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Hey, Gang -
How are you surviving the winter? Those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, that is. I'm pleased to say that we didn't really get dumped on by the Great Blizzard of '03, but I'm sick and tired of winter, and oh-so-ready for spring to roll around.
I'm hard at work on the new cookbook, and I'm supposed to turn in the manuscript by the 1st of April. I warn you, that may mean a missed issue or two of Lowcarbezine, depending on how my work moves forward - but of course, I'll be back when I'm done!
All contents © Copyright 2002 Hold the Toast Press. All commercial reproduction is expressly prohibited. If you think your friends will enjoy Lowcarbezine!, please forward them the WHOLE ISSUE. Please, do not post articles or recipes elsewhere on the internet without permission. My attorney tells me that I'll have to come scold you and tell you to cut it out if you do.
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Sorry. I'll stop beating my head against the wall. It all just gets to me sometimes.
Like so many people, I get the daily headlines - from a couple of sources - in my email Inbox. So what should show up under the heading "Health and Science" the other day?
Red Meat Diet Raises Colon Cancer Risk.
Well, that's alarming to a girl who enjoys a good rib eye! So I read the whole two-paragraph summary.
Guess what? The study that it was referencing - a subset of the huge and generally useful Harvard Nurses' Study - found a higher colon cancer risk among women who at a "Western Diet" as opposed to women who ate a "Prudent Diet". (Ignore entirely that every bone in my writer's body was screaming, "The opposite of Western is Eastern, not Prudent!!" That just demonstrates once again what a geek I am.)
No, the really annoying part is that the "Western Diet" included not only red meat, but "sweets, fats, and refined grains such as white bread, rice, and pasta." But of course, it couldn't be the chips, sodas, candy bars, fries, and Wonder Bread causing the cancer, could it? Oh, no. Red Meat Diet Raises Colon Cancer Risk!
In the next couple of days, various reports on this study - published in this month's Archives of Internal Medicine - appeared in my inbox, and I learned more.
First of all, I learned that this study involved 76,402 women - and that all those women fell into one of just two groups, so far as eating patterns went. Say what? 76,402 women have eating habits that can be divided into just two discrete groups? No vegetarians who also drank lots of Coke and ate plenty of cookies and candy? No steak eaters who also like fish and chicken, and enjoy a good salad? Right. Pull the other one, it plays Jingle Bells.
What do those supposed two groups look like?
Along with the Western Diet being defined as having "higher amounts" of red meat (higher than what? No one said.), it also includes processed meats, sweets and desserts, full fat dairy products, fried foods and refined grains. The Prudent Diet, I learned, is "based heavily" on fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish, poultry, and whole grains.
Further, it was reported, the women who ate the Prudent Diet "tended to smoke less, exercise more, and use multivitamins."
I'm sorry, Harvard and Archives of Internal Medicine, but this "study" is garbage. This study contains so many variables, it's impossible to draw any meaningful conclusion.
It may well be that fish and poultry are better for us than red meat, or at least better than red meat as it is currently raised - stuffed full of the same grains and beans that make many humans fat and sick. Certainly processed meats, with their carcinogenic nitrates, have long been suspected to contribute to cancer risk, and I have, more than once, urged my readers to choose fresh meats over cured meats most of the time.
But how on earth are we to know from this study where, exactly, the risk lies? The headline writers apparently are sure. Another article on this study came with the screaming headline, Red Meat and Fatty Food Spell Trouble For Your Colon." Underneath, type half the size whispered, "Diet heavy in those and refined grains may increase colon cancer risk for women." (Italics mine.)
You'll notice a certain bias in assigning blame. I have yet to see an article about this study with a headline that says, "White bread, white rice, pasta, and sugar increase colon cancer risk!" Nor have I seen one that says, "Diet low in vegetables increases colon cancer risk." Nor, heaven forbid, a headline that says, "Exercise and multivitamins cut colon cancer risk!" Nope. It's the red meat and the fat. It must be!
Folks, if you've seen the reports about this study, I hope you read them with a skeptical eye. So far as I can tell, there is exactly no hard information here, and in particular, no information that applies to those of us who eat red meat, poultry and fish, along with plenty of vegetables and some low sugar fruits (not to mention eggs, healthy fats, and nuts and seeds) - but who eat no refined grains, no sugary rubbish, no commercially fried chips or french fries, with their highly damaged, carcinogenic oils; and who, I fervently hope, are taking multivitamins and getting regular exercise. (I hope you're not smoking, too, but don't I consider that to be within my bailiwick.)
If the day ever comes - and I don't expect it any time soon - when someone does a study where the source of protein - red meat versus, say, fish - is the only variable, I'll take it seriously. In the meanwhile, I'll remind you that other recent, controlled studies showed no protection from colon cancer from a low fat, high fiber diet. There are also recent studies implicating those very non-fiber carbohydrates that the "Western" diet is high in - and that are also found in whole grains and legumes.
Read beyond the headlines, folks, and ask yourself what the information really means.
Reader Letter and Review of 500 Low-Carb Recipes
Vanessa Bergmann writes:
I will keep this brief because I'm sure you get a million emails a day... I just wanted to let you know that your cookbook is my favorite low-carb cookbook that I have read so far, and that the chicken florentine recipe is to die for.
Also, if you are interested, I wrote a review of your book for the website Epinions. You can read it at http://www.epinions.com/content_90531729028
Thanks, and keep up the good work!
Thanks, Vanessa!! And for the record, I don't get quite a million emails a day. More like 200. It's still pretty scary, especially after I've been away a week on vacation!
Thanks again! (And the Chicken Florentine is one of my favorites, too.)
Read other reviews of 500 Low Carb Recipes at Amazon.com or Amazon Canada.
Since we have so many new subscribers, we've been republishing articles from the first year of Lowcarbezine! - this one first appeared in the March 8th, 2000 issue.
Aren't artificial sweeteners more dangerous than sugar? After all, sugar is natural!
Ah, yes. The "it's natural" argument for sugar. I hear this a lot. Here's the short form answer: So are cocaine and heroin.
Outrageous comparison? I don't see why. All three are crystalline powders of naturally occurring plant compounds that have been extracted, refined, and concentrated. And in all three cases, it seems to be that extracting, refining, and concentrating that make them really dangerous. After all, Bolivian natives have chewed coca leaves for centuries without much of evidence of the sort of wholesale physical and mental destruction that comes with the use of crystalline or crack cocaine. You can get enough opiates from eating a poppy seed roll to test positive for heroin on a drug test, but it's the white flour in the roll, not the poppy seeds, that will make you nod off after lunch.
Likewise, if all the sugar we ever got were in the form it is found in nature, we'd probably be okay. How is sugar found in nature? In modest quantities in fruits and vegetables, where it's combined with lots of fiber, which A) fills you up, so that it's difficult to overeat and B) slows the absorption of the sugar into your blood stream, thus damping blood sugar spikes and big insulin releases. (Keep in mind, too, that the fruits and vegetables we know today have been bred for higher and higher levels of sugar, in the interests of flavor, so that even these have a somewhat "unnatural" level of sugar.)
Once you separate the sugar from the fiber, you start to run into trouble -- for instance, a glass of apple juice has more sugar in it than a comparable amount of Coca Cola. And once you get to the white crystalline powder state (or, for that matter, the corn syrup state), we're talking a substance of tremendous power.
Natural? You'd have to eat three and a half pounds of apples to get the sugar in one Hershey bar. Are you likely to do so? Of course not. That's about 10 apples! There just isn't any way in nature to get the concentration of sugar that the average American eats.
Well, okay, there's honey. But finding a honey tree and successfully getting past the bees was not exactly an everyday occurrence for your average hunter-gatherer. Further, putting on weight was a good thing for them, since food supplies were cyclical, and most folks went hungry for a while every year. I'd be willing to bet that there's no one reading this who goes hungry for several weeks out of the year involuntarily. (There's an easy bet. If you can afford a computer and online service, you can afford food.)
Perhaps more importantly, since they didn't abuse their carbohydrate metabolisms every day from earliest childhood with fantastic quantities of sugar, their occasional indulgence in a windfall of honey was likely far better tolerated than our sugar Indulgences. American children now get fully half their calories from sugar, which is downright suicidal. Perhaps people who haven't grown up on soda pop and Kool Aide and Sugar Crisp and Oreos and such can eat an infrequent dose of sugar sweetened stuff with no problem. But I don't know any way for you and me to get there from here.
Does all of this mean that I think that artificial sweeteners are good for us? No, not really. I'm wary of large amounts of aspartame, although I do use it occasionally, in modest amounts, and I'm aware that aspartame sweetened beverages and such seem to stall weight loss for a hefty percentage -- about half -- of low carb dieters. (There's a controversy as to whether the problem is the aspartame or citric acid, another common ingredient often found along with it.) I've tried acesulfame K and a few products sweetened with it, and find it okay. I've read some objections to it, but most of them seem to amount to "It's artificial, so it must be evil." I've seen one claim that Ace-K (commonly called Sunnette) is carcinogenic, but then, we know for sure that cancers feed on sugar, so even if that's true, it's surely not a reason for using sugar instead. Saccharine -- mostly sold in the form of Sweet 'n Low -- isn't very useful for anything more than sweetening coffee or tea, since it's so bitter when used in quantity. However, it's good to know that saccharine has officially been taken off the list of carcinogens.
Splenda, made from the sweetener sucralose, is new on the market here in the US, tastes wonderful, and so far seems to be pretty safe. It does contain some carbs in its Splenda form
(0.5 g per teaspoon, which is 1/8th the carbs of sugar ), but for me has become the sweetener of choice. So far, I haven't found anything it doesn't work in, but no doubt I will. Certainly it won't give the same texture as sugar -- sticky, gooey, moist, all that stuff.
I do think that over all, the ideal is to wean ourselves away from needing sweet stuff all the time. I have reached this goal. I make sugar free desserts less often than once a month, although I have a little sugar free chocolate most days ("A little" being defined as roughly 1/2 a bar.)
However, reaching this degree of indifference to sweets took me quite a while; I ate sugar free chocolate mousse every day when I started low carbing! I feel that what happened to me was that as my physical craving for sugar subsided, I slowly got to the point where the taste of sweet stuff just didn't draw me like it used to. I've known the same thing to happen to low carbing friends. I do use small amounts of artificial sweetener -- generally Splenda -- in a number of general cooking applications, like adding a touch of sweetness to a cole slaw dressing, or making sugar-free ketchup. The amounts I get this way are small indeed.
There's stevia, of course. For those of you who haven't encountered it, stevia is a completely natural, carb and calorie free sweetener from the South American shrub Stevia Rebaudiana. It's seriously sweet! (How seriously sweet? The amount of stevia extract that would fit on the head of a pin would be plenty to sweeten a cup of coffee or tea -- perhaps even too much.) It's also better in some things than in others. I know some folks, for instance, who find stevia to be just fine in coffee or tea. I've been known to use it in protein shakes, and that's good, too. On the other hand, when I tried to use it to make a sugar free chocolate cheesecake, the results were nothing short of vile. Stevia, used in any large quantity, has the same sort of edgy bitterness that saccharine does. It's useful, but it's not a viable substitute for sugar in all applications, by any means.
I do think that moderate use of artificial sweeteners, while perhaps not nutritionally ideal, is a whole lot safer than eating the truly unnatural amounts of sugar we've grown accustomed to. I would suggest that you start to cut back on your consumption of very sweet things in general, so as to encourage yourself to lose the taste. In particular, it's very easy to take in a vast amount of artificial sweetener and other interesting chemicals by drinking pop or Crystal Light every time you're thirsty. Water (plain or sparkling), tea, coffee, herbal teas all are worth trying. If you're genuinely thirsty, there's nothing like water. Indeed, even though I drink my tea unsweetened, I'm trying to get in the habit of drinking a big glass (I have glasses that hold a whole liter!) of water when I'm thirsty, and then deciding if I want tea as well. Try to learn to quench thirst with water, saving other beverages for when you really want the flavor or the caffeine or whatever.
Too, pay attention to your changing sensitivity to sweetness. I know that many things taste sweet to me now that didn't used to, simply because I'm not overloading my taste buds with sugar. One of the pleasant results of this is that fruit really is a very yummy, sweet-tasting dessert treat to me now, which is something new for me. A half a grapefruit tastes like heaven! Strawberries are incredible! As fruit comes into season, I'll be working on dessert recipes using the lowest sugar fruits, and I think that you die hard candy freaks will be surprised how good you find them after keeping away from sugar for a while.
But if it's a choice between eating an artificially sweetened dessert, and eating one that's loaded with sugar -- if the artificial sweeteners are the thing that is allowing you to walk away from the sugar -- I say eat the artificial sweeteners, even if they are "unnatural".
Be wary of the word "natural". Rattlesnake venom is natural. Death angel mushrooms are natural. Three out of every five babies dying before their fifth birthday is natural. Natural ain't all it's cracked up to be.
Here's one for you hometown folks! I'll be signing books at Sahara Mart, here in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana, next Tuesday, February 25th, from 2-5 in the afternoon. Furthermore, Tuesday is 10% discount day at Sahara Mart! So come on out, say hi, and take advantage of 10% off on a wide range of low carb specialty products, nutritional supplements, and cool international groceries! (And 10% off the price of 500 Low-Carb Recipes, too!)
Another Reader Weighs In About The Low Carb Bread Recipes
For those of you just joining us, the situation is this: My new cookbook, 500 Low-Carb Recipes, has several recipes for low carbohydrate, high protein yeast breads in it. All of these recipes work wonderfully for me - so imagine my chagrin when I started getting email from readers whose low carb bread stubbornly refused to rise! (Including, I'm sorry to say, my very own sister.)
So I asked folks who had tried the recipes to write in and tell us what specific ingredient they used, which bread recipes they tried, and how the whole thing worked out for them. Here's a reader whose bread has worked out.
Judy Fosmo writes:
Just thought I'd add my 2 cents worth to the bread "controversy"….I made the "Whole Wheat" Bread recipe (page 125 of 500 Low-Carb Recipes) using Red Star yeast that was at least 6 months old in my refrigerator, with vital wheat gluten from the bulk bin at the health food store. It rose beautifully and made a GREAT loaf of bread. I'm very impressed. No chewy gluten texture, as good as any regular high carb bread I've ever made, and it toasts wonderfully. I have a 2 lb Breadman bread machine and added the ingredients in the order shown in the recipe in the book.
Well, whew! It's a relief to know that someone else is finding that these recipes work as-is for their bread machine, with basic ingredients from the health food store! I was beginning to wonder if I'd imagined it all. Thanks, Judy!
Oh, boy! A low carb chip I really, really like!
If there's one thing low carb dieters miss most, it's crunchy snacks. Have I got a product for you!
The nice folks at the Specialty Cheese Company of Lowell, Wisconsin (where else?) have very kindly sent me samples of their "Just the Cheese" chips. These live up to their name - made of nothing but good ol' Wisconsin cheese, plus seasonings - and come in a pile of flavors.
And they're wonderful. As crunchy as anyone could wish, and delicious! I haven't tried all the flavors yet - I've worked my way through sour cream and onion, pizza, honey-dijon, and am working on garlic and herb, heading toward nacho - but I haven't had a flavor yet that I didn't think was great. I like Just the Cheese Chips so much that yesterday I begged Sahara Mart (Bloomington, Indiana's leading source for all things low carb) to start carrying them.
Just the Cheese Chips aren't exactly like potato or tortilla chips, mind you. They're made of solid cheese, which means they're high in protein and calcium, and they're filling - I find that 6-8 pieces (they're about the size of a quarter) kills my hunger for hours. Accordingly, they come in smallish bags, and those smallish bags are considered to be two servings.
I have no trouble with this, personally. But Americans have been trained to munch unconsciously for hours on end on junk food that never fills them up, and many low carbers are looking for that sort of "entertainment" food in a low carb form. This is not it; indeed, except for celery sticks and pepper strips, and sunflower seeds in the shell, I don't think there is any low carb food you can eat for hours without making yourself sick. The problem lies not in the food, but in the unreasonable use of food as entertainment; I have no solution for this.
However, if you want something with a lot of crunch and a lot of flavor, and you can live with the fact that it's real food, and you shouldn't eat tons of it at once, Just the Cheese Chips are truly fabulous. They're great straight out of the bag as a snack, and I think that they'd even serve as an easy-to-carry-and-eat-on-the-run breakfast or lunch. Just the Cheese Chips would also be terrific broken up a bit and used in place of croutons on a salad - indeed, they'd turn a simple garden salad into a meal.
The only possible sticking point is the price - Just the Cheese Chips are not cheap. I did a little looking on line, and the cheapest I've found them was $37.08 for a pack of 12 bags. That's over $3 for each little bag of chips, and many people find that daunting.
I find it reasonable. Cheese isn't inexpensive, and compared to the corn or potatoes used to make standard, high carb, nutritionless chips, it's very expensive indeed. I think it's important not to think of these as being in the same category as the familiar, cheap junk food (which, by the way, is overpriced for what's in it - bulk potatoes run 15c a pound or less, yet they charge you more than a buck for a few ounces of chips) and think of them instead as yet another protein food, like meat and fish and eggs and non-crunchy cheese. They're just protein food in little cellophane sacks, with an appealing crunch and yummy, junk-food-esque flavors.
Personally, I think Just the Cheese Chips are going to become a fixture around Chez Carpender-Schmitz. Check 'em out - they just might become a feature around your house, too.
Here's a link to Specialty Cheese Company's homepage: http://www.specialcheese.com/ - I'd be willing to bet that if you go there and email them, they'll let you know the nearest store that carries their product. Better yet, do a Google search on "Just the Cheese Chips", and find a good etailer to order from!
It's Almost Gone...
We're down to less than 100 copies of the original, self-published edition of How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds!, so it should be gone from Amazon within a few weeks. Look for the new, revised, expanded edition from Fair Winds Press in May, coming to a bookstore near you!
This would be an appropriate time to say thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you who have bought How I Gave Up My Low Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds! We've sold 13,000 copies of a self-published book, which is almost-but-not-quite unheard of. It's because of all of you that I now have a publisher and a writing career. I am humbled, and deeply grateful.
And now the Shipping Manager, aka the Webmaster, the Bookkeeper, and That Nice Boy I Married, can stop hauling crates of books to the post office a couple of times a week!
Looking For the Great Stuff You See Reviewed In Lowcarbezine?
We have it at a discount! All nine fabulous flavors of Just the Cheese Chips, all more than 10% off of retail! Gram's Gourmet Granola and Gram's Gourmet Sweet Cinnamon and Butter Crunchies, with Cream of Flax on the way!
Heck, we have more than 800 great low carb products, and everything is at a discount, every day!
While you're at the website, check out our newsletter, recipes, success stories, and more!
If you're low carb and smart, you'll shop Carb Smart! http://www.webbalah.net/carbsmart.html
Cooking Low Carb!
I served this to dinner party company recently, and drew raves.
Glazed Grilled Salmon
2 tablespoons Splenda
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon blackstrap molasses (or the darkest molasses you can find.)
12 ounces salmon fillet, cut in 2 - 3 serving sized portions
Mix together all ingredients except the salmon in a small dish. Spoon out 1 tablespoon of this mixture, and set aside in a separate dish.
Place the salmon fillets on a plate, and pour the larger quantity of the seasoning mixture over it, turning each fillet so that both sides come in contact with the seasonings. Let the fish sit for a few minutes - just two or three - with the skinless side down in the seasonings.
Now, you get to choose how you want to cook your salmon. I do mine on a stove top grill, but you can broil it, do it in a heavy skillet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray, or even do it over the grill outdoors. However you cook it, it will need about 5 minutes per side over medium-high to high heat - turn carefully! Baste once, when turning, with the seasoning mixture remaining on the plate. (Don't do it after that - you want the heat to kill any raw fish germs!)
When the salmon is done through, remove to serving plates, and drizzle the reserved seasoning mixture over each piece before serving.
This is 2 generous servings, or 3 smaller ones. Assuming 2 servings, each will have 3 grams of carbohydrate with a trace of fiber. 35 grams protein.
That's it for this issue! See you next issue!
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