May 22, 2006

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Is it true that you can't have fruit on a low carbohydrate diet? Well, that's certainly a persistent rumor. But unlike many of the ideas going around about low carbohydrate dieting, this one has a more complicated answer than "yes" or "no." The truth is that fruit varies a great deal in sugar content. Some fruits really are too high carb for us to eat often or in any quantity, while others can fit neatly into a low carbohydrate diet - can even be eaten daily, if you like.

I'm pleased to inform you that one of your very best bets on a low carb diet is currently in season, and will be plentiful, cheap, and wonderful all summer: Cantaloupe!

A 1/8th-of-a-melon wedge of cantaloupe has 5.6 grams of carbohydrate, with 0.6 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of just 5 grams - that can fit into anyone's low carb day, even if you're doing a 20-gram-per-day induction. Better yet, cantaloupe is darned nutritious, with 184 mgs. of potassium, 2334 I.U.s of vitamin A, 14 mcgs. of folate, and 25.3 mgs. vitamin C in that same wedge.

What about honeydew? Honeydew is higher in potassium than cantaloupe, with 285 mg., and it also wins in the folate sweepstakes, with 24 mcg. But honeydew's cool green loses out to cantaloupe's rich orange when it comes to vitamin A - honeydew has only 62 I.Us. Most importantly for us, honeydew is considerably higher in carbohydrate, with 11.4 grams in 1/8 of a melon, and 1 gram of fiber, for a usable carb count of 10.4 grams. Still, it's a pretty good carb-bargain, if you've got room in your daily count.

Watermelon is a possibility, too. Because whole watermelons are so much bigger than cantaloupe or honeydew, a portion is considerably less than 1/8 melon! We'll go with 1 cup, diced: 11.5 grams of carbohydrate, with 0.6 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of just under 11 grams. 170 mgs. potassium, 865 I.U.s vitamin A, and just 12 mgs. vitamin C. If you're having a slice at a barbecue, I'd make it a small one, but you certainly don't have to forego the watermelon altogether.

Still, cantaloupe is the clear winner in the low carb stakes. You can enjoy a simple wedge of cantaloupe as-is, of course. But consider some other possibilities:

* Dice up 1/2 cup of cantaloupe and combine it with 3/4 cup cottage cheese for a quick, cool, summery breakfast, with 12 grams of usable carbohydrate, 24 grams of protein, 407 mgs. potassium, 125 mgs. calcium, 2661 I.U.s of vitamin A, 33 mgs of vitamin C, and 180 calories.

* Toss balls of cantaloupe and honeydew with lime juice and freshly grated ginger root for a light, elegant dessert.

* Combine diced cantaloupe with blueberries (10.5 grams of carbohydrate and 1.7 grams fiber per 1/2 cup), add a little Splenda and a few fresh mint leaves, for a pretty dessert with more beneficial phytochemicals than most anything you can think of.

* Cut a cantaloupe in half, scoop out the seeds, and fill the resulting hollow with sugar-free lime gelatin (0 grams carbohydrate.) Chill for several hours, then cut in wedges, for a fun end to a cookout.

* Peel thin wedges of cantaloupe and wrap each one in a thin slice of prosciutto, for a classic Italian appetizer. If you like, you can wrap chunks of cantaloupe in small squares of proscuitto, and spear each one on a toothpick, for an easy summer hors d'oeuvre.

You can even put cantaloupe in your salad! This salad is not only beautiful, tasty, nutritious, and low carb, but each serving has more potassium than two bananas!

Summer Treat Spinach Salad

2 pounds raw spinach
1 ripe avocado
1/4 cantaloupe
1/2 cup alfalfa sprouts
2 scallions, sliced
Vinaigrette dressing, bottled or homemade (I like Paul Newman's Olive Oil and Vinegar.)

Wash the spinach very well, and dry. (Or you can just buy bagged, triple-washed spinach!) Tear up big leaves. Cut the avocado in half, remove the seed and the peel, and cut in chunks. You can also peel and chunk the cantaloupe, or, if you want to be fancy, you can use a melon baller. Add to the spinach, along with the alfalfa sprouts and the scallion. Toss with the vinaigrette right before serving. Serves 6. 11 grams of carbohydrate per serving, with 5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 6 grams. 5 grams of protein.

(Reprinted from 500 Low-Carb Recipes by Dana Carpender (2002 Fair Winds Press) by permission of the publisher.)

Posted by HoldTheToast at May 22, 2006 10:16 PM