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A FIRM FOUNDATION
During the "low-carb" craze of the early 2000s, much of the hype emphasized consuming large amounts of meat and cheese and avoiding carbohydrates.This flew in the face of a healthy vegetarian diet, since plant-based ingredients contain carbohydrates.The fact is, commonsense dietary guidelines on carbohydrate consumption are important for good health and weight control, whether you eat meat or not.
Vegetarians, and others who avoid animal products, can be healthy and stay trim through an enlightened understanding and use of "good" carbohydrates, while eliminating "bad" carbohydrates and still eating satisfying meals.This cookbook shows the delicious and sensible way to win the carbohydrate game and proves that "carb-conscious" vegetarian recipes are a practical and preferable alternative to "low-carb."
The secret is to break free from the trap of relying on white bread, pasta, potatoes, and rice at mealtime.The recipes in this book eliminate refined carbohydrates, so you can cut back on carbs without sacrificing necessary fiber, phytochemicals, and other important nutrients. Because the recipes are vegetarian, they also leave out the saturated fat and cholesterol usually associated with low-carb diets.
I considered all of these factors when deciding what ingredients to feature in a "carb-conscious" vegetarian cookbook.This is a "moderately low- carb/all-good-carb" vegetarian cookbook.Thanks to the work done by pioneering medical doctors such as Dean Ornish, John McDougall, Neal Barnard, Joel Fuhrman, and others, certain flaws of trendy high-protein, very low-carbohydrate diets that emphasize meat, eggs, and cheese are becoming better understood. These experts explain that people don't need animal products to lose weight or to stay healthy. Many vegetables are more than 30 percent protein and provide the body with high energy and stamina without relying on the artery-clogging animal products that have been linked to cardiovascular disease and cancer.The recipes in this book provide you with all the benefits of a healthy plant-based diet.
The Vegetarian Call for Low-Carb
Writing vegetarian cookbooks often brings me into contact with people seeking recipes and cooking advice.The most frequent request I receive is for low-carb vegetarian recipes. Obviously, there's a need for a collection of recipes that answers the call of carb-conscious vegetarians who want to know how to cook delicious meals containing more moderate proportions of carbohydrates.
Carb-Conscious Vegetarian provides mouthwatering recipes for meat- and dairy-free meals that scale back the carbohydrates, primarily by eliminating refined carbs, while delivering nutrient-rich protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals--good news for people who want creative and flavorful recipes for vitality and good health. As a former chef, my goal wasn't to write a diet book but a healthy lifestyle cookbook with delicious recipes that are adaptable enough to please anyone in your household.
Regardless of whether or not you're on a "diet," there are some commonsense denominators for a healthy lifestyle. A regular exercise routine plus wise food choices in moderate portions are important factors in weight control and good health.
Importance of Natural Whole Foods in the Diet
For optimum health, it is best for everyone, whether vegetarian or nonvegetarian, to avoid refined carbohydrates. No matter whether you are maintaining your weight or you want to lose a few £ds, you still need to use moderation when eating foods that are higher in healthy, good-for-you carbohydrates, such as whole grains, beans, and root vegetables. (See Appendix A, "Carbohydrate Content of Common Foods," on page 213.) There are many benefits to a well-balanced plant-based diet consisting of dark leafy greens and other vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, seeds, and fruits.When you sit down to dinner, the best rule of thumb is to eat larger portions of green vegetables and other lower-carb foods and a moderate portion of the healthy higher-carb foods.
The recipes in Carb-Conscious Vegetarian are for anyone, whether you're trying to lose weight or you just want to eat a healthy plant-based diet. In addition, these recipes provide added health benefits since most are high in fiber and completely cholesterol free.They use no animal products, including cheese or other dairy products that are very high in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, for those wishing to include some dairy foods in their diet, certain recipes are followed by a dairy option that may be substituted for a dairy-free ingredient. Be aware, however, that if you choose to use dairy, you will be adding fat and cholesterol to the recipe.
The recipes in this book make use of a wide variety of vegetables, ranging from asparagus to zucchini, using moderate amounts of protein-rich beans, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. High-starch vegetables such as potatoes and corn are avoided, and higher-glycemic vegetables are used in moderation (see "Carbology 101" on page 7). Commercial vegetarian meat alternative products are included, as well as soy products such as tofu, tempeh, and edamame. Flavors are enhanced with a variety of herbs, spices, condiments, and cooking methods.
The tempting desserts emphasize all-natural ingredients such as fresh fruit, protein-rich nuts, heart-healthy soy, and the natural sweeteners agave syrup and stevia (artificial sweeteners are not used). Cocoa, extracts, and a limited use of whole grain flours also help to produce sweet treats that provide good nutrition with great taste and no empty calories.
Ingredients Used in the Book
As I developed the recipes for this book, I focused as much as possible on using natural whole food ingredients for maximum nutrition, combined with herbs, spices, and other seasonings for maximum flavor.The recipes are designed to be flexible for you and your family, whether you are on a weight loss plan or simply wanting to eat healthy.They dovetail nicely into the various phases of many of the low-carb diets, although this book is not a diet book itself.
For sauteing or stir-frying, recipes usually call for 1 tablespoon of olive oil or, in some cases, canola or another vegetable oil. If you wish to reduce the amount of oil further, you can use a nonstick skillet with half the amount of oil (in most cases) and still produce successful recipes. Or reduce the oil even further by substituting a cooking spray for the oil. In addition, a cooking spray may be used instead of oil for oiling pans and baking dishes.
Deciding what sweeteners to use in this book presented a particular challenge. Of course, refined sugar is out. At the same time, I don't recommend using artificial sweeteners. It's not necessary to completely eliminate all sweeteners--for example, organic blackstrap molasses is loaded with calcium and iron.You don't need to use much, and it can significantly improve the overall nutritional value of the diet.
My personal choices for everyday use are two diverse yet natural sweeteners: stevia and agave syrup.
Stevia is an herb indigenous to South America. It is widely used as a sweetener in South America and Asia and is gaining popularity in North America, where a number of different companies are producing it. Stevia is vastly sweeter than sugar, and the quality, flavor, and sweetness of the various brands vary widely. In addition, certain varieties have a slightly bitter aftertaste.You may want to experiment a bit to discover a brand and sweetness level you like. Stevia is available in natural food stores in both a powdered and a liquid extract form. One teaspoon of stevia is equal in sweetness to 1 cup of sugar. Stevia can be used in both cooking and baking. For more information on stevia, check out The Stevia Cookbook by Ray Sahelian and Donna Gates or visit www.stevia.net.
Carbohydrates are the starches and sugars in foods. They are a plant's way of storing the sun's energy, and they're the preferred energy source for the human body. At one point, simple carbohydrates (sugars) were thought of as "bad" and complex carbohydrates were thought of as "good," but this classification is misleading. Rather than focusing on simple and complex carbohydrates as the "bad guys" and "good guys," we need to look at the overall nutritional value of the food in question, its fiber content, and its effects on blood sugar.
. Net carbohydrates, a term that has come into recent use, refers to the amount of carbohydrates in a food after subtracting the carbohydrates that move through the intestine largely unabsorbed (generally, fiber, resistant starches, and sugar alcohols). . The glycemic index (GI) ranks foods based on their effect on blood sugar. The GI of a food is determined by many factors, including the type and amount of fiber, the types of sugar and starch, the amount of fat, the density of the food, the size of the food particles, and the food's acidity, to name a few. Foods with a low GI release their natural sugars slowly, thus keeping blood sugar steady to stave off hunger. The GI must be used with consideration of other factors, such as the overall nutritional value of the food. A glycemic index chart is provided in Appendix B on page 223. . The glycemic load (GL) is used for assessing a food's overall impact on blood sugar, which takes into account the amount of carbohydrate consumed, in addition to the GI of the food. (GL equals the amount of carbohydrate in a food multiplied by the GI.) The GL is considered a better indicator of a food's impact on blood sugar than the GI alone. Examples of foods with high and low glycemic loads are shown on page 226.
It is important to note that many healthful or "good" carbohydrates--that is, certain vegetables and fruits--have a fairly high glycemic index. These include carrots, beets, parsnips, winter squash, and sweet potatoes. Additionally, many deep-fried foods and fatty desserts have a much lower glycemic index. It doesn't take a rocket scientist (or a dietitian, for that matter) to realize that carrots and squash are better nutritionally than fried foods and fatty desserts.
We rarely eat foods in isolation. For example, we will eat a potato with a salad and some beans. All of these other foods help to moderate the glycemic effect of the potato. It makes no sense to sacrifice protective dietary components for the sake of slightly fewer grams of carbs. It is better to eat these foods in moderation, so your body can enjoy the benefits of the phytochemicals, micronutrients, and vitamins that they have to offer.
Nutritious foods such as beans, whole grains, fruits, and many vegetables contain a significant amount of carbs, but they are also rich in fiber, phytochemicals, and other nutrients necessary for good health. The secret is a low glycemic index. Additionally, if we're not loading up on the empty calories found in refined carbs, we'll feel naturally satisfied longer.
THE CARBOHYDRATE CONUNDRUM
If you look around the world, the lowest rates of obesity and chronic diseases occur where populations consume the greatest proportion of their calories as carbohydrates. This would seem to be a contradiction, yet it is easily explained.
When carbohydrates come from whole plant foods, as they do for much of the world's population, they are consistently found to have a positive impact on good health, because they still possess their fiber, phyto-chemicals, vitamins, minerals, and other valuable components. In North America, carbohydrates tend to be consumed as refined, processed foods, such as white flour breads, baked goods, pretzels, crackers, soft drinks, and candy. When such foods are used as the primary sources of carbohydrates, negative health consequences result.
When carbohydrate-rich foods are refined, almost everything of value is removed before we eat them. As an example, when wheat is refined to make white flour, the most healthful parts of the plant--the germ and the bran-- are removed. During this process, we throw away about 70 to 80 percent of the vitamins and minerals, 80 to 90 percent of the fiber, and 95 percent of the protective phytochemicals. We are left with the endosperm--starch. But we don't stop there--we take that starch (i.e., white flour) and add awful stuff such as hydrogenated fats, salt, sugar, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors.
Agave syrup comes from a native plant of Mexico. It is 30 to 40 percent sweeter than sugar.While it is not especially low in carbohydrates, its advantage is its high fructose content, which means a low glycemic index. Agave juice was sometimes called "honey water" by the Aztecs, because when the leaves and root are cut, the liquid pours out. In recipes, agave syrup should be used like honey or other liquid sweeteners.Approximately 3/4 cup of agave syrup can be used to replace 1 cup of sugar. Agave syrup can be used in cooking and baking and is available at natural food stores or through online mail-order sources.
Stocking the Pantry
When stocking a healthy-carb vegetarian pantry, it's important to keep an ample supply of fresh vegetables on hand along with soy foods, whole grains, nuts, and condiments that will keep your meals interesting.
How to Use This Book
While the benefits of a plant-based diet are numerous, there are still vegetarians who have weight control issues.The recent low-carb craze has made society "carbophobic," so it's important for vegetarians to realize that they can still follow a sensible diet that is reasonably low in carbs by mainly eliminating refined carbohydrates.
A simple way to improve one's diet is by replacing white rice, pasta, and white potatoes at mealtimes with whole grains such as brown rice, bulgur, and quinoa. Add an extra serving of vegetables at dinner. Begin your dinner with a salad or a bowl of soup. At lunchtime, consider eating hearty soups or salads instead of sandwiches. Or, if you do make sandwiches, be sure to use whole grain or sprouted breads instead of those made with refined flours. Replace empty-calorie, high-fat, or sugary snacks with nutrient- rich choices such as fresh fruit, raw vegetables and dip, or a small handful of nuts. Strive to eliminate desserts made with refined flours and sugar, opting for more healthful desserts made with fresh fruits, nuts, and natural sweeteners.
THE BIG PICTURE
If you want to moderate your carbohydrate intake and improve the nutritional quality of your diet, be sure to look at the big picture. Here are some tips.
. Choose mainly whole plant foods. Beans, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are nutritional powerhouses. . Minimize or avoid refined carbohydrate foods. White flour and sugar- laden products deliver a lot of calories, offer little satiety, and are nutritional washouts. . Consider the glycemic index (GI) and the glycemic load (GL) of the foods you are eating. Within each food category, generally select those that have a lower GI and GL. At the same time, remember to consider the overall nutritional value of the food and its fiber and phytochemical content when making your choice. See the charts in Appendix B on pages 223- 226. . Beware of beverages. They can pack on the carbs, especially refined sugars. Soft drinks, gourmet coffees, fruit drinks, and many alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar. Instead, quench your thirst with water, herbal teas, or other noncaloric beverages.