Gluten Free For Good


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Archive for February, 2008

gluten-free fiber


Not that fiber is full of gluten. Many options aren’t and this post will focus on gluten-free choices only. If you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity and are on a gluten-free diet, you need to think about boosting your fiber intake. Most of us need to add more fiber to our diets – for a variety of heath-enhancing reasons. It’s good stuff.

First things first – what exactly is fiber, anyway? No, you don’t have to eat old broomsticks to get your daily intake, but sweeping up the mess you’ve made in your GI tract is essentially what fiber does. That, along with other good housekeeping chores. Fiber is the Cinderella* of the plant world.

According to Understanding Normal and Clinical Nutrition, fibers are the nonstarch polysaccharides that are not digested by human digestive enzymes, although some are digested by GI tract bacteria. Fibers include cellulose, hemicelluloses, pectins, gums, and mucilages and the nonpolysaccharides lignins, cutins, and tannins.

I’m betting you got stuck on the words GI tract bacteria* and have already forgotten the rest. The words aren’t important anyway, what’s important is that we get lots of fiber from the foods we eat – about 25 to 35 grams per day. Or more (I’m a big fan).

Let’s look at the different types of fiber and what their actions are in the body. You’ve probably heard the terms soluble and insoluble fiber, but all that really means is how soluble, or dissolvable, they are in water. The effects of these two fiber types don’t divide neatly along the lines of solubility, but for general health purposes, that’s how they’ve been classified.

Soluble fibers and action in the body
• Delays GI transit, which benefits digestive disorders
• Delays glucose absorption, which benefits people with diabetes (and helps prevent it)
• Lowers blood cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

Where to find soluble fiber
Oranges, grapefruit, apples, flax seeds, nuts, oats (gluten-free, if you can tolerate them) and legumes

Insoluble fibers and action in the body
• Moves bulk (poo is the scientific word) through the system and prevents constipation
• Helps control the pH balance in the intestines
• Helps remove toxic waste (that’s nice)
• Helps protect against colon cancer

Where to find insoluble fiber
Dark green leafy vegetables, green beans, cabbage, carrots, seeds, nuts, and Brussels sprouts

Whole grains provide fiber as well, but we’re only interested in gluten-free whole grains. Here’s a list of good grain choices with the fiber shown in grams per cup.

Gluten-free grains
grams of fiber in 1 cup of grain

Amaranth 18
Buckwheat 17
Corn meal 10
Flax seed 43
Millet 17
Oats (GF) 16.5
Quinoa 11.9
Rice (brown) 6.5
Rice (white) 2.4
Rice (wild) 9.9
Sorghum 12.1
Teff 15.4

To sum it up, fresh fruits and veggies, and some gluten-free grains contain fiber. Add fiber slowly as increasing intake too quickly can cause intestinal discomfort – add a little extra each day until you’ve reached your goal. Drink plenty of water. I’m talking LOTS of water, at least 8 to 10 glasses per day. And get some exercise! Strengthening abdominal core muscles and toning your GI tract helps everything flow along the way it’s suppose to. Now, go forth and eat your fiber! It’s good for you.

* Cinderella – according to my online dictionary, the word Cinderella describes a person or thing (fiber, maybe) of unrecognized or disregarded merit or beauty.

* GI tract bacteria – those of you who get creeped out easily, cover your eyes. The rest of you, read on. The intestinal microflora is a complex ecosystem made up of hundreds of different bacteria species. If kept in balance, this intestinal flora provides us with some good things, like producing a significant amount of vitamin K. If thrown out of balance, things can get nasty, but that’s for another post.

Peace, love and lots of fiber!

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.

do you need an oil change?


Life is confusing enough without factoring in the debate over what constitutes healthy eating. Think back to the “olden” days when food consisted of catching the next rabbit or stumbling upon a new berry patch, and that’s if you were lucky. It wasn’t a matter of what we should or shouldn’t eat, but what we could find to eat. And that meant plants or animals in their natural state. No discussion about good fats or bad fats, the ratio of omega-3s to omega-6s, the link between transfats and sperm motility (hey guys, are you paying attention), or whether you might fail a drug test because you added hemp seed oil to your muffin mix (no worries). Sifting through all the information, opinions, fads, and trends is rather daunting. And if you throw in clueless consumers (which we all are at one time or another), junk food, government regulations, food industry lobbyists, and free-will libertarians – you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Education, awareness, and common sense, that’s what we need. But then we’re back to the starting point – where life is confusing enough as it is. How much time are we willing to spend to figure all this stuff out? Most of us have more pressing matters on our minds than how transfats were industrially created by adding hydrogen atoms to unsaturated fats – and what that means to our health. But for our own good, we need to at least have a glimpse of how this can impact the disease process.

So, I’m here to provide you with a little information to add to the mix. We’ll just do a “fats and oils 101” version because I know you have more important things to worry about than the chemical makeup of fats. Like how to blow off work, get outside, and play in this glorious Colorado sunshine (quick before it snows again).

Fats are lipids in foods or the body, composed mostly of trglycerides. Healthy fats provide fuel, supply essential fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6), aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), and are an important part of healthy nutrition. Hydrogenated fats and transfats are unhealthy fats. They contribute to heart disease by elevating LDL cholesterol (the bad one) and lowering HDL cholesterol (the good one).

Unhealthy dietary fats are one of the triggers for abnormal inflammation and the diseases and disorders associated with it. This can mean heart disease, asthma, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, or digestive diseases, which includes celiac, an autoimmune disease marked by inflammation of the small intestine caused by gluten exposure. Inflammation consists of the responses orchestrated by the immune system when tissues are injured – that’s a good thing if kept under control. It’s the body’s defense against injury and infection and is crucial to healing, but if it becomes chronic and out of control, a variety of diseases can result.

There are foods that promote the inflammatory response and foods that mitigate it. Unhealthy fats promote inflammation and healthy fats can shift the body back into a more balanced state. This is important for overall health, regardless of whether you have one of these conditions or not. This applies to all of us and is important in healthy aging, no matter where you are in the chronological process.

A family of compounds that includes triglycerides (fats and oils), phospholipids (lecithin is the best known), and sterols (cholesterol).

Saturated fats
Chemically, these are fats carrying the maximum possible number of hydrogen atoms and are more stable. Animal fats and the tropical oils are mostly saturated, but only the animal products contain cholesterol. Coconut oil, palm oil, lard, beef tallow and butter are saturated. They remain solid at room temperature and are more resistant to oxidation. All fats become rancid when exposed to oxygen.

Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats
These fats are unsaturated (they lack the necessary hydrogen atoms that would make them saturated). They are not solid at room temperature. Monounsaturated oils include olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. Polyunsaturated oils include safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil and are high in omega 6s and low in omega 3s (not so good).

Foods derived from both plants and animals can contain lipids (fats), but only those from animals contain cholesterol (meat, eggs, fish, poultry, shellfish, and dairy products). The fat in plants does not contain cholesterol. The distinction between “good” and “bad” cholesterol is confusing and controversial. “Good” cholesterol is not something found in foods – it is actually the way the body transports cholesterol around in the blood. HDL is the good stuff (remember H is for Healthy). It transports cholesterol to the liver to be broken down and excreted.

Essential fatty acids
EFAs are fatty acids needed by the body, but not made by it in amounts sufficient to meet physiological needs.

Omega-3 & Omega-6
These are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are essential to health, must be obtained through food sources, and are required in specifically balanced ratios. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet (SAD), provides us with far more omega-6s than 3s and that’s not healthy.

Omega-3s (good, good, good)
Omega-3s provide the building blocks for an anti-inflammatory diet, which is what we want. These are found in fresh foods, cold-water fish, and grass-fed beef. Here’s a list of foods to choose from to increase your consumption of omega-3s and to help reduce systemic inflammation.
leafy greens (low concentrations, but still important sources)
sea vegetables
100% grass-fed beef or bison

Omega-6s (not so good)
Omega-6s, in general, increase inflammation. They are abundant in processed foods, fast foods and refined vegetable oils. Eating the meat of animals fattened on grains increases the amount of omega 6s in the diet.

The bottom line
1. Avoid any product that lists partially hydrogenated oil or transfats as an ingredient. Hydrogenation is the chemical process in which hydrogen atoms are added to unsaturated fats to make them more stable (longer shelf life). So, if your cupcake package has an expiration date of 08/2020, it’s packed with hydrogenated fats. Hydrogenation produces transfats. Don’t go near the stuff.
2. Don’t use margarine, butter is much healthier.
3. Minimize or eliminate the use of polyunsaturated oils (safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed).
4. Use expeller- or cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). “Light” olive oil has been chemically refined, which isn’t the best choice. Most vegetable oils are extracted using heat and solvents that create weird chemicals and are pro-inflammatory (not good). Cold-pressed and centrifuged coconut oil is also a healthy choice.
5. Avoid fried foods at fast-food restaurants. The oils in the fryers often contain hydrogenated fats. Plus, as the current McDonald’s lawsuit shows, can also contain gluten.
6. Don’t eat rancid foods (nuts, seeds, or grains). That sounds like a given, but you can’t always tell. You can determine rancidity by the smell, which is a bit like paint, but you have to have sharp olfactory skills.
7. Don’t heat oils to the smoking point, don’t breathe in the smoke, and don’t reuse oils that have been heated to high temperatures. Do I sound bossy? Sorry about that.
8. So – my current general oil choices are EVOO and coconut oil. EVOO for salad dressings, coconut oil for cooking and assorted other uses. If you don’t use olive oil often, buy a smaller bottle so it doesn’t go rancid. Coconut oil is saturated (solid at room temperature) so it’s far more stable. Protect your oil from heat, light and air. Dark bottles for EVOO are better.

Does that help?

In good health,

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.

weekend entertainment


I’m going to skip the nutrition, put off the recipe posting, and share with you a few of my favorite YouTube videos and one very entertaining audio clip. So, if you have nothing exciting happening tonight, make yourself a cup of green tea with agave (or, pour yourself a glass of red wine) and enjoy!

And remember, laughter and wonder are as good for your health as asparagus and broccoli.

1. This will make you smile no matter how cranky you are that you have nothing to do on a Saturday night.

2. This one will leave you absolutely astonished – amazing strength and flexibility on display.

3. This was from an older post of mine, but it always makes me laugh. Bill Maher, with this anti-pharma rant of his, makes some good points.

4. And just so you know I haven’t forgotten that this blog is also about food, I’m sending you to one of my favorite culinary websites and blogs, Leite’s Culinaria, for an audio by Jess Thompson about dining in Chicago. Snicker, snicker.

I have more, but I’ll spare you the skate-boarding dog and the tsunami surfer. Have a nice weekend!

In good health (and laughter),

top 15 antioxidant-rich foods


Antioxidants. Oxidative damage. Phytochemicals. Photosynthesis. Polyphenols. Tocopherols. Glutathione. Enzymes with antioxidant activity. Yada, yada, yada.

What does all that mean?

If you focus on real food – fresh and simple food, it really doesn’t matter. Food is much more than all these nutritional constituents that sound so impressive. Plus, it’s rather daunting when food is reduced to natural chemical components that are sometimes hard to distinguish from the unnatural ones. All the words get confusing, whether it’s the good stuff or the bad stuff.

As a nutrition therapist, all these geeky words appeal to me. But food is more than science. Or less, depending on how you want to look at it. We’ve made it all incredibly complicated when in reality, it should be easy and fun. Food is fun, don’t you think? Otherwise there wouldn’t be an entire TV Food Network dedicated to creating elaborate chocolate desserts, 30 minute meals, grilled foods, comfort foods, and down-home cooking (among others). And who hasn’t rolled their eyes at another Rachael Ray book, magazine, or product? Geez, when does that girl sleep? It’s a good thing she sticks to 30 minute meals.

You wouldn’t be reading food blogs if you didn’t think bringing good food to your table wasn’t important, but sometimes we get so focused on the individual nutrients being delivered from a piece of food that we forget about the whole. The benefit of these individual ingredients might not be the same without consuming the whole food and letting them work their magic together. What I mean by that is – go to the source. Eat a whole apple, a piece of salmon, some broccoli, a tomato, or a handful of walnuts. Whole, fresh foods are gluten-free by default and each has its own assortment of healthy nutrients that work as a team.

The Standard American Diet is rather dreadful in many ways, and we know it, so we’ve accessorized our diets with all kinds of trendy and novel substitutes for the real thing. There are so many supplements on the market, who knows what is what. Nutrients are being added to packaged foods as a marketing tool. Food that is reengineered to come in a box isn’t natural, but to make it more appealing to the consumer, manufacturers add something special like vitamin D, fiber, iron, or omega-3s and boldly announce it on the package. Something to catch your eye and make you think it is somehow better than the original food. For example, even the most fortified baby formula doesn’t compare nutritionally to mother’s milk, which is whole food in its finest form.

Okay, I’m not totally against packaged or processed food, but it’s important to limit your intake and stick with whole, fresh, real food choices. And contrary to what it might sound like from the first few paragraphs of this post, I’m actually quite fond of the science behind the food and I do take supplements, but we don’t need to get neurotic about it. We simply need to eat a variety of whole foods and pick from a range of colors, which ends up providing us with an assortment of vitamins and minerals.

Now back to the first word in this post – a science word – antioxidants.

Antioxidants are molecules, or substances in foods, that are protective to normal physiological functions in the human body. They slow or prevent oxidation, which is a chemical reaction that can produce free radicals. To make a long and rather complicated story short, free radicals can cause cell damage. We don’t want that. Foods high in antioxidants protect us from cell damage and boost immune function. Vitamins A, C, and E are antioxidants, as are selenium, lycopene, lutein, glutathione, and beta-carotene. But don’t worry about that, just eat your fruits, veggies, and nuts.

The following is a list of the top 15 foods with the highest antioxidant content per serving size. The complete study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

artichokes, prepared
cloves, ground
grape juice
dark chocolate
cranberry juice
red wine

Okay, so this doesn’t mean 4 cups of coffee in the morning, a bar of dark chocolate at lunch, and a bottle of wine at dinner. But it does mean those foods are rich in antioxidants and can be included in a healthy diet if eaten in moderation.

Add these foods to your shopping cart and enjoy a daily dose of antioxidant protection! See below for one of my favorite treats. Redwood Hill Farm goat yogurt topped with mixed berries. Yum!

In good health,


mushroom contest winner

Hey everyone – we have a winner from the “name these mushrooms” contest I posted last week. Although I was surprised Cindy, our little rocket scientist/culinary blogger from cindalouskitchenblues, didn’t give us the right answer, we did end up with another science girl joining the ranks. And by the way, Cindy does get honorable mention for her sense of humor. I have to admit, I love it that we’re forming an online clique of geeky science girls. Very cool, and you do know it’s hip to be square, right?

Michelle from the accidentalscientist (PhD in Biology) guessed maitake mushroom for the first one and lion’s mane for the second, which is right on both accounts. Yeah! Congratulations to Michelle. Of course, she did say her home town has a mushroom festival every summer, so it sounds like she’s something of an expert (compared to the rest of us, anyway). Sarah had the first one right, but not the second one, so this not-so-grand prize goes to our biologist.

Michelle, email me at and pass along your address and I’ll mail you your prize. But first, you get to choose the color – blue or cream. The prize is a Nigella Lawson Citrus Squeezer from her kitchenware collection and it does exactly what the name implies. Squeezes juice. I have one and love it for squeezing fresh lime or lemon juice and the cool thing about Nigella’s version is the seed catcher. Very smart design move, Nigella.



Big decision, Michelle – cream or blue? Aren’t they cute?!

Nutrition notes
Maitake mushroom:
this mushroom’s scientific name is grifola frondosa, referring to the mythical half-lion, half-eagle beast, the griffin (which, by the way, is my son’s name – just the Griffin part). The Japanese call it maitake. It’s also called hen-of-the-woods, has a nice, earthy flavor, and is prized not only for its taste, but its medicinal value as well. Studies show maitake mushrooms as having the following therapuetic benefits:
• activates the immune system
• anti-cancer properties
• normalizes lipid levels
• protects the liver
• reduces elevated blood glucose levels
• helps suppress weight gain
• helps maintain normal blood pressure

Lion’s mane mushroom: this one has a unique appearance and does look a bit like a long-haired loofah. Like the maitake, it’s know for its medicinal, as well as culinary properties. Legend has it that these mushrooms promote “nerves of steel and the memory of a lion.” (I thought elephants were the ones with the good memories – but I can’t remember.) Research supports its traditional use as:
• immune system booster
• stimulates the synthesis of NGF (nerve growth factor), which may protect nerves from
• helps promote cognitive function

Wash, cut and sauté in olive oil and add to rice dishes, veggies, soups, stews, or whatever comes to mind. They taste good and they’re healthy. Yum!

In good health,

seasonal foods for february


Seasonal food refers to the time of the year when a specific food is at its peak in flavor or harvest. Foods in season are usually less expensive, at their freshest, and provide an opportunity to incorporate health-promoting nutrients into the diet. Here’s a list of seasonal foods for February and a recipe for guacamole. You might have noticed that avocados are abundant right now and less expensive than usual, so this is the time to add them to your salads, make dips, and use them for garnish on Mexican foods.

The avocado is actually a fruit and is a good source of healthy fat, fiber, vitamin K, potassium and folate. They may even help lower cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease and stroke, so enjoy them while they’re at their finest!

zesty guacamole
what you need
4 ripe, fresh avocados, peeled and pitted*
2 limes, juiced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/4 cup diced red onion
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 to 5 Jalapeno or Serrano chiles, seeded and finely minced
sea salt and chile powder to taste

*Large avocados are recommended for this recipe. Otherwise use 5 or 6 smaller ones.

what you do
1. In a large bowl, coarsely mash avocados and mix with lime juice.
2. Add the rest of the ingredients to the avocado mixture and stir gently until combined.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes and serve with GF tortilla chips.

February seasonal food list
Avocados (see above)
Broccoli – is a member of the cabbage (cruciferous) family, has been shown to have remarkable anti-cancer properties, and is low in calories and high in nutrients. It’s rich in vitamin A, C, K, folic acid and fiber, and although much lower in calories, 1 up of broccoli contains as much protein as one cup of corn or rice. Wow, and it’s in season right now, so eat your broccoli!
Brussels sprouts – I have to admit, Brussels sprouts aren’t my favorite veggies, but, like broccoli, they’re part of the cabbage family and have lots of anti-cancer properties so give them a try. They’re also rich in vitamin C, K, B-6, fiber, thiamine, betacarotene, and potassium. Does anybody have a good recipe for these little critters?
Cabbage – well, guess what? This one is the “king” of the cruciferous family and the one that started the whole anti-cancer trend. Cabbage is one of the American Cancer Society’s top dietary recommendations to reduce your risk of cancer, so all these February harvest veggies should be on your grocery list. It has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of peptic ulcers. Throw some in your shopping cart.
Kale – kale is probably the closest relative to wild cabbage that we have. I love kale and like the rest of these super-stars, it’s high in all kinds of nutrients. One cup of kale supplies more than 70% of the RDI of vitamin C, with only 20 calories. Not to mention it’s high in calcium, fiber, iron, and vitamins B-1, B-2, and E. Good stuff!
Grapefruit – on to one of my favorite fruits – tart and refreshing! High in vitamin C, grapefruit is thought to protect against cancers of the prostate, lung and colon, and support immune function. Plus, an average sized grapefruit has a wimpy 70 calories. Note: grapefruit and grapefruit juice can inhibit the effectiveness of certain medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist before mixing the two.

Okay, so now you know the cabbage family thrives in February. Hardy little characters, aren’t they? No wonder they’re full of healthy nutrients. So, go forth and eat your veggies, all of which are gluten-free by default! No pesky labels to read.

In good health,

heart health month


I love this calendar that Mike, bonzer* Chicago art director and graphic designer, created and sent me for Christmas (okay, not just me – a bunch of people got copies).

First off, the calendar is just plain cool, don’t you agree? And second, it’s full of fun and important bits of trivia. Like tomorrow is groundhog day – and you know what that means. Or, do you? February 2nd is that special time each year when the whole world turns its attention to that sweet boy, Punxsuta-something Phil, who will check out the weather situation (factoring in for global warming) and let us know if we’re facing six more weeks of winter or not. I’m betting on the six more weeks part. Blizzards, powder days, heavy snows, a few random sub-zero nights – this is Colorado, winter’s far from over. Plus, I don’t want a short ski season, so I’m praying for more snow.

February is also American Heart Month, so I thought I’d focus a few of my posts on health tips and nutrition for gluten-free, heart-healthy living. For more information about American Heart Month and some great recipes and links, check out Michelle’s blog, the accidentalscientist.

Since it’s Heart Month and I have celiac disease, I thought I’d tie the two together and give you some information about how celiac disease can impact heart function. As my “about” page explains, I’m a nutrition therapist with a degree in exercise science. I also have a special interest in cardiac function and did my six month internship in cardiac rehab, so anything and everything to do with heart health appeals to me. And I mean that spiritually, anatomically, and physiologically. Yes, they all go together to me – body, mind, and spirit.

We’ll start with the basics – celiac disease is a genetically predisposed, immune-mediated disorder triggered by the ingestion of gluten, the main storage protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Although it was once considered a rare childhood disease marked by diarrhea, malnutrition, and failure to thrive, the majority of cases are now atypical, involving a wide variety of non-specific symptoms. Adult patients are often asymptomatic or diagnosed with conditions mistakenly unassociated with celiac disease. The clinical characteristics can include several multi-system autoimmune features. A delay in diagnosis and treatment, resulting in years of ongoing inflammation and nutrient malabsorption, increases the progression of other autoimmune diseases. Many adults with unmanaged celiac disease show signs of bone loss, anemia, thyroid disorders, peripheral neuropathies, infertility and recurrent miscarriage, type 1 diabetes, Sjorgren’s syndrome, and even cardiomyopathy.

According to Dr. Peter Green, who celiacchick Kelly calls the Australian Paul McCartney, autoimmune cardiomyopathy can be associated with celiac disease. Cardiomyopathy is chronic inflammation of the heart leading to diseased tissue. It is a weakening and deterioration of the structure and function of the heart muscle itself. There are four main types of cardiomyopathy: dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive, and arrhythmogenic. Dilated, or congestive, is the most common form and the type connected with celiac disease. It is autoimmune in nature and if left untreated, the heart muscle becomes inflamed and abnormally enlarged causing impaired ability to pump blood, arrythmias (disturbances in heart rate and rhythm), and even valve damage. That doesn’t sound good, but with proper nutrition, positive lifestyle changes, and adherence to a gluten-free diet, studies show celiac patients with cardiomyopathy can gain improved cardiac function.

But here’s the deal – the gluten-free diet has to be a healthy diet. Colorful fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy gluten-free grains, and lean meats should be the mainstay, not processed, packaged, or high-fat foods – gluten-free or not. So, eat a variety of simple, whole foods, preferably organic. Whole foods are gluten-free by default, no label reading needed, and they also provide an abundant mixture of heart-healthy nutrients.

In good health,
P.S. Stay tuned for more ways to love and protect your heart!

*For Katie and my other Australian and New Zealand readers way down under.
(bonzer |ˈbänzər| adjective Australia/NZ, informal excellent, first-rate. ORIGIN early 20th century: perhaps an alteration of bonanza)

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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