Mauer: Eliminating starchy carbs
It's been more than half a century since the theory -- yes the theory -- was floated that saturated fats caused heart disease, and food manufacturers slowly started to remove fat. In the 1990s you watched as "Low Fat" and No Fat" started popping up on grocery store shelves like dandelions in a field.
With what did those manufacturers replace fat? Sugars. That's why when you read the Food Fact labels on new fat-free and lower fat food products, like cookies or peanut butter, you might not have noticed that the calorie count changed only minimally. Fat calories got the boot; carbohydrate (mainly sugars) calories slid on in.
How sweet that isn't.
What got me thinking about all this again was Nina Teicholz's well-researched book "The Big Fat Surprise" that I wrote about last month. Her conclusions -- that low-fat diets triggered Americans' hefty weight gain over the last 20 years; saturated fat consumption does not cause heart disease and that reducing cholesterol levels has a minimal effect on heart disease and lower cholesterol levels could raise risk factors for other diseases seem to vindicate Dr. Atkins and his high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate weight-loss diet.
I wasn't so sure that Teicholz was right, so eight weeks ago, after noting a definite weight gain, I decided to bring my weight back down to a healthier level by virtually eliminating starchy carbs like potatoes, white rice and sugars and replacing those calories with protein and fat. Not any fat, mind you, but what Teicholz's book indicated were healthier fats; even saturated fats, like coconut oil.
I started using extra-virgin, organic coconut oil to sauté my meat and vegetables, since studies show that most high polyunsaturated fat content vegetable oils rapidly oxidize at high heat levels. And, began making my own salad dressings (olive oil and vinegar based, and some buttermilk based) and olive oil mayonnaise. And, I returned to eating whole eggs, sometimes scrambled with real butter, since Time magazine (June 23) proclaimed that butter is back.
I researched fruits and vegetables looking for those that delivered the fewest carbs and sugars. Turns out that my new, weekly CSA (community supported agriculture) boxes delivered much of what I needed: spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, cucumber, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, lettuce, celery and asparagus. Lucky me; it almost seemed like divine guidance.
In five weeks I'm heading to my doctor for a complete physical. I know I've been losing weight (10 pounds so far) and I want to see if any of my other health risk factors have changed for the good or the not-so-good. I'll let you know the results.
Try this recipe: Creating great tasting, low-carbohydrate dishes isn't as easy as it may seem. My Simple Zucchini Summer Salad was inspired by a recipe in a 2006 Gourmet magazine and I think it's a darn good attempt.
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Simple Zucchini Summer Salad
1 1/2 pounds zucchini, washed and one end trimmed
1 1/4 teaspoons sea salt, divided
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (organic preferred)
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Small pinch sugar substitute (such as Stevia)
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated or cut into matchstick size pieces
1/2 cup minced sweet onion
1 ounce (about 1/2 cup) high-quality parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
Using a mandolin, with the thin slicing guide in place, slice zucchini into a large colander. Set colander over a large bowl and toss zucchini with 1 teaspoon salt. Let drain for 30 minutes.
Rinse zucchini slices under cold water, drain, and then squeeze slices to extract any excess liquid.
To a medium large mixing bowl add olive oil, vinegar, black pepper, salt and half the cheese. Whisk until combined, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini, carrots and onion to the oil and, using a large rubber spatula, fold and stir together until coated. Transfer to a serving bowl, top with remaining cheese and serve. Serves six as a side dish.
Lean note: To cut fat and calories from this salad, substitute 2 tablespoons slightly thickened (using cornstarch) chicken broth for 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and proceed as directed.
Nutrition values per serving: 104 calories (71 percent from fat), 8.2 g fat (1.8 g saturated), 5.6 g carbohydrates, 1.6 g fiber, 3.2 g protein, 4 mg cholesterol, mg sodium.
Don Mauer’s “Lean and Lovin’ It” column appears every other Wednesday. Don welcomes comments, suggestions and recipe makeover requests at firstname.lastname@example.org.