going keto the acne-safe way
by kerry watson
the ketogenic diet, also called the “keto” diet is made up of high fat, moderate protein and very low carbohydrates. a basic ketogenic diet aims for a daily intake of 75% fats, 20% protein and only 5% carbohydrates. the ultimate goal is ketosis, a state when the body shifts metabolism to become efficient at metabolizing fat for energy instead of glucose.
at least one study has shown that a ketogenic diet may have the ability to improve acne . the understanding that high glycemic and high sugar diets can worsen both inflamed and non-inflamed acne lesions has become more widely accepted. it makes sense that by following a ketogenic diet, spikes in insulin are reduced and this may improve acne in people who are susceptible to breakouts triggered by sugar.
keep in mind that, like all diets, the keto diet is not going to be the best option for everyone. if you have any gallbladder or fat digestion issues then this diet is not for you. for most people, this is a safe and even beneficial lifestyle change. when our ancestors relied on a hunter-gatherer diet most of them spent a good part of each year in ketosis, especially those in colder climates when hunting was the only option during the winter. ketosis is not something new and our bodies have already evolved to tolerate and even thrive in this state.
before embarking on a ketogenic diet, do a little research to first make sure you know what to expect. start here for everything you want/need to know. just remember, unlike other ketoer’s you are doing it the acne-safe way which means, no dairy, soy or coffee 🙂 there are plenty of alternatives available so you won’t miss a thing!
my personal keto journey:
i decided to try this diet for many reasons. i have tried for years to lose weight with diet and exercise without much success. i have a chronic pain condition consisting of back, neck and shoulder pain and inflammation along with migraines. i also have had problems with blood sugar both too low and too high. after being on the keto diet for about 9 months now, i can say that it was one of the best decisions i’ve ever made 🙂
i don’t count carbs or calories. I just stay away from foods that contain more than 3-6 net carbs a serving and that has kept me in ketosis with no issues. click here to learn how to calculate net carbs. i’ve lost 15 pounds and my chronic pain flare ups are about 80% better than when i started. i don’t use any testing to make sure i’m in ketosis. i can just kind of feel when i’m in or out of it. there are subtle body changes that i can feel.
for folks who aren’t complete nutrition nerds like me, it might be a good idea to get some keto strips to test your urine to make sure that your body is getting and staying in ketosis. just keep in mind that these only work in the beginning because as your body becomes fat adapted, it releases less and less ketones in your urine as it becomes better at burning them for energy. however, in the first couple months these strips can help you make sure that you are staying in ketosis.
also, it’s easy to over do it with foods that are low carb. if you eat too many servings of low carb foods, the carbs will add up quickly. one example is nuts and nut butters. be careful to stick to very small quantities of these! look up the carbs in a single serving and see how big that serving is and go from there. you have to be really diligent with staying under 30 net carbs a day for this diet to do what it’s supposed to.
unpleasant symptoms are common at the beginning of embarking on a keto diet. personally, i was very tired, headachy and felt like i was walking through mud a lot of the time. these symptoms are known as the keto flu. this happens because glucose tells the muscles to hold onto water and electrolytes. without a steady glucose supply, these are flushed from the body pretty quickly. to combat this, especially in the beginning, it helps to supplement your electrolytes:
here are some guidelines:
- supplement sodium 5000-7000mg
- supplement magnesium 300-500mg
- eat potassium rich foods 1000-5500mg a day or get this or this supplement
- drink lots of water! you will be peeing a lot for a while until your body becomes fat adapted. this process took me a couple months but it’s different for everyone.
here’s my guide of tips and recipes to get you started:
– keto porridge:
- 3 tbsp almond meal
- 1 tbsp ground flax meal
- some salt
- couple droppers of vanilla stevia
- tsp of ghee
- 1 tbsp almond milk or coconut milk (optional)
- 3/4 cup water
cook on medium low until it thickens a bit. the drop an egg in it and stir it up and into the porridge well until it cooks then add a couple frozen berries. sometimes i skip the berries to be super low carb 🙂
– project juice blue moon smoothie with no dates and then i stir in my own vanilla or plain stevia drops added (so good!!). i get this at least once a week on my way to work 🙂
– hard boiled egg, lamb sausage link or patty from whole foods pre-made and baked in the oven and avocado. or some organic bacon and avocado.
i like to save the bacon grease and bake these in it later for an amazing snack!
– i’m also loving poaching a pastured egg in bone broth and eating/drink both together with a little ghee and salt.
– since the weather has been so hot i’ve been having more salads for breakfast. i make a super large salad a couple times a week and keep it in a big container in my fridge so i can also grab some when i need a snack or a quick meal. i just keep it undressed and add dressing as i eat it. i also keep lots of hard boiled eggs around so that those are ready to go as well.
– often from postmates: calibur has organic beef lettuce wrap burgers (no bun) that are super yummy. and there are a few poke bowl places that have raw fish over kale or lettuce with acne safe toppings. instead of getting their sauce, top coconut aminos on it yourself to ensure it is acne-safe.
– if you are in the mission, mealmade delivers keto friendly meals. my favorite is this one.
– leftover dinner or this keto bread (crackers) with tomato and avocado and bacon OR salami on it. instead of parmesan cheese, try using daiya shredded cheese. Also, I just found these at Rainbow. they aren’t amazing but they fit the bill for a pizza craving with some sauce, pepperoni and veggies baked on ’em.
– remember, any sandwich, burger, hot dog or taco can be enjoyed in the form of a lettuce wrap. so get some romaine leaves washed and keep them at the ready in your fridge. you won’t miss the buns and bread especially once you see your skin clear up and those extra pounds melt away 🙂
– i eat lots of low carb salads with some kind of yummy meat. i make this recipe at least once a week using various spice mixes
– of course i have lots of cauliflower rice and different stir fries and one pot instant pot meals over the cauliflower rice. i used to make the cauliflower rice from scratch using my cuisinart but now it’s so mainstream that you can buy it frozen at whole foods or trader joes!
– i really love this recipe. you can make it dairy free with kite hill ricotta and daiya shredded mozzerella instead of the dairy cheese it calls for. nobody will miss the pasta noodles.
– zuchini noodles are easy to make. you just need a good spiralizer like this one. here’s a recent turkey meatball curry dish i made to go over baked zucchini noodles.
– i don’t have a grill and i hate cleaning frying pans so i make lots of burgers in the oven and they always turn out great. here are my amazing baked bison burger and baked curried turkey burger recipes:
baked bison burgers:
- 1 lb ground bison
- 1 jalapeno
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp smoked paprika powder
directions: preheat the oven to 375
char the jalapeno using a burner on your stove (gas works best). when it’s all black let it cool then peel the skin off under running water. then chop it up and remove seeds unless you like things super hot. chop the jalapeno up into a fine dice.
mix spices, bision and jalapeno together well in a bowl and form 4 patties. put them on a parchment paper lined baking pan and bake them in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes turning once.
baked curried turkey burgers:
preheat oven to 375
- 1 tbsp indian spice (can get a pre-made one or use recipe below)
- 1 lb ground turkey thigh meat
- few springs of cilantro
indian curry spice recipe: 2 tbsp onion powder, 2 tsp garam masala, 2 tsp coriander, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon. 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
mix 1 tbsp spice mix with the 1 lb of ground turkey and form four patties.
put them on a parchment paper lined baking pan and bake them in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes turning once. make sure the internal temp reaches at least 165.
top with cilantro and enjoy.
these books have some of my favorite recipes:
the keto diet cookbook: the slow cooked beef korma recipe is a big hit! try it over cauliflower rice.
primal blueprint: pork fried cauliflower rice and the asian pork lettuce wraps are my personal faves.
the keto diet: i’m super excited about this non-dairy keto cookbook that one of our awesome clients told me about. here’s a photo of my book. you can see all the tags hanging out marking all the recipes that i want to try.
- about 1 tbsp a day of almond butter on a few squares of low carb chocolate.
- some of these ice creams are low carb.
- avocado pudding sweetened with stevia and/or monk fruit (instead of dates) is a good option too. try to eat lots of avocados because they are loaded with potassium (more than bananas!)
for alcohol, i stick to vodka mixed with la croix 🙂 there is also this hard cider that is low carb at whole foods. it tastes like super yummy kombucha. read the label though, not sure they are all low carb.
here’s a couple tips for those nights out with the crew:
- make sure you drink at least 3 quarts jars of water during the day.
- take extra electrolytes during the day (sodium, potassium, magnesium) and take a b-100 complex capsule or tablet before drinking, and then again before bed and then in the am when you wake up. this will prevent a hellish hangover.
- remember to go easy on the alcohol while on a low carb diet. it will hit you harder and faster than you are used to.
- also, check out our blog post on hangover prevention.
1.) Paoli A, Grimaldi K, Toniolo L, et al. Nutrition and acne: therapeutic potential of ketogenic diets. Skin Pharmacol Physiol.2012;25(3):111-117; PMID: 22327146.