Gluten Free Diet – What’s it all About?

July 21st, 2011

Gluten WheatIf you’ve paid attention to any media source recently, you’ve probably heard  about gluten sensitivity and gluten-free diets. Even Chelsea Clinton has gone gluten-free and had a gluten-free menu at her recent wedding. This fad has been triggered by the growing awareness of health benefits that a gluten free diet provides. In addition to Chelsea, Jennifer Aniston, Zooey Deschanel (star of Bones), and Rachel Weisz (star of The Mummy) have joined the ranks of the gluten free.

Why is Everyone Going Gluten-Free?
Gluten-free diets are not just for the rich and famous. Marketing surveys indicate that 15 to 25% of shoppers, a startling one out of four, are asking for gluten-free products. Doctor’s estimate that only 1% of the population has an actual gluten intolerance, so there must be some reason that everyone else is giving up gluten. Gluten-free followers find their new diet,  free of most processed foods and rich in fruits and vegetables, gives them a vitality and energy level they never had before. A gluten-free diet will naturally stabilize blood sugar as processed sugars are removed from the foods being eaten. While this is good for everyone, it is particularly good for diabetics.

What is Gluten?
People talk about gluten like it’s pure poison, the worst thing since fat and cholesterol. Gluten is simply a type of plant-based protein that is in many wheat and grain products. It is in most traditional breads, pasta, cookies, cakes, and other baked products. In other words, it’s the comfort foods that most of us think of as “the good stuff.” While a reasonable amount of gluten doesn’t seem to harm most people, if you have a gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, or diabetes, it can cause fatigue, disgestive problems and interefer with the absorbtion of nutrients.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet the Answer to Type 1 Diabetes?
There is a high occurrence of patients with both celiac disease and Type 1 Diabetes. U.S. statistics show that 1 in 100 people in the general population have celiac disease, while 1 in 10 people who have Type 1 Diabetes also have celiac disease. Many celiac patients find that their diabetic symptoms disappear when they follow the strict, gluten-free diet that is recommended for their gluten intolerance. In fact, researchers believe that this correlation may be their first clue to finding a way to prevent Type 1 Diabetes. This is quite a break through because this is the first indication of any firm idea on how Type 1 Diabetes could be triggered. Wouldn’t it be a miracle if Type 1 Diabetes could be prevented or driven into remission by simply changing your diet? It would give Type 1 patients the same hope that Type 2 patients enjoy.

To Go Gluten Free, or Not?
The gluten-free diet will effectively help those with wheat allergies, celiac disease and diabetes if followed 100% but gluten-free may not be for everyone.  If control over your diet is what you are aiming to achieve then gluten free can be beneficial, but if you don’t have a gluten intolerance or diabetes consider the gluten-free diet as a guideline.  Avoid the common foods that contain gluten, like pastries, pizza, beer and even soy sauce and remember to replace these with lots of fruit, vegetables, lean meats and low-fat dairy options.  Also, always be sure to read the nutritional labels on any “gluten-free” products; just because it is gluten-free doesn’t mean it isn’t full of calories, fat or sugars.

Some common foods that may contain gluten:

  • Pastries: Pretzels, muffins, cakes, pastas, cookies, etc
  • Gluten CrissantPizza
  • Beer
  • Lucheon  meats and sausages may contain gluten fillers
  • Soups with a flour base
  • Instant coffee
  • Licorice
  • Hot Chocolate powders
  • Soy Sauce
  • Dry mustard
  • Gravy powders and stock cubes
  • Baked beans
  • Pates
  • Anything with wheat, wheat germ, wheat grass, rye, barley, bulgur, couscous, farina, graham flour, kamut, matzo, seitan, semolina, spelt, or triticale
  • Also avoid foods that contain hydrolyzed vegetable protein
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Health Starts With Proactive Prevention

July 21st, 2011

Staying healthy starts with proactive prevention.  One of the easiest ways to be proactive is to keep up with your suggested medical check-ups.  Staying up to date with important check-ups is one easiest things you can do to stay healthy and prevent disease and disability. Click on the link below to view a simple guide for scheduling your most important health screenings.

  • Blood Pressure Measurement: at least every two (2) years
  • Cholesterol Test: Every five (5) years starting at age 20
  • Blood Glucose Test: Every three (3) years starting at age 45
  • Thyroid Test (TSH): Every five (5) years starting at age 35
  • Eye Exam: Every two (2) to three (3) years starting at age 18
  • Hearing Test: Every ten (10) years starting at age 18
  • Skin Exam: Annually starting at age 20
  • Colonoscopy: Every ten (10) years starting at age 50
  • Mammogram: Starting at age 40 every one (1) to two (2) years
  • Prostate Exam: Annually starting at age 45
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Summer: The Time to Take Exercise Outside

July 21st, 2011

T-shirt and shorts weather makes for perfect conditions to take your exercise routine outside. Whether you’re gardening, running through your neighborhood, tossing a Frisbee in the park or playing volleyball in the sand, summer exercise can increase your cardiovascular health, bone strength and mood levels, as well as be a fun part of your day.

Warmer weather allows us to change many of our car-related activities to bike errands or walking sojourns. Take advantage of your nearby grocery store or farmers market by walking or biking. You will be less inclined to purchase unnecessary junk foods and more apt to select healthier, natural foods. The benefits of walking or biking not only extend to your body, but also to your mind. You have a chance to appreciate your surroundings in a way that you seldom would see from the windshield, and exercise has been proven to be one of the most beneficial preventative measures for mental health issues like depression, anxiety and even Alzheimer’s.

Try taking a yoga or weight-routine outside.  These stress reducing activities help to keep your blood pressure normal and prevent heart disease.  Also, the natural effect of sunshine can boost your mood through Vitamin D synthesis, which helps to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Numerous studies have shown people suffering from depression, especially those living at latitudes of 35 and higher, tend to notice improvements in mood as their levels of Vitamin D naturally increase during the summer months.  The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D is 400 IU for adults and 600 IU for those age 71 and up.  Erica T. Goode, MD, MPH, a physician at the California Pacific Medical Center’s Health & Healing Center-Clinic in San Francisco, says that everyone should try to get at least 1,000 IU per day through a combination of diet, sun and supplementation.

In addition to increased mood levels, the vitamin D you get from the summer sun also helps to improve the strength of your bones.  A 2010 Surgeon General report shows that lack of exercise and deficiencies in both calcium and Vitamin D, especially in women, has subjected as many as 48 million Americans to osteoporosis.  Adding a few weight exercises can  improve bone health by slowing down the replacement of bone marrow by fat inside the bones.  In as little as 15 minutes a day, you can  increase your bone strength by trying these resistant band exercises at your local park or in your back yard.

Here are a few simple exercises you can take outdoors:

  • Squat Press: Using a resistance band, stand with your feet on the middle of the band a little further than hip distance apart.  With the handles in your hands at shoulder height, palms up, slowly squat down like you are sitting in a chair.  Once your knees are at 90 degrees slowly stand up and press the handles up over your head in one fluid motion.  Lower back down to the squat without pausing and repeat 10-15 times.
  • Rows: Wrap the resistance band around a pole at about shoulder height.  Step back from the pole until you feel some resistance on the band with arms fully extended in front of your body.  Pull the handles towards your body, palms facing in, keeping your elbows in towards your rib cage and always keeping resistance on the band. repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Chest Press: Keeping the resistance band and distance from the pole in the same place as the previous exercise, turn around and face away.  Start with your arms bent, elbows facing out, at shoulder height.  Push the handles straight out from your chest.  Always keeping resistance on the band,repeat 10-15 times with slow, smooth movements.
  • Calf Rises (no band needed):  Standing on the edge of a curb or step with one foot, lower the dangling foot to the ground. Straighten the supporting leg and come all the way up onto your toes before lowering the opposite foot again.  Repeat 10-15 times per leg in slow motion.

One important aspect of the above exercises is quality not speed.  Remember the longer you hold the resistance the more effective the exercise will be.  Don’t have a resistance band?  Use your natural body weight by flexing the target muscles.

Try to schedule your summer activities during the time when the sun is low in the sky. This is important, as exercising during peak sun hours, usually between about 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., can cause heat exhaustion, increase dehydration and even result in sun stroke.   Always be sure to drink plenty of water  and as an added treat, take some unsalted nuts as a high-protein, post workout snack..

However you choose to spend time outside during the warm summer months, be sure to have fun, stay hydrated and always look for new ways to naturally improve your life.

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Best Summer Fruits

July 21st, 2011

Oh the Joy of Summer Fruits!

Summer fruits glistening with their dew in the morning sunshine beckon us with the promise of sweetness and succulent juices. They remind us of roadside stands with homemade signs; of fresh berry pies and picnics. The summer fruits are more than nostalgia and watering mouths though. These fresh summer fruits pack a powerful punch of health benefits, including cancer fighting antioxidants, daily requirements of vitamins and minerals, and live enzymes used to aid digestion. Some of the most powerful summer fruits include  berries, mangoes, watermelon and peaches, just to mention a few.

Mango

Mangoes, though difficult to peel (see picture for easy slicing method), contain more beta-carotene than any other fruit, which helps to prevent cell damage leading to heart disease and stroke.  These multi colored fruits also contain high levels of fiber which help to control appetite and aid in metabolism. One cup of sliced mangoes supplies 25 percent of the needed daily value of vitamin A, important for the promotion of good eyesight.

Watermelon

Watermelons are a significant source lycopene, a carotenoid only obtainable through diet, known to help prevent and treat many types of cancer, including prostate cancer.  A watermelon contains about 6% sugar and 92% water by weight.  making it a perfect snack for any outdoor summer activity due to its natural hydration.  Watermelons are rich in electrolytes, sodium and potassium which are lost through perspiration. FUN FACT: Did you know that Watermelon is a vegetable?  It is part of the cucumber and squash family and your average American eats approximately 17lbs of watermelon each year!

Strawberry

Strawberries, like other berries, are famous in the phytonutrient world as a rich source of phenols.  Strawberries’ unique phenol content makes them a heart-protective fruit, an anti-cancer fruit, and an anti-inflammatory fruit, all rolled into one. Strawberries are a great diet food as well.  The low calorie and high fiber content helps to keep you feeling full.  A one cup serving of halved strawberries contains 49 calories and 3g of fiber.   Dip them in melted dark chocolate for a delicious heart-healthy dessert.

Blueberry

Sometimes referred to as “brainberries,” these little fruits help reduce the effects of mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.  According to the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the high content of anthocyanins found in blueberries  improves cognitive health by increasing signaling in brain centers associated with memory. This is important to help slow memory loss naturally associated with aging.  Other studies have shown that these magnificent berries also protect the brain from stress caused by oxidation.

Blackberry

Blackberries rank highly among fruits for antioxidant strength, particularly due to their dense contents of polyphenolic compounds, such as ellagic acid, tannins, ellagitannins, quercetin, gallic acid, anthocyanins and cyanidins. One cup of these bumpy berries contain more than 30% of your daily fiber requirements and 47% of the recommended intake for manganese.  This mineral promotes healthy skin, nerves and bones, and is important for muscle tone.  If only the aptly named smart phone were this healthy, too!

Peaches

These favorites of the summer stone fruits are rich in Vitamin A & C as well as iron and potassium, which promote proper cell function, nerve signaling and electrolyte balance.   Peaches comprised of more than 80 percent water and have a mild laxative effect, beneficial for constipation symptoms.  Like many other fruits and vegetables, a large majority of the health benefits are contained within the skin of the peach, so try to enjoy all the fuzzy goodness the peach has to offer.

To keep enjoying them during the winter months look for unsweetened dried varieties, or plan ahead and freeze some for use with smoothies and desserts. Whether you enjoy these sumptuous summer fruits, whole, sliced or baked, you’ll be sure to get high levels of cancer-fighting nutrients and minerals that tantalize your palate and keep your body well-hydrated for all your summer activities.

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Teaching Kids to Eat Healthy Food

July 21st, 2011

Parents want their children to snack on high-quality foods instead of reaching for the junk. One way to do this, of course, is not to have the junk around. But if you keep a few indulgences, how can kids tell the difference without always asking you, “what’s there to eat” or “what can I have as a snack?”

 

Pull out your multi-colored pack of sticky notes and start labeling the foods. You can try a simple method of green means ‘go,’ so enjoy this food anytime; yellow means ‘caution,’ only eat once or twice a week; and pink/red means ‘once in a while.’ Your children, and also your partner, can quickly determine what foods make the best choices for good health.

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