Minimize your carb count with these tasty and nutritious autumn eats.
Low Carb Fall Favs
Fall presents some of the best eating of the year with a variety of healthy fruits and vegetables loaded with nutrients. But if you’re following a Paleo nutrition plan, you’re probably thinking staples of fall and winter meals, like potatoes, carrots, parsnips and squashes are too starchy to fit into your low carb diet. Think again because there are a lot of great tasting nutritional powerhouses on the fall menu that are low on the glycemic index (GI), which will fit perfectly into your diet. And surprise! Some of the lowest GI foods are those you never thought would stare you down at the end of your fork.
Glycemic? “The glycemic index is a nutritional scale that ranks foods containing carbohydrates from 0-100 based on how much they raise blood glucose levels after eating,” says Stefanie Senior a Toronto based Registered Dietitian in private practice. “Foods with a low glycemic index (anything less than a score of 55) create a slower and steadier rise in blood sugar after eating, which helps control hunger and food cravings.” They are the foundation of any bodybuilder’s diet plan, as sugar intake that the body does not burn as fuel, gets stored as fat.
Squash is a starch so it has to be high on the glycemic index, right? Not so says Stefanie. “True some squash varieties score high, like acorn squash (at 75), but spaghetti squash is very low on the glycemic index ranking only 24 out of 100. “Not only is it low in calories, but spaghetti squash is a good source of fiber which can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and lower blood cholesterol levels,” Stefanie adds.
Nothing says fall better than that first bite into a crisp apple. Yeah, it’s a fruit and yeah, many fruits are a no-go for Paleo snacking lifters, but apples are low on the glycemic index (rating of 20), are packed with fiber (20% of your total daily requirement), and tucked inside the skin are heart healthy flavonoids, a special type of antioxidant. Be adventurous this year. Go beyond the apples you grew up with like Macintosh, Delicious and Granny Smith, and try any of the new strains like Fuji, Gala, Honeycrisp and Cripps Pink.
Like apples, pears are low on the glycemic index (rates 39), high in fiber providing 20% of your daily fiber needs and chock full of antioxidants. We all grew up eating Bartlett’s, but look for other easily available varieties like Bosc, Anjou and Asian pears.
Surprise! You may have thought that citrus fruits are way out of bounds, assuming they are high on the glycemic index. But think again. Grapefruits clock in at rating of only 25. Since our school days, we’ve known that citrus fruits are a great source of Vitamin C, but grapefruits are also high in Vitamin A potassium (keeps blood pressure in check and builds protein) and magnesium (blood pressure stabilizer, builder of strong bones). Like most fruits, they are also high in healthy fiber. To maximize nutritional value, choose the red variety, loaded with the antioxidant lycopene (the same antioxidant in cooked tomatoes and other red produce). Lycopene has been shown to destroy free radicals in the body, which damage cells.
Though higher on the glycemic index than grapefruit (at 40), they are still very low in triggering blood glucose. And like grapefruit, they are high in potassium and the antioxidant vitamins C and A.
This fall season veggie is a staple on a bodybuilder’s dinner plate, registering a measly 15 on the Glycemic Index, but packs a boatload of nutrients. Part of the cruciferous family of vegetables which are associated with lowering the risk of certain cancers like lung and colon cancer, broccoli also is high in fiber, high in vitamin K which strengthens bones and teeth, vitamins C, and A and Vitamin E, important for a strong immune system, and healthy skin and eyes.
Broccoli’s cool weather cruciferous cousin, cauliflower’s nutritional profile is very similar to broccoli, low on the glycemic index (10 score), and like broccoli it contains folate, a nutrient your body needs to form red blood cells, as well as manganese, a mineral that contributes to strong bones and supports sex hormone production.
Yuck you say? “Maybe that’s because you’ve never tried them roasted,” suggests Stefanie. Coated in heart healthy olive oil and sprinkled with salt, after 45 minutes in the oven, Brussels sprouts become soft and chewy while the roasting brings out their natural sugars giving this low glycemic veggie (15 on the scale) an almost sweet candy taste. One cup of the sprouts will provide 195% of vitamin K, 125% of vitamin C, and 10% or more of vitamin A, folate, potassium and manganese a trace element important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis.
Cabbage is one of those vegetables that seem to be in season all year round, but like all cruciferous veggies, they ripen at the end of the summer and get a bit sweeter as the weather gets colder. Like all cruciferous vegetables, cabbage, is associated with lower risks of certain cancers. High in a of a type of flavonoid (plant nutrient) called anthocyanin, which is responsible for the deep red variety, cabbage has also been shown to reduce the inflammation that may lead to heart disease.
Are we still talking about kale? You bet, and for good reason. With an almost zero rating on the GI index, this cool season green may be the ultimate superfood: it contains 206% of our daily allowance for Vitamin; 684% for Vitamin K and 134% for Vitamin C.
There you have it. Stefanie Senior’s Top Ten Fall Foods that build your body, fuel your muscles and honor the bounty of fresh foods available during this autumn harvest season.