Low Carb Kitchen
Carb Solution: Cinco Celebration Jicama Tray
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 can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that 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 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 body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, 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:
Cinco de Mayo, which commemorates the date of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, is celebrated in this country much like St. Patrick’s Day. That is, the traditional culinary dishes and accompanying refreshments of the Mexican culture are consumed with gusto regardless of the celebrants’ true nationality. We are all a little bit Irish on March 17 and a little bit Mexican on May 5th! The good news for carb counters is that beer, green or brewed south of the border, contains very low levels of carbohydrates, but only trace amounts of simple sugars – so drink up!. The bad news is that tostadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, tamales, tacos, elote (cob corn) and half that plate of rice and beans have components that are on your dietary N0-FLY zone -- leaving carb counters swinging at piñatas that had better be stuffed with sugarless candies!
- 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, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low.
- Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
Here are two appetizers that share a common ingredient to help get you through the Cinco celebrations carb-lessly, or close to it! Jicama is a versatile edible root vegetable with a sweet, slightly starchy flavor, though the vegetable contains no starch at all. This slightly juicy tuber has a very thick brown skin and creamy white interior with a crunchy texture similar to that of an apple or potato. Since the root is mostly water, it also has a mild, refreshing aftertaste and absorbs other flavors most readily.
The root is usually eaten raw, but can also be used in cooked dishes. In Mexico, it is popular in salads or mixed with fresh fruit combinations; while in the Philippines the root is used extensively in many stir-fry dishes. Since the root has no starch content, it does not even register on the glycemic index; the glycemic load of a whole pound of Jicama is only “8” and that also comes with a whopping 24 grams of healthy fiber! Most importantly, both these tasty appetizers pair well with a good cerveza; no green dye required for this low carb party!
Makes about 8-10 rounds
1 large jicama, cut into ¼-inch thick slices, then 2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter
1 Hass avocado, firm ripe, peeled, pitted, and coarsely grated
1 cup mango, firm ripe, diced
3 green onions, minced
2 tablespoon Melissa’s Hatch Chile Salsa, to taste
In a small bowl, gently stir together the avocado, mango, green onions and salsa until well combined. Top the jicama slices with a scoop of the avocado mixture.
Spicy Jicama Finger Rolls
Makes about 15 rolls
1 jicama, peeled, halved, sliced into wafer-thin slices with a mandolin
2 oz. cup Melissa’s lemon juice
1 tsp. salt
Melissa’s Green Hatch Chile powder, to taste
½ lb. fresh, frozen or canned cocktail shrimp
½ cup Roma tomatoes, diced small
½ small white onion, small diced
1 Hass avocado, small diced
½ cup cilantro, chopped fine
Trim the jicama pieces to the size of a won ton wrapper; uniformity is not required so long as each can be rolled up like a mini-taquito. Gently combine all the other ingredients in a small bowl until thoroughly mixed. Lay out jicama slices flat on a cutting board, add shrimp mixture to one end, then carefully roll up over the mixture and secure with a toothpick.