December 11, 2020 at 22:09 by Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
Enter Recipe Here
In case you hadn’t noticed, “keto-friendly” has become the latest buzz term in the food industry. Social media seems to be exploding with information about how keto diets can be helpful for everything from weight loss to various diseases, so it makes sense that curiosity about this diet is very high.
Many people who are considering a keto diet rightfully wonder if a particular food, supplement or ingredient is “keto-friendly." But an awful lot of people are actually confused about what “keto-friendly” actually means. So, let’s take a minute and look at the definition of “keto-friendly." Then we can specifically consider the case of Barlean’s emulsified Seriously Delicious Omega-3 products.
Keto stands for ketogenic, which literally means the making (genesis) of ketones (keto). The body manufacturers these ketones—which are a terrific source of energy—primarily when it basically runs out of sugar. When carbohydrate intake is low enough and the “sugar tank” is basically empty, the body has to turn to the fat stores for fuel. Which is terrific. Fat burning is the brass ring of every diet program in the world and a significant reduction in your carb intake is usually just the trick to make your body do it. And the metabolic by-products of that fat-burning are… you guessed it, ketones.
When your ketones are at a certain level—1.5 to 3.0 mmol/l seems to be the sweet spot—you are said to be in the state of nutritional ketosis. Many people go on keto diets specifically intending to move the ketone meter right up into that sweet spot range. Once they get there, they strictly monitor their sugar intake in order to insure that they stay there. So if you’re a person who is strictly sticking to a keto diet, for any reason (medical or otherwise) you need to be very careful—sometimes obsessively careful—about the sugar you take in, much as someone with celiac has to be obsessively careful about gluten. That's because a certain amount of sugar will “kick you out" of ketosis.
And that’s really the definition of a keto-friendly food: When you eat it, it doesn’t kick you out of ketosis.
Sugar and Sugar Alcohols
Barlean’s emulsified Seriously Delicious products do contain 5 grams of sugar per serving. But four of them come from xylitol, which is what’s called a "sugar alcohol."
Sugar alcohols taste like sugar but have less calories. More importantly for our purposes, they have a much less significant effect on blood sugar levels.1 Because sugar alcohols are not digested like regular sugars, their carb content used to be disregarded on carb-counting diets like the original Atkins plan. In fact, Atkins Nutritionals sweetened their snack bars with sugar alcohols, mostly because they score very low on the glycemic index, which is a measure of how a food affects blood sugar.2 For example, the glycemic index of pure glucose is 100; the glycemic index of sucrose (table sugar) is 65; the glycemic index of xyltiol—the sweetener in Seriously Delicious Omega-3—is 7.
The Glycemic Index: Not an Exact Science
The glycemic index was designed by researchers to be a tool you could use to predict how a food would impact your blood sugar. Lower glycemic diets in general have been found to be much healthier than high glycemic diets. But extensive research at the Weitzman Institute in Israel has shown that the glycemic index of a food is just an estimate, based on the “average” blood sugar response. The actual blood sugar response to a food varies enormously from person to person. Ice cream might barely move the needle on your blood sugar, but it might drive mine through the roof.
The point is that a small amount of sugar might not move the “ketone needle” in your body, but it might move it on mine. Some people can “stay” in ketosis while consuming 50-70 grams of carbs a day or even more. Others need to go to practically zero. Most need to stay between 20-50.
In the long run, the only way to know if a food, ingredient, or supplement like Seriously Delicious Omegas-3 will “kick you out of ketosis” is to try it. If, after trying it, your ketone meter jumps out of the ketosis range, then it’s not for you—at least not if you care about staying in ketosis all the time. (More on staying in ketosis all the time in a minute.) So will Seriously Delicious Omega-3 knock you out of nutritional ketosis? The answer will be different for everyone. But let’s talk for a minute about whether it actually matters.
Flirting with Ketosis
There’s no question that some people do strict keto diets for medical reasons, and that it works for them. But there are other people—like, for example, me—who don’t have to be in ketosis all the time. Instead, what I like to do is something I call “flirting with ketosis." Most of the foods I eat are “keto friendly” in that they are friendly in the spirit of keto, which is simply reducing processed food, sugar and starch, while consuming more good fat, moderate protein and a minimal number of carbohydrates—mostly from leafy and crunchy vegetables. But I only rarely try specifically to get and stay in ketosis.
Most of the time I just go for feeling good, strong and energetic, and I don’t really worry about what the ketone meter says. And even though a ketone reading of 1.5-3.0 seems to be “optimal” for ketosis, readings of 0.5-1.5 (which are much easier to attain) are considered “light ketosis," a state that, in my opinion, offers most if not all of the same benefits. But remember, that’s just what works for me. The only way to see what works for you is to try it for yourself.
Try an Experiment
In the case of Seriously Delicious Omega-3, you could do your own controlled experiment. Eat a “keto” meal with a serving of Seriously Delicious Omega-3 fish oil, and eat the exact same meal with Barlean’s traditional Fresh Catch® Fish Oil and see if there's an effect on your ketones. You’ll have answered the only question that really matters: Are Seriously Delicious Omega-3s keto-friendly for me? Then you can decide for yourself if it really matters.