DNA (Daily News & Analysis) Feb 2016
Latha Srinivasan, March 2016
DIET TALK: Have you tried 'The Cauliflower Diet' yet?
The cauliflower is one of the world’s most perfect vegetables, says author Radha Thomas.
She's an author and jazz vocalist who's also into health and fitness. One day it struck Bengaluru's Radha Thomas how versatile and neglected the cauliflower (one of her favourite vegetables) was. Despite it being used in a range of cuisine, the true nutritional value of this vegetable had not been tapped. Radha met and interviewed numerous medical practitioners and came up with her book The Cauliflower Diet.
In the book published by Random House, she not only talks about why this vegetable is good for a diet and how one can lose weight, but has also included recipes to try. In an exclusive chat with dna, Radha Thomas talks to us about the cauliflower, its properties and more.
Tell us about your childhood association with this particular vegetable.
Honestly, I didn’t give the cauliflower much thought at all, while I was growing up, although I’m sure it formed a part of my diet. Except for a little poem my aunt and grandma used to recite to me. “Growing in the summer shower, was a lonely cauliflower, and his name was Eisenhower.” It doesn’t mean much but it’s cute. And I think my aunt composed it. My interest in the cauliflower began only about six years ago, around 2009 or 2010 when I started having feelings for the cauliflower.
What's your romance with the cauliflower about?
It is definitely a romance. Me and Mr. Cauliflower. But it wasn’t love at first bite. I’ve always been up and down weight-wise. I’ve been cursed with terrible metabolism and no willpower, which is a lethal combination that sets you up not only for chubbiness but also diabetes, heart problems and so on. To combat that I’ve been on all sorts of diets, finally settling down on a protein-and-fat heavy diet. I did this for years and while I did lose weight, I found I cheated a lot and snuck in the carbs, which reversed the weight loss. I chanced upon the cauliflower by accident (meaning as a rice substitute) and that changed my life. I began developing all sorts of recipes along. That became a mission. And I have created Sushi, Pizza, Biryani, Thaiyir Saadam and even Bisi Bele Bath. A total of 42 recipes in the book.
What properties make it a good vegetable to be used in a diet?
The cauliflower is one of the world’s most perfect vegetables. High in fibre, lots of water, no gluten, no cholesterol, no starch or sugar, very low in fat and very rich in several nutrients such as calcium, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin K. The best part is that half the carb content of a cauliflower is fibre, making it very attractive on a low carb diet. Fibre is key to ‘regularity’ and metabolism.
What's The Cauliflower Diet about?
In The Cauliflower Diet I’ve got recipes that use the cauliflower as a substitute for rice, wheat, potatoes and flour. You will find ‘Spinach Risotto’ (meaning I’m using cauliflower instead of risotto). Or Sushi, where there’s no real rice… only Cauliflower Rice. The simple premise is that since the cauliflower is so low in carbs, it is perfect for any dieter who is cutting back on either carbohydrates or calories. It doesn’t matter if you’re a vegetarian, a vegan or a meat eater. This diet will work for everyone. The best part is that the dieter doesn’t have to change his or her food habits. If it’s dal and rice… it can now be dal and Cauliflower Rice. Or if it’s Chicken Curry and Rice, it can now be Chicken Curry and Cauliflower Rice. You get the picture. Consider this: 500 gms of cooked Cauliflower Rice, that can feed 4 to 6 people comfortably contains only 12.5 gms in carbohydrate and all the nutritional benefits mentioned above. In comparison, 500 gms of white rice contains 143 gms of carbohydrate and almost no fibre. The book is about taste, about recipes that can help people lose weight while not struggling too much. But there is another advantage to the Cauliflower Diet. It is excellent as a rice substitute for diabetics and people with heart disease. It’s quite simple. Rice is very quickly digested in the body because it’s a simple carbohydrate. It converts quickly to sugar which as we all know messes with the insulin levels in the body… a diabetic disaster. If the sugar is not burned up by activity, it gets stored as fat in your arteries and that’s bad for the heart. All in all, substituting cauliflower with rice and flour is a good thing for just about anyone. But not in the least is the taste. The cauliflower is so mild in flavour that it blends very easily into any dish, making it a delicious alternative.
What have been the comments from people after going on this diet?
I have only been feeding it to my friends and family so far before the book came out. I say with my hand on my heart that everyone loves it. Often I’ve tricked new guests into eating it, pretending it’s real rice, and they get a shock when I tell them it’s Cauliflower Rice. I’m hoping that reaching a wider audience with the book, I’ll get lots of fans.
Five cauliflower cooking tips:
Use fresh cauliflower, check if it’s nice and white.
Don’t overcook the cauliflower, about 5 minutes on the boil is plenty.
Make cauliflower rice the night before; it’s easier to use when it’s cold, especially for fried rice and so on.
If you’re making pizza, make sure that you’ve squeezed every last drop of water out.
Don’t tell your family that you’re serving Cauliflower Chicken Fried Rice. Let them eat it and comment on it later.