The Promise of the Positive

Let us sing a song of veggies. Such beautiful, health-enhancing, varied foods. Adaptable to every cuisine worldwide, nothing in the world of cooking has more variety of taste and texture. I am waxing rhapsodic about vegetables, but their virtues are firmly grounded in scientific research.

Vegetables, if you choose the right ones, are very high-powered nutrient packages. These advantages come-once again if you choose your vegetables carefully-at a relatively low metabolic cost. That means that you are getting high fiber and phytochemicals with relatively low numbers of calories and carbohydrates.

So if some misguided individual tells you that you won't eat vegetables when you do Atkins, wave this chapter (with a stalk of celery, for good measure) at him or her. You will. And, it's just possible, if you are a typical American, that you will eat more vegetables than you ever ate before. Because despite what Mom, and countless other mothers before her, advised, most people do not eat nearly the amount of vegetables they should.

But let's look at the other side of the coin. In encouraging you to eat your vegetables, I certainly have no intention of compromising the basic weight loss principles of Atkins. Yes, I want you to consume plenty of nutrients, but you must do so without eating so many carbohydrates that you sabotage your weight loss efforts.

Each person has a Critical Carbohydrate Level for Losing (CCLL), and if you stay below that highly individual number you will lose weight. However, if you exceed that level-even with all healthy foods-your body will not switch to burning fat as the primary source of fuel. We need a way to focus on health-promoting vitanutrients that also provide blood-sugar stability and weight loss.

Fortunately, we're in luck. Nature dovetails with the Atkins plan beautifully, and the vegetables densest in nutrients happen to be those lowest in carbs. Salad greens and other leafy greens-escarole, spinach, parsley, watercress, arugula, Boston and romaine lettuce-are nutrient powerhouses that are low on the glycemic index.

Some other excellent health choices include asparagus, bamboo shoots, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, eggplant, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, okra, onions, pumpkin, scallions, snow peas, spaghetti squash, string or wax beans, Swiss chard, tomato, turnips, water chestnuts and zucchini.

Even during Induction, the first phase of Atkins, and the one which is most restrictive of carbohydrates, most of you will be able to eat one cup of those vegetables daily, as well as two cups of salad vegetables (or just three cups of salad vegetables). As your metabolism permits, most of you will add more vegetables during the increasingly liberal phases that follow. By the time you are in the Lifetime Maintenance phase, you may well be able to eat most every vegetable, although some in moderation or only rarely. Still, it is always a good idea to make the high-nutrient/lower-carbohydrate ones your primary choices.

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