FOOD

Should You Try Keto? Elana Amsterdam Weighs In

February 27th, 2020

Elana Amsterdam’s personal brand is best described as “spectacularly relentless.” She’s overcome diagnoses for celiac disease and multiple sclerosis, launched Elana’s Pantry, a blog dedicated to paleo and keto recipes, and has written three cookbooks. Amsterdam is a wellness expert that we can all admire for her creativity and tenacity.

And today, she’s sharing her personal health journey. Learn why trying the keto diet set her on the right path to healing, and how she uses her Thrive Market membership.

Tell us a bit about yourself. How did Elana’s Pantry get its start?

I was diagnosed with celiac disease shortly after completing a multi-year Ayurvedic training in the early 1990s. I was living a healthy lifestyle—eating well, practicing yoga and meditation daily. My diet was mostly made up of real food, so I didn’t have many adjustments to make when I was diagnosed.

How did you feel about the diagnosis?

I wasn’t super surprised because my family has a history of autoimmune disorders. Also, I was busy raising very small children and didn’t have the time or bandwidth to process the diagnosis!

After my first child was diagnosed with celiac disease, I made it my mission to turn all of my childhood favorite dishes into gluten-free classics. That was in 2001 when gluten-free paleo cookbooks and food blogs were very scarce. I created low-carb gluten-free recipes day and night! After a while, friends and family began asking for them. As the word spread, I had so many people contacting me that I had to start my website, elanaspantry.com.

In addition to celiac disease, you were also diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, and multiple sclerosis. How has this shaped your approach to health and wellness?

I’ve been in the health space for over a quarter century and began my healing journey well before any of those diagnoses occurred. Initially, I felt a bit of shame having these health issues given that I was living a very healthy lifestyle. That’s the competitive perfectionist that sits on my shoulder, pushing me to do more and be “better” at everything. I’m still in the process of learning to replace self-attack thinking with self-acceptance. And as time has gone on and I’ve entered middle age, getting well into my 50s, I’ve realized that living a healthy life focused on wellness inside and out has saved me from so many of the symptoms that come with celiac, Hashi’s, and MS. My quality of life is high for a “normal healthy” person, let alone someone suffering from those conditions.

How has your health journey influenced who you are today?

I’ve had to build resilience to cope with each diagnosis and have become far more understanding of my limitations and those of others. Guiding my readers on the path to health is quite a responsibility, and so is having millions of people cooking recipes from my books and website in their kitchens. I’m honored to have been at the forefront of this movement in healthy eating and living for over two decades.

You cover an array of diets of your website. Let’s dive into keto. What has been your experience with the keto diet?

I started the keto diet in 2014 to help with symptoms of multiple sclerosis and it was incredibly helpful.

Why did you choose keto?

I decided to keto because it was designed to treat another neurological disorder, epilepsy. Since both that disease and MS share a component of inflammation in the brain I thought it was worth a shot. I was not disappointed! The keto diet was very helpful in improving my mental clarity, as well as mood and athletic performance. On a cosmetic note, I also noticed my skin was far less wrinkled.

The classic therapeutic ketogenic diet was created in the 1920s to treat pediatric epilepsy, and it works because it reduces inflammation in the brain, thereby reducing seizures. With keto, we hack our metabolic process, to go from carb-burning to fat-burning. Fat is a fuel that burns more cleanly than carbohydrates, resulting in an increase in brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), and a decrease in overall inflammation. Living with a disease like MS has forced me to constantly push the envelope and experiment with new ideas in order to stay as healthy as possible while aging. Aging itself involves an increase in inflammation and autoimmune diseases do the same—the combination of the two is a challenge I face daily.

What are some of your favorite keto recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that everyone can enjoy?

I practice intermittent fasting and skip breakfast. Lunch and dinner are meat (protein), vegetables (carbs), with olive oil, coconut oil, etc. (fat). For treats, I love dark chocolate, macadamia nuts, and berries, and nothing beats my Keto Blueberry Lemon Bread.

Some of my favorite recipes for lunch are:

Thai Chicken Soup

Huevos Rancheros Skillet Casserole

And some of my favorite recipes for dinner are:

Basic Meatball

Asian Stir Fry Recipe

Chicken Parmesan Recipe

What pantry staples are imperative for a successful Keto experience?

My favorite pantry staples for keto are almond flour, Thrive Market 85% dark chocolate, and macadamia nuts, which are very high in fat. Thrive Market’s almond flour is top quality and works super well in my Keto Salt & Pepper Crackers. Almond flour is also my kitchen secret weapon—I wrote my first book on it!

It’s important to note that the keto diet is very different than a regular low-carb diet. Keto is a low-carb diet that allows minimal protein with an emphasis on eating a lot of fat. It involves manipulating your macros so that at least 50% of your calories come from fat, while low-carb is simply about avoiding carbohydrates.

What do you love most about Thrive Market?

Everything! First, I really appreciate the careful curation process to bring members the healthiest food. Second, I love that Thrive Market is very thoughtful about its carbon footprint—from sourcing to packing to shipping out orders. Finally, the co-founders are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met.

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Lily CombaLily Comba has never met a baked good she didn't like. When she's not baking, you'll find her writing, taking a Pilates class, or collaborating with the editorial and social team as a Senior Content Writer at Thrive Market.

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