March 07, 2006

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Low Carb For Life Reprint: Low Carb and Antioxidants

I thought this column fit into the theme of a low carb diet having plenty of vitamins and minerals...

I'm growing frustrated. Now that the clinical research is in, and it's clear that a low carbohydrate diet causes weight loss, and actually improves blood work for most people, the dietitians are working overtime to find objections. The current cry is "A low carb diet is low in antioxidants!" So let's take a look, shall we?

Dietitians still parrot the myth that a low carb diet excludes fruits and vegetables, which is simply untrue. Even the two week "induction" phase at the beginning of the Atkins diet, the strictest phase of the most restrictive low carb diet, calls for two to three cups of vegetables per day - more than the average American is eating. After that, quantities increase, low sugar fruit is added in. Most low carb diets are even more liberal - many of us simply shun starches and added sugars, while eating vegetables and low sugar fruits freely.

But what about whole grains? Dietitians always mention whole grains when they talk about antioxidants. Are they that great a source?

The most important antioxidants are vitamins A, C, and E, and the minerals zinc, copper, and selenium. Grains have no vitamin A or C. They do contain some vitamin E, but E is found in plenty of low carb foods, including nuts, brussels sprouts, avocados, leafy greens, and the much-maligned egg.

Whole wheat is a source of copper, but so are seafood, nuts, liver, and dark leafy greens, all great low carb foods. Grains are a source of selenium, but so are fish, red meat, chicken, liver and kidney. And zinc? Medline states, "High-protein foods contain high amounts of zinc. Beef, pork, and lamb contain more zinc than fish. The dark meat of a chicken has more zinc than the light meat."

Further, animal foods like eggs, butter, cream, and liver are the only sources of pre-formed vitamin A (plant foods contain carotenes, which must be converted to vitamin A, a process some bodies perform more efficiently than others.) It begins to look as though a diet based on animal foods, non-starchy vegetables, low sugar fruits, and nuts and seeds may supply more antioxidants than a diet in which some or all of the animal proteins or vegetables are replaced with whole grains.

Let's look at two meals. Meal One, the conventional "healthy" meal, consists of 6 ounces of boneless, skinless chicken breast, 1 cup of green beans, and 1 cup of cooked brown rice. Meal 2 has 6 ounces dark meat chicken, which is higher in fat - and nutrients - than the breast, 1 cup of green beans, 2 cups of cauliflower (which will turn into roughly 1 cup of our favorite, Fauxtatoes) and adds 2 tablespoons of butter on the vegetables.

How do the meals stack up? Meal One contains 18% of your RDA of vitamin A, 30% of your vitamin C, 39% of your zinc, and 7% of your vitamin E. It contains 54 grams of carbohydrate, with 7 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 47 grams. Meal Two contains 36% of your vitamin A, 111% of your C, 35% of your zinc, and 11% of your vitamin E for a better antioxidant profile overall. It has 18 grams of carbohydrate, with 9 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 9 grams.

QED: A low-carb diet is not low in antioxidants.

Here's a salad that's loaded with antioxidants - and other nutrients. You'll like if you like chicken livers, and won't if you don't. Mmmmm. Chicken livers.

Warm Chicken Liver Salad

6 chicken livers
2 tablespoons olive oil (30 ml)
Salt or Vege-Sal and pepper
8 ounces bagged mixed greens
ripe avocado
1" wedge of a big sweet red onion, sliced paper thin
1/3 cup bottled Dijon vinaigrette (75 ml)

Cut each chicken liver into 3-4 pieces. Spray a large, heavy skillet with non-stick cooking spray and put it over a medium-high burner. Add the oil and the livers. Saute the livers, turning them frequently, until no blood runs, and no pink spots show on the outsides. Take care not to overcook your livers! Turn off the burner when they're done, and if you have an electric stove, remove the pan from the warm element. Salt and pepper lightly.

Pour the bagged greens into a big salad bowl. Scoop bits of avocado out of the shell with the tip of the spoon, into the salad bowl. Add the sliced onion, pour the dressing over it all, and toss well. Divide the salad mixture between two plates.

Top each salad with half of the livers, and serve.

2 servings, each with 15 grams of carbohydrate, of which 6 grams is fiber, for a usable carb count of 9 grams. 21 grams of protein. 892 mgs. of potassium! Well over your daily requirement for vitamin A and vitamin C, 23% of your zinc, 77% of your vitamin E, 26% of your copper, 100% of your selenium, half your daily requirement for niacin, B6, and iron, and good doses of vitamins B1, B2, B12, folacin, calcium.

(Reprinted with permission from 15 Minute Low-Carb Recipes, by Dana Carpender, copyright 2003 by Fair Winds Press.)

Posted by HoldTheToast at March 7, 2006 10:38 PM