In Part 1 I discussed how one defines any food as non-negotiable. In this Part 2 (of 3) I am sharing exactly my examples, that I wouldn’t live without. Disclaimers (see previously) aside, we shall continue.
I have been for several month(s) living temporarily under newly strict lifestyle arrangements that prohibit me from cooking or preparing any wholefoods from scratch, nor am I permitted to bring any Eggs or Fish products. Hence what I am sharing here is a retrospect based off the majority over the last half a decade worth of experience amidst Cyclical Keto + Intermittent Fasting.
Sodium and potassium.
If we’re talking about life or death situation ~ ordinary rock salt, as I disclose in perhaps the most important feature video I’ve done (thus far) ~ would suffice.
Nevertheless, there is “U curve” correlations in terms of mortality outcomes (Veniamakis E et al. 2022) to salt intake. That is, either extreme low or high is detrimental.
If there is one specific type of salt I personally vouch, though by no means I am paid at all for writing this, is pink salt by Murray Basin. Locally-mined in Australia and revered amongst “Michelin Star chefs” (or so they proclaimed), it actually tastes different in a pleasant, “layered” kind that is difficult to describe.
Of equal importance, if not more so in retrospect to my prior years of SKD (Standard ketogenic diet) ~ is Potassium. KCL / potassium chloride or citrate version is recommended as they’re relatively accessible. Cream of tartar (potassium bitartrate) may also be incorporated as an alternative. However, beware that it has as an acidic taste of its own which may impact the palate of any feature meal. I would not consume those “Diet Rite salt” 50/50 mix of sodium and potassium, because of their anti-caking agents. They are not exactly palatable, if at all.
Throughout fasting windows, mild gut distress/discomfort has always been an ongoing problem for me. Albeit slowly I am learning that the amount, timing of intake, and the type of warm beverages to mix are all I believe key mediators to this problem. Salt (Sodium) in pinch amounts with coffees (especially freeze dried instants, interestingly) are least gut-stress inducing. Potassium on the other hand, felt worse when mixed with warm beverages and much better tolerated when taken with actual meals. Irrespective, finger-licking either salt without water, as they are, is fine.
Obviously there are other important minerals, particularly Magnesium (Mg). However I have to restrict my writing in order to keep everything readable. For a bit of context, over the years I emphasized the importance of Magnesium. No matter what the cost, I must have at least some sort of Mg supplementation readily available. From most expensive to least ~ chelate, citrate, oxide and (not ideal but contingent source) ~ chloride flakes. However, my change of living circumstance forced me to reconsider supplement budgeting at covering many other nutritional gaps namely, Choline, pre-methylated vitamins & micronutrients (as recommended by my 2022 nutrigenomics panel) and additional digestive enzymes. Nonetheless, whilst I can live comfortably without magnesium supplementations, I don’t think completely negating them is wise either. Hence incorporating cocoa powders on desserts remains I believe a contingent practice. In addition, on rare but few occasions ~ I am using pinch amounts of Magnesium Chloride flakes (USP food grade) in warm beverages. Although I stress that only very small / minute amounts as these Magnesium Chloride flakes is to be used as they tend to have a very unpleasant, metallic aftertaste.
Next to water, I don’t think this is debate-able, if at all ~ salt is arguably more necessary to life than it is detrimental. I have learned over the years that much of the problems when starting SKD (standard Ketogenic, low carbohydrate / roughly 65F/25P/10C) revolved around the lack of salt intakes. It does take time however, to realize their effects. In some cases, especially in period of digestive upsets, feelings of unease or heart palpitations (which for many recent years now I have zero occurences) ~ pinches of potassium chloride resolve these literally within minutes. But again, all this is based from my own biology and N=1 circumstance. Your salt intake should reflect your needs. Unless clinically supervised – I would not contemplate, at least not yet – Dry Fasting.
Interesting trivia ~ a long term study (albeit animal model-based) seemed to suggest that salt intake actually favours fatty acid oxidation (Mutchler MS et al 2020). To add weight to the unappetising reception of low salt diets, there appears to be an interesting quote by Sir George Pickering, a professor from University of Oxford ~ “The rigid low-sodium diet is insipid, unappetising, monotonous, unacceptable, and intolerable. To stay on it requires the asceticism of a religious zealot.” .
- Meats – any – short dated
- Organ Meats ~ particularly livers.
- Meats – Glycine / gelatin
- Dairy – Yoghurts and cheese.
Eggs needs no introduction. I speculated much of its digestive health benefit many times, from its Choline content. Choline is not just for liver health. It is also an essential support for the nervous system affecting digestion, gut health, inflammatory processes, muscle contraction and mental health, to name a few. In terms of practicality ~ it is the most universal food, either holistic or accessory onto any dish both savoury and dessert. It also serves as contingent complimentary, whenever meat proteins are scarce. Lastly the egg shells ~ so long as adequately boiled, salted, dried and grinded ~ serve as alternate and viable source of calcium (Brun LR 2013 et al).
I clearly do not function nor do I handle stress as well as I can notice the difference for myself in just a few days of abscence. Abstaining eggs therefore is clearly not I’d what tolerate in long term view.
My new living circumstance (at present / at the time of writing this article) prohibits all eggs or egg-derived products. Hence I had to resort to supplementing PBC (Phosphadytl choline) and then Choline Bitartrate. Both certainly adds to the expense of living. But the difference were palpable enough difference in my mental health and resilience, similarly to the same level when I tried ALCAR for the very first time. Given how increasingly uncontrolled our stress is from everywhere ~ forgoing additional choline, in my experience-backed opinion, for any extended period, would be problematic.
Interesting trivia: according to this Youtube® presentation ~ inducing choline deficiency is a widely used laboratory method to SIMULATE liver damage (both cancers and alcoholic related), in animal research models.
Gelatin Powder comes next. I have vouched this numerous times in the past for their universality Despite it being no magical panacea against everyday stress I can only account for and from my own that overall QOL / quality of life seem worse on days where I consume less gelatin. Recently I consume anywhere between 30 to even 45 grams per day especially when I needed that extra mental relief; that is quite difficult to describe other than it felt nourishing.
When it comes meats proteins I shall rank from most desirable ~ gelatinous meats, seafoods / sardines, organ meats, then any other meats.
Taste and nutrients – the fattiest cut of gelatinous meat I could find short-dated-or-marked down clearances. In no particular order – from Ox Cheeks, legs, Knuckles / butts, hocks, and shoulders. At an occasional $8 per kilogram, they net considerable amount of meals when pressure cooked with vegetables, dark leafy or starchy.
As cost of living is getting dire, I have shared previously on the choices other than short-dated meats. If there is one convenient choice that is very difficult, if not impossible to surpass by its $3.50AUD per can ~ is Corned Beef. At 21g for protein amount per 100g, there is little to complain, other than its savoury and slightly monotonous palate. However that – can easily be remedied by using sugar free syrups eg. stevia flavoured BBQ sauces, sweetened soy sauce, and maple syrup. One thing I advise is to never cook this to the point of charring. Simply warm with everything else on the feature meal, and enjoy.
Organ Meats, specifically liver is the multi-vitamin in wholefood form. I have talked and discussed about the nutritional differences between ruminants species here. Chicken livers give from my experience a slightly sweeter undertone, where as Sheep livers have a noticeable “metallic” taste. Beef ~ similar, but less. Regardless, considering my lifestyle restrictions to not ably cook (besides microwaving) any hot meals~ I do whatever it takes to get livers from outside and the only viable sources are select deli meats particularly ~ Liverwurst. They are in my opinion very mild tasting, and thus an accessible entry point for those who frown offal meats in general.
No other food, than liver pate and next to perhaps the most expensive gelatinous cuts (Ox Cheeks) ~ give me that hard-to-describe sense of nourishment. In retrospect over the last five years (and ongoing) I am yet to find any other wholefoods that give this same experience.
Other organ meats I’d consider are chicken first over ox hearts; both namely for their COQ10. I choose chicken over ox as chickens are more easier and faster to cook. Where as Ox hearts can be somewhat tough and rubbery, considering they are very easy to overcook, even amongst gentle simmer.
Besides, chicken hearts taste better. If you can imagine the most delectable mushrooms, a buttery, and juicy handful ones at that on a plate ~ that ~ would be the closest analogy I can describe.
As bit of trivia, a very recent 2023 research (Semeniuc AC et al. 2023) suggests that compared with fish and others – chicken hearts seem to have the most COQ10.
If there is only one (1) affordable seafood source, that can only be sardines. In light of my change of living arrangement ~ (no cooking, no eggs, no fish) the only discretion I have at eating fish ~ Is after training as post-workout breaking-the-18+hr fast. Brand wise I’d rate ALDI as the benchmark for their higher PUFA N3’s over all others, and at the same price of <$1 AUD, why this has not been hoarded more than tissues, hand sanitizers and toilet papers ~ is beyond me. Worth noting is that not all “tomato-sauce” variants taste the same. Some, particularly the “Seacrown” brand by Coles® are just (forgive my honesty) ~ disgustingly artificial. Woolworths®’ on the other hand~ is by far the more appetising, compared to many.
Dairy – Yoghurts over cheese.
Then, we have dairy category. Sadly, cheese is now a luxury given the crazy inflation. Adding to the fact I am actually prohibited to make a mess, if at all, in the kitchen in my temporary residence I have been unable to do my weekly DIY yoghurt-making ritual. Hence, commercial Yoghurts, often hovering $4 to $5 ~ now have taken over as necessity for probiotics, and as non-negotiable source of affordable calcium. They are universal that I use them on a daily basis for both savoury and dessert applications.
I have written an entire feature length Self Meta based on my own circumstance, given the propensity towards AS / Ankylosing Spondylitis; both calcium and/or Vitamin D restriction is not, unless institutionally supervised – to be a good idea.
At $4.50 AUD per kilogram I encourage anyone to reconstitute these with any fat sources to prolong their longevity and use. Dessicated fats, coconut creams, creams butters to name a few.
Protein is the easiest to summarise as they are the most readily “non-negotiable”, no matter what diet or methodology subscribed. Corned beef remains to this day as I implored earlier, a frugal source of protein that is yet to be surpassed by anything better. Chicken livers and hearts are what I consider an accessible staple, but for those sheepish to organ meats in general may need time to acclimatise with Liverwurst or if one can certainly afford – those gourmet / black label brand Liver Pate. PUFA N3 fats from seafood may deserves their own category here but for sake of readability ~ I conclude that sardines are the most accessible choice. Certainly there are plant based / mock-meat.
- coconut creams
- desiccated coconuts
- coconut flours
- Sour Creams
From most desireable (albeit least affordable) ~ all dairy saturated fats, then the family of coconut products – dessicated, flours, and creams. However, in terms of affordability and economics I shall begin from coconuts, and their derivatives before then moving down to dairy sources.
Dessicated coconuts are the most versatile form of fats one could imagine. It ticks ALL the objective criteria(s) that I have listed in Part one. Chiefly among them is flexible/multiple-use-cases on both savoury and dessert feature meals.It doesn’t require cooking, nor refrigeration. The only thing I would not do is to cook under intense heat considering its already dry form. Another thing I’ve learned for the years is that you do need plenty of water especially if the majority of a meal is composed from it. Otherwise it will dry up your dish, but not as bad as coconut flours.
Next is coconut flours. A close second to desiccated. I ranked them slightly below here for a reason that being a much finer grind/form of coconut “meat” – more amount of water is needed here. These flours soak up water so much that will create a “drag” to your dish almost instantly, no matter what. What this means ultimately is to remain aware, there is slight risk for throat dryness if your dish do not feature much liquid content. Hence, a warranted note.
Coconut Creams, are next in line. Depending on the brand and type of additive and/or thickeners that one is sensitive to – it remains prudent I believe to check over the ingredients, and truly self-journal what or which brands you tried over the years. And try to reflect if any – distinction to any gut distension and/or stress that may (or may not) follows.
To determine the genuine amount of additive vs actual coconut cream content ~ is simply shake the can. See if the actual coconut % in the label actually “make sense”. Although unverified whether or not if this method is valid ~ I generally find that the more “solid” the can is during shaking – one can speculate there are MORE thickeners than there are actual coconut content in it.
Let’s discuss the above in more detail as a case study & for case-in-point argument, because this is important. Here are two brands – Woolworths® coconut cream $1 per 400ML coconut cream (as per December 2023 pricing) and another (albeit twice more expensive) Mr Chen’s Coconut Cream. Both shared the same thickeners (guar gum or code 412), which for a bit of context – has been suspected as a gut irritant due to its swelling characteristic at up to 10x its original size. However, Mr Chen’s Coconut Cream is less gut-stress inducing than Woolworths®. The Woolworths® brand, almost 90% of the time when opened, always appear clumpy and require careful re-stirring. Mr Chen’s on the other hand – remains fluid. The case-in-point or take away here is this – we shouldn’t trust squarely what’s on the label. No two (2) food or food-derived products, even if they share the same industrial processing and/or additive – give the same experience.
Lastly, we have the dairy sources. I am saving these last sadly because of their cost which has been, next to eggs – astronomical and unjustified. Purely from taste stand point, I truly think butter is one of a kind indulgence. And that cream, including sour cream is arguably the more accessible, albeit still very expensive option.
But if there is one indisputable, despite notoriety for being the most stolen item in the world. That would be cheese. Fats, proteins, calcium and Vitamin K2 in wholefood form.
Not listed here due to content length, but we have plant based MUFA & PUFA sources. Due to their mix of pros and cons, they did not make it into my list of non-negotiables. But they still have their uses which are acknowledged here. EVOO (olive oil), despite glorified in mainstream science as healthy, have a very limited use case. Think how often one would crave for mixing a cheat meal dessert, say a tub of ice cream, with drizzles olive oil. Chances are – highly unlikely. From my own culinary habits I tend to use them solely on savoury meals, above all else, unless if I have no other fats sources I for baking recipes. Peanut butters is next worth mentioning for it being (perhaps the only plant based) source of COQ10. But I’d have to consume MORE than an entire 300-400g tub at a time to get anywhere near a meaningful amount, on top of also concerns on its oxalate content. If there is one thing I admit, that these plant based MUFA & PUFAs excel, especially EVOO ~ is purely from the taste and palatability stand point that they are more suitable towards savoury meals. With the exception of peanut butters; were it not for their oxalate content, I would heartily recommend this for all meals but certainly not without their own cautions.
All coconut products are the most essential one could ever want from fat source. Transportable, Dry (at least – for flours and desiccated) and Flexible (raw and as-is). But if there is even more convincing type of fat that is universally usable in all cases, no matter what, with actual protein content – that would be cheddar cheese. However, not everyone is granted the discretion luxury on a weekly 1kg or even 500g worth of cheddar. There are other types of plant based fats worth mentioning – peanut butters, olive oil, rice bran oil. Of all these, peanut butter seems to be the only one ticking the most boxes. But they are very prone for over-indulgence, on the basis of how perfect they are in terms of perfectly equal sensory impact between salty and sweet. Further concern is their overall oxalate footprint which may prove noteworthy for those who are oxalate-sensitive. All in all saturated fats wins here as an overall that fits my definition as non-negotiable. But by no means plant based MUFA and PUFAs are excluded indefinitely.
To be continued!
In the next part I will continue disclosing my other essentials, carbohydrates for re-feeding allowances, as well as my ending thoughts.