August 2018: what’s wrong with carbs?

The recent rash of books on diet and weight reduction likes to point to carbohydrates as the root cause of obesity and abnormal metabolism – metabolism being the chemical process which transforms food into fuel.
The truth, however, is the opposite: carbs play an important and positive role in our bodies. They are involved in energy production, water balance and a host of other functions. But you have to use them with intelligence, not with indulgence. So say the College of Family Physicians of Canada [1].

Many people are confused about carbohydrates. We do need them to function, but it is vitally important that they should be the right kind of carbs. Just limiting or counting the numbers, is where many of us go wrong.
What are these ‘right kind of carbs’?
You won’t be surprised to hear that whole wheat bread, oats, rye and wholegrain pasta, are better choices than highly refined white, or French fries. The healthiest sources of carbohydrates are unprocessed or minimally processed grains, vegetables, fruits and beans. They deliver vitamins, minerals, fiber, and many important nutrients. Unhealthy sources include white bread or pasta, pastries, sodas, and other highly processed or refined foods. These are too easily digested, which means that they may well cause weight gain, and promote diabetes and heart disease [2].

Carbohydrates are of special importance for people with type 2 diabetes. Carb counting is often treated as the holy grail of treatment. But plain ‘carb counting’ ignores one very important fact, namely this difference between simple and complex carbs.
Complex carbs, like whole grains, are low glycemic index foods. Which means they take more time to be broken down and digested. This prevents a sudden rise in the level of blood sugar and insulin levels. They also keep you filled for longer, and so reduce the craving for unhealthy snacks.
Consider the four major categories of foods that have carbs: fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy. Many of the individual foods in those categories are nutrition powerhouses. They contain fiber, and the more fiber a food contains, the less quickly your blood sugar will react. Veggies and fruits are a great source of vitamins and minerals. Dairy products provide calcium and in many cases vitamin D. Carbs like these are a very efficient form of energy.
Simple carbs, like sugar and white bread, have hardly any nutritional value and, worse, cause an almost immediate increase in your blood glucose levels. [3].

veg: aubergines, french/runner/broad beans, calabrese, cauli, cucumbers, fennel, chard, spinach (beet), summer squash, sweetcorn, globe artichokes, beet, carrots, courgettes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, peas, peppers, radish, turnip, marrow, tomatoes, spring onions, salsify/scorzonera, samphire, rocket, watercress.
Cheap, free range good-for-you meat: rabbit and wood pigeon. Puffballs!
Fish is excellent at this time of year: mackerel, hake, black bream, crab, grey mullet, trout, scallops, sea bass, flounder.

Chinese cabbage, spring cabbage, chicory, kohl rabi, lettuce for harvesting November/December, quick variety peas, mooli (=white) and black radish, chard, spinach beet. Lamb’s lettuce (corn salad), rocket and especially land cress will survive the winter.
Perpetual spinach, (spinach beet, or leaf beet) tastes as good as ‘true’ spinach, is more forgiving of soil and weather and doesn’t go to seed so quickly. Sow now for winter/spring crop.
Early August only: chard, florence fennel, spring onions, turnip.
And don’t forget that for successful winter growing, there are many seeds which can be sown this time of year, in late summer/early autumn: see I specially recommend the lovely white and black radishes, so welcome in winter and early spring.

300g French or runner beans, 2 small eggs, 25g grated mature cheese, 4 tblsp flour, olive oil, 1 tsp tomato puree, seasoning.
Cook the beans, chop quite finely. Mix all ingredients bar the oil and make into patties. Fry in the oil, both sides.

Cut your lettuce up in, very roughly, something like 2-3 cm squares. Sauté for a few minutes in half butter and half olive oil, stirring regularly. Mix in some (ideally full-fat*) cottage cheese, herbs and/or spices, maybe olives, and let this through. Serve as a side dish, or try on toast.
* The fat in here helps absorb the nutrients and does not make you gain weight [4]!

Gently sauté chopped garlic for 3-4 mins in fat or oil until fragrant, without letting it brown. Add 360ml water, cauliflower, and salt. Bring to the boil, lower heat, cover, and let it simmer for 8-10 mins, until the cauli is tender. Remove from heat. Let cool for a couple of minutes and pour into a food processor or blender. Add 2tblsp of milk and, optional, nutritional yeast. Puree until creamy smooth. Season.

This recipe is slightly more complicated than my normal fare. Don’t be put off by all the ingredients: use what you have, and/or substitute, and don’t worry! You can make lots and freeze some for the future.
450g minced lamb, 2 cubed potatoes, cubed, 3tblsp oil, 1 bay leaf, ½ tsp mustard, 3 green cardamom pods, cracked open, 2.5cm cinnamon stick, 2 chopped onions, 3 chopped garlic cloves, ½tsp ginger, 180ml chopped (tinned) tomatoes, 1/4tsp turmeric, chilli powder, 3tbsp yoghurt, salt. To garnish – chopped coriander leaves.
And coarsely grind together:
1tsp cumin seeds, 1.5tsp coriander seeds, black peppercorns, 4 cloves, 1/4tsp fennel seeds.
In a pan with lid, heat up oil slowly. Add bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cardamom pods. Add onions, cook till they turn light brown, 3-5 mins. Add garlic & ginger and sauté for about 1 min. Add ground spices, toast for another min. Add tomatoes with turmeric and chilli. Cook for 3-5 mins or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan. Add potatoes, mix, reduce heat to low. Let cook covered for 10-15 mins till the potatoes are nearly done. Remove lid, turn heat to high and add lamb. Heat for ab. 8-10 mins on medium, stirring often. Add yoghurt, 60ml water and salt, mix. Turn heat to lowest possible, cover and simmer for ab. 25 mins. Stir and check periodically to ensure it’s not sticking. Add more water if needed, but not too much!!!! Remove lid, check salt and cook on high again for 5 mins till everything comes together. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves, serve warm, for instance with flatbreads and salad.

For a delicious alternative to cold salad – cut little gem in half lengthways and rub the cut edge with olive oil and a cut clove of garlic: season. Place in a hot frying pan or on a barbecue griddle for 2-3 mins on each side.

SPICED RUNNER BEANS, serves 4 as a side dish.
300g runner beans, (1 red or yellow pepper, deseeded and chopped); 1 onion, 2 garlic cloves, 1tblsp tomato puree, 150ml water, 15ml olive oil, ½ tsp ground coriander seed, ½ tsp ground cumin, ¼tsp ground chilli or ½ fresh chopped chilli, (pinch of turmeric), soy sauce, salt.
Prepare runner beans: slice on the diagonal. Slice onion and garlic, sauté in oil for a few mins. Add spices, continue to sauté. If using the pepper: cut in half, remove the seeds and cut into thin strips. Add to the pan and stir. Add beans, tomato puree and water. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer gently for 5 mins or until the beans are tender. Season with soy and salt if needed.

200g spinach leaves (stems removed), 2tbsp chopped garlic, chopped onion, 1 finely sliced carrot, some anchovies, 2tbsp olive oil.
Heat oil, sauté onion and garlic. Add sliced carrot and chopped anchovies, stir-fry for 3 mins. Add spinach, stir-fry briefly. Spinach cooks quickly, so take it off the fire as soon as the leaves have softened/wilted. Perpetual spinach may need a bit longer. Good with fish.

Make the mayonnaise yourself, or flavour bottled mayonnaise with lemon, garlic, anchovy, etc. You can add pot marigold petals for looks. Serve with lightly cooked carrots, french beans, sugar snap peas, purple potatoes, seafood, tomatoes etc.


Next month: gluten.



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