Diabetes concerns for Asian-Americans spur health initiative

Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang

Chefs Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang prepare diabetes-friendly meals.
Credit: Shannon Kelley Felton

This week, the Joslin Diabetes Center’s annual tasting event gathered chefs such as Joanne Chang and Ming Tsai to benefit the center’s Asian American Diabetes Initiative, which aims to promote awareness of the greater diabetes risks for people of Asian descent.

“Regardless of whether you are East Asian or South, we see a greater risk of diabetes at a lower body mass index,” says Karen Lau, head of the initiative. “The usual BMI for diabetes risk is around 25 percent, but we see it at 23 percent for Asians. That small percentage is a greatly increased risk, and it’s more likely to go undetected.”

But regardless of ethnicity, Lau says a diabetic-friendly diet can prevent the condition: “Healthy eating is for everyone. A family can struggle with a different diet for a diabetic member, but a healthy diet is healthy for the whole family.”

We had Lau give us some diabetic-friendly diet tips:

Brown carbs vs. white carbs  “What affects blood glucose most are carbs, and certain types of carbs,” she says. “Simple carbs — like white flour and white rice — are bad, while complex carbs like brown bread and brown rice are better. Complex carbs have higher fiber, which helps stabilize blood glucose levels.”

Fat counts  “Often times, a high-fat diet is not good for blood glucose. Fats increase insulin resistance too. So the amount of dietary fat has to be controlled.”

Lose the salt  “Watching salt intake is important,” Lau adds. “The dietary guideline for the general population is 2,300 mg of sodium a day. That’s about one teaspoon. People with diabetes should have less than 1,500 mg. Use spices, garlic, scallions and onion to bring out flavor instead.”

Portion control “There’s a greater risk of diabetes if you’re overweight. But as we see with the Asian population, a thin person can be at risk. Even eating too many complex carbs will increase blood glucose. Too much of a good thing can be bad.”

Watch the sugar  “It’s a common misconception that sugar causes diabetes,” Lau says, “but it still should be limited. Look at product labels and watch out for foods which have sugar or high fructose corn syrup at the top of the list.”

Nutritionists at the Joslin Diabetes Center approved these two recipes from Ming Tsai and Joanne Chang as diabetes-friendly.

Chicken-Onion Meatloaf with Sambal-Worcestershire Gravy

Serves four

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon canola oil, plus more for oiling the pan

3 large onions, diced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons minced garlic

2 pounds ground dark chicken meat

1 cup cooked brown or white rice

1/2 cup chopped parsley, plus about

12 leaves for garnish

2 cups diced celery

1 tablespoon sambal or other chili seasoning

1/4 cup organic Worcestershire sauce

2 cups fresh chicken stock or low-sodium bought

1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon water

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Oil a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan.

2 Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add one tablespoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan. When the oil is hot, add the onions, season with salt and pepper, add the garlic and sauté, stirring, until caramelized, about 10 minutes. Transfer two-thirds of the mixture to a large bowl and let cool.

3 Add the chicken, rice and parsley, blend and season with salt and pepper. Test the seasoning by sautéing 1 tablespoon of the mixture in a little hot oil or in a microwave for 20 seconds on high power. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper, if necessary.

4 Transfer the mixture to the pan without packing it tightly and pat the top smooth. Bake until cooked through, about 45 minutes, or until a knife inserted in the middle of the loaf comes out clean. Let stand for 10 minutes, then de-mold, and slice. Transfer the slices to a platter or individual plates.

5 Meanwhile, heat the pan with the remaining onion mixture over medium-high heat. Add one teaspoon of oil and swirl to coat the pan. Add the celery, season with salt and pepper and sauté, stirring, until soft, about 3 minutes. Add the sambal, Worcestershire sauce, stock and meat drippings, bring to a simmer, and cook to reduce by one-quarter, 3 to 4 minutes. Whisk in three-quarters of the cornstarch slurry in a thin stream, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until lightly thickened, about 3 minutes. Spoon the sauce over the meatloaf, garnish with the parsley leaves, and serve.

© Simply Ming in Your Kitchen: 80 Recipes to Watch, Learn, Cook & Enjoy by Ming Tsai with Arthur Boehm, Kyle Books, 2012.

 

Joanne Chang’s Thai Ginger Chicken Salad

Serves six

1 pound chicken breast

2-3 tablespoons cooking oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger

1 tablespoon chopped fresh lemongrass

2 tablespoons chopped shallot

12 ounces rice vermicelli

1/2 bunch cilantro, picked leaves only

1/2 bunch mint, picked leaves only

2-3 stems Thai basil, picked leaves only

2 Thai bird chilies, chopped

1/2 cup lime juice

1/2 cup fish sauce

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 garlic clove, chopped

salt and pepper

 

1. Dice chicken breast into small pieces. In a medium saucepan heat oil and add ginger and lemongrass and shallots. Stir until softened, about a minute. Add chicken breast and cook, stirring constantly, until chicken is cooked through, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat.

2. Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil and add rice noodles. Blanch for about a minute and drain. Divide among 6 bowls and set aside.

3. Chop up the cilantro, mint and Thai basil. Place in a medium bowl and add chicken. In a small bowl whisk together the Thai chilies, lime, fish sauce, sugar and garlic. Whisk until sugar is dissolved and add to herbs/chicken. Toss until well combined and season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide among 6 bowls of noodles.

Serve warm or at room temperature.


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