Sent by JUDY CHO | October 30, 2021
This week on both Cutting Against the Grain and Nutrition with Judy’s channels, community questions were answered. Make sure to check out the show notes for specific questions.
Some of my clients get frustrated when they see higher insulin blood lab markers on a carnivore diet. It’s even more baffling when people say carnivore drives insulin too low.
So what’s causing insulin to rise?
It’s very individualized but one reason can be dairy. Now the type of dairy will affect the insulinogenic response.
Cheese, cream, and butter aren’t as noticeably insulinogenic (at first) since it’s mostly fat (and minimal protein or lactose). One note, if you’re overeating fat on a carnivore diet long-term, fat can be insulinogenic.
There may be a sweet spot for energy consumption per individual and too much of a good thing can still make us store energy (read: fat). One way our bodies store energy is with insulin. Dr. Cywes and I talked about this in a previous interview. You can watch the interview here or listen here.
Since protein is technically insulinogenic, dairy’s insulinogenic effect will depend on its protein content. Heavy cream is mostly fat and will have little immediate insulin effects compared to mozzarella, which is higher in protein. These nuances were explained in one study where they showed that milk had more of an insulin response than white bread. (source)
No, this doesn’t mean to eat bread, as both elicit an insulin response. Insulin is not a bad thing in moderation. We need insulin to rise to help move the protein (amino acids) into our muscles cells.
So if you consume dairy that has a lot of whey and casein (proteins) or milk and yogurt with lactose (sugars), the insulinogenic response is higher than dairy with mostly fat.
Whey protein also induces a greater insulin response than heavy cream because of whey’s amino acid composition. Apparently, there are proteins that have a greater insulinogenic response than other proteins.
The amino acids, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, and valine have a greater insulinogenic effect than other amino acids. These proteins are all high in whey. (Source)
When we eat meat, glucagon also increases to raise blood sugar levels so that the liver can absorb the amino acids and use them for glucose.
What’s the takeaway?
Last week I explained why your A1C may be going up on a carnivore diet. I also explained why your glucose numbers may be higher compared to a strict ketogenic diet. Now you know why meat-only can raise your blood sugar levels (but should be lower than pre-diabetic ranges).
if you’re eating a lot of dairy and meat, you may see your insulin levels increase on a carnivore diet (especially if you were metabolically healthy prior to carnivore). To a certain extent, this should be fine on a carnivore diet.
Some people that have low insulin levels (< 3.0 μIU/ml) may be undereating calories, undereating protein, over-fasting, or over-exercising on a carnivore diet. This isn’t always the case but it’s something to consider.
If your insulin is too low on a carnivore diet, you may want to try eating some more protein or include some (raw) milk. If your insulin is rising above 6 μIU/ml on a carnivore diet, you may want to consider how much dairy is part of your diet.
It’s easy to overeat on a carnivore diet and while calories in, calories out isn’t necessarily true, calories still matter. Any excess, even if the source is a good one, isn’t a good thing.
Where did we learn that bananas are the richest form of potassium?
There are at least 10 plant-based foods that are higher in potassium than bananas (per 100 gram servings).
We talk about the need for minerals and electrolytes on low-carb, ketogenic, meat-based, carnivore diets.
Yes, we don’t feel electrolyte deficiencies on a carb-filled diet — we retain more water.
But that doesn’t mean you’re sufficient in electrolytes. You may just be masking the issue with excess water.
Eating carbs to feel better balanced with electrolytes may just be a band-aid.
But it’s not getting to root cause.
Bananas or avocados don’t give you more potassium than say, pork.
For one, gram for gram, pork trumps both in potassium amounts.
Two, there’s less sugar in pork to mess with the electrolyte/mineral balance.
High sugar intake with elevated insulin has shown to INCREASE the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys (tubular reabsorption), which also happens with calcium.
So more sugar requires more need for magnesium (and calcium).
And magnesium depletion produces secondary potassium depletion.
Avocados are a decent option if you don’t have sensitivities to plant toxins.
But if you do, pork is always a better option.
As we’ll see in this mineral series, plant-based foods aren’t the only ones with minerals.
Masking electrolyte issues?
But that’s not fixing mineral/electrolytes imbalances.
Maybe eating meat-based helps us to get closer to root cause.
Heal mineral imbalances first.
THEN if you decide to add fruit thereafter (for taste, for variety, for pleasure), that’s a great place to be.
I’m a fan of beef-only but only while healing.
There are stories of beef-only for decades but for many, it’s not an ideal long-term diet.
Magnesium is one reason why.
For many, magnesium is hard to come by on a meat-based diet. If you stick to beef only, it becomes increasingly difficult.
If you are male, it’s even more difficult (the recommended DV for men is ~35% higher than for women: 420 vs. 310 mg).
Add carbs to the diet, and the need of magnesium becomes even greater.
Remember, sugar intake has shown to increase the excretion of magnesium by the kidneys. So, more sugar intake requires more magnesium.
PMID: 16808892, 26322160
The truth is that magnesium isn’t rich in any part of the cow. Even the liver.
The RDAs don’t hold true for every single person (RDAs are set for the average person and if the average person is sick…)
But magnesium is one mineral you don’t want to skimp on.
EVEN IF you eat 32 ounces of ribeye daily, you won’t hit 50% of the DV.
Beef only isn’t ideal and why many carnivores struggle with leg cramps.
Magnesium isn’t like vitamin C.
Magnesium is needed as a spark plug. It’s involved in 600+ cellular reactions, like making DNA.
Magnesium also helps muscles contract.
Mg deficiency can cause high blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmia, cardiovascular disease and sudden cardiac death.
Yes, low magnesium can cause heart attacks.
So yeah, magnesium’s pretty important.
And before you blame a carnivore diet for magnesium deficiencies, 50–80% of people ARE deficient in magnesium. PMID: 29387426
PS. blood levels DO NOT reflect intracellular levels. Hair mineral tests shine here.
Maybe eating a meat-only diet gets you closer to root cause healing, like figuring out magnesium deficiency.
If you’re deficient in magnesium, you can’t properly metabolize vitamin D. (you also need good gallbladder/liver function (bile) to best utilize vitamin D).
If you’re low in vitamin D, first look at magnesium. If you’re low in magnesium, first look at your sugar load.
Eat a rainbow of meats. Your body will thank you for it.
In this week’s Cutting Against the Grain podcast, Laura and I answer your questions.
Austin and I had a fun time chatting about macros and bloodwork on a carnivore diet. If you’re looking for a qualified meat-based practitioner, Austin is a physician’s assistant.
She’s someone I trust to work with clients to get to root-cause healing. You can find her here.
What we chatted about:
Don’t miss the interview!
In the community Q&A episode 5, here are the questions I addressed:
This week I got pretty upset about two things.
Whenever I get mad (or passionate), I write and create…
I wrote a 5000-word article on the new Food Compass nutrient profiling system. While it took me a whole day to write it, it felt cathartic to put my thoughts on paper. I plan to release it soon and I hope you can use it as a resource when people use the rating system to determine what is healthy (or not).
I also took some time to make a social media post about the FDA approval. I made it before the EUA was approved but I’ll be sharing it tomorrow since the EUA just got approved.
While both of these took a lot of time out of my normal day job (and why I’m writing this newsletter at 12AM), it’s more than worth doing the research and sharing truths for the community.
We must evoke change and bring hope for a brighter future. It is a duty for all of us to bear, especially for our children, our children’s children, and all future generations.
No action is still an action.
with ♥️ and hope for healing,
While I am a nutritional therapy practitioner and provide nutritional support, I am not providing medical advice. Any information provided in regards to nutritional therapy should not be considered medical advice or treatment. Always consult your primary care physician or medical team.