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Carb Solutions: No Mayo Summer Cabbage Salad

By Dennis Linden
Image of Cabbage Salad
Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as 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 effect these weight-related disorders have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some regular exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to choose 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 bloodstream. The glycemic index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based on how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate these calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for people with diabetes who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods with 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 has been proven to increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

  • 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 bread, which is made with processed white flour, is 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.
  • On the other hand, the glycemic load focuses on how many 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. 
In June, the kitchen stove is replaced with the backyard grill more often than not, which means coming up with simple side dishes that do not require more heat to prepare than the outside summer temperature. I am not much of a coleslaw fan; most involve endlessly chopping and prepping a long ingredient list. Plus, the traditional artery-clogging mayo-based dressing turns into unappetizing watery gunk under the summer sun in less time than it takes to grill a hot dog. Here’s an effortless and refreshing six-ingredient cabbage salad that is laced with a simple lemon-mint flavor and just a hint of garlic. No mayo or complicated emulsified dressing need apply! Prepared ahead of time and kept chilled until ready to serve, this dish is the perfect healthy match to any barbequed meat, fish or poultry. Add a grilled cob of sweet corn slathered in butter, and you have the essence of summertime on a plate!

The dressing for this dish could not be more effortless! Just combine equal parts lemon juice and olive oil with a dollop of Dijon mustard to give a pleasantly sharp accent. Since there is no vinegar involved, there is no emulsion process to contend with; simply whisk the ingredients together. To save clean-up on a hot summer evening, mix these dressing ingredients in the bottom of the large bowl you plan to serve the salad, then add the cabbage and toss to combine.

Nutritionally, choose cabbage over iceberg lettuce every time. Cabbage is a low-calorie vegetable that is rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Cabbage is exceptionally high in vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that protects against heart disease, certain cancers and vision loss. Cabbage contains insoluble fiber, which keeps the digestive system healthy and soluble fiber that lowers harmful LDL cholesterol levels. Plus, potassium-rich foods like cabbage also help lower high blood pressure levels.

Of course, on a hot summer’s evening, all the healthy benefits of this dish are not the main focus. It’s the refreshing flavors of a chilled salad paired with a perfectly grilled main course. Don’t forget that buttered sweet corn!

Cabbage Salad
Serves 4-6
Ingredients of Cabbage Salad
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1 head green cabbage, shredded (about 8 cups)
6 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Assorted whole mint leaves, garnish

Image of Lemon Juice wisking
Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, mustard and garlic in the bottom of a large salad bowl.
Image of Cabbage and Lemon Juice
Shred the cabbage and finely chop the mint. Add both to the salad bowl with dressing and toss until thoroughly mixed. Garnish the bowl with whole mint leaves and serve family style.
Image of Cabbage Salad
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