Carb Solutions: Roasted Cantaloupe?
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 effect 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 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 low glycemic scores. 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 actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.
A 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 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 ten or less is low.
Unlike most of the recipes that appear in this blog, this month’s low carb dish is not a solution for anything, except maybe a delicious and extremely healthy lunch! I spotted this dish while researching the ‘net for an unrelated article. It sounded so unusual and so simple that I just had to try it. Besides, whoever heard of roasted cantaloupe? The pleasant surprise was how a salad of just three very common ingredients, tossed with a basic three-ingredient dressing, could taste so good! I just had to share this outrageously tasty and equally healthy meal-in-a-salad.
Cantaloupe is a species of musk melon, as are honeydew and casaba melons. Interestingly, musk melons are part of the larger botanical family that includes almost all species of squash as well as melons. While the melon has been cultivated for thousands of years, the fruit’s origins are up for debate, with Persia getting most agricultural historians’ votes. It was not called a cantaloupe until the 17th-century when traders brought the seeds from Armenia to farmers in the commune of Cantalupo, Italy. It being B.C. (before copyrights) the group claimed it as their own by naming it after themselves! Too bad it was also B.R. – before royalties!
Cantaloupes are packed with fiber, vitamins and electrolytes, which is why the melon is so refreshing. Including the variety in one’s diet is a great way to stay hydrated, active and alert. While the melon has a relatively high glycemic index compared to other fruits at 65, it is mostly water, making for a low glycemic load score of only 4! Research has also connected the consumption of cantaloupe to preserving skin and hair health, lowering blood pressure and supporting heart health, maintaining aging eyesight, improving blood-glucose balance and reducing stress in the kidneys of people with diabetes.
Though the option of either in the recipe, I prefer grape tomatoes over cherry tomatoes because they are meatier in texture with a rich, sweet-tart balanced flavor. However, both varieties contain about the same high nutritional value. Like all tomato varieties, both are packed with a nutrient called lycopene and vitamin A and vitamin C. Lycopene is the pigment that gives red and pink fruits, such as tomatoes, watermelons, and pink grapefruit, their characteristic color. Lycopene has antioxidant properties that have been linked to health benefits ranging from heart health to protection against sunburns and certain types of cancers. Vitamin A and vitamin C are known for maintaining healthy skin, good vision, a strong immune system and a healthy heart.
Dark, leafy greens like spinach are important for skin, hair and bone health. Greens also provide protein, iron, vitamins and minerals. The health benefits of consuming spinach include improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering cancer risk, and improving bone health. Spinach contains an antioxidant that has been shown to reduce glucose levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and decrease neuropathy (numbness) in people with diabetes. Tip: Another great way to include this leafy green in your regular diet is to start the day with spinach mixed into an omelet or scrambled eggs.
The flavors of these three very healthy components, along with the pleasantly unusual texture sensation of warm melon laced with the minty-lemony flavor of the slightly sweet dressing, is a taste experience that evoked a knee jerk “wow” from this writer so loud that it startled my two napping cats! Truly an altogether uniquely delicious flavor that I am sure any reader who tries this recipe will agree with. However, it might be a good idea to clear the room of all pets first!
Roasted Cantaloupe Salad
2 ounces fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tabelspoon agave
Salt to taste
Seed and cube cantaloupe. Slice tomatoes in half lengthwise.
Place cantaloupe and tomatoes on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper.
Bake for 25 minutes at 425°F.
Remove from oven and transfer to a small bowl to combine.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients.
For each serving: Place a handful of spinach leaves on a salad plate, top with a generous portion of the cantaloupe-grape tomato mixture, then drizzle dressing over the entire salad and finish with a sprinkle of goat cheese.