Coconut oil contains small to medium-chain saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). MCTs permeate cell membranes to provide energy without the need for carrier proteins or special enzymes. This can be a really helpful source of calories on the Low Carb diet.
Saturated fatty acids constitute at least 50% of our cell walls and offer protection against unwanted materials invading the structural integrity of the cell wall. Coconut oil is the most stable source of fatty acids due to its high amount of saturated fats (92%). This stability is important because it reduces the free radical load on our bodies. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage our cells.
Coconut oil is rich in lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid. This combination of fatty acids has an anti-inflammatory and immune boosting effect through their antiviral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. Coconut oil also helps to balance blood sugar and increase ketone production which reduces inflammation.
It is best to use organic, unrefined coconut oil to reap the many benefits of coconut oil (alternatively MCT Oil can be used to kick-start the ketone production in the morning coffee).
Coconut oil is great for cooking because it has a higher smoke point than many other oils (like extra virgin olive oil). Rather than oxidizing, coconut oil remains stable and does not lose its antioxidant properties under high temperatures.
Cruciferous and Leafy Green Vegetables
Cruciferous, or brassica, vegetables are among the most nutritionally dense foods you can eat. They offer an array of vitamins and minerals and are rich in phytonutrients, carotenoids, and flavonoids. These compounds are a great part of the Low Carb diet because they are very high in beneficial fibre and low in carbohydrates.
Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates which increase the production of enzymes. Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds that are broken down into metabolites. Metabolites trigger specific enzymatic reactions that help detoxify the liver and increase its ability to remove carcinogens and heavy metals from the blood. They also aid in digestion.
Cruciferous vegetables include Brussel sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and mustard greens. They have a characteristic bitter taste and pungent aroma. .
Dark leafy green vegetables are packed with an array of vitamins, minerals (including trace minerals), and fiber. Some of the most nutrient-dense leafy greens are spinach, kale, chard, arugula, swiss chard, and collards. Bok choy is another superfood leafy green vegetable that has potassium, manganese, and magnesium.
Spinach, kale, chard and other dark leafy green vegetables are true superfoods. They contain almost 400% of the recommended daily value of vitamin A in just one cup. They also contain vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, and folate. The abundant antioxidants in leafy greens protect cells from damaging free radicals.
It is important to combine leafy greens with healthy fats for better absorption of the fat soluble vitamins.
Avocados are phytochemical and Nutrient Dense superfoods. The numerous beneficial compounds in avocados make them incredible for fighting inflammation in the body.
Avocados are packed with antioxidant phytochemicals, including beta-sitosterol, glutathione, and lutein. Glutathione, commonly referred to as “the master antioxidant” is crucial for good health. Glutathione and beta-sitosterol help to protect the body from free radical damage. Additional antioxidants in avocados include vitamins B, C, E, and K. These vitamins help neutralize free radicals and reduce cellular inflammation.
Avocados contain the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which have antioxidant properties and are vital for eye health.
Avocados are fiber-rich, low in carbohydrates, and loaded with healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and healthy cholesterols which make it the perfect choice for a Low Carb Diet.
Studies have shown that dietary MUFAs are protective against metabolic syndrome and cardiovascular disease risk factors. The fats in the avo also help the body absorb the nutrients in avocados.
Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries, are extremely Nutrient Dense.. Berries contain vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols; the most notable which are anthocyanins which give berries their distinctive colours. Anthocyanins have demonstrated antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti- inflammatory biological activity.
In addition to anthocyanins, berries contain abundant phytochemicals including ellagic acid and the flavonoids catechin, quercetin, and kaempferol. These compounds have antioxidant, anti-carcinogenic, and anti-inflammatory activity.
Another fruit that is excellent for reducing inflammation is cherries. Cherries are a rich source of polyphenols and vitamin C, both of which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that consuming sweet or tart cherries can prevent or decrease oxidative stress and inflammation.
Being naturally low in sugar, berries are one of the few fruits that may be eaten in moderation on the Low Carb Diet.
Olives and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olives contain fiber, vitamin E, vitamin, copper, and calcium.
Olives and olive oil contain anti-inflammatory compounds such as antioxidants, macronutrients, and monounsaturated fatty acids and should be key components of a well formulated Low Carb Diet.
Olive oil contains biologically active phenolic compounds (polyphenols) that exert positive effects on plasma lipoproteins, oxidative damage, inflammatory markers, platelet and cellular function, and antimicrobial activity.
Studies also show that olive oil can increase adiponectin levels of which low levels are associated with inflammation.. Adiponectin is a protein hormone which is involved in regulating blood sugar levels as well as fatty acid breakdown.
Extra virgin olive oil is the healthiest form of olive oil and has the richest flavour.
It is made without any heat or chemicals and has a low smoke point which means that it is best used drizzled over cooked or raw foods, or as a salad dressing.
Wild-caught fatty fish are a fantastic component of a Low Carb Diet and can benefit anyone with chronic inflammation. They contain the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA which have been shown to help reduce inflammation.
Your body metabolizes EPA and DHA into compounds called resolvins and protectins which act as anti-inflammatories. DHA has been found to not only decreases cytokine production and reduce inflammation but to actively promote the resolution of inflammation!.
The fatty fish that are the best sources of omega-3s are:
Another important consideration for reducing inflammation is the ratio of omega 3 fatty
acids to omega-6 fatty acids in your diet. The ideal ratio should be 1:1 but it has been found that many Western diets have levels as high as 1:40!!
While omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation, most omega-6 fatty acids increase inflammation in the body.
The typical South African diet includes high amounts of oxidized omega-6 fatty acids found in corn and soybeans. Consuming a diet with higher omega-6 to omega-3 ratios may worsen inflammation over time.
It is almost impossible to buy wild caught fish so supplementing with frozen or tinned fish is acceptable provided that it is from a sustainable source.
Nuts and Seeds
Nuts and seeds are little powerhouses of nutrition. Essentially a nut is the seed of the nut tree and contain all the nutrients that are needed to sprout a new tree!
They are good sources of healthy fats, fiber and protein.and are low in sugars making them the perfect addition to a Low Carb Diet.
A word of caution though; not all nuts are created equally; cashew nuts should be avoided as they contain 8g of carbs per 28g serving - not great if you are aiming to keep your carbs as low as possible.
Also, unlike what their name suggests, peanuts are NOT NUTS. They are legumes and should be avoided not only because of their high carb content but because they are one of the most allergenic foods known to man.
What would breakfast be without these nutrient-dense whole foods? Yet for may years they were demonised as being unhealthy and full of bad fats!
We fortunately know better now - not only do they contain a rich array of amino acids - they have vitamins A, D, E, choline, iron and folate and contain the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which have antioxidant properties and are vital for eye health.
With 7g protein, 5g fat and only 1 g of carbs they are the perfect food on a Low Carb Diet.
A word of caution though; make sure to eat eggs from pasture-raised hens. Mass produced eggs from batteries are not nearly as healthy as that of their free-roaming brethren and are full of antibiotic and vaccines residues; not to mention the welfare of the poor chicken.
And in most cases " free range" simply means that the hen may have access to a small concreted outside area exposed to the elements. Definitely not free to range!
Meat from grass-fed animals
As with eggs, most commercially available meats are from animals raised in a feedlot system. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, it means that the animal is contained in a pen until it reaches the ideal slaughter weight. The animals are typically fattened on a diet high in maize which is not the natural diet of ruminants like cattle with the result that the conversion of their food into muscle (the meat that we eat) is a lot faster which speeds up their time to slaughter by almost one third compared with their pasture-reared cousins!
Besides that, the meat from an animal raised in a feedlot has a much higher omega 6 to omega 3 ratio, making it pro-inflammatory!
Conversely, cattle raised on grass will take approximately 3 years to reach the desired weight for slaughter and their meat is high in good fats with a perfect omega 3 to 6 ratio. Furthermore the marbling in meat from pasture raised cattle will be distributed evenly throughout the muscle as opposed to only being contained to the subcutaneous region making the meat more tender once cooked.
Additionally the fat is where nasty things like heavy metals accumulate. So all the lead, aliminium and mercury that was in the feedlot animals' vaccinations will be stored in their fat.
The other benefit of meat from an organic origin is that there are no antibiotic or vaccine residues in the meat; something which meat from feedlots are inundated with especially chickens!
Bone Broth and Collagen
Bone broth and collagen are excellent for healing and repairing the gut and key parts of the Low Carb diet. They help to soothe and heal inflamed tissues in the gut. This strengthens the immune system as digestive issues are often the root cause of chronic inflammation and autoimmunity.
For people with gut inflammation, it is important to get easily digestible protein into their bodies. Bone broth and collagen are easy to digest and contain amino acids which support a strong gut lining. As the gut heals and the immune system stabilizes, food sensitivities, which are common with autoimmunity, can improve.
Bone broth and collagen protein can be made at home or purchased in liquid or powdered form.
You can make your own homemade broths using organic bones from beef, chicken, lamb or pork.