(Note: this post contains links to products I used. I DO NOT make any money off these links. Buy ’em – don’t buy ’em – I don’t care.)
So my last personal challenge failed. On to a new one.
I have read Dr. William Davis’ Undoctored and decided to finally take the plunge and go the full monte. In a nutshell, he recommends a ketogenic diet and specific supplementation so it’s not far from my usual attempt. It’s a ‘clean keto’ where grains are prohibited as well as artificial stuff. I think it is well thought out and I like how he presents it: as a cardiologist, he sticks to science and where he prescribes a certain course of action that might not be accepted science, he notes that his approach is experimental and as new information comes in he will refine his approach.
That’s the kind of scientific thinking I like to see. I don’t take is as he’s pushing snake oil as much as he’s saying: “Try this. It might work for you and it’s unlikely to harm you. Let me know your results and I’ll continue to refine my protocol.”
Alas, it is a fussy diet in that the doc states it must be followed in full to get the synergistic benefits – doing it only halfway gets you far less than half the benefits.
One of the trickier aspects – at least to me – is you have to make what I call his ‘magic yogurt’. Even Dr. Davis refers to this as ‘wacky’ in one of his videos. I’d even say it sounds ‘quacky’ given all the benefits he attributes to it (you can read them here). I have no idea if the stuff actually does anything or if Dr. Davis is full of shit, but I don’t think so – at least I believe *he* sincerely believes it helps – and I’m up for a new experiment.
This was the one part of the diet that I waited until now to try. I started the diet 15 days ago and have been dialing in all the different parts. The yogurt is the last piece, I think.
To me, the instructions to make the stuff I found on the Internet were vague and a lot of people were spending a lot of time to fail at the attempt and throw out batch after batch. I did a lot of Google searches, came across recipes that didn’t provide me the details I wanted, and even did a chat with Instant Pot which yielded little help.
The problems with the instructions are that they try to cover too many different scenarios. I found it confusing (maybe I’m stupid).
This week I took the plunge and made the yogurt. I’m detailing here the EXACT steps I took for my own records and thought I’d share.
Get your stuff together
To do this you need the following ingredients:
Organic inulin powder. This is a carb you can’t digest. I don’t count it in my carbs at all. It’s made from chicory root and while we can’t digest it, it supposedly is a great food for the bacteria we want to multiply in our yogurt making. I used the ‘Now’ brand but I think any organic inulin powder would do.
Organic half and half. This term means half milk and half cream. The trick here is to check the ingredients. There should be only two ingredients: milk and cream. Only buy the refrigerated stuff – not the stuff in the packaging that lets you store it on a shelf. Anything else might prevent the batch from turning into yogurt. Don’t question!
Biogaia probiotic. Again: no questions! Don’t try another probiotic. Use this exact stuff. The point of the exercise is *not* to make yogurt but to multiply the number of the specific, patented, L. Reuteri bacteria in *this* specific probiotic by using the yogurt-making process. Doing this increases the dose of L. Reuteri you get way beyond the amount you’d receive from just taking the pill form. This is a ‘hack’ and hacks can be messy and complicated and have umpty-million steps. That’s why I like clear directions like this.
Mortar and pestle. You need to crush the pills up and there is no better tool to do this than a mortar and pestle. Don’t have one? You’re on your own, bunkie.
Now to the Instant Pot. I have a model DUO80 with a yogurt setting. If you don’t have a yogurt setting on yours, I can’t help you. The next gotcha in this process is the cooking temperature should be between 100 and 115 degrees. At 120 degrees this bacteria starts to die off. Most bacteria used to make yogurt like a higher temperature, which means that a standard yogurt maker might overshoot the temperature and kill the bacteria. Dr. Davis mentions that the Instant Pot does not precisely control temperature. I would also imagine that there are temperature variations between models – and even individual units – that don’t matter for most yogurts – but do for this fussy species of bacteria. So how do you know if your Instant Pot can work? We’ll test it.
Testing your Instant Pot
I bought a $14 instant-read digital thermometer to be sure I would have an exact reading. I got this one. This pot testing also acts as a ‘dry run’ before you use the expensive ingredients and prevents fumbling with the real stuff. You only need to do this once. To do the test:
Place a quart of water in the Instant pot.
Put the cover on and open the steam valve on the cover – we’re not using the pressure cooker function while yogurt making (or testing).
Assuming you’ve plugged it in and turned it on, it made a happy electronic gurgle-beep when the top was put on properly (like it’s surprised you *can* put on the top) and awaits your command.
Press the ‘Yogurt’ button the the ‘Adjust’ button on the fairly intimidating front control panel of the Instant Pot. Clicking ‘Adjust’ should cause the LED panel to show the word ‘bOIL’. You need to do this fairly quickly because the pot assumes that if you don’t mess with it for 5-7 seconds that you’re done. If you dilly-dally, it will turn on at the wrong setting. Follow orders!
It should turn on, and for a quart of water it should reach what is not actually ‘boiling point’ but more like 180 degrees. It’s really meant to pasteurize the milk again just to be sure it isn’t contaminated. If using raw milk I’d definitely NOT skip this step when making yogurt. We’re testing with water just to be sure.
This should take maybe 15 minutes or so. When it beeps, check the temp with the thermometer. Mine was 190 degrees. That’s fine.
Now, put the top back on and let it cool to about 105 degrees. The pot will not tell you when it’s ready. You want to know the time for *your* pot because you don’t want it going too low. Patience and timing is everything here. For my pot it took about 2 hours. After an hour I tested every 15 minutes or so until I measured at a temp of about 110 – close enough.
Press the ‘Keep Warm/Cancel’ button, then hit the ‘Yogurt’ button again. The little LED bar below the panel should be at the ‘Normal’ setting – not ‘Low’ nor ‘High’.
Leave it alone and it should beep and start a ‘count-up’ timer as opposed to a ‘count-down’ timer. We’re going to wait an hour then check the temp to be sure our Instant Pot is able to maintain the temperature our fussy bacteria needs.
Give up yet? No? You’re hard core! Thanks for staying with me! So after an hour what we’re looking for is what temp your Instant Pot *really* runs at – not what the instructions say – but a real-world test on your pot to be extra-sure it’s going to work for our purpose. I measured and the temp was 106 degrees. I waited and checked again 15 minutes later: 106 degrees. That temp is within the 100-115 degree range and should be fine for making our magic yogurt.
At this point you might be questioning ‘why’ you are going through all this trouble. Read the book or check out this link to learn of all the supposed magical properties – I’m not going to try and explain.
Actually making the yogurt
You’ve tested your pot, you got the ingredients, and are ready to go! Now if you’re extra anal, you would sterilize your pot and utensils (by pouring boiling water over them maybe). I did NOT go that far. I washed everything and dried with a paper towel, but that’s it.
Pour the half and half into the pot.
Put the top on and press the ‘Yogurt’ button then the ‘Adjust’ button so the screen shows ‘bOIL’.
That’s it. In 5-7 seconds the pot should beep and it should start scalding the milk.
It should beep off in about 15 minutes or so, depending on your pot.
Now remember that cooling time you got while testing with water? Mine was about 2 hours. Use *your* time – not mine.
Wait. You can stare at the pot and tap your toe, or set an alarm and come back. The pot will not beep – it’s off. It’s on you to get to the pot when the temp is still in the happy zone.
Prepping the probiotic
You might want to use the cool-down time to prep your Biogaia probiotic. NOTE: you only need to do this for the first batch. If all goes correctly you should be able to use a tablespoon or two from your first batch of yogurt to make your next batch – then use a tablespoon or two from THAT batch to make the next one. You might never need to touch a pill again. If a particular generation of yogurt doesn’t come out properly, then use the pills again as below.
Take 10 of the Biogaia tablets and crush with a mortar and pestle. The stuff ground to a powder quite easily
Set aside in a small covered dish (or wait until your half and half has cooled).
Add the ingredients and *finally* start making yogurt!
This stuff had better be ‘magic yogurt’ for all the trouble you’ve put in so far!
I used a 1-cup pyrex container to scoop out maybe a quarter cup of the warm half and half from the Instant Pot.
Into the container I put about 2 tablespoons of the inulin. We’re making a slurry and not trying to get the stuff dissolved, but inulin will want to clump just to piss you off. Using the tines of a fork I mixed the half and half and inulin with a frantic sense of urgency until there were no clumps. I’ve come too far to screw this up now!
Then I added the crushed pills and did the same frantic mixing.
Once mixed I put it in the pot and then mixed the contents of the mixing pot with the fork.
Press the ‘Yogurt’ button.
The LED display should show ’24:00′. You want ’36:00′.
Press the ‘+’ button under the LED panel until the screen displays ’36:00′. Don’t think even more is better – after 36:00 the yogurt might start to die off. Follow instructions!
Wait 5-7 seconds. The unit should beep and the time resets to ’00:00′
Wait 36 hours. Do NOT try to rush things! The extra time allows the number of live bacteria to multiply exponentially. Follow orders!
Things to remember while waiting
After all this you might have forgotten why you are doing this. Read the section in the Undoctored book to remind yourself or visit the Undoctored blog (links above).
I know – you’re tempted to peek. Keep in mind that yogurt cultures can become contaminated by contact with air. The best advice to to not peek, but if you have to, it’s not going to even begin to look like yogurt until about 12 hours. I did peek multiple times, but each peek increases the risk of contamination. Call me a daredevil.
Don’t stir or otherwise molest the incubating yogurt (do not taunt Happy Fun Ball). You wouldn’t poke at freshly-hatched baby chicks, would you? Don’t futz with it. At this point it’s either going to work or not – and there’s nothing I know of that can fix it.
At hour 36 the unit will beep off and cool. Mine did this some time between 3 and 4am. I didn’t get up until 7:30am.
My final result had a pungent, yogurt smell and was a milk color with some slight yellowed splotches on the top. This seemed OK. If you have black mold or other colored molds, game over. It got contaminated and you should throw it out.
My first batch came out the consistency of Jello. A lot of people say that their first batch was watery. Mine wasn’t. I actually used a small cake serving utensil to get it out. There might be some liquid left. That is whey – and you don’t want to mix it in the yogurt as it can raise insulin. (Newsflash! Whey *might* not be good for you especially if you are insulin-resistant – even though it is used in countless high-protein powders.) If you have a lot of extra whey, you can put it in an ice tray or into a small container you keep in the fridge and use 2 tablespoons for your next batch of yogurt.
The Taste Test
I placed mine in the fridge before 8am and had my first ‘dose’ – 1/2 cup – at about noon. I had heard that the result can be, ahem, an ‘acquired taste’. I opened my container and whey had come to the top which I drained off. I scooped out a half a cup and took my first spoonful.
OMG – it was delicious!
I am used to eating plain yogurt, so unsweetened yogurts are the way I roll. As unsweetened yogurts go, this was top-notch. It was not as strong a flavor as Fage Greek yogurt, though the smell was more powerful. It actually had a mild flavor and a very creamy mouth-feel. The yogurt had a superior flavor to Fage, and I like Fage.
The yogurt had formed a skin and I can imagine fussbudgets gagging at that. I suppose you could mix it to reduce the effect but it didn’t bother me.
For those of you who can’t abide the taste of plain yogurt, Dr. Davis recommends a number of natural sweeteners – check out his book or his blogs for more info.
Good luck – and if anyone actually reads this far AND makes the yogurt, let me know if my instructions were helpful and your results.
UPDATE 06/17/19: It seems my wife and daughters like the yogurt as well. I’ve also started a second batch using the leftover whey with the inulin and this appears to be coming along just fine.
So a bit about the word ‘fast’. No eating anything is technically a ‘fast’ – and I’m not going to do that. Now fasting has increasing evidence that it can be healthy, and least to my small brain, but I have no intention of doing any heroic water-only week-long fasts. Some people do these 4 times a year, or every other month.
My plan is to do about zero one-week fasts per year.
The maximum fast I’m targeting would be 24 hours – a one meal a day (or ‘OMAD’ to geeks in the know). This is as far as I’ll take it. I will shoot for a 16:8 fast (16 hours without eating and 2 meals 8 hours apart) or even a 18:6 or 20:4 fast). Ideally, I’ll try to split my calories evenly between the two.
I can do this without being insanely hungry, though I think my years of low carb make this easier. I’ve also been doing this a lot in the past year so I’m used to it – in fact, it is *eating* that makes me hungry more than anything else!
So that’s the time element of the fast. Then there’s the food element.
When I do break the fast the meal should be mostly fat – if I’m adhering to what I’ve set out to do.
It’s not the scale that interests me the most though, it’s the ketones.
I’m one of those people that some keto folks accuse of ‘chasing ketones’. Guilty as charged. I believe they make me feel better, think clearer, reduce my blood glucose more, and possibly have a number of neuroprotective and anti-cancer benefits.
The weight loss? It comes along for the ride.
Now – don’t believe my claims just because I said them. I’m not authority. Use Google and come to your own conclusions. I could cite a long list of articles that discuss some of these claims, but most people won’t read them and I don’t feel like it – but I also don’t want you to believe me just because I said it.
If I felt I had anything to prove, I would. I don’t, so if you choose to read along, again keep in mind this is for my accountability and your entertainment – nothing more.
The only thing I’ve done is maintained the 16-hour or more fast, and hae been taking my psyllium daily.
Black coffee in the AM, then at noon or so the psyllium. I have been having Trader Joe’s Ginger-Turmeric Tea in the early afternoon. It’s not only tasty but soothes a stomach that has had nothing but coffee in it for 12+ hours.
I know this is something not everyone could do without feeling awful – but I actually feel OK. I was hungry the first day but not really since.
The evenings have been crap. Wine and then whatever food was about. There was a birthday, Valentine’s Day, dining out, and leftovers.
My portions aren’t huge, so I would imagine I’ve been taking in a reasonable amount of calories and probably between 50-100 grams of carbs per day.
I am going to endeavor to get better though there *is* an especially high amount of chaos in my life at this time (what a drama queen).
I haven’t done this in a while – possibly because too many people would read it – but now that I’ve ‘trimmed my audience‘ it might be time to start another ‘accountability journal’. These usually don’t end well, but hey – people love to watch a trainwreck – though I hope a trainwreck is not the end result.
So to make a real long story short, I lost about 30lbs. last year and I did great through the holidays, then went WAY off the ranch in 2019. Go figure. So here I am at 247.4, and I’ve decided today is as good a day as any to start a fat fast to lose 20lbs.
What’s a fat fast? It’s where you eat 80% fat in your diet and keep your calories on the very low end of acceptable intake. For me that’s about 1200 calories per day. This is a very good way to get into ketosis quickly. My body is also very used to being in ketosis and the transition can happen very fast.
I have a few other high-level goals that dovetail with the above:
Intermittent Fasting: A 16-hour or more fast per day. 2 meals spaced 4 hours apart or one meal a day as the extreme or even the occasional one meal a day
I’m shooting for ketones in the 1.5-3.0 range
I tally my eating. There won’t be much of it if things go to plan so it should be easy
No alcohol, duh
This is a temporary state. It’s ‘boot camp’ and will get throttled back when my weight goes below 227.4. A lack of protein or veggies shouldn’t be cause for alarm as a short-term thing. They happen after the 20 lb. loss.
I take my psyllium supplement daily
I take my vitamins daily
Now – a word of caution. I am a dope. I STRONGLY recommend that you Do Not Try This At Home. I have been doing keto diets (for the most part badly)since 2003 and have been reading and researching on the topic for 15 years. This has proven to me that no one should look to me for advice, or do what I do.
Ketogenic diets are not for everyone. I have years of experience as well as bloodwork that shows I tolerate them well. You might not – and that means you going to your doctor to find this out. This is also an extreme regimen and I can’t think of a single person I would recommend it to.
Lastly, I’m going to try to keep these journal entries short. I typically make this stuff up as I go along so we’ll see what happens.
The chart above is from Google Trends, a nifty tool where anyone can go in and compare how popular search terms are. There are plenty of people typing stuff into Google all the time, so this is a pretty good reflection of how popular something is.
The red line is the search term ‘low carb’. Notice how the chart descends in 2004? That’s the last gasp of the ‘Atkins Craze’ – and right around the time I first went on a low carb diet. Low carb died just as I started losing weight. I used to go to the Vitamin Shoppe and get my Atkins shakes – they had a whole wall devoted to low carb products. For a while Costco was selling huge cartons of them and I bought my supply there, but then they stopped selling them.
I went back to The Vitamin Shoppe after some time and the shelves of low carb stuff were gone! I remember asking the guy behind the counter and he told me: “Yeah, that’s not popular anymore. The big thing now is the Perricone Prescription.”
Wait…wut? I’m not looking for another diet. The one I’m on is working fine. The Atkins Nutritionals – the company that manufactured low carb products after Dr. Atkins died – produced wonderful bread and bagels I could buy in my local supermarket. The price was unreasonable – but the stuff was good. About the same time all these baked goods suddenly had ‘Manager’s Special’ stickers and deep discounts.
I knew what that meant. I bought and freezed what I could.
They were soon gone.
In August of 2005, Atkins Nutritionals declared bankruptcy. I had also lost about 60 pounds on the diet and had no intention of chasing the next big thing. It worked for me, my bloodwork was better, and I felt great.
Meanwhile, I read somewhere that the unsold Atkins Shakes I could no longer find were being donated to food pantries.
It was dark times for Atkins dieters. There’s always people who revel in Schadenfreude when something that becomes big explodes – I’m one of them – but I had no intention of changing what was working for me. Atkins dieters went underground.
Low carb disappeared from the general discussion, was dismissed as a fad, and mostly forgotten – except for a small band of bloggers that kept persisting in the belief that this stupid diet still had merit.
And here’s a necessary shout-out to Jimmy Moore. While I have my issues with the gentleman, and he still remains controversial among many, he was the loudest voice in low carb circles for many years. (I found his KetoTalk podcast to be pretty good and listened to a lot of episodes last year.)
Gary Taubes also published Good Calories, Bad Calories in 2007. This was the type of book needed to reignite interest in low carb – but this wasn’t the book. It was not a good read at all. It was a struggle. I’ve listened to Gary talk and he’s quite interesting (you can listen here) – but this book was a slog.
I also started this blog with the original purpose to have a place to store recipes so I can get ingredient lists at work so I could pick up stuff to cook when I got home.
So because I liked to write I just wrote – not caring if anyone read it, but I found that more people than I ever expected came and read and commented.
I liked the feedback and thoughtful comments and kept doing it – steadily – for most of a decade.
for the Internet, that’s almost unheard of.
Now let’s look at a second chart:
This is a chart showing my website traffic by month. I can take pride in the fact that – me – dumb little me – was able to get over one million views. I didn’t have to expose body parts, or actually do anything that interesting except share some mediocre recipes I invented or discuss something about low carb diets.
But you can see that it’s coming to an end.
With the rise of ‘keto’, there are now so many sources for recipes that my pathetic selection is a waste of your time.
And my commentary is old. So much has been spoken and written about the diet that much of what is here isn’t worth very much. There’s 500+ posts and I’m not sure more than a few dozen are worth reading today.
These days, the place I go to most for info on keto diets is Impulsive Keto. I don’t know who this guy is, but I like his thinking. (While his site is not that impressive, he really shines on Facebook – check him out there – join his Impulsive Keto Facebook group.)
I also have a tendency to ramble on. It’s not cool anymore. I am a TL;DR blogger to be sure.
I also *also* have little new to say because…well…there’s so many people talking about this subject that, well, what’s *left* to say?!?
I still follow a low carb/ketogenic diet and do not plan to change any time soon. I don’t always meet my goals but my target is always under 20 grams of carbs per day.
But the reality is that this blog is a bit of an anachronism. When nobody talked about low carb/keto diets, I was, and people came. Now everybody talks about it and my blog gets lost in the noise – and perhaps rightly so – because there are better sources of information than me.
So going back to the 2 charts above, you can see that people coming to my website dropped like a stone as ‘keto’ took off. That’s probably as it should be. There’s people way better at packaging this sort of information who get the search engine hits I used to get.
I’m OK with that. This was never about me trying to make a buck doing this. I was passionate about low carb when it seemed no one else was, I liked to write, and and it seemed other lost souls seemed to respond to the fact that someone else felt the same way they did about the diet. At best, I’ve had a tiny walk-on part in the history of low carb – and the money I got from the ads on this site over a decade where I wrote over 1,000 posts would pay for maybe a half-dozen casual dining restaurant meals (no bar tab) for my family.
I think I can say my mission is done. I helped keep the lights on for low carb. It’s come roaring back as keto and there’s some really good science that didn’t exist when I started.
I don’t plan on going anywhere, and might continue to post as the mood strikes, but I’d say my tour of duty is done.