Review: Real Food Keto

      28 Comments on Review: Real Food Keto

I spent a chunk of my end-of-the-year vacation watching football and nipping at the bottle of single-malt whiskey I received as a gift. Fortunately, I also found time to catch up on some reading, which means I finally had a chance to finish Jimmy Moore’s latest offering, Real Food Keto. I’ll start with the brief review:

If you’re interested in following a ketogenic diet and want to improve your overall health, you should read this book. If you’re not interested in following a ketogenic diet but want to improve your overall health, you should read this book. Real Food Keto is first and foremost a book about achieving real health by eating real food, which is why the subtitle is Applying Nutritional Therapy to Your Low-Carb, High-Fat Diet. The keto aspect of it is secondary.

Now for the longer review.

When I read a book about diet and health, one of the criteria for evaluating it is my “Aunt Martha” test, meaning your Aunt Martha could understand it without reaching for a medical dictionary. Jimmy’s a talented writer who’s always had the knack for putting the science in layman’s terms. As you may recall, Chareva’s second-cousin, a neurologist, recommended Keto Clarity to Chareva’s father and specifically said he liked how well it explains the concepts to a lay audience. (He didn’t know Jimmy and I are friends when he said that. I then surprised the heck out of him by calling Jimmy on Facetime so the doctor could pass along the compliment himself.)

I’ve recommended diet and health books that are well written, that definitely pass the Aunt Martha test, but didn’t tell me much I didn’t already know. That’s because my bookshelf is full of diet and health books, and I end up reading about essentially the same concepts multiple times.

Real Food Keto, on the other hand, contains a ton of information that was new to me. I’m pretty sure that’s because of Jimmy’s co-author this time around: Christine Moore, who happens to be his wife.

Last year, Christine completed the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP) course, which is offered by the Nutritional Therapy Association. Their philosophy is very much in line with Weston A. Price principles. In fact, Dr. Price’s classic book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration is at the top of a rather long list of required reading for NTP students. As Jimmy himself has said, since completing the coursework, Christine now tells him things about diet and health he didn’t already know. (I think all wives should occasionally tell their husband things they don’t already know.)

Jimmy has told his personal story on his blog and in his previous books. Far fewer people are familiar with Christine’s personal story, which she relates in the introduction. The brief version is that she was born three months premature and has been battling the effects most of her life. You’ve heard the saying genetics loads the gun, but the diet pulls the trigger. In Christine’s case, it’s more like extremely premature birth loaded the gun and pulled the trigger, and then a bad diet pulled the trigger again and again.

She’s been blind in her left eye since birth. The vision in her right eye grew steadily worse over the years. (When Jimmy asked to marry her, he was warned she’d be totally blind by age 35. He married her anyway.) She’s had issues with her joints, her spine, her moods, her hormones and her immune system, to name just a few.

The good news is that after getting off a low-fat, high-sugar, fake-food diet and switching to a ketogenic diet, Christine’s health problems began to improve. After completing her NTP courses and focusing on a real-food, nutrient-dense diet, they improved even more. For decades, her remaining eyesight grew steadily worse. Now it’s actually getting better.  Dr. Price would be proud.

I’m a big believer in the value of experience. Yes, someone is naturally lean and athletic can certainly acquire the knowledge to teach others about weight loss. But I like hearing from someone who’s lost 100 pounds and kept it off – even if you can’t see his abs. Someone who has been generally healthy since birth can certainly acquire the knowledge to teach others about diet and health. But in Real Food Keto, we’re hearing from a co-author who has had to deal with far worse health problems than most of us ever experience. Learning about nutrition at a deep level was a big part of overcoming those problems. Sharing what she’s learned is now a passion for Christine. As she writes near the end of the introduction section:

With all that I’ve gone through with my health and coming out the other side many years older, wiser, and healed, I knew I wanted to do something to help others on their journeys to optimizing their health.

Because it’s called Real Food Keto and not just Real Food, the opening chapters are of course about the ketogenic diet, with an emphasis on tailoring it for your individual needs. As you’d expect, there are explanations of what ketosis means, the benefits of ketosis, how to get into a ketogenic state, and the various ways to measure ketones.

But throughout these chapters (throughout the whole book, actually) the pound-it-home message is that to be healthy, we need proper nutrients, not just a proper ratio of macronutrients. To underscore that message early on, there’s a section titled Two Major Pioneers In Nutrition describing the works of Dr. Weston A. Price and Dr. Frances Pottenger.

So yes, the book promotes a ketogenic diet, but it’s a nutrient-dense ketogenic diet. Among the many suggestions are: eating a variety of foods, eating seasonally, buying foods from farmers’ markets, eating some vegetables raw, including some fermented foods in the diet, using natural salts, and switching to raw dairy products if possible.

There are in-depth chapters on protein, carbohydrates and fats that describe how all three are used in the body. Since it’s a keto book, there are explanations of why saturated fats won’t kill you and why “vegetable” oils (most of which are actually seeds oils) aren’t good for your heart or the rest of your body.

But there’s also a chapter titled Water: The Fourth Macronutrient that I found particularly interesting. I’ve been making a mental note to drink more water since reading it. Here are a couple of quotes:

We’ve already discussed quite a few nutrient deficiencies in this book, but, by far, the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States is good old H2O. By the time you feel the first tinge of thirst, the process of dehydration has already begun. When the amount of water in your body is off by even a little, it directly affects the minerals and electrolytes that keep your body in tiptop shape.

Water is and always will be the most important nutrient you can get. Eat all the high-fat, moderate-protein, low-carb food you want, but if your water intake is off by even a little, it can lead to some serious health issues. Our bodies were made to be nourished by water, and the reasons for and benefits of getting just the right intake of water are plentiful.

The book then describes the many benefits of water, and how becoming dehydrated can affect everything from your endocrine system to your immune system.

Like I said, this book contains a lot of information I didn’t already know. For reasons I’ve explained in previous blog posts, I don’t measure ketones or aim for ketosis. So while the chapters on ketogenic dieting are well written, they don’t apply to me personally. Starting with the chapter on water, however, pretty much everything in the rest of the book applies to anyone interested in being healthy. I suspect I’ll be pulling Real Food Keto off the bookshelf regularly as a reference.

Part Three, which is titled Applying Nutritional Therapy, is the largest section in the book. It’s also where Christine’s Nutritional Therapy Practitioner education is most on display.

There are two chapters on minerals and vitamins. Both follow the same basic pattern: for each mineral or vitamin, there’s an explanation of its function in the body, a list of the symptoms of insufficiency, and a list of which foods are rich in the mineral or vitamin. There are also suggestions on which tests you may want to request from a health provider and which supplements to consider.

The next chapter is an in-depth look at digestion, which includes sections on stomach acid (in which we learn that nine out of ten people these days don’t produce enough of it), leaky gut and the gut microbiome. As you might guess, there are explanations of how the processed garbage that passes for food these days screws up the digestive process. Since this is book about real food, there’s also a section describing which foods help to heal digestive problems. Apple cider vinegar, for example, helps to stimulate the production of stomach acid. (I now have a bottle of apple cider vinegar in the kitchen and have taken to drizzling it on some foods.)

There’s a chapter on blood sugar and why pretty much everything having to do with health goes haywire when blood sugar is chronically high. Naturally, the book suggests adopting a ketogenic diet to control blood sugar. The final two chapters are on the endocrine system (with a very good section on adrenal fatigue) and detoxification.

As a bonus (a big bonus), there are about 80 pages of keto-friendly, real-food recipes at the back of the book provided by Maria Emmerich, who has written quite a few keto cookbooks. Search for her name on Amazon and you’ll see the whole collection.

I’ve read several of Jimmy’s books, and this was my favorite. Perhaps that’s because I’m not as interested in ketogenic dieting or fasting as some people, but I suspect it’s because of the Nutritional Therapy Practitioner knowledge Christine brought to the table for this one. Either way, if you’re interested in real food and real health, this is one to add to your library.

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28 thoughts on “Review: Real Food Keto

  1. Tom

    I bought into the “drink more water” theory and drinking enough is important. I know drinking WAY too much causes problems but for some what might seem a reasonable amount can cause problems.

    I used to drink about a gallon of water a day plus coffee, soup and other liquid sources, figuring that was well below the amounts needed to stay well hydrated.

    I experienced some fatigue, weakness, swelling of the feet and some headaches. A blood test showed I was drinking enough to drop my sodium levels low enough to start experiencing symptoms of hyponatremia.

    Once I got out of the habit of always sipping at a big cup of water and increased my sodium intake a little, problems went away.

    Interesting show on netflix that talks about it along with CTE problems from football (athletes often over hydrate and suffer from hyponatremia as well).

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yup, they make the point that there’s a sweet spot for water consumption, which will vary depending on your size, activity level, which other liquids you’re drinking that have a diuretic effect, etc. They recommend against drinking too much water, especially chugging the stuff.

  2. Dianne

    Doggone it, Tom, I’m not sure I can afford to keep reading your blog. Every time you write an enthusiastic review like this one, I have to bounce right over to Amazon and order the book. Mind you, you’ve never misled me and I’ve never been sorry I got any of them, but over time the $$$ mounts up. Plus, I’m pretty much out of shelf space.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I need a bigger bookshelf myself. I receive more books than I review. I don’t see the point in posting a review of a book that didn’t quite work for me, so if I’m posting a review, you can bet I believe the book is a good one.

    2. Tom Welsh

      Likewise! Tom is an excellent book reviewer. And he has that wonderful and so uncommon ingredient – common sense.

  3. Firebird7478

    I’ve been seeing a lot lately on the topic of water consumption. Tim Noakes has written articles and books on the subject — the subject of over hydration. Dr. Erich Berg, a keto doctor, has videos about the over use of water. He’s stated that he consumes roughly 32 oz. per day and gets the rest from the food he eats, including meats and vegetables which have plenty of water. He cites a music festival in his home town that he happened to be attending. It was a hot humid day and the drummer of one of the bands appearing passed out on stage. Turns out he had drunk a gallon of water that day to fight the heat. Flushed out his electrolytes. The symptoms are identical to dehydration.

    It’s a touchy topic.

    1. Tom Welsh

      There are many documented cases of death caused by drinking too much water. As far as I know, none (outside desert areas, shipwrecks, etc.) of death caused by thirst.

      I’m not trying to criticize anyone or belittle their ideas. But I am chronically confused and disillusioned by the frequency with which “experts” reverse their positions.

  4. Obadyah Owen

    I’ve been going low carb/keto since my Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis in June and have had wonderful results. Based on your review I’m going to buy this book to kick it up a notch. I’ve had some struggles nutritionally.

    BTW, thanks, Tom, for making your movie. It gave me the beginning of reversing my diabetes and obesity.

  5. Tom Welsh

    First off, you have a tiny typo: “Real Fool Keto”. You’ll want to fix that! 😎

    Second, I am interested by your remarks about water but inclined to be sceptical in view of the perpetual question: how did this affect our hunter-gatherer ancestors?

    I can’t imagine they often had the luxury of camping right by a source of potable water, and like most other animals they must have spent most of their time without readily available water.

    In particular, when in pursuit of some unfortunate creature designated as supper, I understand that early people relied on their lack of hair and consequent tolerance for heat, as well as other advantages, to outlast the prey. No water bottles during those early marathons, I imagine.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yikes, that’s an embarrassing typo. Fixed it, thanks.

      Good question on water. I’d make two points: 1) hunter-gatherers likely did, in fact, choose their locations based on where water was available, and 2) conditions we can survive aren’t necessarily ideal for health.

      1. Watsong

        I recommend watching the film “The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)”. A light comedy film, interspersed, on occasion, with documentary style narration about the African bush people of the region in which the film was set. They live in an area without lakes, rivers or streams. Sourcing their water entirely from plants, they, apparently, lived normal, healthy, lives.

        Just did a quick search before posting this. Since the film was made, diamonds were found in one of the bushmen areas and the government decided to try and wipe them out…

        So in response to your points raised:
        1) The bushmen, (hunter-gatherers), did not choose their location based on where water was available.
        2) Especially where diamonds/wealth are involved.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          Well, let’s put it this way: water was available, if only in plants. With no liquid intake whatsoever, humans die within a week or so.

      2. Stuart

        Australian Aborigines in the “desert” areas (actually dry savannah) in good seasons would avoid the permanent water sources and hunt in other areas, getting their water from tree roots and digging for water. By doing this they ensured that the permanent water sources served as refuges during droughts with adequate animal and vegetable food supplies. The introduction of cattle and sheep ruined this strategy because the livestock remained in the vicinity of the permanent water and ate out all the vegetation for miles around, with the result that the kangaroos and other native animals abandoned the area. (Rabbits likewise ate everything for miles around and were even more devastating – there are photos of literally hundreds of rabbits surrounding waterholes during droughts.)

        Anyhow, this may or may not be relevant to ancestral humans in Africa, given the existence of that chain of lakes in the Rift Valley of East Africa. (A fossil of an early human Richard Leakey’s team discovered was preserved because the boy’s body was preserved in lake sediments) I mention it to point out that our European idea that water only exists in rivers and ponds ignores the widespread use of other sources by hunter-gatherers. Of course in well-watered country they would rely on open water sources – why dig up tree roots or a soak if you don’t have to. However, since water is essential to us, hunter-gatherers always ensured they had some source of water in their environment.

  6. chris c

    Watch out for that apple cider vinegar! My mither choked on some and it sent down into her lungs, we had to call the paramedics. She forgot to dilute it with water.

    Sounds like an excellent book, you will be able to tell how good by the level of troll activity on blogs and Twitter. Incoming in three, two, one . . .

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      Yikes. I don’t dilute it, but I mix it with the food before eating. Tried just swallowing a bit of it straight and found it’s very strong and burns going down. If it’s mixed with food, not a problem.

      Jimmy attract trolls like the Pied Piper attracts children. He’s used to it.

      1. Bonnie

        Just curious about apple cider vinegar. I’ve heard all my life that it’s good for you (my mother was a devotee of Adele Davis), but I’ve never seen any study comparing it to other vinegars or even to nothing. I found a seasoned fermented coconut nectar vinegar that tastes fantastic. I drizzle it on foods & mix it with mayo for a salad dressing.

        1. Tom Naughton Post author

          I’m not familiar with any research comparing apple cider vinegar to other vinegars. It certainly tastes more acidic and burns going down if you try to drink it straight.

          1. Firebird7478

            I remember the Kevin Trudeau infomercial on his fat loss book, which promoted the 500 calorie HCG Diet. From what I recall, it was recommended back then to use vinegar for heartburn. First time I ever heard that heartburn was from too little stomach acid and not too much. I don’t think he ever specified ACV for heartburn. Any vinegar would do.

            I have the book. Should go re-read some of it.

            Also, I am beginning to realize that I cannot do keto, nor can I do Carnivore. I have found that I have to have SOME CARBS added to my meals along with meat and fat to improve satiety. Of course the Carnivore fanatics will tell me that I am not eating enough protein and fat, but if a 16 oz. steak by itself doesn’t prevent me from snacking 2 hours later but 20 gms of carbs along side it DOES, well I guess I should probably do the latter!

            Going to put some resistant starch into the diet and see what that does.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              I think it’s ridiculous to assume that every human being can thrive on a zero-carb diet. Works great for many people, but for others, it’s an invitation to experience hormonal disruptions. I feel at my best in the 50-75 grams per day range, usually closer to 50.

            2. Tom Welsh

              The problem with the steak may be (and I stress MAY) that so much meat nowadays is very low in fat. Steaks in my local shops tend to be advertised as 10% fat or less.

              One solution is to choose fatty meats like bacon, lamb, and pork belly. But that may not be to everyone’s taste.

              What I often do is eat a steak, then follow it with a good wedge of cheese for dessert. Cheese is much higher in fat (although it also has a good deal of protein) and there is a huge variety to choose from. (Demonstrating a rather surprising sense of humour, General De Gaulle once asked, when he was president of France, “How can you expect to govern a country that has two hundred and forty-six kinds of cheese?”)

              Another idea that may sound gross until you try it is to put a nice big lump of butter on your steak – or inside your baked potato, on your greens, etc. Best if you can get really high quality unsalted butter from grass-fed cows.

              Lastly, I enjoy a low-carb sandwich made of two slices of hard cheese with a thin steak in between.

            3. Firebird7478

              “The problem with the steak may be (and I stress MAY) that so much meat nowadays is very low in fat. Steaks in my local shops tend to be advertised as 10% fat or less.”

              That is not the case. I go for rib eyes and porterhouses and the macros are broken down on the label. Same with the ground beef that I buy. I know lean when I taste it — flavorless and rubbery!

              “Another idea that may sound gross until you try it is to put a nice big lump of butter on your steak…”

              Dr. Greg Ellis recommended this back in 2002. I’ll do it from time to time but usually I just like my steaks salted with nothing else.

              It gets confusing because even with doctors who advise low-carb diets, they cannot seem to agree on the fat. Ted Naiman calls for leaner cuts of meat (forcing the body to use its own fat stores) while others feel you need the fattier cuts in order to promote satiety.

              As I said before, I gain satiety and hold it for longer periods if there are some carbs added to the meal. I am guessing it is the fiber content that helps promote the satiety — which flies in the face of some other low carb/keto docs who think we need no fiber at all.

          2. Tom Page

            Tom, Is the reason you do not personally do the Ketogenic diet is because of the low carbs? I remember hearing a podcast you were interviewed on not so long ago and I believe you said that for your size it doesn’t work. I apologize if I misunderstood that, but I was curious as to why you said you do not do that diet.

            1. Tom Naughton Post author

              To stay in ketosis (as measured by a meter), I have to go zero carb and restrict protein to a level that’s simply too low for a guy my size. I fare much better on a higher protein diet, with carbs restricted to 100 per day or less.

      2. Tom Welsh

        There’s probably a good reason why French and Italian (and many other) cooks have traditionally mixed vinegar with oil as the basis for a salad dressing. The oil cuts the harshness of the vineger admirably, and also tends to coat your oesophagus.

  7. Lois

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