Saturday, January 25, 2014

Drink Your Vegetables!

This is a continuation of the "Love Your Vegetables" post from last week and the theme this week is juicing.  What's all the hype about?  Many doctors recommend it as an additional way to get the micro-nutrients in fruits and vegetables.  Those micro-nutrients are easier to absorb without the bulk of fiber that accompanies the fresh produce.  But is it a healthy idea, especially for someone who has problems metabolizing carbohydrates?  Making fresh juice appealed to me, so I talked to my doctor about it and this is what he said:  Yes, juicing vegetables is an excellent idea but, because of the high sugar content of fruit, it should be limited, preferably to lower glycemic fruit that includes green apples, berries, cherries, grapefruit, lemons and limes.  Fresh vegetable juices can be tolerated and beneficial, if a person's blood sugar is fairly well managed.  For someone whose blood glucose isn't stable, drinking green smoothies might be a better choice.

I've been vegetable juicing now for several months and I've seen a reduction in my high blood pressure and I have more energy throughout the day.  My blood glucose readings have remained in the normal range and I enjoy making fresh juice!  I love that I can drink the nutrients from an entire, heaping plate of vegetables (see photo above). From my experience, the more vegetables I can consume, the better my health and well-being!

Before you run out to buy a juicer, here are some tips I would suggest:

1.  Do your homework before buying!  There are several types of juicers available that work in different ways and at various prices.  I'm not going to go into a whole lesson here, but I highly recommend that you consider carefully before investing in a juicer.  My #1 Rule: Try vegetable juicing without a juicer first, to see if you like the taste, before buying!  Try this method for several weeks to see if you're really serious or if the idea was a passing fancy. (See directions below for how to make juice without a juicing machine.)

2.  Go into it with the knowledge that you'll be juicing mostly vegetables, with maybe a small amount of fruit for sweetness.  If additional sweetness is desired, add drops of liquid Stevia to taste.

3.  To minimize a blood sugar spike, don't drink juice alone or an entire batch at once.  Combine an 8 ounce glass of fresh juice (or less) with a meal or snack that contains some protein and/or fat.  If you've made more than 8 ounces, pour the remainder into a glass water bottle, place it in the refrigerator and have a little with every meal throughout the day with the idea of consuming the entire batch within 24 hours for the most nutritional impact.  For a diabetic, it can be better tolerated to add back some of the fiber removed by juicing.  For example, sometimes I stir a spoonful of fiber powder into my fresh juice before drinking, especially if it contains a higher glycemic fruit.

4.  Test your blood sugar level 1 and 2 hours after consuming juice.  This will tell you how your body reacts to juice and whether it can be tolerated.  After two hours, your blood sugar reading should be below 150 or back to normal.

5.  Finally, vegetable juicing doesn't replace eating vegetables!  Fresh vegetables and fruit contain much needed fiber, that's often lacking from the standard diet.  Juicing is just another way to add more vegetables and their healthy micro-nutrients to your diet in a rather pleasant way.

RECIPE IDEA:  Green Lemonade!

Typically, I juice whatever vegetables I have on hand at the moment and throw in a clementine and lemon or green apple.  I have found that I can juice parts of a vegetable I normally wouldn't eat, such as broccoli stalks or the woody ends of asparagus.  In this recipe, the tart lemon becomes the predominate flavor that hides the more earthy or pungent flavors of the vegetables.  With a few drops of liquid Stevia, lemonade is the result!

Green Lemonade
Makes 2 servings

1 clementine
3 stalks of celery
1/4 savoy cabbage (or 2 cups other leafy greens)
2 carrots
1/2 or 1 small lemon, with peel
1/2 cucumber or zucchini
2 broccoli stalks (about 1-1/2 cups)
4-6 drops of liquid Stevia or to taste (add after juicing)

Wash and cut vegetables to the size that will feed into your juicer.  According to the manufacturer's instructions, juice the vegetables.  Add Stevia and stir.  Pour over ice and serve immediately.

To make juice without a juicing machine:  Cut up all of the vegetables and fruit and place into a blender.  Add enough water to allow the mixture to swirl freely.  Blend on high until mixture is smooth.  Strain through a couple of layers of cheese cloth or a nut milk bag until all the liquid has been extracted.  You may need to gently massage and squeeze the bag to drain thoroughly.  Add Stevia to taste and serve over ice.

Nutritional Information per serving: 71 calories, 21.3 g carbohydrate (1 g dietary fiber, 9 g sugars), 0.7 g total fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg cholesterol, 113 mg sodium, 115 mg calcium, 132.3 mg vitamin C, 830 mg potassium, 5 g protein.

Recipe by Kathy Sheehan, copyright 2014.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Love Your Vegetables!

 It doesn't matter what diet you're on, the mantra is the same: Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables!  When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, that was the single, most difficult change I had to make.  Fruit was easy, although as a diabetic fruit is limited, but vegetables?  Not only did I not eat many vegetables, especially those leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables (like broccoli or cabbage), I struggled to eat more than one serving per day!  My attitude and eating habits have changed dramatically since those days, but not without a struggle, a few setbacks and a lot of creativity.

After winning the war against vegetables, I now admit I have a love affair with them!  I eat them at every meal, including breakfast.  I hide them in everything and sometimes I have fooled myself into believing that I'm not even eating them, when my entire plate is heaping with nothing but vegetables!  I even taught a cooking class in my community where I convinced other skeptics how to love their vegetables.  This blog is FULL of dozens of vegetable recipes, but in this post (and more to come later) I wanted to share some of my favorite toys that make incorporating more vegetables into my diet super fun, easy and delicious.  These tools, tips and recipe ideas just might make a believer out of you, too.


A Spiral Vegetable Slicer/Cutter: Inexpensive, no electricity needed, easy to use and clean, available online (Amazon or other sites) and as fun as playing with a Playdoh machine!  I use the Paderno brand, but there are others available. Usually several different blades come with it that quickly and easily make vegetable noodles, spiral ribbons of fruit or vegetables and curly vegetables for oven baking (think Sweet Potato Fries!)  One of my favorite ways to use this low-tech kitchen tool is to make vegetable noodles for either a main dish or side dish.  Vegetables I've used and recommend for noodles are: butternut squash, zucchini, parsnips, eggplant and carrots (if they're fat and big).  Quick Tip: Use any leftover vegetable or fruit pieces in your morning green smoothie.

RECIPE IDEA: Make zucchini noodles using a spiral slicer (plan on one per person, or two if they're small).  Cut any long strands into pasta-length; set aside.  Heat your favorite marinara sauce in a large saucepan.  Add the zucchini noodles and heat until noodles are cooked through and begin to soften, about 8-10 minutes.  Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.  (see photo at top of this post)

Carb Cutting Tip for Vegetable Skeptics: If a heaping plate of delicious zucchini noodles sounds too weird for you, try adding a small serving of your favorite spaghetti pasta cooked and drained according to package directions to the recipe.  (If you're watching gluten, choose a gluten free pasta.)  Cut the amount of pasta you'd normally use by at least half (or more) and add to the zucchini noodles and sauce at the end of cooking, stir until well combined and serve.  As you twirl both types of noodle onto your fork and eat, your taste buds will be fooled into thinking you're getting an enormous serving of naughty, carb-ladened pasta, when the truth is really that you're eating mostly healthy vegetables resulting in a minimal spike to your blood sugar!