– Latest scientific research and data suggest that a major cause of obesity is increased consumption of refined sugar and carbohydrates
– Our carbohydrates should come from sources such as fruits and non-starchy vegetables
– Increased consumption of white bread, pasta, cereals, crackers, cookies, muffins, cakes, donuts, croissants, fatayer, kunafa…etc. leads to a marked increase in our glucose and insulin levels which stimulates the liver to synthesize lipids.
– Use the HashTag: “#LowCarbKSA and #FitnessArabika”, to contribute to Low carb dishes, recipes, pictures, and ideas.
– Together we can make a difference in decreasing chronic health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, Heart disease, hypertension and much more.
The general idea when well-wishing family and friends hear that I am trying to adopt a low-carb-keto diet is that either:
1- I am planning to ingest tremendous amounts of fat and clog my arteries
2- There are not a lot of food options and that I will be extremely deprived
3- This is another “FAD” diet, and that I am going through a phase
I tell you people, the general health benefits that this lifestyle has made me experience are unbelievable! Who thought that eating delicious fatty foods and not starving could lead to weight loss!
As you might notice I avoid using the term Low-Carb, High Fat Diet (LCHF); as this leads to the misconception that you are allowed to eat tremendous amounts of beef burgers fried in ghee and devouring sticks of butter all day.
This is far from true. The whole aim is to reduce carbs so that you reduce your insulin and glucose levels in order for your body to tap into your fat reserves.
The deficit in calories that you create by reducing carbs should be compensated by eating healthy fats.
This will help your body combat keto-flu and you will be fat adapted in no time.
There are endless amounts of YouTube videos on “what I eat in a day” on an LCHF diet. However, I thought I would compile a grocery list of things that can be found here in Riyadh-Saudi Arabia to remove the guesswork for you.
Keep in mind this list is not all size fits all. You have to know your macros, your goals and have a menu plan.
There are much more options that you may find on the net. I have stuck to basics in order to be budget friendly, keep things simple, and to make sure these items can be (mostly) found in the main supermarkets such as Tamimi and Danube, in case you live in Saudi Arabia.
Veggies are your best friend. Have a good helping of salads and greens every day.
Avoid starchy vegetables such as Golden potatoes.
Try to go organic whenever you can to increase the nutritional benefit and decrease the toxic effects of pesticides and harmful chemicals
Modify according to your health condition and needs. You can have lactose free, almond/Rice milk instead of regular milk. Instead of cheese, you can have nutritional yeast if you are vegetarian.
3- Meats and Proteins
Have a good assortment of protein such as Beef (preferably Grass-fed/organic), Poultry (preferably organic), and Fish (wild caught and not farm raised).
Organic – Pasture-raised eggs are recommended. However, work with whatever is available to you.
Beans and legumes are a good source of protein but have a high amount of carbohydrates. Have them in moderation.
Hummus is a good option. It is a good source of protein and has a low glycemic index.
3- Fats and Oils
The aim is to make your diet low in carb and raise the fat content in order for your body to burn fat.
You will only need to add small amounts of healthy fats to achieve this.
So don’t think you will be drowning your chicken drumsticks in butter or ghee.
As an example: on average most people might only need 2 TBS of Extra virgin olive oil/meal to achieve their macros for fat.
Avoiding wheat and decreasing grains is one of the most common causes of success to lose weight.
Check the grocery list for options. You can bake delicious pizza and cloud bread using almond flour.
Find the recipe for Almond Four Pizza on our Instagram account: fitness_arabika
5- Nuts and Spreads
Nuts such as almonds, walnuts and macadamia nuts where live savers for me. They cure the munchies and there is nothing more satisfying the licking some healthy peanut butter right off the spoon.
As with all your other ingredients, try to find organic nut butter. The ingredients should be simple and with NO Hydrogenated Oils and low in net Carbs.
CONDIMENTS AND DRESSINGS
It is better to avoid sugary-store bought dressings and sauces. Try to make your own dressings using a combination of the ingredients that are keto friendly.
I would like to mention here Organic Apple Cider Vinegar. Its benefits for burning fat and balancing the PH of the body are countless. Try to get the organic ACV “with the mother”, As this contains all the healthy nutrients.
Associations of fats and carbohydrate intake with cardiovascular disease and mortality in 18 countries from five continents (PURE): a prospective cohort study. Lancet. 2017 Aug 28.
This is where there has been a major paradigm shift in what we describe as a “Healthy Diet”.
More and more scientists, healthcare providers, and nutrition experts and finally some Medical Doctors (such as Dr.Mercola, Dr.Jason Fung, Dr.William Davis) are recommending a “Low-Carbohydrate” diet such as the Ketogenic diet.
Ketosis is a very natural process that the body switches to when food intake is decreased.
What we are aiming for is starvation of carbohydrates not starvation of calories.
By decreasing carbohydrates the body is forced to break down fat, this leads to the production of ketones.
Burning ketones is like burning clean energy such as “Solar Energy” while burning glucose is like burning “Diesel or coal”.
A key misconception is that you are allowed to have endless amounts of fat on the ketogenic diet.
This is far from true… Consuming large amounts of leafy green salads is a major cornerstone of this lifestyle
The whole point is to reduce the carbs (refined sugar, cookies, pasta, bread, croissants, muffins, donuts, cakes, fatayer, kunafa, biscuits, crackers..etc) and help the body become “fat adapted”.
The body is “fat adapted” when it can comfortably switch from needing to burn glucose to burning fat as a major source of fuel.
It might take the body a few days to weeks to adapt to the low levels of carbs, and this is called the “Keto Flu”.
As you make the transition from a typical High Carb-Low Fat diet to a Low-Carb/High-Fat (LCHF) diet; your body might rebel!
You might miss the “sugar high” and feel tired with low energy, and lethargy.
As long s you are consuming the recommended amount of calories that are right for you, along with healthy fats and moderate proteins; this stage will pass within a couple of days. Hang on there!
You will soon start enjoying the many, many benefits of a ketotic state such as no brain fog, high energy, stable mood, reversal of metabolic syndrome and best of all shedding of the unwanted weight.
How long should you be in ketosis?
Once you know the system; you can be in and out of ketosis. So make sure that you have some days when you slightly increase your carb (Healthy carbs) intake and then go back to ketosis.
From an evolutionary standpoint; we as humans are programmed to burn fat for fuel.
Our ancestors went through periods of famine and feast. During a period of famine they had to survive and be in a ketotic state and when there was food they would feast and nourish their bodies.
The point being they were not addicted to carbohydrates. For the sake of survival, they had to be keto-adapted (i.e. be able to get into ketosis when needed) in order to function with high efficiency.
How do you know you are in ketosis?
You will start losing weight as soon as you lower your carb intake. The first couple of pounds might be water loss because carbs retain water.
Get rid of the carbs and all the water retention goes away. This is why you need to make sure that you are replacing your electrolytes. Take lots of leafy greens for potassium and add sea salt or pink Himalayan salt to your water if you feel dizzy, hypotensive or are low on magnesium.
However to be sure that you are in nutritional ketosis you need to measure the ketones and glucose in your blood.
Most references recommend Precision Xtra that can be found on Amazon
So there you have it… A short and simple summary about ketosis.
As always make sure to do your own research and seek medical advice when needed.
Zoodles are zucchini spiralized in to noodle shape. It is a fun way to substitute the pasta with vegetables and it tastes great.
Here is how I make them. Give it a try and let us know how you customized it to suit your taste buds!
Spiralize the Zucchini using a spiralizer . Alternatively you can grate it.
Heat oil to medium heat
Add the zucchini
Fry till soft and the zucchini is dry
Top with chili flakes, grated Parmesan cheese or your favorite marinara sauce.
You can have it with minced meat, grilled/baked chicken or just salad.
Recently I have been asked by friends and family on what I did to lose weight and improve my health. I thought that I can share the things that I have learned in this post.
But first let me give you some background story so you can rely.
As a child, I was always the cubby one… I lost the “baby” fat around middle school by diet and exercise and remained in the “recommended weight range” till I got married. With my first baby at the age of 25, I gained and lost all the weight without even trying. However with subsequent pregnancies and 17 years later things are quite different! As you might have heard or know… as you age; the pounds keep piling up and losing the additional weight keeps on getting harder. I also came to realize that my “bad” cholesterol (LDL) was high.
When I sought medical advice, my doctor would say: “You have to have a low fat diet and loose the weight” (DUH??).
Well I tried the low fat, fat free, no cholesterol, whole grain, lean meat, no egg yolk….etc. for a while, but the weight and the cholesterol kept on increasing! Besides this my migraines where getting worse, I had low to no energy, and I was constantly having brain fog!
This is where I started doing my own research on high cholesterol and weight management.
These are things that worked for me. I urge you to do your own research, ask your physician and decide if they are suitable for you.
The following are the tools that I embraced to reduce weight, feel better and improve my health. I am not THERE yet, however I understand that this is a journey and not a destination.
I took the following step in the chronological order listed and the transition proved relatively easy for me. 1- Abolishing Refined Sugar
This was one of the hardest but the most important! Sugar can be more addictive to the body than cocaine! (AND I WAS DEFINITELY ADDICTED)
I don’t want this post to become a biochemistry explosion so this is a simplified version of why sugar is directly related to high lipids and obeisty.
2- Going Wheat/Gluten free
This one was a game changer for me. I had cut down the sugar and was on a low-fat diet but that scale would not budge! And though I felt better without the sugar, I still felt tired, and my migraines where still debilitating.
I heard about the book “Wheat
Belly by William Davis, MD” from a lady on YouTube who cured her Rheumatoid Arthritis and lost a lot of weight by adopting this life style. I bought my self a copy and dove right in.
If you live in Saudi Arabia; you can get the book from Jarir
Did you know that eating two slices of whole wheat toast causes your blood sugar levels to rise more than two table spoons of sugar!
I took my time to research about the side effects of wheat and grains. Once I was convinced I went gluten free.
This meant cutting down on all the breads, pasta, cereals, muffins, donuts, cakes, cupcakes, crackers, biscuits, cookies, pies, samosa, fatayer, kunafa, …etc.
By cutting down wheat/gluten and decreasing my grains I had lowered down my carb intake tremendously. This lead to dramatic reduction in body water retention as well as my total body weight.
I felt lighter, my joints where more flexible and migraines much better.
3- Going KETO-ish
By now my diet was basically no wheat and low fat. I did not want to go high protein because that would start a whole new bunch of problems and protein is processed in the body as carbohydrates… The problem was that I was hungry and tired.
This is when I discovered the Ketogenic diet.
What is a ketogenic diet?
A keto diet is defined as a low-carb diet, where the body starts producing ketones as the main source of energy.
Using ketones for energy versus glucose is like using clean oil versus dirty crude oil. The key is to have low-carbs, moderate protein and high “healthy” fats.
Being on a ketogenic diet has tremendous benefits. I will dedicate a whole blog post for this topic.
I say KETO-ish because I am not there yet. I have tried to embrace as much as I can and have witnessed amazing results.
Again it is a work in progress. I am not seeking perfection but rather for minor improvements every single day.
Ketogenic diet needs to be done correctly with supervision. So do your research and seek medical advice from an experienced health care provider.
4- Intermittent fasting
While I was researching the ketogenic diet and ketosis, I stumbled upon “Intermittent Fasting”.
Intermittent fasting is going as long as possible without eating in between meals.
So the typical eating window would be of 6-8 hours followed by a fasting period.
There are many variations to intermittent fasting and we will discuss this in more depth in upcoming posts.
Intermittent fasting gives your body a brake from metabolizing all the food, keeps the Insulin levels stable and taps in to your body fat for fuel instead of relying on all the carbohydrates from continuous eating.
I started having early dinners and pushing my breakfast as late as possible till I went down to only two meals a day.
5- Adding a workout routine
If you adapt a wheat free and keto life style, you will start shedding weight very rapidly.
Some experts say that health is 80% nutrition and 20% exercise.
I started adding a workout routine very slowly and gradually. We all have to start somewhere.
I did it to gain more flexibility and stability. Then started doing cardio and added strength training. Finally when I had more energy and endurance I started High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT).
Following is a summary of the tools that I have embraced to improve my health. Click on 5 tools for better health to down load a PDF version.
Butter Chicken is one of the easiest “Low Carb, High Fat (LCHF)” recipes that you can make. It’s so easy that even my 12-year old can make it!
This recipe is keto approved and grain free. INGREDIENTS:
500 gm Boneless chicken breasts
½ Onion chopped
2 TBS Butter/Ghee
1 Tsp each Garlic and Ginger paste
Spices to taste: coriander powder, cumin powder, chili powder, turmeric powder, salt ( add the spices that you like-these are only suggestions)
1 cup Heavy cream (works great with organic coconut milk as well)
2 TBS Tomato paste METHOD:
Melt butter in pan
Fry onions till golden brown
Add the garlic ginger paste and mix with the onions
Add the spices and combine all with onions
Add the chicken and stir fry till chicken is tender and fully cooked (20-30 minutes)
Lower the heat and add the cream and tomato paste.
Cook on low for 5 minutes till all ingredients are fully integrated.
Serve with salad or side vegetables.
Most of you who have had the blessing of being a mom and working a part time or full time job have faced at some point of your life the difficulties and challenges of juggling all aspects of life and keeping it all together. The inner desire to be the perfect homemaker, ideal mom, and best employee of the year (every year!!) pushes our fitness and health goals right to the bottom of our wish list. Being in the same situation my self; I can totally rely…
Following are some of the simple tips that have helped me stay on track and bring me closer and closer to achieve better health
1- Plan, Plan, and Plan your meals for the week.
Just as we would plan for a big event such as a dinner party, an upcoming vacation, or a cousin’s wedding… you need to plan your meals for the upcoming week in advance. Take sometime during the weekend, decide on a couple of healthy dishes and meal prep (more to come on meal prepping in future posts). Plan out your main meals and snacks.
Depending on your schedule, you can meal prep once or twice a week. This way you will always have some healthy options on hand and will not dive in to your kid’s snack cabinet when that pesky hunger attack strikes!
2- Pack your lunch for work.
Mornings can be hectic. You are multitasking and juggling so many logistics just like the Chicago O’hare airport watchtower!! Trying to get the kids ready for school, preparing their lunches, feeding your toddler, getting yourself ready, and maybe finalizing that PowerPoint presentation that you have to deliver! Among all this shemozzle we tend to forget to nourish our own body!
You don’t want to end up in the cafeteria and ordering a platter of burger and fries or at the vending machine.
Make it a point to pack your healthy lunch either the night before or in the morning along with a snack.
Aim to have low carbs, moderate proteins and a good helping of healthy saturated fats (e.g: avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, eggs…etc.)
The low amount of carbs and higher fat will keep your insulin levels stable and not lead to the sharp spike and dip in glucose levels. This helps to keep you alert and focused during the day and will not cause the post meal sleepy feeling we all get after a heavy meal full of carbs!
3- Take small walking breaks at work
Studies state that prolonged sitting might be just as bad as smoking!
Researchers suggest that you get up and take short walks every 30-40 minutes.
Read more here an article by Susan Scutti from CNN titled: “Yes, Sitting too long can kill you”
You can also utilize your lunch break and go for a brisk power walk.
If you have to be in business attire at work keep comfortable pair of shoes that you can change in to.
Casual, brainstorming meetings with a colleague can be “walking meeting”. This is proven to encourage more creative ideas, be less stressful and clears up brain fog.
4- Workout with your kids
If you are like the majority of moms and have no time, stamina, or the budget to join a gym; don’t worry!
You do not need to work out for more than 20-30 minutes; three times a week, in the comfort of your living room with minimal or no equipment and best of all…. You can workout with your kids.
Kids tend to enjoy hopping around, kick boxing and jumping jacks a lot.
Use this workout time to have some fun, bond and see the extra weight shed off!
5- Don’t stress over petty things
Stress is one of the major causes of obesity and ill health.
Stress causes increase in cortisol level, which is directly related to increase in Insulin levels.
Insulin is the “Fat Hormone”. It is scientifically proven that increase in insulin level leads to increase in body fat and specially that pesky belly fat!
Watch below Youtube videos by Dr.Eric Berg where he brilliantly explains these concepts.
How not to stress is out of the scope of this post, however try to find ways to solve your problems rather than pushing them away. Get guidance and seek help. Surround yourself with positive thoughts and positive people.
We live in such high paced world that slowing down has become a fantasy rather than a necessity. The continuous stress of a high demanding job and workload, providing for a family, achieving and fulfilling personal goals is taking its toll on our bodies. The continuous stimulation by stressors makes our body feel constantly under attack and fight and flight reaction stays turned on. The long-term activation of the stress-response system — and the subsequent overexposure to cortisol and other stress hormones — can disrupt almost all your body’s processes. This puts you at increased risk of numerous health problems, including:
Saudi Arabia, which has become increasingly westernized over the past few decades, now has one of the highest prevalence rates of overweight and obesity, even in children (Ref. Rev Environ Health. 2015;30(3):191-205)
Chronic diseases such as depression and hypertension secondary to poor life style can lead to a decline in the overall health. This also has a negative impact in the workplace, contribute to an increase in health-related expenses for employers and employees, and lead to lower productivity and/or days of work missed.
I am not claiming that by acquiring a healthy and fit life style we are going to eradicate diseases such as childhood malignancies or congenital abnormalities… We are talking about the chronic debilitating diseases (e.g Diabetes, Hypertension, Obesity…etc.) that cost the individuals their health and constitute approximately 70% of the budget of major health care systems. With the amount of explosive knowledge that we have access to now, every individual should take the responsibility of his/her own health and proactively take the initiative to improve their life.
Though the access to information is global, it’s not always possible to apply the same strategies or tactics all over the world. Fitness-Arabika strives to bridge this gap and we aim to present relevant tips and suggestions that can be implemented where ever you live in general with some specific recommendations to this region.