Many people have tried The Croissant Diet, or variations of it, since I published the original article 3 months ago with a full range of outcomes – most experienced increased satiation and food pleasure, some experienced quick weight loss and waistline reduction, but others had quick weight gain and a waistline increase. Some reported reacting badly to the carbohydrate sources – those with sensitivities to gluten or potato lectins, for instance. None of this is surprising. Of course everyone comes to a new diet with their own personal biochemistry, some go all in, some just dip their toe in, some like to cook and some don’t. A range of outcomes is expected. I’ve had some time to step back and think about it all again, I’ve learned some new things and I realize I didn’t exactly “quantify” anything in the original TCD or give a specific roadmap.
I’ve been wondering about the platonic ideal of The Croissant Diet. Is there a version of TCD that would be palatable, enjoyable even, that would work for the vast majority? A TCD induction diet.
I myself could benefit from such a diet. After TCD ended I stopped doing any stearic acid enhancement because I wanted to try the diet again this winter in the naive form. The holidays came, I ate holiday food, I gained weight. Shocking, I know. I restarted the diet in February including a time restricted eating window – I don’t consume any calories until 4pm. Usually I eat one big meal around 6 or 7 PM and I sip wine until bed. And it was a great month! The high saturated fat dinners make it easy to fast through the day and it’s something to look forward to at the end of the day. I’m most productive in the mornings when I don’t want to be bothered with food. It works for me.
I ate chicken pot pie with a SA butter crust, chilaquiles fried in beef suet, steak and pasta with cream sauce, potatoes au gratin, broiche donuts fried in beef suet with a chocolate ganache topping and I lost an inch and a half off my waist. Then I got whacked with the flu in the middle of the month and was basically laid out for a week and when I recovered I had an unintentional cheat week, which started with a Sunday catering event where I ate 6 pieces of skin-on fried chicken, ended with the local “pie party” where i ate 6 pieces of pie from randos and included restaurant burritos and dinner at my parents house which included a half box of triscuits and a late night binge on breakfast cereal, which is a total trigger food for me. When I cheat at least I really go for it! A few pounds crept back on. The calendar clicked forward to March.
The March Linoleic Acid Elimination Challenge
I got to thinking again about the lean mice who were fed 1% of the calories as linoleic acid and their fat friends (same link) who were fed 8% linoleic acid. The presumed mechanism by which TCD works is physiological insulin resistance in the fat cells which is driven by ROS production in the mitochondria. ROS production is driven by the FADH2:NADH ratio of the fat being oxidized. The longer chain and more saturated the fat is, the higher the FADH2:NADH ratio and therefore the more ROS is produced. Conversely, linoleic acid reduces the ratio significantly. Its a very dynamic system and small changes can make a big difference in the same way that a 10% increase in traffic at rush hour can lead to excruciating commute times. It seemed best to keep the linoleic acid content to 1% or below.
During the first test I never calculated any ratios, I just tried to maximize stearic acid and minimize linoleic acid. I knew that I was eating some things with more linoleic acid than I would prefer such as eggs and breakfast sausage which are both high due to the way the animals are fed in America. This time I want to be sure. I am vowing to consume under 1% linoleic acid for the month of March.
I theorized during the original TCD writeup that residual linoleic acid from previous dietary choices might have a negative impact on weight loss. Polyunsaturated fats are preferentially metabolized and preferentially released from fat stores by lipolysis. As a pig farmer I’ve seen first hand the huge differences that small amounts of dietary linoleic acid can have on what is stored in the fat. By dropping linoleic acid to 1% I’m confident that my body will have a net reduction in overall linoleic acid over the course of the month.
Getting the linoleic acid below 1% won’t be easy. According to the basic TCD macros, fat is supposed to supply 67% of the calories in a mixed fat and starch dish. According to the USDA butter contains 3.3% linoleic acid so even if the starch has zero, a butter croissant with 67% of calories from butter will have over 2% of calories as linoleic. The croissants from the first test won’t make the cut. Too much linoleic acid and all of that gluten to boot. Here’s a table listing the linoleic acid content of select foods. It’s harder than you’d think to design a high fat diet of 1% linoleic acid!
|Food||% of Calories From Linoleic Acid|
|Chicken Thigh With Skin||12.6|
|Butteroil, 20% Stearic||2.6|
|Butteroil, 40% Stearic||2|
|Fire In A Bottle SA Butteroil with 20% Stearic||1.8|
|Lean Pork Loin||3|
|Skinless Chicken Breast||1.7|
|Whole Wheat Flour||3.1|
|Sweet Potato, Peeled||0.9|
|Dry Red Wine||0|
If you’ve already read Introducing The Croissant Diet, you’ll probably see the foreshadowing in the last four rows of the table. One thing I knew from that test was that if you were soaking fat into starch you could made the fat mix a lot waxier. In the table I have 40% stearic enhanced butteroil. Using the 40% serves the dual purpose of upping stearic acid content and lowering linoleic acid content. If you use the Fire In A Bottle butteroil there’s a little MCT oil in there, which reduces the linoleic acid further. The 40% stearic enhanced butteroil would not go well in bulletproof coffee or melted over steak or pasta. It’s far too waxy. But if you can get it into starch it’s actually quite pleasant. And the most absorbent starch is pancakes!
All I had to do was make cornstarch pancakes and fry them in 40% stearic enhanced butteroil! Purifying the corn into cornstarch removes both the linoleic acid and the plant lectins! Also, the type of starch found in corn is almost all amylopectin, which is actually very easy to digest. It’s actually a lot like glycogen, the form of carbohydrate that we store in our livers. This website talks tons of smack about amylopectin before saying, “This starch molecule has a very similar structure to glycogen, a type of branched polysaccharide that is used to store glucose, or sugar, in your liver and muscles. When comparing amylopectin vs. glycogen, both are highly branched and made up of alpha glucose units, but glycogen has more branches.” If we are going to use starch as a vehicle for fat, amylopectin seems like a safe choice. There is one problem with it, though: it’s insoluble in water so you can’t make a dough with it.
At a holiday party a friend brought a many layered chocolate cake that she’d made. I have a new interest in baking after TCD but especially things that have a lot of chocolate. I asked her about the layers. “Well, the frosting is just whipped cream with a little sugar, that layer is whipped ganache, which is just dark chocolate and cream metled together. This is vanilla mousseline cream which is basically just a lot of butter and some milk thickened with cornstarch. The cakey layers are a German chocolate sponge cake, which is a type of cake held together mostly with egg. It’s a European style cake, I don’t like American cakes, they’re too sweet. Would you like a slice?”
Needless to say, light bulbs were going off in my head. The cake turned out to be quite satiating. Hmmmm….
Anyhoo, back to cornstarch pancakes. The key phrase in that story is “sponge cake”. A batter held together mostly with eggs. Could I make cornstarch and egg whites into a sponge cake batter and the fry it in a pan, thus creating a “pan cake”?
Cornstarch Sponge Pan Cakes
- 5 Egg Whites
- 3/4 cup Cornstarch
- 1 pinch Cream of Tartar Optional. Find this in the spice section.
- 1 healthy pinch salt
- Put egg whites, (optional) cream of tartar and salt into a roomy mixing bowl.
- (Optional) Whisk the egg whites for 1-2 minutes until they have consistent fine bubbles. No need to take them all the way to meringue but the lighter and fluffier the whites are the nicer the cakes will be. The cream of tartar makes this process go way faster. If you're not going to whisk them there's no need to add the Cream of Tartar.
- Whisk in the cornstarch.
- Fry in a deep layer of 60% clarified butter/40% stearic acid on medium high until browned one one side, 2-3 minutes. Flip and cook for one more minute.
- That's the whole recipe!
To make the 40% stearic acid you’d use 320 g of clarified butter, which is the amount I get out of 1 lb of butter starting weight and you’d add 220g of stearic acid. This is 1 3/4 cups of the stearic acid you can buy here. OR you can start with a jar of Fire In A Bottle butteroil and add 56 g of stearic acid to that, which is what I did.
How are they? Not bad. A little chewy. Not as good as wheat flour pancakes, to be sure. But they’re easy, they’re pretty tasty, there’s no PUFA and you’re eating pancakes for dinner so who’s complaining?
OK, but like, vitamins and minerals, dude?
Clearly I am amused at myself for taking a handful of foods – starch, egg whites, stearic acid, maple syrup – that are VERY MUCH like the purified diets they feed to lab rats and turned it into a classic American comfort food that I’m vowing to eat as the staple of my diet for the next month. But yes, it is, ahem, a little nutritionally bankrupt from a micronutrient perspective.
Even though I had diluted the butter with pure stearic acid I was still getting a huge amount of real butter, so I was getting a good amount of Vitamin A and K2 and some Vitamin E. Maple syrup contributes almost a whole day’s manganese requirement.
Luckily for me, my other dietary staples – coffee and red wine – are vastly underappreciated as sources of vitamins and minerals. Look what happens when I book my daily allotment of just those two foods into Cronometer.
Bizarrely, the brand of corn starch they have at my local Supermarket, Clabber Girl, is fortified with calcium. And nothing else. No other corn starch brand is fortified with anything. It’s like Clabber Girl anticipated my experiment all of those decades ago.
To round out the diet and to feel good about dinner, I had to add some meat. But which one to choose? Clearly the game was to find one that filled out the micronutrient profile while adding the least amount of linoleic acid. Also, it should be tasty and add stearic acid if possible.
Crispy Pork Loin
- 12 Oz Lean Pork Loin Trim All Visible Fat
- Egg Whites
- 1 plate Corn Starch
- Trim all visible fat from the pork loin and slice it into thin cutlets.
- Put a thick layer of corn starch onto a plate, season it with garlic powder, paprika, black pepper, oregano and rosemary if you're into that kind of thing. Or just leave it plain. Mix everything together. This can also be done in a large ziploc bag shake and bake style.
- Salt both sides of the cutlets then dunk them into egg whites.
- Dredge both sides of the cutlets in the starch mixture.
- Fry them on one side in the butteroil on high until they are browned, then flip them and brown the other side. If the fat starts to really smoke, turn down the temperature.
Pork won for the first meal because it has huge amounts of thiamine. Also, breaded pork is delicious and the cutlets absorbed 36 g of the oil. So I ate all of that. My plan was to polish off the meal with a couple ounces of dark chocolate, which really rounds out the nutritional profile. Here is everything together.
It’s a picture of balance! Even I’m not sure if that’s meant to be sarcastic.
So I filled up a frying pan with hot 40% stearic acid butter. I weighed the pot with the oil. I whipped up a bunch of the pancakes – five to be exact – and I fried them. Then I weighed the pan again. Then I fried 12 Oz of battered pork loins in the same oil. Then I weighed the frying pan again. Then I ate ALL of it. I didn’t save room for the chocolate, so I’ll have to adjust for that next time. This is the whole meal that I actually consumed.
The pancakes absorbed 109 g of the oil and the pork chops absorbed another 35 g, for a whopping total of 144 grams of 40% stearic acid butteroil consumed. The stearic acid content of the final blend comes out around 42% percent because the stearic acid is really only 92% pure and the butter is 10% stearic and 92% of 40% plus 10% of 60% is 42%. I won’t judge you if you don’t want to do the math, I feel pretty confidant about it. 42% percent of 144 grams is a little over 60 grams of stearic acid, about 2.5 times the amount consumed in the banana milkshake study which caused mitochondrial fusion and fat burning. The ratio of stearic to linoleic acid is around 12:1.
Including the maple syrup, here’s how the macros worked out on just the pancakes. This is the portion that I ate Sunday, March 1st:
Overall I’m happy with the diet, the final linoleic acid calculation came out to 1.2% and the vitamin B12 is a little low for my liking. My plan is to swap between pork loin and haddock between meals – haddock is loaded with B12 but low in thiamine. By swapping them I’ll get both and they both taste great fried! The haddock also brings some long chain Omega 3 fats into the equation to help balance my Omega-6 to Omega-3 ratio. With haddock the linoleic acid content comes down to 0.8% so I’ll average 1% for the month. Haddock stocks have been declared fully recovered in the North Atlantic and the codfish stocks are recovering so I feel OK about eating them.
Results So Far
I’m writing this on the 6th and I feel great! I’ve had three of these feasts to date and I’ll have another tonight. I’m fasting in between meals in my own way which will be the subject of my next post. The thing is that the high stearic acid feasts make the fasting so easy and fasting makes the feasting so enjoyable. The scale is down a seemingly implausible 9.2 lbs between Monday morning (the morning after the first feast) and Friday morning (I haven’t eaten since Wednesday evening) and I’ve lost another half inch on my waist. My blood glucose this morning was an all time low. By a lot. I’m typically in the 102-108 range. This morning it was 84. Previous low was 95.
I’m bursting with energy! I always pace when I write/think but the last two days especially. According the health app on my iPhone I took over 17,000 steps yesterday WITHOUT LEAVING THE HOUSE. It’s almost 2 PM and I’ve already taken 10,000 steps today. Last night I had an impromptu 45 minute dance party with myself! My basketball buddy referenced in Introducing The Croissant Diet grabbed me half way through last weeks game and asked “are you on the stearic acid again?” He hasn’t asked that in months. He could tell.
I’m not hungry. After the last feast of crispy haddock and pancakes on Wednesday (it’s been 42 hours since I ate a bite of solid food) I’ve felt no hunger. I actually still feel like my stomach is physically full which can’t possible be true. I have a “psychologically full stomach”.
I’m excited to see what the rest of the month brings!