For the last eight years I have been addicted to Food. The Food Network that is! And one of my favorite shows is Chopped – hosted by Ted Allen of Bravo’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy fame. If you haven’t seen nor heard of it, Chopped is basically a cooking contest where chefs from all levels of experience and backgrounds compete in cooking the contents of a “secret basket”. At the end of each timed round, of which there are three (appetizer, entree and dessert), the chef that doesn’t “cut it, will be Chopped”. Of course, the chef that makes it through all of the courses unscathed becomes the Chopped Champion.
So, with all of these culinary geniuses presenting, as one would guess, there are some amazing foods “served up” by the competitors each week. But as an added twist, sometimes the ingredients they are required to use are hard to behold and stomach (i.e. Gummy Snakes) especially when seen added to an otherwise five-star dish.
But one ingredient that many chefs choose out of the kitchen’s pantry to help propel their dish to the next level is a flaky or powdery substance called Agar. It is used as a thickening agent by those who are versed in “molecular gastronomy” – a modern style of cooking where scientific chemicals are added to aid or enhance the preparation or taste of “real food”.
I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound appetizing to me at all. Furthermore, whenever Tracy and I are watching and one or more of the chefs use it, we tend not to pull for them. Why? Until now, we kinda looked down upon it as cheating.
But to my credit, yes, I said that, I decided to research this “ingredient” first before passing final judgement. And wouldn’t ya know, even though Agar is commonly found in laboratories for the purpose of growing bacteria, this plant-derived gelatinous substance that is mostly used in vegan or Asian cuisines as a gelatin or egg alternative, is actually good for you.
Why? How? Well…
Since it absorbs water in the stomach, it provides a sense of fullness that helps reduce one’s caloric intake.
And, it also absorbs glucose in the stomach, which prevents the release of “sugar” into the bloodstream therefore lowering the body’s overall blood glucose levels and fat storage.
In fact, in 2005 the journal of “Diabetes, Obesity & Metabolism” published a study that found fat AND cholesterol levels decreased in patients fed a diet supplemented with Agar.
What’s its nutritional value? Actually, when it “boils down” to it, not too bad.
A typical serving size of Agar (10 grams), when used to help cook a meal, contains 31 calories, .62 grams of protein, .03 grams of fat, 10 mg of sodium, .8 grams of fiber and .3 grams of sugar. Furthermore, the USDA reports that those 10 grams of Agar contains significant amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, as well as zinc, copper, folate, choline, and vitamins E and K.
So the next time Tracy asks me “what’s missing” when she make one of her killer sauces for dinner, instead of “add an egg”, my response will be, “add Agar”.
On this date (April 28, 1967), Muhammad Ali refuses induction into army & stripped of boxing title.
Oh, one more thing…we are nearing the end my dear Designers. Yes, that’s right 10 more installments of Body Designs. I appreciate all of you involvement in making this blog the success I believe it has become. I truly feel I have learned as much as you! But stay tuned, more is to come. Body Designs 200 will be the last.