January 30, 2006

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Low Carb Cold Care

Low Carb For Life Reprint - Low Carb Cold Care

As you can see from the first paragraph, this column originally appeared in the autumn of 2004. It may be late winter now, but I still know plenty of people with colds! I've altered this column a bit to bring it up to date with the state of the low carb market.

Summer's gone, autumn's here, the leaves are changing. You know what that means. Right, the cold and flu season is upon us. Indeed, as I write this I have a scratchy throat, a snorky nose, and a tight chest. Ugh.

So I thought it would be timely to fill you in on low carb cold care. Low carb cold care? Yep. There actually are a few potential pitfalls, let me help you skirt them.

Please don't decide, "I'm sick. I deserve pampering. I may as well go off my diet." Nutritionists from Dr. Atkins to Ann Louise Gittleman, MS, CNS have long insisted that eating sugar will weaken your immune system, and indeed a little research turned up a 1995 study showing that the activity of immune system cells called leukocytes decreases significantly when blood sugar levels rise. If there's any chance that eating a lot of carbs will keep you sick longer, you don't want to do it!

Just as important, if you've been low carb for even a few weeks, you've probably noticed a dramatic increase in energy. Do you really want to give yourself one of those energy-sapping blood sugar crashes that come after the blood sugar rush? Talk about feeling wretched.

Here are some ideas for low carb cold care:

* Juice is not your friend - it's a great way to take in tons of sugar, without any of the fiber that would buffer its absorption if you were to eat the fruit.

* Sadly, Hood's Carb Countdown Juices are no more. But Minute Maid has a line of reduced-sugar juice drinks with 1-2 grams of usable carb per serving, and added vitamin C. If you really crave juice, they're an option. Still, they're a highly processed food, and some of them do include the extremely evil high fructose corn syrup, if only in small quantities. (Some also contain something called "GLYCEROL ESTER OF WOOD ROSIN," which sounds bizarrely like shellac, to me...)

* You could always take vitamin C in pills, you know.

* Hot beverages are soothing to a scratchy throat, and loosen chest congestion. Tea is the obvious choice (she said with a big pot of tea sitting close to hand.) If you're used to honey in your tea while sick, be aware that just one teaspoon has 5.7 grams of carbohydrate, all sugar. There are a couple of brands of sugar free imitation honey on the market - Steele's and HoneyTree. These are remarkably good, and available through online retailers and low carb specialty stores.

* We've been drinking Sipper Sweets brand sugar free raspberry lemonade mix, made hot. This is very good, very easy to make (nuke a cup of water, stir in a little mix,) and has just 1 gram of carb per serving. The lemonade and apple cider mixes by Sipper Sweets would be good hot, too. (NOTE: Since I wrote this, the market has changed. I'm still finding these products advertised on line, but some stores are saying they're on clearance, which makes me wonder if they've been discontinued. )

* Beware of cold medicines! Cough syrups and liquids like NyQuil have a lot of sugar. Buy NyQuil, DayQuil, and the like in soft gels, instead. Pharmacies carry sugar free cough syrups, often labeled "diabetic formula."

Again, your best bet for these is a pharmacy, not the grocery store or a discount store.

* Chicken soup is standard for colds, but most packaged chicken soups have noodles or rice in them. If nothing else will do, it's good to know that Campbell's Chicken Noodle has 8 grams of carb per serving - not great, but not terrible. Chicken Rice has 7 grams of carb.

* If there's a local Chinese restaurant that delivers, consider sending out for egg drop or hot-and-sour soup. Though recipes vary, both tend to be lower carb and higher protein than canned chicken noodle. Hot-and-sour soup - my cold-care favorite - has the added advantage of hot peppers to help clear out your nose.

Can't get delivery? With boxed or canned broth in the pantry, this egg drop soup is quick and easy enough to make in your weakened condition.

Eggdrop Soup

1 quart chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon guar or xanthan (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 scallion, sliced
2 eggs, beaten

If you're using the guar or xanthan, first put a cup or so of the broth in your blender, turn it on low, and add the guar. Let it blend for a second, then put it in a large saucepan with the rest of the broth. Add the soy sauce, rice vinegar, ginger, and scallions. Heat over medium high burner, and let it simmer for five minutes or so, to let the flavors blend. Have your eggs beaten in a glass measuring cup or small pitcher - something with a pouring lip. Take a fork, and start stirring the surface of the soup in a slow circle. Pour in about a quarter of the eggs, and stir as they cook and turn into shreds, which will happen almost instantaneously. Repeat three more times, using up all the egg, then serve. 3 biggish servings, or 4-5 small ones; easy to double! Assuming 4 servings, each will have 2 grams of carbohydrate, a trace of fiber, and 8 grams of protein.

Posted by HoldTheToast at January 30, 2006 09:51 PM