Ben's Low-Carb "Rye" Bread
As you may have guessed, there is no rye used in this bread - I avoid using any sort of grains. Instead, this recipe relies on flaxmeal and coconut flour. I've never really liked the taste of most flax breads, but this one tastes great! It made me realise how little changes make a big difference. It tastes great with grass-fed butter or cream cheese on top and it's perfect when toasted or made as "panini".
The credit for this recipe goes to Ben Blau, one of my Facebook followers. Ben has lost a total of 82 pounds in 10 months following a strict very low-carb diet. I included his inspiring story at the end of this post, so don't forget to check it out!
This bread is naturally high in fat and low in carbs, so for breakfast, I added some healthy protein and made a great tasting panini with tuna & spring onion! Remember, protein is naturally filling, so adding moderate amounts to your diet will help you stay sated.
Compared to regular bread, it will always be a bit moist. To remove the moisture, you can simply toast it. If the full recipe is too much for you, make half the batch or keep some in the freezer.
Here is what Ben says about his recipe:
"Even though the toasted sesame oil is an Asian ingredient, it doesn't make the bread taste Asian. That's what really gives it a more bread-like flavour, along with the caraway. The combination tastes something like the type of rye bread they serve in American Jewish delicatessens. I don't make the flax bread anymore, but for a while it was kind of a staple for me. I no longer crave anything like bread, but back when I did, the flax bread allowed me to have things like toast and sandwiches. It's great if you leave it under the broiler for a few minutes!"
Hands-on: 15 minutes
Overall: 75 minutes
Nutritional values (per serving):
|of which Saturated||7||grams|
|Magnesium||86||mg (22% RDA)|
|Potassium||336||mg (17% EMR)|
Macronutrient ratio: Calories from carbs (3.1%), protein (14.8%), fat (82%)
Ingredients (makes 16 servings):
- 2 cups ground flaxseed (300g / 10.6 oz)
- 1 cup coconut flour (120g / 4.2 oz)
- 2 tablespoons caraway seeds (or rosemary)
- 1 ½ tablespoons baking powder (I used my own gluten-free baking mix: 1 tsp baking soda added to the dry mixture + 2 tsp cream of tartar added to the egg whites)
- 1 tbsp Erythritol (10g / 0.4 oz) or 5 drops liquid stevia
- ¼ cup ground chia seeds (32g / 1.1 oz) or 1 tbsp xanthan gum (xanthan gum is not paleo-friendly)
- 1 teaspoon salt or more to taste (pink Himalayan rock salt)
- 8 eggs (free-range, organic or "omega-3" eggs), separated
- ½ cup softened but not melted grass-fed ghee or butter or ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (110g / 3.9 oz)
- 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil (together with the caraway seeds, this is the key ingredient!)
- ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar (80 ml / 2.7 fl oz)
- 1 cup warm water (240 ml / 8 fl oz)
Note: When looking for ingredients, try to get them in their most natural form (organic, without unnecessary additives).
- Move the oven rack to the centre position of the oven, and preheat to 350 F / 175 C. Add the dry ingredients to a large bowl and thoroughly whisk to combine (ground flaxseed, coconut flour, caraway, baking soda, Erythritol, salt and xanthan gum or ground chia seeds). It is especially important to evenly distribute the xanthan gum (or ground chia seeds).
- Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites and keep the egg whites aside. Add softened ghee or butter and toasted sesame oil into the eggs yolks.
Note: Although the original recipe doesn't ask for separating the eggs, I found that doing so makes the bread a bit more "fluffy".
- "Cream" the egg yolks and the ghee (butter or olive oil) until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they create soft peaks and "fix" them with the cream of tartar.
- Add the dry mixture to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and process well. It's a thick batter, and will come together slowly. Take the time to make sure everything is thoroughly mixed.
- Add the vinegar and mix in well.
- Add warm water and process until combined.
- Add the egg whites and gently fold them in. Try not to deflate the batter completely.
- Grease a large loaf pan with some ghee or butter and add the batter. Smooth the batter out evenly in the pan and "cut" it on top using a spatula to create a wave effect.
Note: If you use a silicon loaf pan, you won't need to grease it.
- Bake for approximately 50-60 minutes (depends on the oven). When the bread is ready, remove from loaf pan to a cooling rack, and allow to cool thoroughly.
- Slice thinly and enjoy!
It makes great toast under the broiler and it's delicious in sandwiches, panini, with grass-fed butter or cream cheese and as a dipping bread with extra virgin olive oil.
I've tried this recipe using almond flour instead of flax and I guess it's a matter of preference but I liked the taste of flaxmeal more. The egg whites and baking soda and cream of tartar help with the rising, while the vinegar, sesame oil and caraway seeds give it the right taste. Xanthan gum or chia seeds are used to avoid crumbling. This bread is definitely not as fluffy as my other "bread-like" recipes included in KetoDiet. If you prefer a lighter texture, use half of the egg yolks (or less) and substitute some of the flax with psyllium husk powder (~ 1 cup of flax with 1/4 cup of psyllium) and use hot water instead of warm to make sure it raises well.
Apart from using the KetoDiet app to keep track of my diet, I also use it to create my blog meals and calculate the nutrition facts :-)
You can also try my Ultimate keto buns which is one of the most popular recipes amongst those who use my apps and kindle book.
Ben has lost 82 pounds and improved his health in just 10 months following a very low-carb diet. Ben's story is inspirational and proves that you can lose weight and improve your health following a healthy diet.
Keep in mind that very low-carb diets (aka VLC) may not work for everyone - some of you, like me, wouldn't do well on a diet with 20 or less grams of total carbs (or even net carbs per day). In my case, it's due to my Hashimoto's thyroiditis and that's why I try to stay above 30 grams of net carbs (following the advice of Dr. Broda Barnes). Here is a great post from lowcarbdietician.com that explains why VLC diets may not be suitable for everyone.
The ideal level of carbs varies from 20-50 grams of net carbs per day (or exceptionally even more). To learn more, read my posts here: Ketosis & Measuring Ketones and here: How Many Carbs per Day on Low-Carb Ketogenic Diet? and here: Types of Ketogenic Diets and the KetoDiet Approach.
When and why did you start eating low-carb?
I am not a medical professional, and suggest that before taking my advice that you do your own research to determine if you feel this approach is best for you. I have strong opinions about it, and believe it is the best possible way to eat not only for weight loss, but also for general health. But be aware that there are dissenting opinions, and that this diet is controversial in certain circles. If you do the research, you'll probably reach the same conclusion as I have, that this is truly the way to go.
I live in the United States near Detroit, Michigan. I am a recording engineer and professor of audio engineering for a major university and I'm 42 years old. Last January I found myself at 217 pounds (5'7"). I've struggled with weight issues all my life, but was never as heavy as that. Looking in the mirror, I thought I looked old, tired, and hopelessly out of shape.
How much weight have you lost?
On January 27 2013, I decided to change my way of eating. A friend of mine suggested the Tim Ferriss diet (4 Hour Body), which is what I started with. After doing the slow-carb diet for a couple of months, I switched to full keto. In a very short time span, I was down 50 pounds. After that, weight loss was a little less consistent and predictable, but the general trend was "down."
Today I am 135 lbs, so I've lost 82 in total.
What have you learnt about low-carb eating?
The first rule is to forget everything you know about diets. There is a long-standing hypothesis that fat loss is a matter of energy balance, in which "calories in" must be less than "calories out." In this traditional way of thinking, all calories are created equal, and we must burn more than we take in. Turns out, this is wrong.
Fat storage, and fat loss as well, are both principally regulated by hormones. There are many hormones that play a role, but the most important one to understand is insulin. Insulin is secreted by the pancreas, and its main purpose is to transport glucose (blood sugar) into cells. Glucose in the body comes from the breakdown of foods that we eat. The insulin transports this glucose into muscle cells (as stored glycogen), and also into fat cells, where it is essentially stored as fat. Glucose is also the normal energy source for the brain, when people eat the Standard American Diet.
A normal human bloodstream contains the equivalent of about a teaspoon of sugar. However, certain foods we eat flood the bloodstream with many times this amount. The pancreas tries to compensate by secreting more and more insulin to clear the glucose from the blood. In so doing, a disproportionate amount gets transported to fat cells, and is stored there. Eventually, the cells become resistant to the effects of insulin, and the pancreas overcompensates even further by secreting more.
One of the primary effects of insulin is to signal the body to store fat. When your insulin is elevated, fat storage is inevitable. When your insulin levels are controlled and kept low and stable, it signals the body to release fat. In people who are overweight, insulin levels are often chronically high, and their bodies are insulin resistant. This is called metabolic syndrome, and is associated not only with being fat, but also diabetes and a host of other health problems.
The reason people experience spikes in insulin which leads to fat accumulation is the sugars and carbohydrates they consume. Sugar in any form will do this, whether it is table sugar, honey, fruit, juice, naturally occurring sugars in some vegetables, or sugar additives in food such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, natural lactose found in milk and cheese, etc. Also, carbohydrates and starches are broken down by the body as sugar. There is literally no difference between consuming a tablespoon of white sugar and consuming a tablespoon of potato, as far as the effects in blood glucose and insulin are concerned.
The very best way to reverse this process is to adopt a zero sugar, very low carbohydrate way of eating. When we consume zero sugar and very low carbs, the body enters a special fat-burning state called ketosis. (Note - Do not confuse this state with ketoacidosis, which is dangerous.) Ketosis changes the way energy is provided to the brain. If there are no sugars or carbs ingested to be broken down into glucose, the body requires an alternate source of energy, namely the ketones that are stored in fat. This fat must be mobilized to make the ketones available to fuel the brain. This fundamentally changes your metabolism from a carb-burning metabolism to a fat-burning metabolism.
Ketosis can be achieved by avoiding certain foods, and keeping your carbohydrate intake limited to no more than 20 grams per day.
How fast was the weight loss?
If you follow this diet, you can expect to lose somewhere between 10-30 pounds within the first month. After that, your weight loss will probably slow down to about 1-2 pounds per week. During that phase, many people on this diet begin to refine their eating habits by experimenting with certain foods to determine what their bodies are sensitive to. There will be plateaus, where you don't see the scale moving for a week or two or sometimes longer. It is important not to be concerned about this. Fat loss is not a linear process, and the rate at which you lose will naturally fluctuate. Your body is still in the process of recomposing itself. Sometimes you might even see the scale go up. This can be attributed to muscle gains, and water retention. In females, this is likely to coincide with their "time of the month," but can also be caused by certain foods that cause water retention. Excessive sodium intake can cause this as well.
Have you encountered any issues during your low-carb journey?
As of early September, I had lost something like 70 pounds, but was stalled. I only needed to lose a little bit more to get to my goal, so I decided to experiment with fasting. I've been doing a water fast that begins on Sunday night and ends on Wednesday afternoon (about 64 consecutive hours) once per week. That broke my stall, and allowed me to lose the rest of the weight. Today I am 135 lbs.
There are a few other things to expect. Many people, during the initial two weeks, experience a phenomenon called "keto flu." As your body adapts to ketosis, you may feel tired, and have "brain fog." This will pass. Once you're past this point, you will feel great, with lots of energy and very clear mental focus. If you get the keto flu, it's just a sign that changes are happening in your body, and that it is working. To avoid the symptoms of keto flu altogether, increase your electrolytes for the first couple of weeks, especially sodium. The best way to temporarily increase your sodium is by using salty, homemade bone broth (eat without starchy vegetables).
Also, during the initial weeks, it is likely that you will experience intense carb cravings. You will want to eat all the forbidden foods more than ever. The key to making these cravings disappear is to completely abstain from them for about two weeks. Allowing yourself "a little bit of fruit," for example, will actually stimulate your carb cravings and make it worse. It is imperative that you are strict, or you will likely cave in and the diet will not work. This is the only time during the diet that you will feel this temptation. Once you are "keto-adapted," you will no longer crave crabs.
Expect to encounter resistance by your friends, family, and even your doctor. There is a lot of misinformation on low carb diets that is thought to be common knowledge, yet is still wrong. Most doctors are not properly trained to understand this way of eating, and their training comes from flawed research done in the 1930s. There is much newer science on this. Seek out a naturopath who is not inherently against low carb diets, as many general practitioners are as a knee-jerk reaction.
I've only described my diet as best I can, but there is much more information regarding its safety, effects on overall health and nutrition, and effectiveness available. By far, the best resource I've come across is the book Why We Get Fat, by Gary Taubes.
What does your diet look like these days?
I don't ever crave carbs anymore. In fact, I eat extremely low carb. Most days, I consume fat and protein only. If I do have any carbs, it's in the form of spinach (raw) or asparagus (grilled or roasted). I use heavy cream in my coffee about three or four days per week, black the rest of the time. I like to eat grass fed steak, lamb chops, roasted turkey, rotisserie chicken, Applegate Farms organic grass fed roast beef, and an awesome fish curry that I make. I eat a lot of turkey, which I believe is a good source of selenium.
What I avoid is nuts. They set off cravings. I had to make a conscious decision to keep all nuts and nut butters out of my house.
Here are some guidelines for "zero-carb" eating:
Absolutely no sugar, even in trace amounts. Consume no fruit at all, no fruit juice, no candy, no honey or agave nectar, and no starchy vegetables (like carrots, for example). Even items like store bought pickles often contain sugar. You have to be diligent. (Note - sometimes it is difficult to detect sugar in ingredient labels. Anything that ends in "ose," such as "dextrose" is a sugar. So is "evaporated cane juice.")
No grains, and no products made from grains (no flour, granola, oatmeal, rice, quinoa, cereal, bread, pasta, etc.)
No alcohol. Alcohol suspends or delays fat burning, as the body will process it before it processes fat.
Eliminate gluten, if possible. Also, try to identify any other food sensitivities you may have and avoid those foods as well.
Eliminate all soy products. Soy contains phytoestrogens, and can wreak hormonal havoc on the body. If you take supplements, make sure they're soy-free.
Certain types of dairy are permitted: whole butter and full fat heavy cream. These are almost entirely fat, and there is very little lactose. Regular milk, even skim milk, is not allowed due to the high lactose. This also goes for yogurt. Don't eat it. Clarified butter or ghee is best, because the milk solids are removed which further reduces the lactose content. As you progress in the diet, you might be able to reintroduce certain cheeses at some point, but it is important to research which cheeses are the lowest in lactose, and then experiment to see if you can tolerate them without having them spike your insulin and cause weight gain. Be very careful with the allowed dairy. It's easy to go overboard with it, and can cause cravings and hunger pangs. I suggest avoiding it altogether until your weight loss is well established, and then you can experiment with it to see how it affects you.
Try to keep your total carbohydrate grams at or below 20 grams per day.
Prioritize consuming fats and proteins with each meal. It is important not to avoid fat when doing this diet. Do not remove the skin from chicken. Do not trim the fat from steaks. Also, do not be concerned about consuming saturated fat, such as bacon, butter, heavy cream, and even lard. All meats and fish are allowed (though grass-fed beef and wild, oily fish are best), but avoid processed meats which often have additives that can stall fat loss. Processed meats are also very high in sodium and nitrates, which can lead to severe water retention, which can mask fat loss. Also, watch out for things like gravy, barbecue sauce, and sugary condiments like ketchup. All these things may seem harmless at first, but the starch in gravy and the sugar in the other condiments is enough to elicit a large insulin spike in the body, and keep the diet from working properly.
Opt for healthy fats: use abundant amounts of macadamia oil, avocado oil, and extra virgin coconut oil in your cooking. Avoid trans-fats and hydrogenated oils. If you use extra virgin olive oil, make sure it's never heated. Use it as a drizzle for flavor, and in dressings. Clarified butter, beef tallow, bacon grease and lard (!) are also good choices for cooking. When it comes to PUFA, omega-3 fatty acids should be higher than omega-6. I try to ensure this by eating sardines and grass fed beef.
Consume 30 grams of protein within 30 minutes of waking up. This is best sourced from meat, fish, eggs (including yolks), or some combination thereof, as opposed to coming from a protein shake.
Do consume certain vegetables. Dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale are ideal. Other options include broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, etc. Watch out for certain fruits that masquerade as vegetables, such as tomatoes which contain more carbs.
Do not drink your calories. Absolutely no soda. Even diet sodas are harmful. Artificial sweeteners, while they contain no calories, can cause insulin spikes just as easily as real sugar. They also destroy the healthy bacteria in our digestive systems which can impair a healthy metabolism. Drink only water, and unsweetened tea or coffee.
Address any stress and/or sleep problems you may have. High stress and poor sleep are associated with high cortisol levels, which in turn is associated with abdominal fat accumulation.
I do take certain supplements. Here's my regimen:
- Decaffeinated green tea extract (helps with fat burning and is a great antioxidant)
- Phosphatidylserine derived from sunflowers, not soy (reduces cortisol, a stress hormone which is associated with abdominal fat accumulation), B stress formula vitamins
- Nature's Way Alive Once Daily (multivitamin that contains extra antioxidants)
- Probiotics (better digestion), turmeric extract (anti-inflammatory), cinnamon (helps keep your blood glucose from spiking)
- Fish oil (brain and heart health, as well as having anti-inflammatory effects)
- Chromium (keeps blood sugar levels even and controlled)
I'd like to thank Ben for sharing his story and experience on my blog. I hope you all enjoy his recipe as much as I have!