Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Are You Really Gluten Intolerant?

            These days, it seems like everyone is “gluten intolerant.” If you do not already know, gluten is the protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and many other processed products. But is this really something to avoid and is gluten-free “healthier” like many people seem to say it is? The truth is, the only people who absolutely need to avoid gluten are those with the autoimmune disease called celiac disease, along with those who have wheat allergies or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. With many people avoiding gluten, it may seem like these sensitivities and celiac disease are very common. In actuality, celiac disease only effects 1 percent of the American population and only 6 percent of the population suffers from gluten sensitivity.
So why is around 40 percent of Americans avoiding gluten? Mostly, because many adults believe that going gluten-free is beneficial for them. Many would be surprised to find out that gluten-free snacks and products are higher in fat, sodium, and sugars to offset the loss of the taste that occurs when the gluten is removed. It has also been found that there are less nutrients in gluten-free products.
A study was done on 392 participants who believed they were gluten intolerant. It was found that 86 percent of the participants could actually tolerate gluten. There are many people who believe they are gluten intolerant, when they most likely are not. People may believe they are making a healthy decision by switching to gluten-free, when in all reality, they are adding more unnecessary fat, sodium, and sugar to their diet.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

The Scoop on Yogurt

            Yogurt is a product containing live bacteria culture in addition to fresh milk or cream. The product is then heat-treated to encourage bacterial growth. The way I word this, makes it sound like yogurt is a dangerous product, but there are many health-promoting aspects to it.

Here is the scoop:

            First, there are many types of yogurt: low fat or non-fat, Greek, frozen, and non-dairy. Low fat and non-fat yogurts are produced with 2 % or skim milk. In contrast, Greek style yogurt is thicker and creamier due to the further straining of the yogurt product; less liquid results in the interesting and thick texture. Frozen yogurt may or may not be heat-treated prior to freezing. If the yogurt is heat-treated it may not contain the health promoting bacteria cultures. Frozen yogurt, or “fro yo,” may contain just as much sugar, or more, as ice cream, so its important to bear that in mind and be an informed consumer. Non-dairy products are typically produced for lactose intolerant individuals and may be soy, or coconut milk-based.

            As mentioned, the probiotics, or live bacteria cultures, are great for the gut. They regulate the digestive system and may decrease gas, diarrhea, constipation and bloating. Some research even suggests that probiotics may boost immunity, aid in weight loss and reduce cancer risk. Dairy products are also rich in calcium, which is primarily responsible for bone and teeth development, blood clotting, and blood pressure regulation. One tip is to pair yogurt with vitamin D, because vitamin D aids in calcium absorption.

            Yogurt is often riddled with added sugars, so again be an informed consumer and purchase products you are comfortable with consuming. It is recommended to consume yogurt with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving; all yogurt contains some natural sugars.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

"No Longer Generally Recognized as Safe"

Recently, the FDA made an executive decision to remove artificial trans fats from food and deeming them “no longer generally recognized as safe.”  The effects of trans fats are not new to the health world.  Back in January of 2006, the FDA required trans fat to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label.  This type of fat may increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower HDL (good) cholesterol and may also increase cardiovascular disease risk.
Many manufacturers will need to reformulate foods as many of America’s favorite processed foods contain artificial trans fats, the most prominent being partially hydrogenated oils.  These oils have been used to increase “shelf-life and flavor stability” since the 1950s.  Stick margarines, snack foods, baked goods, and coffee creamers are just a few of the items containing partially hydrogenated oils.
The FDA’s goal is to reduce the incidences of fatal heart attacks and coronary heart disease.  Hopefully, in the near future, we will see people realize just how big of a role nutrition plays in prevention of chronic disease.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Farmer's Markets: Fun Excursion in Search of Fresh Produce

Does the “fresh” produce at the grocery store ever appear to be not so fresh after all? An easy way to ensure that the fruits and veggies you’re buying are actually fresh is to check out the wide selection at your local farmer’s markets!

 The main reason consumers shop at farmer’s markets is for the fresh produce. The fruits and veggies sold at these fun and interactive venues are seasonal and locally grown. Due to these factors, it is understood that only the best quality produce will be sold to customers. Sometimes the fruits and vegetables are picked the night before to be sold the next day. This is something to take advantage of, as produce is at its peak when it is first picked (the fresher the produce, the more antioxidants, and phytonutrients) and flavor. Farmer’s markets are also a great way to test your taste buds by trying some new or rare foods indigenous to your specific area.

Many people shop at farmer’s markets for much more than the crisp green snow peas. The quality of the fresh produce is wonderful, but the overall experience is what makes shopping there so inviting. Farmer’s markets are a great way to build up the community. The money used to buy the farmer’s products supports those specific families and their farms. They also prove to be a great social outlet! It is a lot of fun to talk to the local farmers and to get to know about where the produce actually comes from. One added bonus is the helpful tips from the farmers on how to prepare the food purchased.

There is always an abundance of farmer’s markets you can visit all year round.  If you’re interested in visiting some farmer’s markets in your area, check out the link below or the USDA Farmer’s Market Search!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency is very common among women, whether they are vegetarians or not. Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, which transports oxygen and carbon dioxide around the body. If you are iron deficient, some symptoms you may experience include fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headaches, pale skin, and pale fingernails. These symptoms will appear after the Iron deficiency has progressed into iron deficiency anemia, which is when the body cannot make enough normal red blood cells.
Although women are the most susceptible to iron deficiency, there are other populations that are also at risk. Pregnant women are at a very high risk of iron deficiency. This is because of the increased blood volume needed to support the growing fetus. Newborns and infants are also at risk of iron deficiency. While in the womb, the fetus will build up iron stores from the mother. These stores will start to deplete once they are born and they last for the first six months of life. Breast milk or iron fortified formulas will help supply the infant with adequate iron! Cow’s milk IS NOT good for infants to consume, as it does not supply enough iron for them to grow efficiently. Another group that is at risk of iron deficiency is adolescent girls. Iron is needed to get these girls through this period of growth.
Women of childbearing age are also at a higher risk for iron deficiency because of the loss of blood through menstrual periods.
There are many sources of iron that make it easy to prevent iron deficiency! Some of these sources include chicken, turkey, lean beef, lean pork, and fish. For those who are vegetarians, some good sources are beans, dark leafy vegetables, fortified breakfast cereals, enriched rice, and bread. Vitamin C will also help your body absorb iron. To prevent any kind of deficiencies, it is important to consume a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods. If iron deficiency still occurs with increasing sources and eating a well-balanced diet, it is recommended to see a physician.


Sunday, June 14, 2015

School Lunches Are Turning Over A New New Leaf... Literally

It’s no secret—lunchtime is the best time of the day for every elementary, middle, and high school aged kid.  The biggest downfall though, is that school lunches aren’t always the tastiest, not to mention healthiest either.  Now, schools around the country just might be making it better.  With the rates of child obesity growing steadily, making sure that kids have access to a healthy lunch is one of the easiest ways to go about decreasing those numbers.
Recently, Democrat lawmakers introduced the Salad Bar in Schools Expansion Act.  The purpose behind the act was to make school lunches healthier by giving kids access to fruits and veggies on salad bars using the USDA school lunch program.  In addition, it “authorizes training and technical assistance for schools to boost salad bar use, including Web seminars, workshops, nutrition education and resources for implementation.”  Colin Schwartz, director of government affairs for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, hopes that implementing salad bars in schools will encourage kids to skip the pizza and instead load up on nutrient dense fruits and veggies.