Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Lamb Souvlaki with Tzatziki

Back in December, I visited a new doctor (or, as I like to call him, "hot doctor" because, well, look at him), an MD with an acupunturist's license and a holistic approach to medicine. His practice is radically different from traditional practices: he's the only person there, the number of patients admitted into the practice is limited, co-pays can be paid through PayPal, his waiting room is pleasant and relaxing (the kind of pleasant and relaxing you'd expect when waiting for a massage, not when waiting for someone to potentially draw blood).

At my appointment -- required to be an HOUR long as I was a new patient (see, I told you this is different)-- we did a lot of talking about health, in part about healthy eating. After congratulating me on my weight loss and exercise regimine, he asked me to think more about the gylcemic index when choosing what eat. It's not enough to eat low-fat, it isn't even necessarily "good" to do so, but my goal should be to reduce the amount of simple carbohydrates I consume and increase the amount of vegetables and fruits I consume, supplementing that with lean meats and complex carbs.

Now, this isn't news to me, but my tastebuds don't want to hear it. I really love sweets. (As you may have noticed.) And to me, the glycemic index has a loopy kind of logic: a glass of skim milk and a packet of peanut M&Ms have the virtually the same glycemic index. On a low-fat diet, there's an incentive to choose the milk, but here? Pass the M&Ms, please!

I tried the South Beach diet a few years ago, and didn't make it past the two-week/no-sugar phase. (Spreading natural peanut butter on a sugar free fudgsicle to sate a craving didn't seem like healthy eating behavior to me.)

Still, it's been something I've been thinking about. I've lost quite a bit of weight on WW. But if you stay within your given calorie point allotment, and you choose to eat all those points using simple carbohydrates (potato chips, cookies, cupcakes, etc., etc.), you can still lose weight. It's not a balanced diet and WW doesn't advocate doing this. But if the primary goal is to lose weight -- and they are called "Weight Watchers" -- you can lose weight and not learn healthy eating habits.

Then again, what's a healthy eating habit? Gary Taubes argued in his article, What if It's All Been a Big Fat Lie?, that low-fat diets aren't really healthy, and were thrown upon the American public based on wonky policy:

While the low-fat-is-good-health dogma represents reality as we have come toknow it, and the government has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in research trying to prove its worth, the low-carbohydrate message has been relegated to the realm of unscientific fantasy.

Walter Willett, chairman of the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, [...] is the de facto spokesman of the longest-running, most comprehensive diet and health studies ever performed, which have already cost upward of $100 million and include data on nearly 300,000 individuals. Those data, says Willett, clearly contradict the low-fat-is-good-health message ''and the idea that all fat is bad for you; the exclusive focus on adverse effects of fat may have contributed to the obesity epidemic.''

Taubes goes on to challenge what we commonly believe about fats and their relationship to "good" and "bad" cholesterol:

Few experts now deny that the low-fat message is radically oversimplified. If nothing else, it effectively ignores the fact that unsaturated fats, like olive oil, are relatively good for you: they tend to elevate your good cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (H.D.L.), and lower your bad cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (L.D.L.), at least in comparison to the effect of carbohydrates. While higher L.D.L. raises your heart-disease risk, higher H.D.L. reduces it.

What this means is that even saturated fats -- a k a, the bad fats -- are not nearly as deleterious as you would think. True, they will elevate your bad cholesterol, but they will also elevate your good cholesterol. In other words, it's a virtual wash. As Willett explained to me, you will gain little to no health benefit by giving up milk, butter and cheese and eating bagels instead.

Add to the mix the body fat acceptance movement (you can get started reading about this and related topics on The F Word), which advocates health at all sizes, and constantly questions what medicine and science say are "healthy" body types and you've got a big fat (ha-ha) pile of confusion on your hands.

In the face of all this, I plan to stick WW and an increased an effort to eat less sugar and other simple carbohydrates. There will still be PLENTY of dessert recipes on the blog, it's just that I'll be giving away a lot more of these treats to friends and coworkers.

But it's also why I turned to Kalyn's Kitchen . I thought if anyone would have scrumptious recipes emphasizing lean meats, vegetables and complex carbs, it would be Kalyn.

Naturally, she did. I cooked up her recipes for lamb souvlaki and tzatziki; both were excellent. The souvlaki was and as flavorful, with a nice herbal kick, and wonderfully tender. And her tzatziki -- well, it really might be the world's best.

So thank you, Kalyn. Thank you for providing us with a dinner that was not only easy-to-prepare, not only health-conscious, but delicious as well. I'm looking forward to exploring more of your recipes.

Lamb Souvlaki (adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)

1 lb. lamb shoulder meat

1/4 cup olive oil (preferably Greek olive oil)
2 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
1 tsp. minced garlic or garlic puree

Cut lamb into pieces slightly over one inch square, trimming off some, but not all of the fat. Combine marinade ingredients. Place lamb cubes and marinade in small Ziploc bag and marinate in refrigerator for about 4 hours, no longer.

To cook, place lamb on a foil-lined baking sheet and broil until done. Serve hot.

World's Best Tzatziki (adapted from Kalyn's Kitchen)

3 cups Greek Yogurt (or regular plain yogurt, strained )
juice of one lemon (about 3 T)
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 medium cucumbers, seeded and diced
about 1 T kosher salt for salting cucumbers
1 T finely chopped fresh parsley (substitute dill or mint leaves for a slightly different version)
Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Peel cucumbers, then cut in half lengthwise and take a small spoon and scrape out seeds. Discard seeds. (If you use the small seedless or European cucumbers with few seeds, you can skip this step.) Dice cucumbers, then put in a colander, sprinkle on 1 T salt, and let stand for 30 minutes to draw out water. Drain well and wipe dry with paper towel.

In food processor with steel blade, add cucumbers, garlic, lemon juice, parsley, and a few grinds of black pepper. Process until well blended, then stir this mixture into the yogurt. Taste before adding any extra salt, then salt if needed. Place in refrigerator for at least two hours before serving so flavors can blend. (This resting time is very important.)

This will keep for a few days or more in the refrigerator, but you will need to drain off any water and stir each time you use it.


Kalyn Denny said...

That does sound like a reasonable approach to healthy eating to me. I never was a big sweets eater (give me a bag of Cheetos if I'm going to go hog wild!) so South Beach is pretty easy for me (well, most of the time; I do have my days.) I know WW does work for a lot of people though.

So glad you liked the recipes. I got this Tzatziki recipe from one of the best Greek cooks I know, and I love it!

Amanda said...

Well, dang. I'm too far away to visit Hot Doctor for myself--he sounds like a real gem for a doc!

I, too, eat low-GI and have a sweet tooth. I've had to be very creative. But trust me, it's doable.

barb said...

hmmmmmmmmmm I would love to find a Doc like him hot or not!!! So did ya tell him bout the donuts???

I really must look into this more thanks for the nudge L

Laura Rebecca said...

Kalyn, thank you again for letting me write about your recipes. They're really terrific.

Mrs. W, I will be spending a fair amount of time on your blog studying your creative recipes!

Doodles, I haven't told hot doc about the donuts ... maybe I should schedule an appointment to do so? ;)

As an aside, how horrified would I be if he found out I called him "hot doc"?

David Brown said...

Regarding saturated fat, there really isn't any solid science connecting saturated fat intake to heart disease on the basis of its LDL-raising properties. Even back in 1987 (Article in the AJCN) it was known that sugar also raises LDL cholesterol but sugar gets ignored. In addition, sugar raises triglycerides while saturated fat lowers them. Whereas the LDL cholesterol associated with saturated fat intake is of the light, fluffy kind, the LDL associated with high triglycerides is of the small dense kind which is associated with atherosclerosis. You can read the article at: http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/reprint/45/5/1197.pdf

Suggest you also read Gary Taubes' new book "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

Gretchen Noelle said...

Very interesting information. Healthy eating is not super tricky, it is just that we get confused by all the methods suggested. I too am trying to change some of my eating habits for the better. Good luck to you!