Carb Solutions: The Summer Potato Salad—Almost!
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. One easy way to start taking control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].
Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index, simply put, assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the blood with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slowly than normal, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also 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.
A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
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.
- 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.
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 both the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load scores of a recipe’s main ingredients before preparation and cooking with more fresh produce to lower those scores.. Here is one very basic list that I reference before starting to prepare any meal.
At this time of year the summertime POTATO SALAD
, in all its many glorious versions, dominates potluck picnic tables across this country. This hot weather side dish has become such an expected part of the American grilling season that no paper plate would seem the same without at least one heaping spoonful, no matter what the main entrée from the barby! That is, except for picnickers counting their carbs and those 29 million diabetics among us who must abstain from this food group altogether. So, after my own last encounter of this carb-heavy temptation at a recent outdoor social gathering, I sought out a more glycemic-friendly way to replicate these iconic bowls of creamy-soft tubers, slathered in mayo and seasoned with all sorts of tasty additives.
A quick Internet search did generate a plethora of potato salad recipe alternatives and they all shared the same main ingredient – cauliflower
. In fact, with the recent popularity of cauliflower being touted as the “new Kale”, I daresay that the recipe choices were equal to the original tuber salad itself. So, for the purposes of presenting a sample recipe idea for this feature, I confess to exercising a writer’s right of culinary bias by combining the parts of various recipes based on my own taste preferences. The take-away message for the reader counting carbs is to simply use your own favorite potato salad recipe but swap in cauliflower pieces. Need a reason to make that switch? The GI score of a potato is a whopping 111 on the aforementioned scale of 1-100! The GL impact of a 7 oz. potato on blood sugar is also off the chart at 33! The glycemic index and load score of cauliflower is “0”.
Unless you are going to eat a potato immediately prior to running a marathon, the choice is an easy one, i.e. take control of your carb intake.
No matter the cast of supporting ingredients, it should be emphasized that the key to the success of this low-carb substitution is the texture of the cauliflower florets. It’s a fine balance: the cauliflower must be fork-tender (a fork slips in easily), but not overcooked. Overcooked cauliflower will not only be too mushy, but the veggie’s distinct aroma becomes more pronounced and ruins the culinary illusion. Whether steaming in the microwave or on the stovetop, it is best to interrupt the cooking to check the texture often. Remember, the cauliflower can always to cooked a little longer -- but “uncooking” it is impossible!
When the texture is right, I would defy anyone to distinguish this dish from the real thing in a blind taste-test. Of course, if the comparison involves a blood-sugar or carb count, the difference is blood-curdling, no pun intended! So carb counters take heart, here’s a recipe of guilt-less, potato-like pleasure to contribute to your next summertime potluck invite. And, yes, it is a potluck so you will have to share this deliciousness – so consider doubling the measures!
Almost Potato Salad
1 medium-large (about 2 pounds) Cauliflower
3 Green Onions
, chopped (green and white parts)
¾ cup Red Onion
½ cup Parsley
4 Hard-Boiled Eggs
½ cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Dijon-Style Mustard
1 Tablespoon Pickle Relish
1 teaspoon Celery Seed
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Garlic & Herb Sea Salt Grinder
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to taste
Paprika, as needed for garnish
Break or chop the cauliflower into smallish florets. Microwave florets in a covered container with a small amount of water; or steam on the stove. Drain and put into a medium bowl.
In a bowl, add chopped egg to cauliflower, salt and pepper to taste, then toss thoroughly.
Mix in green onion, red onion, and parsley to the bowl.
Combine the ingredients for the dressing (mayo, lemon juice, relish, mustard and spices), then add to the bowl and toss again. Chill for an hour, then garnish with paprika just before serving.