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Archive for December, 2012

Oat bran power bar recipe & giveaway

My last post was about iron-deficiency anemia, celiac disease, and iron-rich foods. It came with a heavy dose of red blood cell biology and those of you willing to wade through it, not unsubscribe, and leave a comment at the end were rewarded with an opportunity to win a copy of The Gluten-Free Edge, my sports nutrition book co-written with Peter Bronski.

And the winner is (drum roll, please)—Jennifer R! Thank you all for participating and congratulations to Jennifer.

Since it’s the season for giving, I’m going to keep the giveaway streak going (see details below).

I thought I’d follow up my anemia post with a gluten-free, iron-packed, power-bar recipe that I developed as a homemade alternative to store-bought energy bars. This one is a take-off on an almond meal version featured in the recipe section of The Gluten-Free Edge and is proof that vegetarians (even vegans) can get the iron and protein they need if they do it right.

Gluten-free oat bran power bar (makes 16 servings)
What you need

1/2 cup oat bran (I used Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran, see details below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1 cup dried, unsulphured apricots, chopped
1/3 cup certified gluten-free oats (I get mine from MT GF Processors or GF Prairie)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (make sure they’re gluten-free)
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus some to grease the pan
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What you do

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (I used a dark-colored metal baking pan).
2. Place the oat bran, the cinnamon, and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse until well mixed.
3. Add the walnuts, almonds, apricots, and oats and pulse several times, until the nuts and apricots are in small chunks but not completely ground. Add the chocolate chips and pulse a few times, leaving larger chunks.
4. In a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients, whisk together the honey, egg, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk for 1 minute to ensure the ingredients are well mixed.
5. Add the dry (pulsed) ingredients to the wet ingredients and mash together with a fork. Use your hands if you have to and make sure everything is mixed together.
6. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Cover with parchment paper and, using your hands, press and flatten evenly. You can also use a flat spatula to even out the mixture. Remove the parchment paper.
7. Place pan on center rack of the oven and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill before cutting into bars. Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap individually and freeze.

These bars are power-packed with nutrition and great for athletes. They’re high in carbohydrates (great workout fuel), high in protein (for recovery), and super high in iron (building blocks for RBCs, see prior post). The iron is mainly from the oat bran. The bars are also high in fat (another source of workout fuel), but the fat is from healthy sources, so don’t fret. Because of the high fat content, they aren’t low calorie, but if you need a boost while out hiking, biking, or during a mid-afternoon work slump, these power bars will serve you well.

PER SERVING (1 bar): 225 calories; 14 g fat; 22 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber
NUTRITION BONUS: 1 bar provides 30% of the RDA of iron

Would you like a 3-pound bag of this nourishing Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran? It’s grown out west by awesome big sky farmers and is minimally “processed” in a dedicated, state-of-the-art, gluten-free facility. The oat bran is dry milled, with no heat applied during preparation or packaging. It’s good stuff, non-GMO, is tested and certified gluten-free, and is a great way to boost the nutritional value of GF baked goods. Most GF baked goods are low in iron and other nutrients. Tossing in some oat bran solves that problem.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on how you’d use the oat bran. Be creative—I’m curious. Make sure you include your email address where prompted. I’ll pick the winner via Good luck and happy baking!

Peace, love, and oat bran!
PS I’m not employed in any way by MT GF Processors or GF Prairie. No one asked me to blog about the products or do giveaways. I’m not paid to do it. I buy my own products and endorse the farmers and product developers whom I believe are doing it right. There’s been an explosion in the GF market and a lot of the stuff has the nutritional value of ground styrofoam. It’s junk food. I want the good guys to be successful. We need to support this “grass roots” movement. Our health and the health of the environment depend on it.

Go hug a farmer!

Celiac disease, anemia, and a book giveaway

Ladies, do you ever feel like this (minus the bodice drama)? Guys, do you ever nod off mid-sentence? Do you spend half your life asleep on the couch?

There are lots of reasons for feeling tired, run-down, and chronically exhausted, but the one I’m going to focus on is iron-deficiency anemia. Anemia is one of the most common adult presentations of celiac disease and the prevailing symptom of that type of anemia is overall fatigue—as in reduced physical work capacity, impaired athletic performance, and a funky attitude.

Who wants to shuffle through life bleary-eyed and drained of energy (not to mention unaware of potential wardrobe malfunctions)?

Not me.

In order to have the energy you need to enjoy life and thrive, you need healthy, functioning red blood cells (RBCs). RBCs contain an oxygen-carrying protein called hemoglobin, which is the pigment that gives blood its red color. Heme is the iron-containing component, globin is the protein. Unlike most cells, mature RBCs have no nucleus. That way there’s more room to cart around the oxygen you need to work, chase your kids, climb mountains, play tennis, and walk the dog. RBCs only last about 120 days because of the wear and tear they take zipping around the body, squeezing through capillaries, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide, and supplying all our cells with nutrients.

Capillaries are the microscopic blood vessels between arteries and veins. They’re called exchange vessels and are found near almost every cell in the body, but their number varies depending on the oxygen and nutrient needs of the tissue. Muscle tissue has lots of capillaries because of the high metabolic demand, especially if you’re an athlete. The same goes for your hard-working liver. If all the capillaries in the human body were placed end to end, the collective length would be about 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Now, imagine how busy your little RBCs are and how many miles they put in each day keeping you upright and functioning. Incredible, isn’t it?

As I mentioned before, RBCs wear out after about 120 days. In order to maintain healthy numbers, we need to be cranking out new mature RBCs at the rate of at least 2 million per second. Yes, you read that right. TWO MILLION PER SECOND. And each RBC contains about 280 million hemoglobin molecules (no typo, 280 million). Each hemoglobin molecule can carry up to 4 oxygen molecules.

Seriously, tell me you’re not totally impressed with yourself. Aren’t we amazing?

Here’s the deal, though. We need to provide our bodies with stellar building blocks to make all this magical stuff happen as planned. Plus, we need to make sure we don’t have something sabotaging our good intentions. Something like celiac disease, which when undiagnosed or unmanaged, can cause nutrient malabsorption so we don’t get the proper building blocks (like iron and animo acids) we need to make all these red blood cells.

Bottom line (short-story version)? If you’re not absorbing your iron, you can’t replace your lost RBCs. If you can’t replace the high rate of RBC loss, you’ll end up with a reduced number of RBCs, a decreased amount of hemoglobin, and less oxygen-carrying capacity. In other words, you’ll be chronically fatigued, have a bad attitude, and simply getting through your day will be a monumental effort. That’s no fun.

First off, find out if you have iron-deficiency anemia. Poor absorption of iron (could be celiac disease), excessive loss of iron, increased iron requirements, or insufficient dietary intake can cause the condition. Celiac disease fits into that scenario, so make sure to consult a medical professional and get tested before taking supplements. Too much iron is toxic and can accumulate in body tissues and organs after normal needs are met.

Getting your nutrients from food should be your priority unless you have a verifiable deficiency. Here’s a list of iron-rich foods. If you’re an athlete, especially one with celiac disease, your iron-related concerns may be compounded. Add foods from this list to your diet and if you want to know more about athletically-induced, iron-deficient anemia, leave me a comment at the end of this post. Your reward for sticking with me to the end of this post is a chance to win a copy of my book, The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life, co-written with endurance athlete, cookbook author, and good friend Peter Bronski of the blog No Gluten No Problem. We go into great detail about nutrient absorption, iron loss, and the critical role deficiencies play in overall health and athletic performance. I’ll choose one winner in a random drawing. This book is a great guide for anyone who wants to “gain an edge” in life and in sports by going gluten-free. Plus, it makes a great Christmas present.

A Sampling of Iron Rich Foods (courtesy of The Gluten-Free Edge)
Animal sources
organ meats (liver, giblets)
bison and beef

Plant sources
blackstrap molasses
pumpkin and squash seeds
sunflower seeds
oats (make sure they’re certified gluten-free*)
dried prunes
beet greens

* My favorite sources for uncontaminated, certified gluten-free oats are Montana Gluten-Free Processors and Gluten-Free Prairie (same oats). These oats are rich in iron and protein, making them good building blocks for RBCs.

Are you curious if you get iron from using a cast-iron skillet. Check this post of mine for the geeky details: Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast.

Peace, love, and the Gluten-Free Edge.
PS Leave a comment for a chance to win and make sure to add your email address (it won’t be seen), so I can contact you if you win. You can also check in with Pete and me on Facebook and/or Twitter. We share lots of good information.
Melissa: Facebook, Twitter
Pete: Facebook, Twitter

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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