Who said cutting carbs has to be an exercise in willpower? With loads of tasty substitutes and alternative options available, we show you how meal-times should mean more pleasure and less pressure, as Ashlee Starratt discovers.
In December, I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and at just 35-years-old it was a hard pill to swallow.
After seven years of the GCC lifestyle, the extravagant eating that came with it, and a high-stress, mostly sedentary job; my pancreas simply decided to give up the ghost.
Staring down the barrel of Type 2 diabetes at such a relatively young age was sobering. People lose limbs from this condition, their vision can be impacted, and their immune systems dangerously suppressed.
The dark side of sugar was already having a damaging effect on my body, as the condition that had hit my father, my uncles and my grandparents in their senior years reared its ugly head in my own life decades too soon.
After much consultation with my doctor and dietitian we decided that my sugar levels were such that, if I made sustainable changes to my diet, I could get them under control through diet alone – rather than being put on a long-term first-line diabetes medication such as Metformin.
Sugar is one of the most addictive substances to kick, and it’s a hard habit to break by any stretch.
In my case, while it was all well and good to say ‘no more junk food, desserts or carby snacks’, I needed to understand the impact of so-called ‘hidden sugars’ and how carbohydrates come into play when managing diabetes and weight control.
It’s here where knowing the difference between simple and complex carbs is an important yardstick – as it’s essentially the length of time it takes for the carbohydrates to break down in your body.
Simple carbs – such as those found in processed foods with added sugar, and even in some natural forms found in certain fruit and vegetables – break down into glucose quickly, causing blood- sugar levels to rise quickly.
Complex carbs – such as those found in certain starchy vegetables, grains, and legumes take longer for the body to break down into glucose, and thus blood-sugar levels rise more slowly.
And while these are good choices for diabetics or those seeking to reduce their carb intake for other health-related reasons, be warned – complex carbs also refer to those found in highly-refined starches such as cakes or pastries, white bread, pastas etc; all of which have an adverse effect on blood-sugar levels.
A good rule of thumb is to stick to wholegrain versions of complex carbs that are nutrient-dense and contain more fibre. But, proper blood glucose monitoring is essential to know just how much carbohydrate your body can handle and the overall effect it has on your blood-sugar levels.
And, if you’re worried, like I was, about no longer being able to enjoy food and treats – think again.
It took a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis to finally change my mindset towards food.
Now, low-carb doesn’t seem so much like a punishment and more like a lifestyle change, as my brain has weaned itself off its craving for sugar.
I think more clearly, feel less tired, am losing weight and, most importantly, I’m maintaining my blood-sugar levels within a safe range.
In other words, I’m eating to live. Here are some tasty tips, swaps, and recipes to help you kickstart your own journey to health.
(Source: Adapted from www.dlife.com.)
‘Low-carb’ and ‘comfort food’ in the same sentence? With this family favourite dish, we kid you not!
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
• 1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
• 1 medium onion, chopped
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• ½ tsp ground cumin
• 1 cup large head cauliflower, grated, or 4 cups riced cauliflower
• Kosher salt
• Freshly-ground black pepper
• 1 Tbsp tomato paste
• 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken
• 1 cup (425g) can black beans, drained and rinsed
• 1 cup corn kernels (fresh, canned, or thawed frozen)
• 1 cup chopped tomatoes
• 2 jalapeños, thinly sliced
• ¼ cup freshly-chopped cilantro
• 1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
• 1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
• Lime wedges, for serving
• In a large skillet over medium flame, heat oil. Add the onion and cook until soft, five minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and cumin and cook until fragrant, one minute.
• Put grated cauliflower in a clean dish-towel and twist to drain excess liquid.
• Add a splash more oil to skillet if it seems dry, then add drained grated cauliflower and season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, three to five minutes, then add the tomato paste and stir until combined. Stir in chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, jalapeños, and cilantro.
• Top with cheeses and cover with lid to let melt for two minutes.
• Serve with limes.
Editor’s Note: Team Y says: “This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please seek the advice of a medical expert if you have any questions regarding a health issue.”