiently. There are many bodyweight exercises that can be performed almost anywhere that can engage your core effectively.

Here are some of my top tips for tighter abs.   

Try my favorite ab workout:

Hold a 90-degree “L” on the Roman chair for one minute.

Do 30 reverse crunches using ankle weights.

Do 20 Roman twists (each side), using ankle weights.

Do one-minute flutter kicks on the Roman chair.

Do 10 V-hold-ups using ankle weights and/or small plates.

Repeat the workout three times.

Ready to get abs like Ashley? The Ashley Kaltwaser Challenge will guide you through a fitness and nutrition program that has helped her secure three Bikini Olympia and two Arnold Bikini International championship titles! For more details, click here.

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