The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

The Fact and Fiction of Gluten-Free

What is Gluten? 

Gluten is a common term for the proteins found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, malt, and brewer’s yeast.1 It is what helps maintain the shape and texture of foods made with these grains. The list looks simple enough, but we have not yet considered the various products made from these grains that are then used in various foods. This can make it difficult to really know which consumables contain gluten. 

For example, products like semolina, farina, spelt, farro, bulgar, emmer, and more, are all products made from wheat. If you see one on a food item’s ingredient list, you may not immediately know that it contains gluten.

What is the Problem with Consuming Gluten?

Consuming gluten typically isn’t a problem unless you have a sensitivity to or intolerance for it. People diagnosed with Celiac Disease experience the more serious side-effects because the intake of gluten actually causes damage to the small intestine. Not only does this hinder nutrient absorption, it can also result in symptoms like weight loss and diarrhea.2 For these reasons, malnutrition is a serious concern for individuals with this condition.  

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity essentially means that, even though a person tests negative for Celiac Disease and negative for a wheat allergy, they still experience some of the milder side-effects. Typically, this means they may experience some intestinal symptoms, headaches, fatigue, and joint pain if they consume gluten.2 

Busting the Myths About Gluten

Gluten-Free Diets Aid Weight LossMYTH 

How surprised would you be to learn that the opposite can actually be true? Gluten-free foods can contribute to weight gain because food manufacturers will often add fat and sugar to help recreate the qualities that gluten gives to food.3 In fact, there is no evidence that supports the idea that gluten-free foods can help someone lose weight.3   

The reason gluten-free diets are perceived as beneficial for weight loss probably comes from the fact that going “gluten free” can simply mean sticking to unprocessed foods. For example, avoiding glutinous foods (like cake, pasta, etc.) can mean a lower daily calorie count which is potentially what helps gluten free dieters lose weight. 

Gluten-Free Labels Mean Zero Gluten Content – MYTH 

Research has determined that there is a safe threshold in terms of gluten consumption. So, if a food is labeled as “gluten free,” what that really means is that it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.4 Okay, but what does that even mean? We rarely quantify things this way. Parts per million refers to how much gluten there is in relation to all the other ingredients. This is not a fixed number. Some foods have a little more and some have a little less.  

Each low-gluten food item adds to your overall daily intake. This means that if you consume too many “gluten-free” foods, you can accidentally consume more than the safe amount. Individuals with Celiac Disease are advised to consume no more than 10-50 milligrams per day.4  

Gluten-Free Diets are Easy to Follow – MYTH 

Following a gluten-free diet is actually pretty tough to adhere to, and if you don’t pay attention to what you’re eating (or if you stick to the same foods every single day), you may put yourself at risk for nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention that gluten-free foods typically aren’t enriched with the nutrients you’re already missing by avoiding gluten-containing foods.3 

According to an article by the Gluten Intolerance Group, some of the most common nutrients that are difficult to obtain on a gluten-free diet include: 

  • Thiamin 
  • Riboflavin 
  • Niacin 
  • Folate 
  • Iron 
  • Calcium 
  • Vitamin D 
  • Magnesium 
  • Fiber 
  • Zinc 

Which Foods You Should Avoid

If you need to go gluten-free, Healthline explains that the easiest way to avoid gluten is to eat unprocessed, single-ingredient foods. This means you should avoid foods like bread, pasta, cereal, cookies, muffins, pizza, crackers, and certain beverages like beer. You should also avoid foods made or topped with soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, hoisin sauce, certain broths or marinades, and even some salad dressings.1  

If you are going to consume grains, you are encouraged to stick to foods like quinoa, rice, buckwheat, tapioca, corn, and gluten-free oats.1 To be extra-safe, check the packaging for a “gluten-free” label on these items because many foods that are naturally gluten-free (like oats) may still be contaminated with gluten because they are processed or packaged in the same facility as gluten-containing products.  

The lists go on for both the do’s and don’ts of gluten-friendly dieting, so be sure to check with a reputable source for a more complete list of foods. 

Do you have any tips or tricks for gluten-free dieters? Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the Living Healthy Blog. 

Sources  

  1. Raman, Ryan. “The Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginner’s Guide With Meal Plan.” Healthline, 12 Dec. 2017, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gluten-free-diet.  
  2. Kubala, Jillian. “Is Gluten Bad for You? A Critical Look.” Healthline, 6 Mar. 2019, https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/is-gluten-bad#who-benefits  
  3. Fontenot, Beth. “Gluten: Fact and Fiction.” The Doctor Will See You Now, 28 Dec. 2011, http://www.thedoctorwillseeyounow.com/content/nutrition/art3542.html  
  4. Spector Cohen, Inna, et al. “Gluten in Celiac Disease-More or Less?” Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal, 2019, https://www.rmmj.org.il/issues/40/articles/897  

Why You Should Practice Some Self-Love

Why You Should Practice Some Self-Love

We often write about how to achieve your fitness goals, how to eat well, and how to keep motivated through it all. Today we’re pausing to recognize how amazing you are for keeping the fight. It’s not always easy to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle and there are a lot of temptations out there that aim to tear us away from our goals.  

With so much love floating around, Valentine’s Day is the perfect reminder to love ourselves and the bodies we’re in. 

This Valentine’s Day show yourself some love and remember that: 

Your Body is Beautiful

Your body is beautiful, and your nutrition and fitness goals exist to keep it healthy. Regardless of why you hit the gym, the track, the pool, or the nature trail, the fact that you show up deserves applause. It doesn’t matter if you’re there to get shredded, to feel amazing in your swimwear, to regain mobility after injury, or to improve your ability to carry out everyday tasks. You are looking after your body and that’s what makes your effort worth it! 

You are Trying Your Best

We all skip work out days from time to time and we all have cheat days when it comes to our nutrition. We know we can do better and we try again. Sometimes we don’t believe we can, and we give up. It’s only human to experience self-doubt and to falter, especially when the road is long or difficult. Even if it takes a while, you eventually try again. That’s the part that matters! If you’re struggling with thoughts that tell you “I can’t do it,” read our article on How to Stick to Your Resolutions to learn how to combat destructive thought processes. 

Slip-Ups Aren’t Always Your Choice

Sometimes life happens. We get ill, we receive a diagnosis that affects how we can eat or exercise, we can’t afford to buy the healthier food option, we must dedicate our energy to care for others, or we just don’t have enough time. It’s good to recognize that sometimes external factors are imposing their will. Your best option may be to establish “a new normal,” and build a routine with, instead of around, your environment.  

It’s also good to take up new ways to care for yourself. It isn’t all about eating right and exercising. Caring for yourself also means that you:

Take Time to Yourself

We don’t realize how necessary this is until we desperately need to rest and recharge. If you commit some time to yourself every so often, you can significantly reduce the buildup of stress and tension. This can be as little as 10 minutes a day. Silence or turn off your phone and disconnect from the world briefly. It feels amazing when you know your time is protected and for this piece of your day, no one gets to ask anything of you.

Make Sure You’re Sleeping Enough

Our mood, energy, and patience all rely on our sleep. It can be a lot harder to manage small inconveniences, let alone larger problems, when we haven’t slept enough. Now add the fact that our circadian rhythm tends to fluctuate naturally with the changing seasons, and our sleep cycles are thrown even further off course. If you pay more attention to your sleep, you might find that your willpower is stronger along with your ability to stick to your goals. 

Set Boundaries

Setting boundaries is a big deal! Do you ever feel taken advantage of, like your kindness is used, or like others know you can’t turn down a request? So, you’re always the one driving the carpool, always the one picking up the tab, always the one taking the tasks or shifts no one else wants at work (this is assuming you would rather not do all these things).

Without boundaries, your physical and emotional energy can drain fast! It’s good practice to start saying “no,” or to work on not feeling obligated to give a full-length essay with MLA citations explaining why you need to say “no.” Setting healthy boundaries can improve relationships with others and can really benefit your own mental and emotional health, making you more capable of devoting your energy towards your personal wellness goals.  

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

By now we should be well-aware that everyone is different and that this is a good thing. Imagine if we were all the same; how incredibly frightening. It’s understandable why we imagine a standard of what’s attractive, what’s beautiful, what’s fashionable, and what’s socially acceptable. Every group of people will construct their own ideals.

However, there is a reason we ask for personalized nutrition and personalized fitness advice. Our bodies are naturally different, and what works for one person may not work for another. Differences in body type alone can mean that even if two people follow the exact same fitness and nutrition regimen that their bodies will look completely different, even at their healthiest. So, don’t compare yourself to anyone else, because the healthiest version of you may not look like the healthiest version of someone else! 

Share your thoughts on how you practice self-care in the comments below! For more articles like this one, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

How Baking Can Help You Build Good Habits

How Baking Can Help You Build Good Habits

February is Bake for Family Fun Month! Aside from yielding delicious baked goods, baking can help families build stronger relationships, improve communication, and teach valuable lifelong skills. You might be wondering, how?  

Well, building healthy skills and habits is a process that starts at home. Group activities, like baking, easily involve family members of all ages and skill-levels and create a space for productive teamwork. All it takes to get started is a quick web search for a healthy recipe, and the willingness to clean up a few spills. 

Here is how baking with the family (or with friends who may as well be family) can be good for teaching and learning healthy habits and goal-setting skills: 

Relationship Building 

Baking allows for creative expression, and you’d be surprised by what you can learn from observing a person’s artistry. In fact, certain types of therapy use art as a way to help children and even adults express emotions, fears, and internal struggles when they’re too difficult to put into words. Working on something that channels our creative side helps us relax, and a relaxed state-of-mind is great for bonding and relationship building. 

A good support system is key when setting goals or developing new habits. Learning to bond with others can help establish new and nurture existing support systems. 

Improving Communication 

“Pass the salt please!” Remember what we said about modeling positive behaviors? It helps others understand what we mean when we say “please be polite” or “please be considerate” if they have an example of what that looks like. When you’re baking, you might say something like “I know your hands are full, but when you have a second can you help me pour the flour?” A statement like this one considers the other person’s current position and gives them room to respond when they are ready. Imagine if the statement was “help me with the flour.” You might get a response like “Can’t you see my hands are full?!” 

Good communication helps us consider how others might receive the things we say. Being able to listen to how our words come across can help us reflect on goals we set and recognize when they sound unrealistic. 

Teaching Lifelong Skills

Baking is a science and it’s often precise down to the minute. It’s great for learning and mastering concepts like: 

  • Timing – Each recipe will vary and one additional or missing ingredient can affect baking time. 
  • How to Estimate – How much is a pinch, really? 
  • How to Follow Instructions – Have you ever missed a step and had to improvise? 
  • Mathematics – Maybe the instructions will feed 8 but you only want to feed 4. Now you need to divide the amount of each ingredient in half. 
  • Chemistry – Food changes when it’s exposed to heat, and that’s all Chemistry! 

When it comes to setting goals, these concepts come into play too! Imagine you have a weight loss goal. You’ll be considering the timing of your meals, recovery drinks, and workouts and altering them to match your changing schedule. You may need to estimate a meal’s calorie count or follow a prescribed nutrition plan or workout regimen. You’ll probably also do plenty of math to track calories, inches lost, and to calculate your BMI. All of this becomes easier when you practice with activities that incorporate these skills. 

Ready, Set, Bake!

Next time you’re stumped for activities to do as a family, unpack your aprons and pull up a good recipe. Your baking day can lead to some positive and healthy skill-building! For some healthy cookie recipes, check out these 8 Waistline Friendly Cookie Ideas. To stay informed with our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

How to Press-On with Your New Year’s Resolutions

How to Press-On with Your New Year’s Resolutions

Help! My Resolve is Slipping!

It happens to the best of us! We get tired of the way things are and decide we’re going to make some big changes that we tackle all at once. We go strong for weeks, maybe even months, but suddenly we’re struggling to keep up. When this starts to happen, we need to step back and look at a few things. Why are we struggling, and what can we do about it?

Allow us to walk you through it. Plug in your own answers and see where the process takes you. Let’s begin:

Why am I Struggling?

  1. I’m always physically tired. 
  2. I’ve started coming up with excuses. 
  3. I’m starting to doubt that I can do it. 
  4. The goal looks too big now. 
  5. I don’t have any more time in my day for other things. 
  6. Meal prepping is frustrating. 
  7. The cravings have gotten really bad. 
  8. I’m just going through the motions in my workouts, I may as well not be doing them. 
  9. A fraction of my goal feels like enough. I already feel better than before. 
  10. Too much change is overwhelming. 
    1. Do any of these sound like your reason? Perhaps you’ve identified with more than one. The important thing is that you identify what started to slow your forward momentum. Once you know the reason for your struggle, you can actually start to do something about it. If your reason isn’t up there, you can still move to the next step. Just bear in mind the specific reason why maintaining your resolution has become more difficult. 

    Break it Down

    The next step is to take your reason and break it down even further. You want to start detailing all of its bits and pieces. This helps you take a broad concept and make it more specific; and we know it’s easier to work with more specific thoughts. Let’s do a couple examples together. Say your reason is #3, that you’re experiencing doubt and you’re no longer sure you can accomplish your goal. You would break it down like this: 

    I’m starting to doubt that I can do it because: 

    1. My progress is slow or stalled 
    2. I wanted to accomplish this in 2 months and now I’m running out of time 
    3. I can’t maintain the number of days a week I planned to commit 

    Another example could be #6: Meal prepping is frustrating. Your breakdown might include items like: 

    1. It takes too long 
    2. I miss the simplicity of eating out 
    3. I hate doing dishes 

    Once you have your items listed out, you can probably see some areas that you can work on. Let’s move on to step 3. 

    Take Informed Action

    Now that you’re more informed about why you’re feeling like your resolution may not stick, you can take action. Action looks like this: make a logical statement about each of the items on your breakdown list. This is a technique employed in certain cognitive behavioral therapies. The idea is that you are recognizing a distorted thought process and giving yourself very reasonable explanations for why that thought doesn’t actually make sense. It helps break through the walls that you mentally set up for yourself. Let’s do an example together: 

    1. My progress is slow or stalled 

    If you let your thoughts go from “my progress is slowing down” to “what if I never achieve my fitness goals?” or “what if this is all I’m capable of?” you’re slipping into a cognitive distortion called Catastrophizing. This is what happens when a person takes a single unpleasant event and imagines it will undeniably lead to the worst-case scenario.

    This is what you do to reason your way through this kind of thought: 

    First, remember that our bodies are living and breathing, and it doesn’t matter if we actively help the process, they adapt to change. So, you started working out? Great! Your body struggled at first but now it’s really good at getting you through your 20 minutes on the treadmill. Your body thinks “that’s enough muscle building and cardiac improvement. I can do what’s being asked of me now.” So, your progress starts to slow.  

    As long as you keep your routine, your cardiac health and running muscles will stick around, but if you push yourself to sprint or to hang out on the treadmill for 30 minutes instead of 20, your body will need to adapt again to meet those demands. It’s natural; a slowdown in your progress doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing anything wrong; it most likely means that your body has adapted to the change.  

    Now that you’ve thought logically about it, a slowdown in your resolution should no longer look like a critical failure. You can repeat that logic to yourself every time doubt starts to creep back in. 

    Rinse and Repeat

    Go through this process for each and every one of the thoughts that holds you back from your goals. Even if it’s something that has a seemingly simple answer. For example, you might hate doing the dishes involved in meal prep. How can you reason your way through that one? Well, take a moment to look at the bigger picture. Is it worth giving up on your goal because of dishes? Is the trade-off worth it?  

    Alternatively, you can think of ways to make the chore of doing dishes more manageable. For example, you can make a habit of rinsing dishes as soon as they’ve been dirtied so you don’t have to spend more time scrubbing dried-on food. Mentally compare the difficulty of that task with your overall goal, and it probably looks quite doable.  

    The general thought is this: when we have trouble with our goals it often feels like we’re hitting obstacles we’ll never overcome. The trick is to recognize the flaws in our thought process and then reason our way out of it. 

    To stay informed with our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Note: The author has a master’s degree in Social Work and is versed in various cognitive and behavioral therapies. Advice presented is based on an understanding of human behavior but should not replace the guidance of a licensed practitioner or that of one operating under licensed supervision. 

    February Flu Prevention: At the Gym and at Home

    February Flu Prevention: At the Gym and at Home

     

    Flu season reaches its peak right around February,1 and February is almost here! Some of us have already fallen victim to the sneezing, the aching, and the overall misery of the flu. Before it strikes (or strikes again), you can prepare yourself for a good fight. First, let’s differentiate between some easily confusable symptoms so you know what you’re up against. 

    Flu Symptoms vs Cold Symptoms 

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) breaks it down quite simply. The flu is different from a cold because: 

    • It comes on abruptly (as opposed to a cold which comes on gradually) 
    • You’ll usually have a fever that lasts 3-4 days 
    • It’s common to experience the chills 
    • You may have a headache 

    A cold typically won’t involve these four symptoms unless you have a rare case. Symptoms commonly shared between the cold and flu include: 

    • Aches 
    • Fatigue/Weakness 
    • Sneezing 
    • Stuffy Nose 
    • Sore Throat 

    Now that we know what we’re trying to protect ourselves from, let’s get into some prevention tips. Here are some measures you can take to help ward of the flu this February: 

    Take Precautions in Crowded Places 

    You don’t need to boycott your favorite theme parks or stay home from the store, hockey game, or the gym to protect yourself from the flu. You just need to be mindful of where your hands have been. If you’ve touched something contaminated with flu germs, you’re probably going to be okay unless you got those germs into an open wound. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth until you’ve washed your hands. If you don’t have access to water and soap, an alcohol-based hand sanitizer will do the trick until you can wash up.  

    >> At the gym, wash your hands before and after your workout. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth during your workout. 

     

    Keep Commonly Used Surfaces Clean

    The kids are bringing home everything they touched while they were at school, and you’re bringing home everything you touched at work, at the grocery store, and everywhere else you’ve been. Encourage handwashing at home and keep commonly touched surfaces, like doorknobs, the television remote, game controllers, and refrigerator doors, clean and disinfected.  

    >> At the gym, use the available sanitizing foam and paper towels to wipe down your equipment before and after use. 

    Prepare Your Immune System for Battle

    Your nutrition, hydration, sleep, and exercise habits all factor into your immune system’s preparedness. Even your stress levels have a part to play. Fortunately, sleeping enough, exercising, and eating healthily all help reduce stress levels and keep your body strong against germy invaders. To help your system further, read our registered dietitian’s article on Spices That Boost Immunity and Fight Inflammation.  

    >> At the gym, incorporate moderate exercise a few times a week to boost your immunity. Studies show that doing so can drastically reduce the number of colds you catch each year. 

    If it All Fails, Stay Home Until Your Fever Breaks

    You may take every precaution and somehow still get sick, because life is unpredictable that way. If you catch the flu, the CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever has gone away. You can help stop the spread of the flu and take some much-needed rest and recovery time at home. Of course, if you need to see a doctor, you should go. 

    >> At the gym, consider that your flu (or your child’s) can spread quickly in a public setting like the gym or Kids’ Club.

    For more immune boosting foods, check out this article on Fermented Foods. To stay in-the-loop about our fitness and nutrition articles, subscribe to our newsletter to receive monthly highlights from the LA Fitness blog! 

    Sources

    1. “The Flu Season.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 12 July 2018, www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm.

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