Sunday, 14 April 2013

a lesson and a recipe - an earthy autumn salad

If you're reading this post for my recipe, I suggest you scroll down now.

If you're ready for yet another lengthy spiel of mine, then let me begin by saying this - I eat mindfully.

First and foremost, I choose to eat foods with a low glycaemic index.

Wait, I should re-phrase that - I choose to eat meals with a low glycaemic index. After all, we tend not to eat individual foods so much as we tend to eat a combination of foods - a combination otherwise known as meals, and snacks.

Whenever possible, I also choose to eat organic produce. And alkaline foods. And raw foods.

Oh, alright - I choose to do lots of things. In time, I will explain the reasons for these choices, but for now, I will focus on the decision that, in my mind, comes first.

You see, I can't always find (or afford) organic ingredients. And eating a diet that is rich in alkaline foods is great - but we also need 'acidic' foods to remain healthy and balanced. Raw food provides many benefits, but eating raw everything isn't always practical or easy - or even always cheap.

So, whenever I think about what I'll cook - and whenever I choose from a restaurant or cafe menu - the first thing I do is think about how I can ensure that my meal has an overall low glycaemic index. In my opinion, it is the easiest and most practical way to practice mindful and healthful eating.

Back when I was studying to become a pharmacist, our university lecturers used to preach, "First, do no harm," and I believe that eating a low GI meal is an application of this. Before I reap the benefits of organic produce, before I re-balance my body with alkaline foods, and before I enhance the nutritional content of my diet with raw foods, first I must do no harm. Hmm, no, that's a tricky one. I must re-phrase that one, too.

First, do no harm.
Or, failing that - at least minimise harm.

When we slow down the rate of gastric emptying - or put more simply, the rate at which food moves from our stomach into our intestines - we not only slow down the rate of glucose absorption, we also provide our bodies with a host of other benefits.

As I discussed in last month's post, 'why i choose low g i - and the 411 on diabetes', a slowed gastric emptying rate also means a reduced demand for insulin - which means a reduced likelihood of developing conditions such as insulin resistance and diabetes. It also means that our bodies release less cortisol in response to our meals - but more on that at a later date.

If those two reasons aren't enough to sway you (even though they should), then consider this - less insulin demand + less cortisol release = a healthier body + a leaner body. That's right, too much of either (and especialy both) of these hormones will encourage our bodies to store (and retain) fat!

Of course, eating a low GI meal is easy when all of the meal's ingredients have a low GI (see the recipes for my 'ayurvedic' buckwheat salad and spinach & mixed nut bread + seeded mustard omelette for examples) - but let's be realistic here and acknowledge that that is not always possible. That's why it is important to be familiar with how to reduce a meal's glycaemic index -
  • add (good) fats
  • add protein
  • add something sour
  • add something spicy, and / or
  • add other foods that have a low glycaemic index
Be mindful that glucose is only present when carbohydrates are present. If a food contains little or no carbohydrate, it will contain little or no glucose. Since the glycaemic index is a measure of how quickly our bodies absorb glucose from a food, that food will automatically have a low glycaemic index.

Now, just as you can decrease glycaemic index, you can also increase it. This is where you have to be careful.

For example, consider the glycaemic index of these four versions of a carrot -

  • Raw carrot = 16 (low)
  • Raw, diced carrot = 35 (low)
  • Diced, peeled and cooked carrot = 49 (low)
  • Peeled, cooked carrot, ground into a puree or a paste = 60 (moderate)

Now think about how these four things taste and feel when you pop them into your mouth.

A raw carrot is hard, and you need to chew it many times before you can swallow it. Chewing a diced carrot is a little easier because some of the hard work has already been done for you. A peeled, cooked carrot is softer and requires even less chewing - and a carrot puree does not even really require chewing at all.

In general, the less effort required to break down and digest food, the faster it will be absorbed.

Makes sense, right?

That's why ripe bananas have a much higher glycaemic index than unripe bananas. Oh, but ripe bananas have so many more readily- available nutrients! That's why I choose to eat ripe bananas with protein and good fats. Are you beginning to understand how to apply this low GI business now? (And  if you haven't already tried the combination of ripe banana with peanut butter, get on it.)

Fluffy white rice versus firm brown rice.
White pasta versus wholemeal pasta.
A freshly- picked apple versus apple puree.
Really, the list is endless.

Of course, the taste and texture of a food is just a haphazard way to gauge a food's glycaemic index - looking up the actual value is much more accurate. For my needs though, it is sufficient.

The recipe for my earthy autumn salad is below, and it applies these concepts. I took a few carrots and raised their glycaemic index by peeling, chopping and baking them (they remain an overall low GI food nonetheless), and then -

  • added good fats (coconut oil, tahini, seeds and nuts)
  • added protein (seeds and nuts)
  • added something sour (freshly- squeezed lime juice, coconut vinegar)
  • added something spicy (cayenne pepper and smoked paprika)
  • added other foods that possess a low GI (umm... everything else?)

I hope this spiel has been insightful and has helped you to understand how to 'first, do no harm - or, failing that, at least minimise harm'. And if not, well, please try this recipe anyway. The warm spices make eating my vegies easier during this cool Melbourne weather. I really think it's the bee's knees.

an earthy autumn salad
serves 3-4

for the salad -
  • 2 large handfuls organic baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 2 handfuls organic baby kale leaves, washed and roughly chopped
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
  • 1 small red capsicum, washed, cored and cut into thick chunks
  • 1 large head of broccoli, washed and cut into small florets
  • 1/4 large eggplant,washed and cut into thick chunks
  • 5-6 tbsp organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1-2 handfuls organic macadamias
  • large handful organic sunflower seeds
  • large handful pumpkin seeds
  • pinch Himalayan sea salt
  • 2-3 tsp each of ground cumin, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika and ground sumac
Please noteI use 3 teaspoons of each spice because I like my food intensely flavoured. If you are not a fan of spicy food, I suggest you use less of the cayenne pepper and smoked paprika (1.5 or 2 teaspoons of each should suffice).

    for the dressing -
    • 1 lime, freshly juiced
    • 3 tbsp organic unhulled tahini
    • 1 tbsp organic coconut nectar
    • 1 tbsp organic coconut vinegar or organic apple cider vinegar

    Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
    Line a baking tray with baking paper (or aluminum foil).

    Put the spinach and kale leaves in a serving bowl.

    Place the chopped carrots, capsicum, broccoli and eggplant in the lined tray. Drizzle the coconut oil over the vegetables and sprinkle with all of the spices. Use your hands to rub the oil and spices all over the vegetables.

    Bake for 35 minutes, until the vegetables are golden and fragrant.

    In the last 10 minutes of baking - i.e. 25 minutes into baking time - place the macadamia nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds into another baking tray and bake until golden and roasted.

    To make the dressing, whisk together the lime juice, tahini, coconut nectar and vinegar.

    Spoon the roasted vegetables over the salad leaves and scatter with the seeds. Use a sharp knife to halve the roasted macadamias before adding them to the salad. Drizzle the dressing over the salad, and serve.

    Or do as I do, and top with a soft boiled (organic, free- range) egg.
    'More protein and good fats,' did I hear you say? Bingo. Good work.

    No comments:

    Post a Comment