By Dennis Linden
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we are all in total control of our own weight.
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. Foods with low glycemic scores convert to sugar much slower than foods with high scores; this enables the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the blood with more sugar than it can process. In fact, eating foods that have a low impact can both reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation. One simple way to take control is to start making decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Quickie Glycemic Primer:
The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
One needs to pay attention to both glycemic scores. While a food may have a high glycemic index number, if very little sugar exists in a typical serving size then its glycemic load can be quite low. For instance, most store-bought whole wheat breads average about 71 GI, but score a low 9 GL based on a serving of one slice.
Since being diagnosed with Diabetes-2 some twenty years ago, these two scores have become the rudder that guides my own meal plans. It is hoped that the dishes featured in this monthly blog will inspire readers to develop the habit of checking the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load scores of a recipe’s main ingredients before preparation. Here is one very basic list that I reference regularly.
This month’s glycemic-friendly recipe offers a hearty, single-pot meal that will spike taste buds, not blood-sugar levels. Using Melissa’s Ready-to-Eat Steamed Fava Beans
greatly shortens the prep time for this tasty chicken dish to just a little over an hour, including 45 minutes of baking time. So the dish is practical to prepare as an after-work meal during the week; yet rustically elegant enough to be served in a more formal plating to weekend dinner guests. The deep, rich flavors will shatter any notions your guests might hold about bland diabetic food; that is, if you feel the need to announce it. In this case, I vote for the culinary-ignorance-is-bliss approach!
Let’s start with Melissa’s convenient pre-cooked fava beans. Of course, this ingredient can always be prepared the old fashioned way: remove the beans from each pod, blanch the beans, then cool and remove the waxy shell from each bean. Easy-peasy! Figure every pound of fresh pods will take about an hour to process and yield about one cup of useable beans. Option II: for this recipe use three Melissa’s Peeled and Steamed Fava Beans (8.8 oz each), saving approximately three hours to prepare the same amount of fresh bean pods. Plus one can only take part in this tedious pod prep a few months of the year; whereas Melissa’s Steamed Favas are available year around.
are one of those confusing foods, glycemicly speaking, which were mentioned in the introduction to this article. While fava beans do have a high glycemic index score (79) due to its starch content, the bean’s “glycemic load” is a very low 4.1 per 3 ounce serving. Lesson: Do not judge a food by its glycemic cover! Plus, as a safeguard against eating too many ounces of these tasty beans, favas are very high in fiber content, which tricks the body into feeling satisfied and full after consumption of only a moderate portion.
Like all legumes, fava beans are loaded with nutrients. They are a good source of vitamin B1, copper, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, and potassium. Together, these nutrients contribute to a better immune and nervous system. Fava beans are also rich in vitamin A, a nutrient that helps with healthy, glowing skin. One’s mood can also “glow” from eating fava beans because of a high concentration of an amino acid known as L-dopa (dopamine); the chemical can elevate one’s mood or attitude and, in fact, has proven to decrease depression. Who could not like a food that causes a smile!
This really is a very easy dish to make and, using only one pot, will be a favorite for those cooks who do not enjoy cleaning up the kitchen. Basically, all ingredients are added in layers to the same large sauté pan except the chicken thighs and fava beans. Once the flavors have been melded together in the sauté, the chicken is added and the whole pan is popped into the over. Since the Fava beans are pre-cooked, they only need a quick blanching, still in their convenient pouches, before being added to the rest of the ingredients just before plating. Note: using the measurements called for in this recipe actually produced far more of the “stew” part of this dish than I could dish up over the four servings of thighs. This “over production” made for a few hot lunches just served as is without the chicken. Carb-lessly delicious!
Chicken, Fava Bean & Pepper Stew
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
1 large Red Onion
, chopped, >15 GI
2 Celery Sticks
, chopped, >15 GI
1 Yellow Pepper
, seeded and diced, >15 GI
1 Red Pepper
, seeded and diced, >15 GI
1 Garlic Clove
, crushed, >15 GI
2 Tablespoon Paprika
1 pound Fresh Tomatoes, chopped, >15 GI
5 ounces Chicken Stock
8 Chicken Thighs, skinless, boneless >15 GI
3 packages Melissa’s Peeled & Steamed Fava Beans
, 79 GI / 4.1 GL
Sauté onion, celery and peppers in a large deep fry pan in oil for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and paprika, then cook for a further 3 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes and chicken stock, bring to the boil and remove from flame.
Arrange chicken thighs into sauce throughout the pan, cover with lid and place in pre-heated 350°F oven for 45 minutes. When chicken is done, transfer chicken thighs to a plate and set aside for plating.
While chicken is cooking in the oven, prepare fava beans per package directions. Once chicken pieces have been removed from baking pan, mix in drained fava beans while they are still warm.
In four large shallow bowls, place two thighs in each and then ladle the fava bean mixture over the top; be sure to include some of the savory soupy liquid in the pan. Serve with slices of spouted whole grain bread. Enjoy!