When we follow a low-carb diet to control our diabetes and to lose weight, the first carbohydrates to go are starchy foods. Then, we reduce two sugars, sucrose (table sugar) and fructose.
Starchy foods have a high glycemic index, particularly tubers like potatoes and grains like wheat and wheat products, including bread, bagels, and baguettes. The trouble with sucrose is that it's half fructose (the other half is glucose). And the trouble with fructose, including high-fructose corn syrup and agave nectar, is its impact on the liver, which metabolizes it. That raises our triglyceride levels and leads us to secrete more insulin, which in turn leads to more insulin resistance. Fructose also leads to high blood pressure.
What's left? Fiber, of course. In the U.S. we count fiber as a carbohydrate, although much of the rest of the world counts it separately. Having some fiber in our diet is probably a good thing, but we can't live on it.
But beyond starch, sugar, and fiber are the green leafy vegetables. The mainstay of salad. That's what's left.
Even Dr. Richard K. Bernstein, the leading exponent of a very low-carb diet for controlling diabetes, thinks that it makes sense for us to eat some slow-acting carbohydrates. While "there is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate," as Dr. Bernstein writes in Dr. Bernstein's Diabetes Solution, he also writes that "it seemed reasonable to conclude that, since our prehistoric ancestors consumed some plants, plant foods might well contain essential nutrients that were not yet present in vitamin supplement and not even been discovered."
All of a sudden Dr. Bernstein found that he was eating salads as well as cooked vegetables. He says that he now relishes salads.
I certainly do too. A big salad is my main meal, which I eat at lunchtime giving my body enough hours to digest it before going to bed.
A couple of years ago I wrote here about what I put in my salads. But I keep discovering new ingredients that I relish.
My best find, I think, is BroccoSprouts, which just like the name indicates is sprouted broccoli. I wrote about BroccoSprouts here a year ago and still add them to almost every salad.
More recently I found a preparation of one of my favorite vegetables. Whole Foods markets now usually have artichoke hearts. In the produce section you can find "ArtiHearts Fresh Natural Artichokes" from Monterey Farms.
Five years ago I wrote in my "Diabetes Update" newsletter reviewing a book, Prickly Pear Cactus Medicine. Many people in Mexico use it to prevent high blood glucose levels, and it has one of the lowest glycemic indexes of any food. When I reviewed that book, I was concerned that the prickly pear cactus sold here was the species that tastes better than the one studied more for its glucose-lowering effect. Of course, it's probably the former, but I now eat and enjoy it anyway, because it is undoubtedly low carb and good tasting. Sold in bottles or cans as "Tender Cactus" and "Nopalitos," the prickly pear cactus that Whole Foods and major supermarket chains sell isn't prickly. Someone else has removed the thorns for us.
I happened to have planned to write this much about salads anyway. But this morning I ran across a new study in BMJ, originally called the British Medical Journal. It is among the world's most influential and widely read peer-reviewed general scientific journals in the field of medicine. Just yesterday BMJ published "Fruit and vegetable intake and incidence of type 2 diabetes mellitus: systematic review and meta-analysis."
The study concluded that their meta-analysis supported recommendations to promote the consumption of green leafy vegetables in the diet for reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. My conclusion is that something that can reduce the risk of our getting type 2 diabetes can't be harmful for those of us who are already living with this condition.