Friday, July 11, 2014

Trimming the fat with low-carb couscous

Cauliflower couscous w/ peas & mahi mahi crusted w/ raspberry mango chipotle & almonds
Cauliflower couscous w/ peas & mahi mahi crusted w/ raspberry mango chipotle & almonds

Trimming the fat is something many people talk about. We talk about trimming the fat from our waistlines. We talk about our federal, state, and local governments trimming the fat out of the budgets. But when we talk about trimming fat, too often we are reluctant to cut out certain things necessary to do so.

When we talk about trimming the fat out of the federal defense budget, many citizens pressure legislators to do so without compromising national defense. The same concept comes in trimming the fat from our waistlines. We don’t want to give up certain things out of worry that we’ll compromise our body’s defenses. A certain balance and trade-off must take place. That trade-off needs to be one that leaves us comfortable. When it comes to national defense, it means we need the psychological comfort that our nation will be capable of preempting, thwarting, or responding to those threats accordingly. When it comes to food, we want certain comfort foods. Among those comforts are starchy side dishes.

If you find yourself changing your diet towards a healthier one, or if your doctor has told you to avoid starches and high-gluten grains, it can be a little disheartening. A little research can reveal some interesting side dishes that replace those comfort foods.

Many who remember the days when “The South Beach Diet” was the diet fad of the week that whipped cauliflower was a tasty and healthy exchange for mashed potatoes. There are other side dishes using cauliflower as well. For instance, here is one recipe for a low-grain, low-carbohydrate, gluten-free couscous that uses cauliflower.  It pairs well with baked or grilled fish (as depicted above) that is high in neuro-genesis-inducing (brain cell regenerating) nutrients like the omega-3 fatty acid DHA.

Low-carb Cauliflower Couscous

2 tbsp – Olive oil
2 oz (weight) – Cauliflower (per serving)
1 tsp – Coconut oil (per serving)
1 oz (1/8 cup) – Quinoa (per serving)
1 tsp – Minced garlic (per serving)
1/2 oz (weight) – Kale or spinach (per serving)
1 oz (1/8 cup) – Grated Parmesan cheese (per serving)
2 oz (1/4 cup) – Water (per serving)
Rosemary (to taste)
Ground black pepper (to taste)
Nutritional Quick Facts: Approximately 20g carbohydrates, 12g of dietary fiber, 10g protein per serving. These are estimates and may vary.


Take fresh, uncooked, unfrozen cauliflower and cut the florets into small bits. Using the food processor, chop the cauliflower to small bits approximately the size of cooked rice. Next, use a chef’s knife to chop the kale or spinach into small strips. You can use a food processor but many cooks find it may be quicker to do this by hand.

Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Garlic
Oil & Garlic | PHOTO CREDIT: P-G Matuszak

Combine olive oil, coconut oil, and garlic in a small to medium (depending upon number of servings) pan. Heat at low-medium heat until the coconut oil melts and mixes with the olive oil. This gives the garlic time to infuse into the oils.

Add quinoa and cauliflower to the oil. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir continuously for 2-3 minutes. Lower heat back to low-medium. Add water, kale and/or spinach, and rosemary. Stir mixture, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Finely chopped cauliflower for couscous
 Finely chopped cauliflower for couscous.

Uncover the mixture and add black pepper and Parmesan cheese. Remove from heat and fold the couscous until the cheese is well blended into the mixture. Cover and let stand for five minutes before serving.

Healthy Benefits

As briefly explained in this article, coconut oil contains medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) that promote brain health. The winners in this recipe, though, are the greens and the cauliflower.

Cauliflower contains about 47 milligrams (mg) of omega-3 fatty acids per ounce. Those omega-3s are beneficial to your cardiovascular health as well as your brain. Recent studies indicate they may even help fight unnecessary inflammation and assist in boosting your immune system. As such, cauliflower, on its own, is listed as “mildly anti-inflammatory”.

If you opt for kale, this leafy green adds approximately 50 mg of omega-3s. Also, it is high in vitamin-K, providing approximately 229 micrograms per ounce. That is over 280% of what the average adult requires a day, according to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA). Vitamin K helps in a variety of things. Among them, it assists in blood health, particularly in helping fight off infection. It helps fend off infections by boosting the blood’s ability to clot adequately, sealing a wound. Studies also suggest that vitamin-K is involved in bone and joint health, helping the body repair and strengthen your skeletal system. Doctors usually recommend a diet high in vitamin-K to those who suffer digestive conditions such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Kale is also a good source of the anti-oxidant vitamin-A.

Spinach is another leafy green with good benefits. Per ounce, it contains about half the recommended daily allowance for adults of vitamin-A. Vitamin-A is an anti-oxidant that assists with the immune system. It helps to fend off inflammation and infection. Studies also indicate it helps reduce free radicals. Free radicals bind together with gluten byproducts to form plaque. That plaque can build up in the blood stream, causing blockages that lead to strokes and heart attacks. Several studies released since 2005 indicate that same plaque may aggravate or even cause brain diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. While not as rich in vitamin-K as kale, spinach still packs about 135 mcg per ounce. That is approximately 170% the RDA for adults recommended by the USDA.

Boosting defenses and trimming the fat

Recent studies suggest that reducing your gluten and carbohydrate intake and eating a balanced diet contribute to a lifestyle that promotes your natural immunities and defenses. Exercise is another key component of that lifestyle. Combined with adequate sleep, they can help you trim off the visceral fat around your midsection. A high  level of visceral fat has been tied, by several studies, to other ailments, particularly those connected to insulin, leptin, inflammation, and  cholesterol-based plaque. So, in the case of the human body, trimming the fat can actually increase your defenses.

Other studies present data and evidence that indicate such a lifestyle can also lead to the regeneration of healthy gray matter in your brain. So what could you do with those new brain cells? First, contact a doctor and get a physical. Ask that doctor to recommend the best diet and exercise program that fits your individual needs. Next, take that suggested diet along with your test results and see a registered dietitian (RD).
You may also start looking at the various proposals before the US Congress, your state legislature, and your local municipal officials. People don’t like to give up the “special shiny things” that give them comfort. They don’t want to trade food stamp funding for business incentive programs. They want both. They also want free transportation, free housing, better benefits for the military, etc. Take a look at Article I sections 8 and 9 of the US Constitution. Those outline what congress cannot do and what congress must do. The fat to be trimmed is between those limits. They must fund postal routes. They must provide for the military. They must pay public debts. They must fund all essential functions of the federal government.

Think if your family were teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. You have a limited income. Your credit is over-extended. What are your options? What luxuries do you do without until you are in a situation better suited to afford them? Do you need that new, fancy SUV? What junk can you sell? Do you need that family cellphone plan with unlimited everything? How about your cable television package (since you can watch only one station at a time, anyway)? Do you need those family season passes to the amusement park? There are things to trim. Things you don’t trim are your retirement account investments, “rainy-day” savings, or kids’ college funds. You get the point.

Apply the same common sense approach to government budgets. There are things we’d rather not do without. However, luxuries are luxuries. The government doesn’t need to buy steak and lobster for the less fortunate. The less fortunate need a source of income, an opportunity, not a handout. But without adequate defense force with enough funding to train and deploy fully equipped to handle the threats to our nation, none of it will amount to more than a pile of rotten beans. To ensure the manpower necessary to conduct those missions, we need to make sure we take care of the military members and their families. We owe it to them. We also owe it to our veterans and our military retirees. They sacrificed and were promised certain reciprocation and compensation. Those fall under “public debt” and the “thanks of a grateful nation”.

The author is not a medical doctor nor a currently registered dietitian. The information provided in this article is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to be interpreted as medical, nutritional or health advice. Please seek the advice of an expert before starting any new diet or exercise program.