#392: Keto Essentials with Vanessa Spina

Diane Sanfilippo Featured, Paleo and Primal, Podcast Episodes Leave a Comment


  1. News and updates from Diane [1:56]
    1. Balanced Bites Meals
    2. Upcoming Phoenix trips
  2. Introducing Vanessa Spina and something she's digging lately [4:05]
  3. Keto and athletes [9:20]
  4. Fat digestion and hair loss [11:44]
  5. Weight loss plateau on keto [18:15]
  6. How low-carb is low enough [26:39]
  7. Artificial sweeteners [34:24]

The episodes are also available in iTunes, Spotify & Stitcher.

 Show sponsors:
NTA | Podcast Sponsor | Balanced Bites Podcast | Diane Sanfilippo





You’re listening to the Balanced Bites podcast episode 392.

Diane Sanfilippo: Welcome to the Balanced Bites podcast. I’m Diane; a certified nutrition consultant, and the New York Times bestselling author of Practical Paleo and the 21-Day Sugar Detox. My newest book, Keto Quick Start, released on January 1 of this year, 2019. I live in San Francisco with my husband and fur kids.

I’m the co-creators of the Balanced Bites Master Class with my podcast partner in crime, Liz. And together, we’ve been bringing you this award-winning podcast for nearly 8 years. We’re here to share our take on modern healthy living, answer your questions, and chat with leading health and wellness experts. Enjoy this week’s episode, and submit your questions at http://blog.balancedbites.com or watch the Balanced Bites podcast Instagram and Facebook account for our weekly calls for questions. You can ask us anything in the comments.

Remember our disclaimer: The materials and content within this podcast are intended as general information only, and are not to be considered a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Before we get started, let’s hear from one of our sponsors.

Liz Wolfe: The Balanced Bites podcast is sponsored in part by the Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants (including me; I’m an NTP), emphasizing bio-individuality and the range of dietary strategies that support wellness. The NTA emphasizes local, whole, properly prepared nutrient dense foods as the key to restoring balance and enhancing the body’s ability to heal.

The NTA’s nutritional therapy practitioner program and fully online nutritional therapy consultant program empower graduates with the education and skills needed to launch a successful, fulfilling career in holistic nutrition. To learn more about the NTA’s nutritional therapy programs go to http://www.NutritionalTherapy.com. Don’t forget to check out their free Nutritional Therapy 101 course.

1. News and updates from Diane [1:56]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok folks, a couple of quick updates before I get into my guest interview today. Balanced Bites meals are here; yay! If you have not already heard. If you have not listened to previous episodes. Balanced Bites meals are here. There’s a keto box; there’s also a paleo box. And you can head over to www.blog.balancedbites.com. I hope that you love them; people have been absolutely loving them. Fantastic for just keeping around on those days when you're super busy.

I really enjoyed having them on hand a few weeks ago, especially Scott was away for an entire day, and I was home and just wanted food quickly. I didn’t want to have to spend a ton of money and call and wait for it; delivery here in the city, and I did not want to have to cook, and clean, and deal with all of that. It was so nice to be able to heat up a couple of meals. I had one for breakfast, and one for lunch. I think I also had one for dinner. And just put a little bit of my fresh garnish on top, and absolutely loved having my own meals in my house.

So, let me cook for you. Balanced Bites meals. Head over to www.blog.balancedbites.com.

And I have one kind of not the best update for some of you. So this podcast airs on March 21st, and I had an upcoming stop in Phoenix that was kind of wrapping up the book tour. But unfortunately, I have to cancel that event. So, thank you all to those of you had RSVP’d. It just turns out I have a scheduling conflict, and I did not anticipate that scheduling conflict. Because I will be in town for a conference, and I did not think that I would have any scheduled on that evening. And it turns out that I am required to be attending something at the same time as the book signing would be.

So, I apologize. I am definitely going to do my best to come back to the Phoenix area. I love you guys there in Phoenix. And thank you for our support of that event. And if any of you were waiting to grab the book, I do apologize. Maybe I’ll see if I can get to a store nearby and sign some copies. I don’t know what will be near the conference center that I’m at. But thank you guys so much for having RSVP’d to that. And I am sorry that I will not be able to be at that event.

2. Introducing Vanessa Spina and something she’s digging lately [4:05]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so today I have Vanessa Spina on the show. We’re going to be bringing back everything to basics. Talking through some keto 101 topics. And to give you guys a little bit of background on Vanessa, she is the best-selling author of Keto Essentials; which is also published by Victory Belt, my publisher. She’s a speaker across North America and Europe, and the host of the Fast Keto Podcast.

She is passionate about the ketogenic way of life as defined as a starch-controlled diet that prioritizes nutrient dense protein and essential fats to optimize for metabolic health and be in a fat fueled state.

Vanessa has an undergraduate degree from the University of British Columbia where she studied food and nutrition as her elective courses, and went back to school in 2018 to study Biochemistry with a Medical Perspective at the University of Toronto. She is also the founder of Ketogenic Girl, www.ketogenicgirl.com, and her popular 28-Day Ketogenic Girl Challenge program. Vanessa is passionate about democratizing optimal metabolic health with real food nutrition.

So, Vanessa, welcome to the show!

Vanessa Spina: Thank you so much for having me, Diane. It’s really an honor to be here. I really appreciate you having me on.

Diane Sanfilippo: Well, I’m excited to introduce you to our listeners. So we’ll break the ice a little bit with one of our fun segments of a new thing that you're digging lately. So tell us something that you're into right now.

Vanessa Spina: I think one thing that I’m really into right now is mindfulness as a practice through yoga, and also through; there’s a book that I’ve been really, really into since this summer called the Untethered Soul by Michael Singer. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of him, or the book. But it’s been…

Diane Sanfilippo: I have heard of the book, yeah.

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. You know those books that just completely shift things in a really powerful way. I had one when I was in university which is the Power of Now by Eckert Toll. And this one seems to be the next one kind of in that; in terms of that same kind of power and effect it’s had on me and my life right now. So, it’s just an incredible book. It’s really just all about practicing mindfulness in daily activities. And just tuning in a little bit more to your own inner dialogue. I’ve just found it to be really powerful. Not just reading it once, but reading it over and over and kind of making a study of it. So it’s really been something I’ve been super into lately.

Diane Sanfilippo: I love that. That is awesome. So we’re both supposed to do something we’re into; and mine is certainly not as deep. {laughing} But I will say right now I’m into; well I’m into two things. I’m into Hu Kitchen chocolate. That’s for sure. It is not keto friendly, so we’ll throw it out there. It’s a good one for your days when you're maybe having some more carbs. And this is not sponsored, but anybody listening knows if something, whether it’s sponsored or not, we only talk about stuff we love. But I love the hazelnut filled one. It’s so delicious.

And it is soy free for people who need really paleo soy free stuff. And several years ago, when I was launching the 21-Day Sugar Detox book, I actually did a book signing at Hu Kitchen in New York. So I know the owner, Jordan, and I remember when they started making these chocolate bars. And they were at; I think it was Expo West, or one of the big natural product expos. And I just thought it was really cool that they were creating a food product, but they had this restaurant as a base. So it was such a fun thing.

Anyway, I’m super into that. And the other thing I’m into right now is being in one place, and being done with my tour. I mean, I know it sounds crazy, but it’s been nice to just be home. And I will have a little bit of travel this month, but it’s just not the same when it’s not kind of that revolving suitcase, basically. I still need to unpack, and do some laundry from my last trip, but I was kind of rebelling against it this time. So anyway. I’m really happy to just be home. So yeah, that’s what I’m into lately.

Vanessa Spina: That was my mantra after we got back. Was the exquisite pleasure of not going anywhere. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally.

Vanessa Spina: I can relate. It’s really nice to appreciate your home, though, and just love being in your home and your space and not wanting to go anywhere else.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally.

Liz Wolfe: Today’s podcast is sponsored by Perfect Keto. Dr. Anthony Gustin and his teams have created a line of supplements that are super clean and effective, no matter what your dietary needs. Diane has been blending their MCT oil powder into her matcha latte lately. Not only are MCTs; medium chain triglycerides; a premium source of your body’s preferred type of energy; they help to fuel your brain and body, but there’s also no added taste. It makes your coffee or matcha wonderfully creamy. Check them out at PerfectKeto.com and use the code BALANCED for 20% off at Perfect Keto; and their sister site, Equip Foods.

3. Keto and athletes [9:20]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so we are going to do a little keto 101, and talk through some of the basics. And we had a few questions come in from our listeners over on Instagram. So let’s dive in a little bit here.

So we have a question here. This one is about considerations for keto and athletes. “What are some guidelines or resources for eating keto as an endurance athlete?” This person is considering training for a sprint or middle-distance triathlon. “Since fat for fuel is a sustainable and efficient fuel source, how should daily intakes be adjusted for that kind of physical output?”

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. I actually recently had a couple of athletes on the show, and I’ve been having more and more athletes who are keto come on and talk about it. And it’s really interesting because doing keto can be really amazing when you're doing athletics and a lot of endurance exercise. A lot more than people think. Because it is a different kind of more long-lasting fuel source. Both carbs and fat really are energy. So you can do endurance exercise with carb loading, and eating a lot of carbs. You can do really well on that.

But with keto, you can also do really, really well doing a low-carb diet or doing a keto diet. We’ve just had a top performing cyclist come on the show who does keto, and he has been hitting PRs, and there are all these athletes out there who are doing all these amazing things following a keto diet that are really just breaking not only their own PRs, but also winning all these competitions, despite what people might think. That they really need to have carbs in order to do that exercise.

I think the most fundamental thing is to make sure that you're keeping your electrolytes up if you want to be doing athleticism and just a lot of long-distance exercise and that kind of thing with keto. Because it’s really important to maintain and make sure your electrolytes are really well maintained. There’s a lot of water loss that happens when you're doing endurance exercise. It’s also just one of those things that’s important to research when you're looking into it.

4. Fat digestion problems [11:44]

Diane Sanfilippo: Awesome. So this one is a digestion question. And this listener asks, “When I increase fat and lower carbs, my stool gets very loose. I eat mostly paleo, so it's not a huge shift. I also eat a ton of vegetables. I am years into healing my digestion after long term PPI use. So I still use digestive enzymes and HCl daily. Is this a common issue, or an indication that a higher fat diet isn't for me?”

Vanessa Spina: It could be. I know some people really struggle with keto and eating fats when they haven’t been used to doing it. And you definitely can do keto without eating tons and tons of fat, as long as you're really prioritizing nutrient-dense foods, nutrient-dense proteins. You're eating essential healthy fats. You don’t have to go crazy and eat 100-200 grams of fat per day; especially if you're having reactions to it.

Really, the priority from what I’ve researched in keto, is controlling your starches and keeping your carbohydrates on the lower end. So if you are having digestive issues with eating a lot of fat, you might just try eating less fats or reducing the fats.

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok. So there’s another question here on hair loss. She’s asking, or saying, “Recommendations on hair loss please! I’ve been strict keto for about 5 months now and all of a sudden losing hair like crazy. I supplement with collagen already, but recently added in biotin and upping my protein. I’m starting to get really nervous!”

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. I actually see this question all the time. I’m not sure if you do, too, Diane. But I find that a lot of times, the hair connection is because people are overly restricting protein on keto. And they’re afraid of overdoing protein, and getting kicked out of ketosis. But we really need protein. Our keratin, our hair, is made out of protein. So many of our biological functional material is made out of protein. So a lot of times, I find that it can be from people just overly restricting protein.

It’s really helpful to make sure you're getting adequate protein. Not overly restricting it. And also supplementing with things like collagen, and it sounds great doing biotin and adding that in. But collagen, and adding that to your coffee. Doing collagen coffee can be really helpful. Or just having more bone broth. And just making sure that your protein is really adequate and you're getting enough to meet your nutrient needs.

Because hair loss can be an indicator. Just from changing up your lifestyle really dramatically. Sometimes people undergo different shifts. But a lot of times, I think it can be connected back to just not eating enough protein. And being fearful of eating too much protein.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. One of the things that I try and remind people; well, two things I try and remind people. One is that if you went keto pretty strictly, and you were eating a lot more carbs before. So say you were eating 2-300 grams of carbs a day, and you went to 20 or 30 grams of carbs a day, that’s a really intense shift for your body. And hair loss often happens several months after the stressor hits.

Sometimes people think it’s a result of what they’re doing today, but it’s really a result of something you did two to three months ago. Or; she’s saying it’s been 5 months. So it could have been that when she made that shift, it was just a real shock and stress to her body at that time, so it’s causing this problem now.

And the other thing that happens. It’s not only that reduction in carbs, but sometimes; I would say often times, especially with women. You know, a great benefit of the keto diet is that people spontaneously reduce calories. Meaning, without intending to, a lot of people reduce their calorie intake. I’m not one of those people. {laughs} I’m one of those people who has no problem getting enough calories, no matter what it is that I’m eating.

But it’s really, really common. Because keto is so satiating that folks will go from, let’s say, eating 1800-2000 calories a day to 1000 or 1200 calories a day. And while that sounds like a great way to lose weight to many people, it’s actually way too intense of a cut back on your nutrition. It’s a drastic reduction in energy intake. So your body is pulling back on it’s output of producing non-essential elements to your body. One of which is obviously hair. The hair on your head and your body hair is not essential for life, right?

So those elements of your body that are; and this goes back to kind of the sex hormone question, too. It’s like; sex hormones start to go out of whack when the body is overly stressed. Because reproduction is not critical for staying alive. It’s an auxiliary function. So hair is auxiliary, reproduction is auxiliary. So if you think about it in that way, and you think about; what did I do, or what am I doing that’s stressing my body. Your point about protein is; that’s for sure a critical element.

People need to be getting enough protein. And overall need to be not undereating. You need to be eating an adequate amount of food. Because weight loss happens best when you're only slightly reducing what you're eating over time. Relative to what your body is burning. But if you do it in this way that’s shocking your system, then that hair loss is not surprising at all.

And one of the other reasons for hair loss is that; if you're slowing down your metabolism because you are reducing calories, or you're reducing protein too much, that’s hitting your thyroid, which is telling your metabolism slow down. And it’s telling your body that hair is not the most essential thing right now. That just protecting your body is more essential.

So hair loss happens for a lot of different reasons. And for sure, making sure you're getting enough protein. And making sure you're eating enough calories overall. That’s where the savvy keto tracker in Keto Quick Start can be really helpful in a different way than people think. Sometimes people think it’s just for weight loss. But I would love for this listener to see if she’s even eating enough protein, or eating enough overall, like, according to that tracker. And I would be surprised if she was eating enough. But definitely.

5. Weight loss plateau on keto [18:15]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so this one is on a weight loss stall. This listener says, “I lost 10 pounds in three months, but afterwards for two long months nothing! What could be the reason for my weight loss stalling?”

Vanessa Spina: And this person is doing a ketogenic?

Diane Sanfilippo: Mm-hmm. Everyone, yeah. All the listeners.

Vanessa Spina: All the questions; yeah. So I find that it can be helpful, if you hit a stall, to do a couple of things. The main one that I usually recommend is doing body composition scanning or DEXA scanning. It’s not always available in your immediate area, but I think if you can find a DEXA scan online. Or even, there’s underwater scanning. Which is even more accurate. They have these new things sometimes at shopping malls that are called bod-pods. You can go in and have a body scan done. But the most accurate ones are the water or lay down body scan.

Because that will really show you what your actual muscle, bone mass is combined. And what your body fat percentage is. And I think that’s really what we want to focus on, is optimizing for your metabolic health. Which is why most people are doing keto. You really want to be optimizing for the best body composition. And it is really important to not rely so much on the scale.

Because our weight can fluctuate by 5 to 10 pounds, just depending on where our estrogen is at. Because estrogen binds to water in the body. Depending on what our sodium balance is. Because one cubic foot of water weighs 62 pounds. So water contributes a lot to the scale. If you had a really salty dinner the night before with lots of cured meats. You can put on up to 5 pounds on the scale, and it’s just because of water retention.

I find that people are affected even more by that on keto, because there’s this factor of keeping up your electrolytes, is so much more magnified because you're not getting sodium from packaged foods. You're eating so much real food that you're needing to supplement so much with your sodium and your electrolytes.

So I really recommend getting body composition scanning done so that you can, instead, try to go by what is your actual percentage of body fat. If you're putting on more lean mass, you're not going to see the scale moving. If you're retaining water, you're not going to see the scale moving as much. But you might still be burning fat. Especially if you're doing keto, and you are restricting starches quite a bit. You're probably in a fat burning mode.

The other thing I would say you can do is some testing to see if you are in a state of ketogenesis or not. You can do some testing if it’s something you're interested in. I’m a huge data geek, so I love to do testing. And it really helped me to kind of figure out; were there things I was doing that were sort of keeping me out of this fat fueled state.

Was I maybe overdoing it on the coconut butter? Or on certain things I thought of as keto foods that were kind of a free for all so I could have them as much I wanted to. Especially all the high-fat dairy. And there were things that were kind of stalling me out that I didn’t realize until I started testing. And saw that gave me some feedback and something to go by.

If you're going to keep weighing yourself, one of the best things I’ve found is to take a daily measurement, and then take a weekly average. You’ll tend to see that even if you're having fluctuations, say from hormonal ups and downs or from your sodium or water retention, you’ll still tend to see an overall trend downwards because you are losing fat. But sometimes you get it all at the beginning on keto, because you lose all this water from depleting your glycogen. So you get this; oh, I lost 10 pounds in a week. But really your body is just catching up to that on the scale over time slowly.

So I really like body composition scans. It also kind of gets us away from certain numbers in our heads that may not necessarily mean much. But they’re just there for some reason. Whereas focusing on; I know what really healthy body fat percentage is and I want to have strong muscles and strong bones. So being able to set goals based on that, instead of getting into just an arbitrary number on the scale.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think the cool thing, too, about the DEXA. I don’t know if the bod-pod does this. But the DEXA does; oh my gosh, now my brain is totally short-circuiting. {laughs} It does; oh, it does visceral fat. I was like, why is my brain not pulling this up. Look, I’m on rest after the tour mode.

But the DEXA, I know, does visceral fat separately from just adipose. Which is really interesting, too. Because even if somebody isn’t losing weight. Even if their body fat percentage hasn’t changed in total. Let’s just say they’re coming up; I’m just going to throw out a random number. Let’s just say they’re coming up a female 35%. Which is a little higher than we would want as a female.

If they’re noticing that that 35 is shifting, the first thing you want to do is be getting rid of that visceral fat, at the very least. Because that’s the more dangerous to your health type of fat. Whereas a little bit of extra fat around your hips, and your but, and your arms. No, we don’t always love it. But it’s not dangerous to your health. So that’s where I think it would be helpful to look at that too. And I’m with you on that metabolic shift.

This is where, as I mentioned previously, about people who are tracking to make sure they’re eating enough. This is where the savvy keto tracker in my book also comes in handy. And I know I keep pointing to the book, but that’s where I put the resource. And I do think that for some people, to your point about eating tons of full-fat dairy, or eating tons of certain things. Just because they’re low-carb or no-carb or keto; keto friendly. It doesn’t mean that you're eating the right amount for you, necessarily. And it’s still easy to over eat on keto. Especially if you're somebody who had a propensity to overeating for most of your life. And especially if adding fats back in is so exciting. It’s easy to overdo it on the overall energy intake that you have.

And again, we’re not talking about cutting back calories 1000 per day. But if you're consistently overeating 500 to 1000 calories a day, you might not be able to lose that weight. So hitting the plateau is definitely tricky. And I think when people spend many months losing 10 pounds in three months, but now two more months now. She knows what to do with keto. I think it’s an ok place to actually try and track how much protein and fat are you eating, alongside however much carb it is. Because she may find that she is way overeating fat. And getting your body to tap into what’s stored, if you're really putting in more than you need. It’s just not going to happen. So, I think that can be a useful tool because the reason for the stall could be so highly varied.

And then to your point, too, about actually focusing on your body fat and metabolism and body composition. If she’s not exercising, adding in some resistance training. I mean, the fastest way to really get your body using more of what you're putting into it is to increase your muscle mass overall. So I love for people to start thinking about weight training. I think it’s just super helpful.

Vanessa Spina: Yes. 100%.

6. How low-carb is low enough [26:39]

Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, so here’s a question on being fat adapted. “How low-carb does one need to go to become fat adapted? I know 30 grams is recommended, but I’ve seen people eating 60 grams and it works for them. I’m trying to find my sweet spot, and gradually paring down from 100 grams of carbs.” What do you say about that?

Vanessa Spina: I think that this is where testing can be so awesome. Because it really depends on the person. So I know we’re all special snowflakes, but studies have shown the people will get into ketogenesis at around 20 grams of carbs per day. And a lot of people find that number to be extremely low. But it’s really where some of the research has backed up where people actually get into that fat fueled state, where they shift from being more of a sugar burner to fat burner.

And we’re always burning both fuels all the time. But when you're in that fat fueled state, you're burning fat as your primary fuel. And glucagon is dominant. Insulin is low. But this can happen at all these different ranges, depending on where you are with your own metabolic health. So how insulin sensitive you are. How glucagon sensitive you are. How your hormones are generally performing. And how active you are.

So for myself, I can only get into ketosis if I go at or under 20 grams of carbs. But my husband can get in there around 60 grams, because he’s just pure lean mass. {laughs} Unlike myself. And he is very active all the time. He’s always moving around. I’m more kind of a relaxed sloth-like person. I like to say the sloth is my spirit animal. Although I am… {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh. Em. Gee. {laughing}

Vanessa Spina: I am getting more and more back into fitness. I just really burned out on it from so many years of trying to run off all of the body fat that I had that I didn’t want, in the gym. And I really burned out in there. So I really went the other direction for a while, just focused on getting my nutrition right. Focusing on nutrition.

But getting back to the question; activity levels play a big role, as you yourself mentioned. And it really depends on if you have a history of metabolic syndrome in your family. If you have any insulin resistance yourself. And testing can really help you to see.

And a lot of people focus on ketone testing; I really like to focus on blood glucose testing. Because the two are inversely correlated. So you can really see, just relying on testing your blood glucose mostly, doing fasted reading in the morning. You can see if you have ketones that are anywhere above 0.2, 0.3. 0.5 is technically where you; is marked as kind of the start of being in the state of ketosis. Usually, 0.5 to 3.0 millimolar is a good indicator that you're in the optimal keto range.

But again, some people utilize their ketones really efficiently. So they’ll only see really, really low ketones. And yet they're in ketosis. They’re just using them a lot because they’re really efficiently using them. So testing can help because you can try different levels of carbohydrate intake. So you can see; ok, at 100 grams, you're probably not measuring a reading of any ketones. Your blood sugar is probably around average. Which most people is around 100 in the morning when they’re testing fasted.

But you’ll see, as you reduced that, your blood sugar will gradually start going down in your morning fasted reading. Your ketones will probably start moving up. And you can test ketones maybe once a week, and if you want to test your blood sugar just for a while to figure out what that range is for you. And you’ll see; maybe at 40 grams of carbohydrate and below, you get into ketosis. So that’s really all you need to do. And then you can also see if maybe what you think you're doing is getting you those numbers or not.

I love testing because we have access to this health technology. And I love that it’s available for so many people who really need it. But we’re going to soon have contact lenses available to us that can measure our blood sugar.

Diane Sanfilippo: It’s amazing.

Vanessa Spina: It’s so incredible. And I love that this health tech exists. It only costs like $70 at Walmart to get a glucometer, and be able to just kind of learn a little bit more about your own physiology, and how you react as an individual to different foods and different amounts of those different macronutrients.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think that’s awesome. I’m all for testing. I think it’s also really important for people to use qualitative information, especially when and if; you know, let’s say the testing is out of reach at this time to spend $70 or even up to $100 once you buy all the strips or whatever else if you don’t have that.

Part of it, too, is really tuning into how your body feels. Because the way that I approach things with keto is that keto is a great tool. But I think if people are becoming slaves to the numbers, and not paying attention to how they feel, we can get really lost in this obsession with being in ketosis. And I think unless you're doing it very, very specifically for a therapeutic intervention, I think obsessing over whether or not you're in ketosis is not the best goal, if that makes sense.

It’s not bad to want to be in ketosis and then have that experience and see how that feels and see if that’s working great for you. I think that’s totally fair. I just know that some people kind of lose the forest for the trees. They forget that the point of this is to feel really good. To be feeling your best. To be optimizing your own nutrition. To be optimizing; I mean, really, optimizing how you feel. There’s no other way to say it. Having great energy throughout the day. Having mental clarity. Sleeping well. Having, you know, even moods. Having your hormones be balanced.

So what if that means this person is not in ketosis? What if that means they’re just shy of it? You know what I mean? I just want people to know that it’s a great tool but it’s not the only way to find your health sweet spot, if that makes sense.

I think it’s really interesting. But, also to your point, it’s not going to be the same number for everyone. What you noted about; the 20-gram thing might work for everyone, but that also means that not everyone has to be at that low of a place. It’s just that’s the guaranteed; that’s where we can say, ok, in a closed setting, what’s the number we put everyone to to make sure they get there? Right. So that’s why the 20.

And that’s why Dr. Atkins, that was his thing. 20 grams. Because he could guarantee that there was no question; no wiggle room of whether or not somebody would be in ketosis. Because your body has no choice. There’s no other option. Without glucose, you don’t have an option of; what should my body burn now? Should it go into ketosis? It doesn’t have a choice. But I think that’s all really important for people to know.

7. Artificial sweeteners [34:24]

Diane Sanfilippo: OK. So, here’s an interesting one. And this is kind of an opinion question about a product that was popular many, many years ago. But apparently, it’s still out there. I have not thought of this in a long time. But this question is, “I am wondering what you think of Crystal Light. I feel I’ve been drinking a lot of it, especially on fast days. It doesn’t kick me out of ketosis, but I'm wondering what others think of it.”

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. I have; I’m a big proponent of staying off of any kind of artificial sweeteners. Even, if you can, natural sweeteners. Because there is something called the cephalic phase insulin response. There are different sort of phases of our digestion. And I find that sweeteners; the main reason I find that they’re not ideal is that they can perpetuate cravings in people. And a lot of us who are trying to lose fat, or become metabolically healthy, have a history of having a lot of food addiction. Or looking to food for comfort. And a lot of that ties back to nutrient deficiencies and really not getting your nutrient needs met. Focusing on foods that are kind of empty of nutrition.

I used to be that person who was drinking Crystal Light all day long. I was doing sugar-free and fat free everything all day long. And I was so starving, but I was really just starving of nutrients. Yet, my mouth was being entertained all the time by having something yummy to taste. And so I really find that having any kind of artificial sweeteners is also issues with dysregulating, or interfering, with the gut microbiome and decimating your healthy gut bacteria too.

I think that Crystal Light has aspartame, and this other one called Ace K combined. And they combine them together to make it super, super sweet. So it really lights up your brain and tastes great. But, I find that if your goal is to follow a ketogenic diet, or follow a low-carb diet, or eat real food and really optimize and maximize your health, it’s really important to focus on nutrient density. And Crystal Light to me is just the opposite of it. It’s just giving you something that tastes good, but really isn’t giving your body anything.

So it can create and perpetuate food fixation and food cravings as opposed to instead feeding yourself. Nourishing your body really, really well at meal time so that the thought of something like Crystal Light is not even appealing. Because you're like; where are the nutrients? {laughs} I’m not going to get anything from that. You know. So it’s kind of a shift in mindset.

I don’t think it’s going to do a lot of damage to you if you like it and you drink it. But I just think it’s great to try to shift off of those kind of; especially the artificial sweeteners. If you just Google negative effects of the artificial sweeteners.

Diane Sanfilippo: Aspartame alone.

Vanessa Spina: They can be pretty negative.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yeah. I think, too, where you mentioned about the mindset shift. I think that’s really important. Because I think back to what I was saying with the previous question; when people get so stuck on ketosis, or being in a ketogenic state as the goal, and they forget about is this even something that the human animal should be consuming. And when the goal becomes ketosis, it’s like; at what cost?

So if you're trying to, as you say, entertain your mouth. I think that’s funny; it’s such a true way of putting it. When you're trying to do that, and distract yourself from eating, and doing all these things to not take in calories or carbs, etc. I think we can do other damage, and the unfortunate side is, often that damage won’t be immediate. So if somebody is consuming a bunch of aspartame, you might not have any negative effects for a while. It’s a dose and duration type of situation. There are some people for whom they’re going to drink that stuff for years and years, and the later in life, develop something that we can’t say is a direct cause and effect relationship. But very likely. Really serious situations.

Maybe some people are dealing with migraines. Some types of cancer. And I’m not saying that as a scare tactic. I’m saying, there are some people who were drinking diet sodas for decades. And we don’t know. But I encourage people to read the ingredients. Citric acid, potassium citrate, maltodextrin, calcium phosphate, aspartame. Contains less than 2% of the following; natural and artificial flavor, Ace K as you were talking about. I don’t know how to pronounce it; but acesulfame potassium.

Vanessa Spina: Yeah, I don’t even try. {laughs}

Diane Sanfilippo: I don’t even know. Soy lecithin. And then artificial color, red number 40, blue number 1, and then preservative. So I think if you look at it from this really non; it’s not emotional. It’s not like you're a bad person. It’s a bad choice. It’s just literally; this is not food to the human body.

And it’s also not about; I’m not somebody who is anti-chemistry. Like; these are chemical molecules. A lot of folks get really bent out of shape about natural flavors coming from a beaver’s butt, tasting like strawberry. And I’m like; well, if you understand how chemical science works and fragrance works and flavors work; sometimes just squeezing a strawberry to get the strawberry flavor isn’t going to work.

So I’m not somebody who is anti-science and chemistry. But I am anti-artificial substances like these taking up space in your day for a reason that I think is mindset, mouth entertainment, all of that. And I think we can do it another way. So if having a lateral shift is helpful to someone, what I would recommend would be using some lemon juice, or the rind of an orange, for example, to get that orange-y flavor without all the sugar from the orange, or a lime. And then a few drops of a really good quality stevia extract. I like the Now Foods organic better stevia.

And even if we’re using that natural replacement, I think that’s a good shift to just get you away from the stuff that is super artificial for your body. This way, we’re doing real lemon, and a couple of drops of a stevia extract. We’re not doing aspartame. We’re not doing all this other stuff.

And I think that that can be a helpful shift away, if that makes sense. Just so someone’s not like; oh my gosh, this is so helpful for me as a lifestyle practice. I get it. It’s really hard for people to give up the habit. So let’s shift what’s going in. Shift the habit. And then eventually, maybe you do get shifted to just doing water with lemon and you don’t need to add the sweetener to it at all. And I think that’s a good place to be, too. Or cucumber. Whatever it’s going to be to give you that flavor. Maybe it’s switching to mineral water so you're getting some electrolytes with your water and enjoying what you're drinking in that way. But I think those are ways to approach it.

And this, for me, is a recommendation regardless whether or not you want to eat keto. I think getting all of these artificial sweeteners out is really important across the board.

Vanessa Spina: Yeah. And I love the way you put it. Because I had to go from sugar, to artificial sweeteners and Crystal Light, to drinking Zevia, and stirred drinks. To doing lemon water with soda. And now I just really kind of have water and coffee. So it took me a really long time to do all those shifts. And I love how you put that as different lateral shifts that people can make. Because it does take time, especially for the habit to be replaced, as opposed to just trying to let go of something that you are so used to overnight. And then setting yourself up to fail.

Diane Sanfilippo: Totally. And I think that’s fair. And I think, you know, no need to beat yourself up about, whoever this questioner is, it’s fine. But I think, you know, when you know better you do better. And I think remembering that; eating something only for the purpose of staying in ketosis can be helpful for a short period of time.

I definitely think, if somebody is dealing with insulin resistance, staring down type 2 diabetes, a real disease state, I think a short-term intervention with some kind of substitute that just helps you get away from that disease state is fair. I also know that in the long-term, this idea of; it doesn’t matter the quality as long as I’m in ketosis; that’s going to come back to people. You can’t; just like you can’t out train a poor diet, you can’t zero-carb it; your body knows the difference between quality, real food ingredients with nutrients versus synthetic chemicals. There will be a reckoning in your body at some point. It just will take time.

So if in the short term, it’s helping you get out of that intense disease state, getting you off of medications, etc. Just know that that’s not a place; it’s a purgatory. You just can’t stay there for forever. So having a path forward and a way to wean off of it and do something different over time is fair. And like you said, Vanessa. It’s not an overnight thing for any of us. It does take time.

I didn’t stop eating Sour Patch Kids overnight. {laughs} That was, you know. I made a transition over a long period of time to get away from eating all these candies many, many years ago. It takes time.

Vanessa Spina: Yeah, candy was my big thing as well.

Diane Sanfilippo: I think dried mango was a really good paleo substitute.

Vanessa Spina: Oh yeah!

Diane Sanfilippo: For sour gummy candy. Because it gave you that chewy, sour-sweet. Anyway, I haven’t even had dried mango in a long time.

Vanessa Spina: Dried fruit is awesome for that. But yeah, I just want to say one last thing. The reason I brought up the cephalic phase insulin response is exactly what you're saying. If you're really working on intervening with insulin resistance, that there are many studies you can find them, if you look up the NHIC database on cephalic phase insulin response showing that insulin is released by the body when there is this hyper sweetness coming in. Even though there are no calories in it. So if someone’s goal really is to restore insulin sensitivity, those kinds of drinks can actually really hold you back from getting the results that you want in that direction. Because that insulin is still being stimulated just from the taste.

Diane Sanfilippo: Yes.

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Diane Sanfilippo: Ok, Vanessa. That was so great. I’m so glad that you were here to help answer some questions for our listeners. Where else can everyone find you if they want to learn more?

Vanessa Spina: Thank you so much for having me, Diane. Really, it was an honor to be here. And super fun to chat with you. My most active feed is probably Instagram at Ketogenic girl. And on Facebook the ketogenic girl. YouTube and follow the Fast Keto Podcast. I release weekly episodes with experts, doctors, and dieticians. And people who have been working in the keto space and low carb space for a while. I love to pick their brains on how to optimize for metabolic health.

Thank you so much for having me!

Diane Sanfilippo: Oh it’s my pleasure. That’s it for this week. You can find me, Diane, at http://dianesanfilippo.com. Don’t forget to join our email lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or even on the podcast. While you’re on the internet, leave us an iTunes review. We’ll see you next week.

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