Wellness

The Gluten Free Diet: Is It for Me?

Gluten FreeThere has been a lot of hype around “gluten-free” diets in recent years. While thousands tout the benefits of going gluten-free, many people aren’t exactly sure what it is or if it’s the right diet for them. If you’re unsure of what “gluten-free” really means or if you should give it a try, here’s a quick and dirty rundown of things you should know:

  • The first thing you should know is that a gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease.
  • So what is celiac disease? Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the small intestine is sensitive to the protein gluten, often found in wheat, rye and barley.
  • What are the symptoms of celiac disease? It’s a digestive disease, and symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia, osteoporosis, missed menstrual periods and numbness in the hands and feet.1
  • How does an allergy cause such a wide array of symptoms? The effect of celiac disease is twofold. First, when gluten is ingested by a person with celiac disease, it can damage the lining of the small intestine, causing uncomfortable digestive symptoms. Secondly, due to the damage of the small intestines, crucial vitamins and minerals don’t get absorbed properly, leading to malnutrition and long-term negative health effects.
  • How do I know if I have it? Celiac disease is genetic, so if anyone in your family has tested positive, it’s probably a good idea for you to get checked, too. The disease can occur at any age, and affects people in all parts o f the world. You can get tested for celiac disease with a simple blood test. People with the disease will probably have higher levels of certain autoantibodies that your doctor will be able to identify.
  • What if I don’t have celiac disease? Can I still do a gluten free diet? Gluten free diets are only necessary for individuals with celiac disease or a wheat allergy. Before going gluten free, take a closer look at your diet- Is your diet balanced? Are you eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, nuts/seeds, whole grains, and lean meat/low fat dairy? Often, when someone goes from a diet high in processed foods to “gluten free” they end up increasing other foods groups. This increase in fruits, vegetables, legumes/beans, nuts/seeds which may actually be reliving the symptoms, not the avoidance of gluten. If you’re not convinced, make any appointment with your gastroenterologist and discuss how to determine food allergies or sensitivities.
  • Will eating gluten-free help me lose weight? Not necessarily. Don’t fall prey to the idea that “gluten-free” equals “healthy” or “low-fat.” Some processed gluten-free foods are low in fiber so you won’t stay full as long, and they’re often stripped of important nutritional elements. In one case study, the vast majority of participants that adhered to a gluten-free diet gained significant weight.3 And since gluten-free foods often carry a heftier price-tag, you might want to think twice about going free just for weight-loss’ sake.

Takeaways: The gluten-free diet is really only necessary for people who have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Don’t get sucked in to the mindset that gluten-free equals a healthier diet. If you want to improve your health choose a variety of fruits, vegetables, beans/legumes, nuts/seeds, lean meats, low fat dairy, and whole grains.

Related sources:

References:

1. National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) . http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/celiac/#1
2. Antonio Di Sabatino, Gino Roberto Corazza. “Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity: Sense or Sensibility? Annals of Internal Medicine. 2012 Feb;156(4):309-311.
3. T. A. Kabbani, A. Goldberg, C. P. Kelly, K. Pallav, S. Tariq, A. Peer, J. Hansen, M. Dennis andD. A. Leffler. “Body mass index and the risk of obesity in coeliac disease treated with the gluten-free diet.” Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics. 35:.6; 625-744, March 2012.
4. Biesiekierski JR, Muir JG, Gibson PR. “Is gluten a cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in people without celiac disease?” Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2013 Dec;13(6):631-8.

As it Turns Out, Apples May Keep More Than Just the Doctor Away

Apple a Day Keeps the Pounds AwayAmericans have a nasty habit of depriving ourselves when we want to drop pounds. We often believe that cutting calories is the secret to success, but we wind up just feeling hungry all the time. It may surprise you that one healthy alternative to the hopeless feeling of hunger is to actually add food to your diet. Evidence suggests that adding nutrient-dense, fiber-rich foods to your diet can actually help reduce your cravings. The secret? Fiber slows down the digestion of food, so you get a slow and steady source of glucose rather than ups and down in blood sugar levels.

Most Americans don’t get enough fiber. On average, we take in 15 grams a day of the 25 to 38 grams that are recommended, depending on your gender 1. So where do apples fit into all this? One apple with the skin on contains roughly 4.4 grams of fiber, about one fifth of your daily intake. Also, apples are rich in a very powerful kind of fiber called pectin, which is typically used as a gelling agent and stabilizer in food. It’s that stuff that they make jams and jellies out of. Pectin also is effective in delaying the emptying of the stomach by slowing the movement of food from your stomach into your small intestine, which works to discourage overeating and help you sustain that full feeling for a greater extent of time.

Still have your doubts? One study showed that substituting pectin for regular fiber doubled the time it took subjects’ stomachs to empty, keeping them full that much longer 2. In another study, scientists found that when participants ate an apple or a pear before meals they experienced weight loss 3. So, while it might seem counterintuitive, adding in those extra calories before meals can actually help you stay full for longer so that you resist those dangerous junk foods between meals!

But that’s not all. There is more to apples than just their awesome ability to keep us feeling full for longer. Apples provide many positive health benefits, specifically anti-cancer benefits. One report published in 2008 claimed that apple extracts and components have been shown to influence multiple mechanisms relevant for cancer prevention in in vitro studies. They also went on to say that epidemiological observations indicate that regular consumption of one or more apples a day may reduce the risk for lung and colon cancer 4.

Next time you’re looking around for something to eat, try grabbing an apple. By you’ve taken that last bite, you probably won’t be hungry anymore. You may just find that over time it helps you to become a slimmer, healthier you!

 Related Resources:

Infused Water Recipes: Hydrate & Improve Health!

Infused Water RecipesOne of the keys to preventing dehydration is drinking plenty of fluids, including water. This is especially important as the temperature and humidity rise in the summer months. While water is almost always the best drink choice, a lot of people complain that they get bored drinking plain water. While you can add purchased flavored drink mixes to water, you can also make your own flavored water by infusing it with different fruits and herbs.

Infusing water with a little flavor is really simple. Fill a pitcher with water, add thinly sliced fruits, herbs or spices, and chill in the refrigerator. You also can add sliced fresh fruit to a reusable water bottle. The combinations are endless. Some fruits work better than others. Berries tend to break down faster than hardier citrus fruits like lemons or limes. For stronger flavored water, prepare it a day ahead and keep it in the fridge overnight before drinking.

A great benefit of infusing water with fresh fruits, herbs, and spices is that you can get some added nutritional benefit. Lemons, lime, oranges, grapefruit and berries all are excellent sources of vitamin C. Fresh ginger and fresh mint are both refreshing flavorings as well as being good for upset stomachs.

Making your own flavored water is also a good way to avoid the unnecessary added sugars, preservatives or chemicals that often are added to drink mixes or commercially available flavored waters. Eager to get started? Check out the simple infused water recipes below!

Cucumber Infused Water

What you will need:

  • 1 cucumber
  • A strainer or cheese cloth
  • Water and ice

For a slightly flavored infused cucumber water, cut a cucumber up into small slices or chunks, add it to your water and cover and let sit in the fridge overnight. Strain the mixture before drinking.

For a more flavorful cucumber infused water, blend the cucumber and pour it into a strainer and let drip overnight. In the morning, mix the cucumber juice with a pitcher of water.

Grapefruit, Orange, and Lime Infused Water

What you will need:

  • 1/2 a grapefruit thinly sliced
  • 1 Orange thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a lime thinly sliced
  • A few mint sprigs (optional)
  • Water and Ice (1 quart)

Chill for a stronger flavor or serve right away for a nice light refreshment

Pineapple, Ginger and Mint Infused Water

Ingredients:

  • Pineapple slices (6-10)
  • Thinly sliced ginger (5 slices)
  • Mint leaves (14)
  • Ice and water (1 quart)

Chill for a stronger flavor or serve right away for a nice light refreshment

Fruit Infused Iced Tea

What you will need:

  • Fruit flavored herbal tea such as Celestial Seasonings Red or Lemon Zinger or Tazo Passion
  • Cubed Pineapple
  • Sliced Tangerines

Some infused water recipes sourced from: http://www.infusedwaterrecipes.com/

Super foods for a Super Diet!

Super foods are foods that are professed to help with weight maintenance, fight disease and live longer. Blueberries, kale, tomatoes, spinach, salmon, walnuts and tea have all topped the list of super foods.

It may seem overwhelming to include super foods in your everyday diet, but from looking at the list above, you might already be consuming super foods without knowing it. Many super foods—which have similar characteristics to those found in a variety of whole and fresh foods—are super rich in nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients.

But be wary of foods labeled as “super foods.” Many health bars or energy bars that make such claims have instead been highly processed and fortified. Other items often have added sugars, saturated fat or sodium to make them taste better. As a general rule of thumb, if it’s processed, it’s not a super food.

Rather than focusing on increasing your intake of individual foods, focus instead on your total diet. Replace your breads and pasta with plenty of whole grains (high in fiber such as whole wheat bread, brown rice, and quinoa). Eat fruits and vegetables with most meals and for snacks because they are high in antioxidants and fiber. Eating foods that are naturally high in beneficial nutrients will help you have a Super Diet!

Below, we have provided one of our favorite recipes which includes a super food: salmon. We searched through several easy super food recipes and chose a baked salmon recipe to modify and help you kick start your Super Diet!

Super Food Recipe: Baked Salmon (adapted from allrecipes.com)
Parchment Baked Salmon Recipe
Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 25 mins
Serving size: ½ of recipe Makes 2 servings

Ingredients
1 (8 ounce) salmon filet olive oil cooking spray
¼ cup chopped basil leaves 1 lemon, thinly sliced
Pinch of salt & ground black pepper

Cooking Instructions

  1. Place an oven rack in the lowest position in oven and preheat oven to 400 degrees F
  2. Place salmon fillet with skin side down in the middle of a large piece of parchment paper; season with salt and black pepper. Cut 2 3-inch slits into the fish with a sharp knife. Stuff chopped basil leaves into the slits. Spray fillet with cooking spray and arrange lemon slices on top.
  3. Fold edges of parchment paper over the fish several times to seal into an airtight packet. Place sealed packet onto a baking sheet.
  4. Bake fish on the bottom rack of oven until salmon flakes easily and meat is pink and opaque with an interior of slightly darker pink color, about 25 minutes. An instant-read meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the fillet should read at least 145 degrees F. To serve, cut the parchment paper open and remove lemon slices before plating fish.

What’s your favorite super food? If you know of any super foods recipes that you love, or if you have a super food recipe of your own that you would like to share with us, feel free to leave it in the comment section below.

Author: Cecilia Batchelor, Emory Dietetic Intern

Top Five Ways to Boost Your Metabolism & Lose Extra Weight

Because of words like diet, cleanses and fasts, our definition of normal eating has gotten lost. Normal eating should be flexible, and it should change based on your response to hunger, your schedule, your feelings and your proximity to food. A lot of people want to know how to jumpstart their metabolism, normalize their eating pattern and utilize what they eat more efficiently. We all know that if your goal is to lose weight then you must expend more energy (calories) than you take in. With that in mind, here are five tips to boost your metabolism.

Renew Your Weight Loss Goals for 2013

Exercise Fitness Weight LossThe new year is an exciting time. As 2012 comes to the end, it is the perfect time to renew your commitment to the goals you want to achieve.  Set yourself up for success by following these tips for setting achievable goals.

Tip 1: Set SMART goals

SMART goals are:

Specific
Measurable
Attainable
Realistic
Time-bound

Tip 2: Set a Lifetime Goal

The best goal you can set would be a lifetime goal. Why? Because it is a goal that you can always improve on, and it shapes the way all your other goals are attained. Set a goal that you want to achieve, not what others feel you should accomplish.

Tip 3: Set small goals

Setting smaller, achievable goals will help you reach your main goal by achieving  smaller milestones along the way. By setting smaller goals, you allow yourself to specialize and focus in one area at a time. It is easier to stay motivated when you are accomplishing many small goals rather than falling short on one large, unrealistic goal. Stay positive, smaller goals add up over time.

Tip 4: Reward Yourself

Once you complete a goal, take time to enjoy your accomplishments!  A reward should be something for yourself that you enjoy and deserve. It can be tangible or intangible such a buying a new shirt or going for a walk to clear your mind. These rewards will give you motivation to continue setting new attainable goals since you know there is something at the finish line.  Never reward yourself with food.

New Year, New You – Why it’s Critical to Your Health to Lose Weight in 2013

Now that the holidays are finally behind us, it’s time to get serious about your New Year’s resolutions. With more than a third of the adult population in the United States obese, it’s no surprise that one of the top resolutions every year is to lose weight.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans resolving to lose weight in 2013, it’s important to understand that losing weight isn’t just about looking good. It’s more about getting and staying healthy – and even improving health issues that are associated with being overweight, such as high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes and joint pain.

Because losing weight truly is a journey, Arvinpal Singh, MD, Medical Director of the Emory Bariatric Center and an American Board of Obesity Medicine (ABOM) Certified medical bariatrician, is hosting an online chat on Tuesday, January 8 at noon EST to share tips on healthful living and weight loss pearls of wisdom, as well as give his insight on different approaches to weight loss, including surgical and non-surgical options.

Get 2013 off to a healthy start and join Dr. Singh and other chat participants to share tips, ideas and get questions answered related to how you can make positive changes to last the new year and beyond.

Related Resources

Exercise: A Sometimes Forgotten Key to Weight Management

Exercise Fitness Weight LossIn today’s market of many different diet plans, it is easy to forget about the role of exercise in managing one’s weight. After all, counting the calories used up during an hour on the treadmill or at the gym can be a bit depressing when one realizes that those calories amount to only one-seventh of a pound and are completely reversed if one eats a nice piece of pie as a reward for doing all that exercising. Indeed, one only burns about one M&M candy’s worth of calories in 50 yards of walking. This has led some to suggest that exercise is not that important in weight management and that people should focus their attention on eating less and not worry too much about exercise.

However, there are other data that would argue against ignoring exercise as an important component of weight control. If one thinks historically about the nearly tripling of our nation’s obesity rate in the last generation or two, much of that has happened with reduced exercise. As we have moved away from an agrarian economy to one based on information, more and more people have desk jobs and there is no need for almost anyone to burn many calories to survive. Cities in which people walk a lot, such as New York, have a significantly lower obesity rate than the nation as a whole, and the state with the lowest obesity rate is Colorado, which is famous for outdoor activities such as hiking and skiing.

If one takes a long-term view, there is good reason to expect that exercise can help a lot with weight, aside from its many benefits for general health. After all, if you weigh 175 pounds, increasing walking by a half-hour a day at a moderate pace translates into an extra weight loss of about 25 pounds per year, and even a 10-minute daily increase is worth about 8 additional pounds off per year. It is much more important to develop an exercise/activity plan you can stick with that is very feasible and moderate than to “go like crazy” once in awhile to lose as much weight as possible. Just as in the famous fairy tale, the tortoise, known for persistence and continuous plodding ahead, beats the hare, known for jump starts and sprinting ahead at an unsustainable pace.

Given that maintenance of exercise is a key, we all might keep in mind some factors that help us stick with a behavior:

  1. Make it fun. We are much more likely to walk or do anything else if we enjoy it. Many people will walk a considerable distance with a friend, for example, while considering walking on a treadmill to be drudgery, particularly if there is not something to watch while walking, such as a movie or television show.
  2. Make it regular and structured. If we get ourselves into a routine, it often can be maintained. Consider setting regular times to exercise, whether they be gym visits, walking during the lunch hour, or arrangements with friends to exercise together.
  3. Make exercise feasible and reasonable, even if it seems to be a small increase. Make sure you exercise within your medical limitations.
  4. Think of things you can do on a daily basis to increase your exercise. Examples might be to park further away from stores, have a policy to use the second-closest rest room, take stairs at work rather than the elevator, and/or walk while talking on the phone.
  5. Use the three principles of behavior change to help you maintain exercise. Keep track of what you are doing, set goals regularly, and set up a support system which will cheer you on and encourage you to continue.

Do you have other tips? Share them with me and our readers in the comments below!

Author: Stanley L. Chapman, PhD – Emory Bariatric Center

What Roles does Watching TV Play in Weight Gain?

Watching TV Cause Weight GainBeware of too much television viewing!  Published in the journal Obesity, a 2006 study by Raynor and colleagues examined the relationship between weight and viewing of television, VCRs, and/or DVDs.  Their subjects included 1422 subjects who had just joined the National Weight Control Registry.  In order to join the Registry, each subject had to have reported losing at least 30 pounds and maintaining that weight loss for at least a year.  One interesting fact emerged right away from information gleaned from these subjects:  they had not been frequent television watchers at the time they joined the Registry.  Only 12.5% reported watching television for three hours per day or more, and 38.5% reported doing so for less than 10 hours per week, versus an average television watching time of 28 hours per week for the American public at large.  One wonders if the low television viewing may have contributed to the subjects’ losing enough weight to qualify for joining the Registry.

The authors found that the subjects who watched the most television gained significantly more weight back in the year after joining the Registry than those who watched the least.  In addition, those who increased their television watching during the succeeding year gained more than those who did not, particularly if they also reduced their level of physical activity.  Specifically, subjects who increased television watching while decreasing physical activity averaged gaining back 9.0 pounds during the year, versus an average weight gain of 2.2 pounds for those who increased physical activity and reduced television watching.

These results are not too surprising.  After all, the great increase in the incidence of obesity in the last 20-30 years has been associated in time with a greatly increased role of television, VCRs/DVDs, and computers in the daily lives of most Americans.  We have become a largely sedentary culture, with so many means of entertainment for which we primarily sit and do not move.

This study did not provide a definitive answer for why television watching is associated with weight regain.  Certainly, low physical activity is one factor, but when level of physical activity was held constant, subjects who watched a lot of television or increased their watching still gained more weight over the course of the year than those who did not.  Snacking during watching television may be a culprit; many people who gain weight report a tendency to snack a lot, particularly with high-calorie and high-fat food and at night.  If people get used to eating in front of the television, the mere act of turning it on may become a learned cue for desiring and eating food.

These results challenge all of us to consider how watching television (or, for that matter, engaging in other sedentary entertainment such as using the computer) might affect our own ability to maintain or extend weight loss in the long-term.  Do such activities take us away from the physical exercise needed for success?  Has the television or the computer become a conditioned cue for overeating? If so, how can we combat these effects?

The best ways to prevent weight gain associated with sedentary entertainment vary from person to person, but several ideas may be helpful.  One might be to combine television watching with exercise, perhaps with a treadmill or stationary bicycle.  Another might be to arrange regular exercise on a schedule, or to make sedentary entertainment contingent on completing a certain amount of exercise each day.  You might also consider how to reduce calorie intake in front of the television or computer, perhaps by making a rule to eat only at the table, or to eat only prepared low-calorie snacks.  Using the three behavioral principles of self-monitoring, goal-setting, and support may also be helpful.  You are likely to benefit from keeping track of what you eat in front of the television or computer, setting specific and realistic goals for such eating, and/or enlisting the help of your support system to encourage you while you work on behavioral change.

Related Resources:

Reference:  Raynor, DA, Phelan, S, Hill, JO, & Wing, RR.  Television viewing and long-term weight maintenance results from the National Weight Control Registry.  Obesity, 2006, vol. 14, 1816-1824.

How to Make a Successful New Year’s Resolution – Dos & Don’ts

Do: Get a Head Start

Healthy New Year's Resolutions Dos & Don'ts

The first day of the New Year seems like the perfect day to start a new lifestyle, but why wait for a specific day to begin a healthier way of life?  Waiting may actually be doing more harm than good to your resolution.  The holiday temptations and the “I can indulge today/ this week/this month because I am going to lose weight in the New Year” mentality can actually set you back farther and make your resolution harder to achieve.  There’s no sense in putting off for later what you can start today.

Don’t: Go to the Extreme

The most common reason that New Year’s resolutions fail is because they are too unrealistic.  It’s great to be motivated to improve your health, but people often try to change too much at once.  For example, a sedentary person will fail in the long run if their goal is to go to the gym every single day.  Instead, it would be more doable for this person to resolve to walk around their neighborhood for 15 minutes, three days a week.  Once they are in the habit of doing this, then they can gradually increase the length and frequency of their workouts.

Do: Think About Your Goals

Simply saying that you are going to lose weight won’t make it happen without creating a plan.  To do this, think about where you are right now and what baby steps you can take to reach your larger goals.  Try these tips that will help you along the way: write your goals down, get a friend to help you, track your progress, and reward your accomplishments (but not with food!).

Don’t: Forget to Revisit Your Resolution

It’s OK to revise your goals.  In fact, it will actually help you achieve them.  Life happens and you can’t always control it.  Focus on the elements of your lifestyle that you can control and forget about what you can’t.  This will help you stay positive and focused.