If you were to judge me solely on the contents of this blog, it would probably seem that I am a very good low carber. And sometimes this is the case. Sometimes I am dedicated to counting each carb that passes my lips and carefully regulating my blood sugar. And sometimes I am not. Sometimes, when life gets too busy and overwhelming, I fall off the wagon. Well, truth be told, I always have a hand or a foot, or some extremity or other, still firmly attached to the wagon. When I slip, I am still very aware of what said slip could do to my health. So it’s never an all-out carbalicious binge. It’s a single cookie or a scoop of ice cream, savoured slowly, with the knowledge that I will have to work to clamber back on the wagon afterwards.
But it doesn’t matter how good or how strict we are, we can all use a little help. And this is why I agreed to review a new book by Steve Parker, M.D. called “Conquer Dieabetes & Prediabetes: The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet”. This is a book devoted to controlling blood sugars by following a low carb version of one of the healthiest diets in the world, the Mediterranean diet. Notice that Dr. Parker uses the term “conquering” diabetes, not curing it. As of this moment in time, diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed and controlled, and I suppose that is what the author means by “conquering”. I wouldn’t normally do a book review on this blog, but this one hit close to home. So this may be a long post and if what you are after is the recipe, feel free to scroll on down and ignore me!
Here is what I like about the book. Dr. Parker has practiced Internal Medicine for over 20 years, and he starts his book off with an apology. To us, the diabetics. He is apologizing for the “atrocious job” the medical community has done for us over the years, by recommending that we eat exactly what our bodies cannot handle: carbohydrates. This is a seriously divisive issue, but I fall in with Steve Parker and have from the beginning. See, the mainstream medical community is still telling diabetics to follow the good ol’ Food Pyramid (or its new counterpart, the Plate), the one with a heavy reliance on whole grains (carbs), low-fat dairy (often carbs), vegetables (some carbs), and fruits (often lots of carbs), with minimal fats. But there is a huge body of data now that suggests that everyone, not just diabetics, might be better off with less carbs in their diet and more protein and (gasp!) fat. Because maybe it isn’t fat that is making us fat or unhealthy. Maybe, just maybe, it’s a carb-heavy diet.
So Dr. Parker apologizes and proceeds to lay out his reasons for doing so. And his reasons for following The Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet. Well, in my case he was mostly preaching to the choir. When I figured out that my gestational diabetes wasn’t going away after the birth of my child, I turned to the internet for information. Early on, I came across some diabetes-support forums, and I read and read and read. This may sound terrible to you, but I felt like I learned more from those messageboards than I did in the 2 ½ months that I saw my drug-happy endocrinologist while pregnant. The one who kept wanting to put me on insulin, despite my excellent blood-sugar control through diet and exercise. What I learned was low-carb, low-carb, low-carb. I didn’t want to believe it at first, because who wants to have to give up the foods they love? But continued reading, including medical journals and studies, plus the resulting blood sugars, made a relatively quick convert of me.
So the question is, would I follow Steve Parker, M.D.’s Low-Carb Mediterranean Diet? Well, no, but this is not because the diet or the book is in any way lacking. It’s simply that I have found my own way to be low carb and it appears to be working for me (minus those occasional slips). And that I love experimenting with food and new ingredients, so I wouldn’t want to limit myself to the foods that are eaten on a Mediterranean diet. I love Asian cuisine, I love Indian, and those too can be healthy, low carb foods. But I am already following the essence of Dr. Parker’s diet, staying mostly within the bounds of 70 to 100g of carbs a day, eating mostly whole, fresh foods and steering clear of processed junk that’s high in carbs and hydrogenated or trans fats.
Here’s what I really think. I think that this book and its diet plan are both excellent and really designed for someone who is struggling and looking for guidelines. If you are diabetic and/or overweight and you need a plan to follow, this is definitely one to consider. There is a huge amount of variety in Mediterranean-style eating, so boredom shouldn’t become a factor. For the Low-Carb version, Dr. Parker takes the best attributes of the Mediterranean Diet, the fish, the meats, the vegetables and the heart-healthy fats, while cutting out some of the higher carb parts like bread and pasta. Really, it’s an ideal plan for almost anyone to follow, let alone diabetics.
So, in the spirit of the book, I decided to create a recipe that could be considered a part of the plan. My first inclination was to do something with fish, since the book emphasizes a reliance on fresh seafood. However, I had some fennel bulbs from my local farmer’s market and a hankering for chicken salad, and this is what I came up with. And the inclusion of the walnuts and a touch of walnut oil will surely make the author happy. I am a nut-aholic anyway, he didn’t need to convince me to eat more of those! But I have tried to make a conscious effort to include more fish in my diet, with this book in mind.
Fennel Walnut Chicken Salad
3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
1 ½ cup fresh fennel, coarsely chopped
¼ cup toasted walnuts, chopped
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoon walnut oil
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoon chopped fennel fronds
2 cloves garlic, pressed
⅛ teaspoon cayenne
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, toss cooked chicken, fennel and walnuts until combined.
In a medium bowl, whisk together mayonnaise, walnut oil, lemon juice, chopped fennel fronds, garlic, cayenne until smooth.
Pour dressing over chicken mixture and toss to coat thoroughly. Season with salt and pepper. Allow salad to chill in refrigerator for an hour or so. The longer you leave it, the more the flavours meld together. The leftovers were almost better than the first day.
Serves 6. Each serving has a total of 3g of carbs and 1 g of fiber.