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Carb Solutions: Spicy Riced Cabbage

Image of Spicy Riced Cabbage
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 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.

  • 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.
I found this recipe while cruising the ‘net looking for something interesting that would quench a case of the Mexican food cravings that had been tugging at my appetite for attention in spite of my carbohydrate limitations. This cabbage dish definitely works as this veggie readily absorbed the flavors of those traditional ingredients, seasonings and spices that did satisfy my palate even if the dish will never be found on any Mexican restaurant’s menu. After all, it’s the flavors of the cuisine that I was craving, not the carbs! Cabbage is extremely low in carbs having virtually no sugars at all and very few calories. With a GI of only “10,” cabbage is also packed with beneficial nutrients and antioxidants. In addition, this veggie can help prevent inflammation in the muscles, improves digestion, and maintain low blood pressure.

What I must take issue with is the concept that was implied by this recipe’s original title of Cabbage Rice and its introductory text that explained that the dish was a twist on the popular culinary fad of faux rice made with cauliflower using cabbage instead. A second even quicker glycemic lesson: Rice is a high carb grain; cauliflower and cabbage are very low carb vegetables. Rice does not taste like cauliflower or cabbage; cauliflower and cabbage will NEVER taste like rice!

No doubt, white rice is one of the high carb grains that has put many in the position of eliminating high carb foods and counting every carb ingested. This takes discipline, which does not get any easier by pretending an item that is now on your no-fly list is being replicated so you can feel like you are still eating it! In other words, one way to give up a now harmful food is to STOP thinking about it! Instead, simply embrace the new flavors that different, healthier, ingredients bring to the table, so to speak. It’s definitely a mental thing that I find helps in the urge to “cheat” just a little by eating the real thing occasionally; a very slippery slope. Pretending that a vegetable is rice is also mental in a negative way as it is not conducive to maintaining a glycemic-friendly discipline. So, I say this dish is NOT faux Mexican Rice; it’s Riced Mexican Cabbage. Making “riced” the description of a type of culinary cut, like “diced” or “julienne.” Keep the carbs out of mind and they will stay out of sight!

Anyway, call this dish what you will, in the end, I got my Mexican food fix in a deliciously glycemic-friendly fashion with the help of some traditional ingredients of the cuisine: jalapeno, tomato, garlic, lime, cilantro and the spice that defines the dish as Mexican rather than Spanish, cumin. This 4000-year-old spice both colors the cabbage with a reddish-brown hue and lends a distinctive sweet-earthly flavor that is recognizable even in a dish with several competing seasonings without being overpowering. Happy ricing!

Riced Mexican Cabbage
Serves 6
Image of ingredients
1 head green cabbage
2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ cup white onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded, diced
½ tomato, chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Cilantro, chopped for garnish

Image of cauliflower "rice"
Chop the cabbage into pieces small enough to fit in a food processor. Pulse into very small, fine pieces; this might have to be done in a few batches.
Image of cauliflower rice sauté
Heat the oil in a large skillet, then add the cabbage, onion, jalapeno, tomato, and garlic. Stir-fry for 5 minutes.
Image of rice sauté
Add the tomato paste, cumin, salt, and ¼ cup of water. Cover and simmer for about 12 minutes.
Image of served rice
Transfer to a large serving bowl, toss with lime juice and cilantro. Garnish with cilantro.
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