WV Culinary Team: What fuels your body through the holidays and beyond?

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From left: Mexican Hot Chocolate Cookies, Peanut Butter Thumbprint Cookies, Keto Black Bean Brownies and Salted Halva Fudge.

‘Tis the season — let the baking begin!

Baking in the Western diet today is centered on many forms of the very same thing: sugar.

From the refined carbohydrates of junk foods to breads, pastas, fruit and juices, sugar makes up most of what we eat in the Western world, especially at the holidays.

Watching my intake of sugar has been part of a lifestyle change I made over 30 years ago. Through the years, I have learned how to use natural, unprocessed choices to satisfy my sweet tooth. Eventually any craving I had for something sweet was satisfied by fresh fruit or a version of dessert that included a natural substitute, as well as fat and fiber. I have been fortunate to remain in good health since.

The recipes with today’s article are plant-based, grain-free, high-fat and low-carb. These sweets can provide you with your needed treat without spiking your blood sugar.

Your body needs sugar to fuel your brain and metabolism. But is the burning of glucose the best form of energy for your brain, metabolism and body?

“Most people struggling with health problems like fatigue, hormone imbalances, immune dysfunctions, and brain and metabolic issues are in sugar-burning mode: going from one sugary or grain-based meal to the next, becoming hungry and angry if they don’t get their fix. Even healthy, clean eaters can be stuck on this blood sugar roller coaster,” says Dr. William Cole in his book, “Keto-tarian.”

“On the other hand, a healthy ketogenic diet — where fat, not sugar, is your primary source of energy — has been shown to do some remarkable things for our brain heath. Healthy fats are a slow sustainable form of energy, unlike the sugary roller coaster many find themselves on. Making our brain and body work properly requires a lot of energy. From a biological and evolutionary perspective, the most sustainable form of energy for optimal brain health is good fats.”

In a nutshell, the ketogenic diet is a high-fat, low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein way of eating that shifts your body from burning glucose (sugar) for energy to a state of ketosis, in which your body preferentially uses ketone bodies and fat as a fuel source.

Your liver creates ketone bodies from fat when your body needs more to make energy but no glucose is present. This process most commonly occurs during periods of carbohydrate restriction, intermittent fasting and exercise.

Keto helps with the glucose-insulin relationship. Once an individual is in ketosis and no longer relying upon glucose, the pancreas can relax its insulin production, lowering insulin levels and allowing the body to regain its insulin sensitivity and blood sugar balance. This process offers healing as it will lead to improved balance within the body.

The fats that are the healthiest for you come from avocado, coconut, olives, nuts, seeds and their oils. Make your choices based on these fats and not animal fats.

The recommended sweeteners for this diet are stevia, monk fruit and erythritol — including lakanto, swerve and sukrin. The last three are erythritol blends. If you are using these sweeteners in a traditional recipe, use between one-third to one-half the amount of sweetener called for in the nonketo recipe. These are very sweet.

Xylitol-based sweeteners are also low carb, but they tend to be a little harsher on people’s digestive systems. Additional xylitol is highly toxic to pets, so be sure to keep it away from your animal friends.

I sense a chemical aftertaste in all of the above low-carb sweeteners. My choice is to sweeten with powdered coconut sugar at one-quarter the measurement or a little coconut nectar. I need much less sweetness, so this works for me.

Jan. 1, 2020, will mark one year of my experiment with the online plant-based ketogenic lifestyle. Following the program lead by Chef Elaina Love and Katelyn Louise has been fun and rewarding. The program consists of four 30-day sessions per year. One session with each season. During the off months, your diet includes a greater variety of healthy carbohydrates.

I have had some great results. I have lost weight, felt satiated for longer periods of time, reduced inflammation and have more energy. I chose to try this way of plant-based eating after many years eating plant-based, high-carbohydrate, semi-raw foods. I had gained some unwanted pounds and decided that my metabolism needed to be reprogrammed. It works for me with some alterations.

Carbohydrates are not bad. They are natural components in plants, and therefore in the foods we eat. The key is to not avoid carbohydrates altogether but to choose the carbohydrates that give you the most nutrition.

In a standard Western diet, most of the carbohydrates come from processed grains or starches and refined sugars. In a plant-based ketogenic way of eating, the majority of carbohydrates come from nuts, seeds, greens, non-starchy vegetables and some berries.

There are some individuals who may not respond favorably to making this kind of change so it is important to work with a nutritional professional and gain a full understanding of the changes your body can experience. Please keep in mind that every body is different, and although the method may work for some, each individual’s path to healing will differ.

No matter what eating style you choose, make sure to practice it with care.

I have expanded my knowledge beyond the online program to include two books that also have great recipes and additional information about the diet: “Vegan Keto” by Liz MacDowell and “Keto-tarian,” by Cole. You have the choice of adding in fish and eggs with Cole’s book.

Registration for the 30-day plant-based ketogenic program starting January 2020 has begun. Contact me at eatsofeden.com to register.

Sally Miller is the owner and operator of Eats of Eden, a Charleston-based nutrition education business that offers an alternative choice for healing the body through nutrition. She attended Carnegie Mellon University and in 2009 graduated from Bauman Holistic Nutrition College, specializing in holistic nutrition education. She has recently become certified as a Gluten Free Practitioner. For more information on classes and consultations, visit her website at eatsofeden.com.

Funerals for Sunday, February 16, 2020

Atkins, Linda - 3 p.m., Fidler & Frame Funeral Home, Belle.

Call, James - 2 p.m., Chapman Funeral Home, Hurricane.

Hankins, Sara - 1 p.m., McGhee-Handley Funeral Home, West Hamlin.

Hensley, Joshua - 2 p.m., Evans Funeral Home & Cremation Services, Chapmanville.

Jackson, Jeffrey - 6 p.m., Lantz Funeral Home, Buckeye.

Jobe, Joe - 2:30 p.m., Sunset Memorial Park Mausoleum Chapel, South Charleston.

Johnson, Freda - 2 p.m., Kanawha Valley Memorial Gardens, Glasgow.

Ratcliff, James - 3 p.m., Curry Funeral Home, Alum Creek.