Monday, December 12, 2011

Gluten Nightmares : Dreams of Eating Normal Food & Realizing the Consequences

Do you have Gluten-Nightmares?


Dreams about accidentally eating gluten / wheat

I can not help wonder if I am alone in experiencing rather vivid dreams, or nightmares as it may be, about consuming wheat products or other gluten-containing foods and then, in these dreams, realizing what I had done and freaking out about it.

I find it rather strange and disturbing that even after being 100% gluten-free for many years now, I have dreams in which I am in a situation where "normal" (gluten-containing foods) are being served, and for whatever reason I am partaking in its consumption along with everyone else in the dream (others that would be unaffected by gluten).

Most often, the food my subconscious falls for is PIZZA!  Next is bread — especially a great Italian Bread, Sourdough, or other fantastic artisan bread.

Gluten-Filled Nightmare / Dream Analysis

Clearly I must miss these "real" foods during my waking life, even as I feel quite satisfied with the gluten-free-diet equivalent replacements for most everything I ate in the pre-Celiac years.  But, regardless of what my conscious brain thinks about my diet, my subconscious haunts me at least a few times per year with these nightmares about eating gluten and realizing that I am going to become violently ill (since, in the dreams, I have consumed large amounts of those tasty, but evil, gluten-filled menu items).

This is where the dream becomes a nightmare: I know the damage that even a little gluten exposure can do to my body, and in my dreams I become aware of the fact that I just ate a LOT of gluten.  Then my mind is racing about what to do to minimize the effects of the gluten-exposure (there are not many options).  And, I am already thinking about how bad the exposure is going to be and how severe my symptoms will get —  I even think of going to the hospital. This is simply disturbing.

I think that my dreams are motivated not just by a desire to consume gluten-containing foods, but probably moreover by a desire to be able to just have the freedom to eat most anything that is being served — be it at a party, a restaurant, etc — and not have to constantly avoid foods that will surely contain gluten or that may contain gluten (due to cross-contamination).

These dreams tend to develop most often around times where there are events (like company Christmas parties) that I know I will not be able to safely consume a single item at.  So, my subconscious decides to run with this thought and torment me a bit and/or remind me of my need to remain vigilant with regards to gluten avoidance.

Have You Experienced This?

I am curious as to how widespread such thoughts are among the wheat-free / gluten-free / Celiac Disease community.  I guess this could apply to people with peanut allergies or any other condition where accidental ingestion of unsafe foods would lead to serious side effects too.  Feel free to post your comments if you have anything to share.

Here's hoping that this is uncommon, as it really is disturbing and shakes me up a bit as I emerge from my gluten-nightmares!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available for free.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Diet vs. Exercise : and the winner is...

Diet vs. Exercise : Longer, Healthier Life with Exercise


Exercise more effective than diet at reducing death-risk

If you think you may live longer just because you have maintained a healthy weight through diet, you may only be partially correct unless you are also exercising vigorously on a regular basis.

A recent study examined the health benefits of exercise vs. diet to determine which one of the two had a larger impact on overall health — and the conclusion was that exercise  and fitness contributes more to lowering risk of death (from cardiovascular disease) than dietary changes and BMI (body-mass-index) changes from weight loss.
"The findings, published in Circulation: Journal of The American Heart Association, suggest that maintaining or improving fitness levels can reduce death risk -- even after researchers accounted for confounding factors, like changes in body mass index (the commonly used measurement of a person's weight relative to his or her height)."

BMI (Body Mass Index) Not the Best Indicator?

We have all perhaps heard about our "body mass" or BMI number — essentially a quick indicator of what percentage of body-fat we carry; in its simplest form, it is calculated as a ratio of a person's height to their weight.

I personally have thought that simplified BMI calculations to determine body-fat are ridiculously inaccurate, especially for people that tend to exercise and carry a fair of muscle weight.  Some of my friends that lift weights and exercise heavily have 10% (or less) body fat but yet are considered "overweight" (according to BMI calculations) because they carry a substantial proportion of muscle weight, which by definition is denser than fat. This is a failing of the standard BMI calculations: they do not take into account a person's fitness or musculature at all.

Well, perhaps after this study there will be less focus on the grossly-inaccurate BMI figure, especially given this finding (quoted from article on Huffington Post):

"The Fitness loss with age is associated with a higher risk of all-cause and CVD [cardiovascular disease] deaths, after controlling for weight change, [...] However, weight, BMI or even percent body fat change were not associated with death risk,"
This is an interesting finding indeed.  But, researchers cautioned that these findings are not just to be applied to all groups the same:
"[...] because the study looked at mostly normal or slightly overweight men, it does not make clear whether the results would apply to severely obese people. Generally, a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered normal, 25 to 29.9 is considered overweight and 30 or higher is considered obese. [...] the new findings should not be extrapolated for people who are considered obese.
This preceding statement seems to be common sense.  We have to keep in mind that the study compared the relative effects of diet vs. exercise and noted how fitness (from exercise) benefited participants in the study, but the long-term (6years plus 11yr followup) study included a group of men that was already only slightly overweight.

The group was comprised of 14,000 men, mostly from the white middle-class, and with an average age of 44 and all in relatively fit condition with an average BMI of 26 (i.e., just slightly overweight per standardized charts).  I really wish they (researchers) would have tracked details of the participants diets more, but perhaps that will come later.

Exercise / Fitness Lowers Risk of Death

If there is one thing to take away from this study, it is that there is a clear connection between staying physically fit through exercise and reduced risk of CVD (cardiovascular disease) and death:

"For every unit of increased fitness, which researchers gauged using METs or Metabolic Equivalents (basically, a measurement of how hard your body is working based on a treadmill test) over six years, they saw a 19 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke-related deaths and a 15 percent lower risk of death from any disease. The authors followed up with people for slightly more than 11 years.


"What this study was trying to determine is what's more important for cardiovascular disease -- fitness or fatness?" said Dr. Marc Gillinov, a staff surgeon in the department of thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the Cleveland Clinic and author of the forthcoming book "Heart 411." "Its conclusion is that overall fitness appears to be more important than BMI, more important than fatness, when it comes to determining whether you're going to be at risk for dying from CVD."


The message, Lee said, is that we may need to focus more on maintaining or improving fitness rather than worrying too much about weight gain -- at least in terms of public health. He said efforts should focus on the importance of regular exercise and upping daily activity levels, by doing small things such as walking the dog and taking the stairs instead of the elevator."

There you have it! We may all be to weight-obsessed vs. fitness-obsessed.  I am glad they concluded by stating how it would be better for (public health outcomes) to worry less about weight gain and concern ourselves more with exercise.  Sure, a healthy diet is going to help your overall health, but from what this study is finding, you would likely be doing your body much more overall good by exercising than by staying thin while being inactive.  I.e., yes, someone heavier than you could be in better condition if they exercise while you do not.

I personally enjoy exercising and this latest study only confirms what I would have guessed just by how much better I feel when I exercise vs. when I do not.  I watch my diet, but I surely do not obsess about it as I am eating my favorite gluten-free desserts and other snacks.  I do try to maintain a regular workout schedule of at least 3-days/week of vigorous exercise and another 2 or 3 days per week of getting out for a nice long walk or something similar.  And, now I have more reason than ever to stick with this exercise plan.


You can be fit while being a bit overweight


I hope everyone can benefit from knowing that exercise can improve your health as much or more than your diet.  And, as the article concludes, you are doing yourself and your health a great benefit by exercising even if you are a bit overweight:

"The message is that you are doing yourself a lot of good with exercise," [...] "If you're someone who's fit but is finding it hard to drop those last five to 10 pounds, don't beat yourself up about it too badly. And if you're someone who's overweight but active, I'd say keep working on it, because you're doing some good. This is a reminder that fitness is really important."


Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information. In addition, visit my Gluten-Free Recipes Site where many of the recipes I have featured on this blog are available for free.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Homemade Larabar Recipe. The "Laurabar" gluten-free treat equivalent.

Make your own Larabars


Larabar, meet the "Laurabar"

I enjoy quite a few of the the Larabar date-based snack bar varieties, but I honestly do not understand how something so simple to make from such affordable ingredients can cost so much.

Sure, they come conveniently wrapped and are of a size suitable for snacking on the go, but I just find the Larabar products to be prohibitively expensive.  Let me clarify what I call expensive: a 1.7-ounce bar that lists for $1.69 at most grocery stores around me (i.e., a whopping one dollar per ounce!) and is sometime on sale for 4 bars for $5 (i.e., $1.25 each) or once in a blue-moon I see them for "only" $1/bar.  Even at "only" a dollar per bar, wow that adds up in a hurry.

So, I made my own.  And, just to entertain my wife, I named them after her :)

My "Peanut Butter Cookie" Laura-bar Recipe:
Super-Simple 10-minute Investment, and Cheap!

One of my favorite Larabar varieties is their "Peanut Butter Cookie" version, which like all Larabars is simply a mixture of dates (the primary ingredient in their bars) and secondary and perhaps tertiary flavors.  I made two versions: one with chocolate chips and one without.

Money-Saving Ingredients...
I started with a nice big tub of pitted dates that I acquired from Costco — this tub is a whopping 3.5 pounds of dates for something like $7.00 (i.e., $2.00/pound).  Next, I picked up a 35-ounce container of Planters peanuts from the grocery store for $5.48 (i.e., $2.50/pound) — Planters is a Kraft company, and as such the peanuts should be GF since no gluten-issues were disclosed on package.  For the chocolate-chip variation, I grabbed a 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips for $2.00.




PB Laurabar Ingredients / Instructions

You will not find a much simpler recipe than this!  The 10-minute creation time includes measuring and cleanup (I think it took longer to wash my food processor out than it did to make the bars).

  • 1 (packed) Cup dates  — place in the food processor and run it until the chopped dates essentially turn into a sticky well-chopped soft ball of dates.  This only takes a minute or so.

  • 1 Cup peanuts  — add to the dates in the food processor.  Perhaps use a spatula to mash the date-ball down toward bottom of chopper first.  Run processor in bursts until you have peanuts chopped to desired consistency.  This also takes less than a minute.

  • (optional) ½ Cup Chocolate Chips  — if you are making the Peanut-Butter-Chocolate-Chip-Cookie version.  Add these to the food processor and run in bursts for a total of 15 seconds or so (I only wanted to lightly-chop my chocolate chips so I had some noticeable "chunks" yet; you may not want to chop them at all, but chopping helps mix them into dates/peanuts quickly).



  • Move the finished date and peanut (and perhaps chocolate chips) mixture out of food processor and into a small glass pan (or equivalent).  I used a 7"x5" glass pan.  Now, pack that mixture down flat in the pan until it is level.  I end up with about a 1/2"-5/8" thick bar using this size pan.

  • Chill the pan of date-mixture in the fridge for a while so they hold up to cutting into bars.  An hour or two should suffice.


  • Cut your desired-size bars... they should look something like this when done:


You can surely place them in sandwich bags or plastic wrap for taking with you like any other snack bar now. And, you have just saved a fortune compared to purchasing pre-made bars!


Laurabar vs. Larabar : HUGE $ SAVINGS!

With a single batch (per recipe above) you will have between 16 and 18 ounces of finished product.  In other words, you have just created the equivalent (by weight) of 10 Larabars that would have cost you between $10 (if on a super-sale) and $17 (if purchased at typical retail price).  But, you just created the equivalent of those 10 bars for less than $2.50!

If I can make my "Laura Bars" for a mere quarter (yes, 25-cents) apiece, what can possibly justify the $1.69 retail price of the Larabars?  Packaging, distribution, wholesale markup, retail markup, convenience?  A 400%++ markup sure sounds like a lot to me.  When I constantly hear news of the economy being less-than-robust and about people not having money, I can not help but wonder: are people willing to invest a few minutes of their own time in order to save 70-85% on the what is essentially the same thing?

These bars are great for snacks or dessert, and they are relatively nutrient-rich with a fair amount of fiber, protein, and potassium.  They sure beat snacking on a traditional candy bar when it comes to your gluten-free diet.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Free Printed Book with Kindle Book Purchase : Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes Kindle Promo Event

Free Printed Gluten-Free Recipes Book
with Kindle-book Purchase


Sorry, but this event is now over. All Print-Edition Books are sold. But, we have now made many of our high-quality gluten-free recipes available for free online (link). And, we have also since stopped selling the Kindle version, as we prefer to simply offer our recipes online, at our website, for all to view.  Thank you for your support!

We thank everyone that has supported us over the past few years since we first created, published, and brought to market our Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts Recipes book.  We had even since released a Kindle (e-Book) version of our printed book as we were no longer planning to produce, inventory, and sell further print versions of this full-color, high-quality cookbook as of 2012, once our initial first-edition (a few thousand copies) were sold. We have since made the further decision to move our recipes online as time permits, making them available on the book's website. 


Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts Cookbook
by Mike Eberhart (gluten-free-desserts.com)

Thank you to everyone that made the print version such a great success and the Kindle version a popular and top-rated (5.0 out of 5.0 stars possible) alternative to print! 

The Promotional Sale & Offer Results

We greatly appreciate your feedback and comments about our cookbook!  Our 100% 5-out-of-5-Star Rating on Amazon absolutely thrilled us!  Having a 5-star rated gluten-free recipes book is all I could have ever wished for when I first started writing this, and when my wife first started creating and baking so many of the recipes.  

Thank you!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Canada goes Gluten-Free

Are Canadians Going Gluten-Free en masse?


Gluten-Free Cookbooks Sales to Canada suggest so...

I actually have no idea how many Canadians are migrating to a Gluten-Free diet, but I found it rather interesting (statistically) how every single gluten-free dessert recipes printed book I sold this week was bound for Canada. That is very unusual!

A typical week of cookbook sales is comprised of between 80% and 90% domestic (i.e., USA destination) sales.  And, Canada has historically made up perhaps 40-50% of our international recipe book sales. As such, a typical week would have only 5-10% of all printed cookbooks going to Canada. So, it just struck me as a completely bizarre week to have every single gluten-free book order (not counting the Amazon Kindle version) be shipped to Canada.

Just a strange observation I felt like sharing.  Perhaps equally strange is how there were no USA orders for the week, which is also highly unusual.  Maybe Americans were too busy with Halloween or otherwise freaked about about recent stock-market volatility or something, but whatever the reason(s), Canadians were obviously unaffected by similar thinking :)

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gluten-Free Sahale Snacks Maple Pecans Nut Blend : Product Review

Gluten-Free Product Review: Sahale Snacks Maple Pecans Nut Blend

Maple and Pecans with Walnuts, Cherries, and Cinnamon = WONDERFUL


I just found this excellent gluten-free snack product at Costco over the weekend and I now know I will definitely be going back for more of it.  Sahale Snacks makes this product here in the USA, and has done a wonderful job of combining some of the best ingredients available into a delicious trail-mix/nut-snack.

I have tried other varieties of the Sahale Snacks gluten-free products before, and so far, this Maple Pecans variety is my all-time favorite.  It is not "cheap" per se, as a 15-ounce bag was $10.99 (or, 73cents/ounce), but really this is no more than what other GF snack-bars and such cost on an ounce-by-ounce basis; e.g., consider a gluten-free snack like a 1.6-1.8ounce LaraBar that is the same per-ounce price if sold for $1.17-1.31/bar, and I quite often see those bars priced higher than that.

One has to keep in mind that, however tempting it would be to consume the bag contents in many less portions, the Sahale Snacks bag contains what is to be "14 servings" (or, if comparing apples-to-apples with something like a 1.6oz Larabar, this bag would give you nearly 10 "servings" of similar size).  I would also consider this product for a dessert as well as just a snack, as it definitely fills a desire for a sweet, tasty treat.


Ingredients and Taste

As you would expect from the product title and subtext, it has plenty of pecans, walnuts, dried cherries (cherries, sugar, sunflower oil), maple sugar, and cinnamon in the mix.  In addition, the ingredients list includes: dried apples (unsulfered apples, sugar), organic evaporated cane juice, organic tapioca syrup, brown sugar, caramelized sugar syrup, and sea salt.

These gluten-free ingredients combine to form, in my opinion, a nearly perfect blend of flavors and textures.  I absolutely love the pecan-cinnamon-maple combination, and the slight tang of the dried cherries makes it all the more wonderful.  The mix may be just a bit on the sweet side, but if you keep your serving-size under control, that should not be a problem.

The taste of this product reminds me of the filling of a great cinnamon-pecan roll! Maybe that is what I find so wonderful about it. I have not had a cinnamon-roll in ages (fact is, I really have not found any gluten-free pecan-rolls or cinnamon-rolls that could start to compete with my grandma's home-made cinnamon-rolls I enjoyed while a child), but the Sahale Snacks flavor combination of the maple, cinnamon, and pecans really fill that void for me.  Yum!

Nutrition

In addition to being gluten-free, the product is also dairy-free / vegan, cholesterol-free and has no trans fats.  A 1/4-cup (30g) serving has the following nutritional profile:

  • 150 calories
  • 9g fat (from the nuts of course), of which 1g is saturated fat; 4.5g each of polyunsaturated and monounsatured fats
  • 120mg sodium
  • 16g total carbohydrates of which 1g is dietary fiber and 12g are from sugar
  • 2g protein
  • 2% RDA each of vitamin A and Iron, plus 8% RDA of vitamin C
I certainly think the nutrition values are just fine for a snack food, and is in-line with what one would expect for a combination of nuts and fruit and maple-sugar.

Bottom line: quite a delicious gluten-free snack that is in-line with comparably-priced gluten-free snacks/bars on a per-ounce comparison basis.  


Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Gluten-Free Diet with Heart-Healthy Results

Gluten-Free Vegetables and Fruits for Heart-Health

Dietary Changes can Overcome "bad" Genetics

If you ever had concerns about having "bad genes" or a family / genetic predisposition to heart-disease, your concerns may be alleviated a bit after seeing the results of a recent research-study (on 27,000 people) which showed that simply by skewing your diet heavily toward fresh fruits and vegetables, you can essentially counteract the otherwise negative impact your "bad genes" could exert upon your health.

Here is a summary of excerpts / findings from the study:
"A long-held mantra suggests that you can't change your family, the genes they pass on, or the effect of these genes. Now, an international team of scientists, led by researchers at McMaster and McGill universities, is attacking that belief.
[...]
The researchers discovered the gene that is the strongest marker for heart disease can actually be modified by generous amounts of fruit and raw vegetables.
[...]
We observed that the effect of a high-risk [for cardiovascular diseases] genotype can be mitigated by consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
[...]
The results suggest that individuals with the high risk genotype who consumed a prudent diet, composed mainly of raw vegetables, fruits and berries, had a similar risk of heart attack to those with the low risk genotype."
This is a fantastic finding that shows even genetics do not "seal your fate" when it comes to serious conditions like heart-disease.  And, as I see it, if you are already (as a Celiac Disease sufferer) used to substantial dietary modifications to accommodate the gluten-free requirements of one condition, you certainly have the willpower and practice to take up the challenge to overcome the potential health-implication of "bad genetics" if you feel the need to do so.  Sure, eating fruits and raw vegetables may not be that exciting, but if it can help you avoid the complications of yet another potential disease, the reward could be well worth the dietary restrictions.  

One of my biggest concerns is simply the availability of affordable fruits and vegetables. This has been a concern of mine for a long time, and has become even more pressing in recent years of lackluster economic growth coupled with high inflation in food and produce items (especially fresh fruits and vegetables!).  We all know the cost of prepared gluten-free foods is nearly insane, and fruits and vegetables are also quite expensive.

The simple fact is, many of us are going to have to find a way to cultivate our own produce in order to eat such a heart-healthy diet. This is, in part, just a matter of supply-and-demand, and if we all plant gardens and raise our own vegetables, we have increased supply while lowering demand (at the markets); not to mention that when we raise our own vegetables we know exactly what they have (or have not) been exposed to during the growing cycle.  And, when the recommendations for this heart-healthy (and gluten-free, by default) diet call for 5+ servings per day of these healthy foods, we are going to have to eat a LOT of fruits/veggies; as such, it'd be nice to know exactly what we are ingesting with each serving (I'd say to purchase organic-only, but wow!... if you thought fresh fruit and vegetables were expensive in general, wait until you see the price of organic options).

If you want to read a more complete summary of the study (originally published in the current issue of the journal PLoS Medicine), see this ScienceDaily link.  The article dives into a few more specifics about the "9p21 genetic variants" that were considered in this study, as well as the ethnic breakdown of the 27,000 individuals (European, South Asian, Chinese, Latin American and Arab) in the study.  This finding on the interplay between genes and diet in cardiovascular disease is certainly an interesting one whether you are on a gluten-free diet or simply want to lower your risk of heart disease in general.  In addition, based on quite a few other studies I have read, this type of diet is surely beneficial to diabetes and blood-sugar management too.

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gluten-Free Product Review: Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix by Enjoy Life

Gluten-Free Product Review: Not Nuts!  Seed  and Fruit Mix

[by Kate — guest gluten-free blog author
I’m a fan of Enjoy Life’s brand of Gluten-Free products, which also happen to be free not only of wheat & gluten, but of many other allergens that plague gluten-free eaters including nuts, dairy, egg, soy, casein, and sulfites.  Enjoy Life also get big points for producing products that are sans-trans fat, contain no artificial ingredients, and which can appease both Kosher and vegan eaters.  Let’s just say that the Enjoy Life brand makes a whole of people disingenuously considered “picky” eaters by the larger population of allergen-free and celiac/gluten-free people very, very happy!

As consistent readers might recall, I’ve recently tested out and written reviews here on the Gluten-Free Blog for Enjoy Life’s line of GF crunchy cookies (see: Gluten-Free Cookies Review) and their crunchy flax cereal (see: Gluten-Free Crunchy-Flax Cereal Review).  And, now, I’ve tried their rather interesting take on a fruit and nut mix…without the nuts!

Instead of using nuts in their mix given high incidences of nut allergies in GF populations and the more general food-consuming public, Enjoy Life has substituted seeds—sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds—for nuts to deliver up a product whimsically named, Not Nuts!  Seed and Fruit Mix.

Currently there are two varieties of the Not Nuts! Product:
  • Mountain Mambo — with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, raisins, apples, chocolate chips, and cranberries
  • Beach Bash — with sunflower and pumpkin seeds, pineapple, cranberries, and apricots
As you’ve likely noticed, the ingredients of the two varieties are quite similar, the seed content in both instances being composed of sunflower kernels and pumpkin seeds.  Now, I don’t know much about seeds or, more importantly, about edible seeds, but it seems to me that there must be a vaster variety of seeds out there to incorporate into these products in order to offer a comparable diversity of taste comparable to very distinctly flavorful varieties of mixed fruit and nut products.

In fact, I did a bit of searching on the web, and came across the blog of a Registered Holistic Nutritionist in Toronto which offered a blog post about the most ubiquitous edible seeds, charmingly titled: “Not Just for Squirrels: Edible Seeds”.  After taking a quick peek at the post, I found myself wondering “where are the cardamom seeds in Enjoy Life’s Not Nuts! Seed and Fruit Mix?”  And, alternatively,  "Where are the Pine Seeds (aka Pine Nuts) or Poppy Seeds?Let’s get a bit adventurous and break out of the sunflower and pumpkin seed mold, here!

GF Product Review: Conclusion

That critique about seed-variety aside, I like the product and plan to eat much of it when I go out of town in a few weeks to present a paper at an academic conference (wish me luck!).  This gluten-free fruit and seeds blend is really an incredibly convenient, healthy, and filling on-the-go snack and manages to be that while also tasting quite good!

And, if I can digress from review-mode and sneak my way into personal story-telling mode, I can’t help but think of Bath, England every time I take a bite of Enjoy Life’s Seed and Fruit Mix.  It conjures up memories for me of sitting on the steps of an old, beautiful church in Bath eating a yogurt parfait from a local Starbucks and discovering that the parfait contained yogurt, fruit, and SEEDS!  It was the best yogurt parfait I ever had, and I plan to re-create it with my Enjoy Life Seed and Fruit Mix, some frozen blueberries, and my much beloved Fage 0% Greek Yogurt.  Bath, England here I come…

Images are the courtesy of Enjoy Life Food's web site [NOTE: A couple years after this article was written, the image-links were no longer valid, so, sorry, no pictures remain].

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Gluten-Free Recipes for Amazon Kindle Fire

Gluten-Free Recipes in Full-Color on New Kindle Fire Device

As the author of a full-color Gluten-Free Desserts Recipes book that has full-page high-resolution color photographs of every single baked and completed GF-recipe in the book, I have been anxiously awaiting the day when Amazon would release a full-color Kindle device (at a reasonable price) for avid book-reading enthusiasts that did not own an Apple iPad or other such color mobile device.

Update: our Printed cookbook is sold-out and we have also stopped selling the Kindle version of our cookbook. Instead, we have now made many of our high-quality gluten-free recipes available for free online (link). We prefer to simply offer our recipes online, at our website, for all to view.

Thank you to everyone that made the print version such a great success and the Kindle version a popular and top-rated (Amazon 5.0 out of 5.0 stars possible) alternative to print!

We have made the decision to move our popular and top-rated gluten-free recipes online as time permits, making them available on the book's website, at the link above. 

Gluten-Free & Wheat-Free Gourmet Desserts Cookbook
by Mike Eberhart (gluten-free-desserts.com)

Remainder of the Original Blog entry is below...

Well, today Amazon.com announced their new Kindle Fire full-color reader which is has a high-resolution 7" screen and costs $199 USD; they are taking pre-orders for shipments starting November, 15th.  Our full-color Kindle version of Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free Desserts should look fantastic on this device!  And, you can use this same Kindle Fire device to get online and read this Gluten-Free Blog too :)

Kindle Books can be viewed in COLOR on any of the following color-display-capable devices...
  • Kindle Devices (i.e., dedicated reader device) - see page for details and various models (WiFi, WiFi+3G, etc) : The Kindle Fire is their only COLOR version yet announced; our cookbook looks quite nice on the existing high-resolution grey-scale Kindles too.
  • Kindle for Mac (FREE Reader Software)
  • Kindle for PC (FREE Reader Software)
  • Kindle for iPad/iPhone (FREE Reader Software)
  • Kindle for BlackBerry (FREE Reader Software)
  • Kindle for Android (FREE Reader Software)
For a color eBook reader, this new Kindle Fire device is very aggressively priced and is bound to put pressure on Apple to lower the price of the iPad. Why? Well, that $199 device also does a LOT more than just allow you to read books... you can play movies and music, browse the web, play games or check email all with this device. I find myself wishing I could have waited to purchase a Kindle : I have an earlier one that is grey-scale... I needed it for proofing our Gluten-Free Recipes eBook prior to release; and, although it works just fine for reading books, has great battery life, and has a rudimentary web-browser, this new Fire device is in a different league.

I really like having a Kindle for a portable multi-format document-transportation and reading device.  This Kindle Fire offers the ability to access these types of files on-the-go: Kindle (AZW), TXT, PDF, unprotected MOBI, PRC natively, Audible (Audible Enhanced (AA, AAX)), DOC, DOCX, JPEG, GIF, PNG, BMP, non-DRM AAC, MP3, MIDI, OGG, WAV, MP4, VP8. This should suffice for most any needs... everything from text to Adobe Acrobat document to Microsoft Word documents... and most common picture-formats... and most common audio/video formats.  Sounds like an all-purpose portable device (for those of us that do NOT want a mobile phone for this type of thing).

I am contemplating some sort of promotional event (for our Kindle-based gluten-free recipes book) to coincide with the November launch of the Kindle Fire. But, I am not exactly sure how I can best promote the eBook... I will think something up.  Electronic books are apparently the "future", and the last of our printed recipes books are quickly being depleted (only have a couple hundred left: and that's it, forever... it will soon be a collector's item).

So, in the not to distant future, the Kindle-version is going to be the only version of our Gluten-Free Desserts book. Although the gluten-free recipes are the same in the "E" version, I have always preferred having a hard-copy (print-edition) cookbook nearby in the kitchen — mainly because I have this habit of getting flours and other baking ingredients all over the place, including on my recipes book.  The Kindle "Fire" claims to have an extra-durable display that is resistant to accidental bumps and scrapes, but the Kindle doesn't claim to be waterproof or otherwise resistant to my inevitable kitchen abuse while I bake.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Costco Gluten-Free Bargains 2011 - Part 2


Costco Gluten-Free Bargains, Deals, and Money-Saving Products

This is a follow-on to my prior Gluten-Free Blog entry about Gluten-Free Food / Product Bargains at Costco in 2011. Fact is, I am finding more and more gluten-free diet items at CostCo, and saving money in the process (compared to regular grocery-store prices or Whole Foods and other alternatives).

The savings add up when purchasing some of our regularly-used gluten-free items from CostCo, and that money-savings is definitely covering the cost of our annual membership. As mentioned in my prior blog, I have compared the bulk-pricing of some gluten-free diet items to the non-bulk-pricing counterparts in normal grocery stores, and I am seeing saving of well over 50% on the same item in quite a few cases! Even where the savings are perhaps "only" 20-25%, in total that adds up to a LOT of money saved!

Gluten-Free Multi-Grain Chips : Bargain Priced Big Bag

Gluten-Free Multigrain Chips
Multigrain Chips at Costco : gluten-free
If you like the "Foods Should Taste Good" (brand) products, Costco has a few that are much better priced than elsewhere. This large 24-ounce bag of their Multi-Grain Tortilla Chips is currently $6.29. That sure beats the comparable per-ounce price elsewhere if you like these. This variety is gluten-free even as it includes oats in the formula (along with soy flour, flax, rice, quinoa, corn, and sesame). Costco also carries their Sweet-Potato tortilla-chips (ingredients: Stone ground Corn, Oil, Sweet Potato, Corn Bran, Cane juice, salt) for a similar price.

Gluten-Free Sweetener : Agave Nectar in Bulk

Gluten-Free Agave Sweetener
Agave Nectar at Costco
Costco carries the "Wholesome Sweeteners" (brand) organic blue agave in a 2-pack: (2) 23.5-ounce containers of Agave nectar for $7.49. From what I have compared to elsewhere, this is as much as a 50% savings on something that has a rather long shelf-life and can be used for a variety of sweetening purposes. Although I use the PureVia (stevia) most of the time (also acquired at CostCo: see prior blog for pricing), I use the agave nectar on occasion when I convert my plain yogurt into other flavors and variations (using frozen berries quite often or even cocoa, cinnamon, or vanilla).

Gluten-Free Health-Food: Dried Plums for Healthy Snacks

Gluten-Free Dried Plums
Sunsweet Dried Plums
Yes, DRIED PLUMS (i.e., the new branding of what used to be "prunes")! Well, I can tell you with certainty that these are very tasty dried plums, and they are quite a deal at $6.49 for a 3.5-pound bag of Sunsweet California-grown pitted prunes. They are sweet and delicious while having just the right level of moistness. Sold as a healthy treat that is high in antioxidants and fiber (3grams per 5 plums), they also have a nice dose of heart-healthy potassium (290mg per 5-plum serving) with only 100 calories for that same quantity. Definitely recommended.

Gluten-Free Snack: Bhuja (Indian)

Gluten-Free Bhuja Snack
Indian-Inspired flavorful gluten-free snack mix
This was a recent find: Majans (brand) Bhuja original mix ($7.95 for 800g; i.e., about 2#) all natural snack that has a savory and aromatic blend of Indian spices (fennel, chillies, tumeric,cumin, corriander, paprika) teamed up with some crunchy "noodles" (made from yellow peas, chick peas, rice, potato, tapioca, and sesame seeds) and also some peanuts, raisins, and dried green peas.

The product is actually made in Australia and clearly marked gluten-free on the label. This snack-food is a welcome change from some more mainstream snacks, and I find the combination of herbs and spices pleasing. There is 171mg sodium per 25g serving, and you get 5grams of protein (thanks to that pea-flour) and 2g fiber per serving also. This is one of the first such products I have found anywhere that was clearly labeled GF, and it is priced competitively to other non-GF varieties I have seen at Indian markets and similar.


Gluten-Free Potato Chips

Gluten-Free Kettle Potato Chips
Gluten-Free Kettle Potato Chips in Bulk : 2# for $4.49!!

Gluten-Free Drink: Low-Sodium V8

Costco carries Low-Sodium V8 vegetable-juice in cases (28-count) for $13.99, or 50cents per 11.5-ounce can, which is not too shabby for a healthier alternative to sweetened soda or similar options. This vegetable juice does have a bit of added sugar that I would prefer they left out (as the sugars are pushed to 12g per can). There is a reasonable sodium level (200 mg) and a super-high potassium level to help counter any sodium (1180mg; boosted by their addition of potassium-chloride), and even 3grams of protein and 3grams of fiber (neither of which you will get from a standard soda!). In addition, Costco had a nice big COUPON for these recently where I saved multiple-dollars-per-case! Nice!

GF Non-Fat Yogurt: Fage Total 0% on the Cheap

Gluten-Free Non-Fat Fage Total Yogurt
Fage Total Zero-Percent-Fat Gluten-Free Yogurt (Kilo)
First of all, this is some really fantastic non-fat Greek yogurt! I mean to do a full "review" of this product, but in the mean-time, you can at least be aware of the Costco bargain price of $4.99 for 1-Kilo (33.8-ounce) Containers : a full 20-25% less than the best grocery-price I have found. This yogurt has a great thick and creamy consistency and makes a perfect start to many other self-created flavors of yogurt, and is also works well as a sour-cream alternative and more.

This Fage Total yogurt is loaded with protein too! A 1-cup serving (8-ounces) has only 130 calories, but yet packs a whopping 23-grams of protein into that serving; and, there are only 9-grams of carbs to accompany your mega-protein dose. This is a very diabetic-friendly product (or great for anyone watching their glycemic-index or blood-sugar), and if you make flavored yogurts of your own (starting with this product) and use something like Stevia for sweetening your creations, you can keep the sugar-levels super-low while getting 1/2 of your daily protein in one serving.

I have found this non-fat yogurt great for weight-loss and trimming some fat from my diet while keeping protein levels up (during weight-lifting and exercise too); the result has been a noticable reduction in overall body-fat levels and increased "toning" (note: again, I coupled this with *exercise* and weight-lifting... it is not a "magic" fat-loss remedy. sorry). You may get some benefit even without much workout effort if you find the yogurt as satisfying (to your appetite) as I do: it seems to "fill me up" for quite a while with low calories, and I presume the high-protein level helps with that. And, when combined with exercise, this stuff is just fantastic.

Gluten-Free Hummus in Bulk

Gluten-Free Sabra Hummis and Lentil Chips
Hummus and Lentil Chips : all gluten-free!
Sabra (brand) Hummus in large 1-Quart (yes, a LOT of hummus!) containers for only $5.99! I have seen tiny little 8-ounce containers of the same brand of hummus at regional grocery stores for nearly that same price... and, as much as I like hummus, I definitely can go through 4-times the hummus for roughly the same price. I love this stuff on tortilla chips, celery-sticks, carrots, and lentil-chips... which brings me to...

Mediterranean Snacks brand of cucumber-dill (flavor) Baked Lentil Chips: $5.89 for a big one-pound bag of these fantastic chips when they were recently being sold by Costco this summer. But, lately I have not seen a new supply come in to replace the last batch a few weeks ago. I HOPE they get them back in stock because they are wonderful tasting (perhaps slightly too much sodium, but otherwise good), low-calorie, and high in fiber.

A one-pound bag is rather large (in size) because the chips are very light and super crunchy (great texture, and they hold up to dipping in hummus, etc!). Being bean-flour-based (lentil, garbanzo, and adzuki beans) these crunchy gluten-free snack chips packed 3grams of fiber and 4grams of protein into a 110-calorie one-ounce serving (and, a serving is a full 22 chips, not just a few chips); and, 10% of your iron, plus only 3-grams of fat per serving! The chips are made in USA and clearly labeled gluten-free (right on the front cover). Please Costco, GET MORE of these! :)

Cheap Cinnamon

I have been purchasing Costco's own brand of Ground Cinnamon which is incredibly reasonable at a mere $2.65 for 10.7-ounces! Seriously! That is CHEAP for this wonderful Saigon Cinnamon, and I use it as a type of "flour" in my baking (including my frequent pancakes), so this saves me a fortune. I have no idea why cinnamon varies so much in price, but I have seen (in grocery stores) the same thing cost as much per ounce as this entire container costs. Savings: up to 90%! And, the printed expiration-dates are at least 2-years out, so there is no chance I will not use ALL of a container in time (in fact, I go through one every few months).

Gluten-Free Body-Wash

Yes, you read correct: body-wash that is labeled gluten-free. I am rather "set in my ways" when it comes to the products I use for soaps, shampoos, and such, but when I saw Costco's own Kirkland (brand) of citrus body wash with the GF-labeling, curiosity got the best of me. I unscrewed a cap at the store to see what it smelled like...it has a pleasing scent of orange and citrus. So, I figured why not... and got some.

The Gluten-Free Body-Wash comes in a dual-container package: i.e., (2) 27-ouce containers for $9.99. That is a lot of body wash. I really do not know how well the price compares since I do not know what to compare it to, but it seemed reasonable for just under 1/2-gallon of the product, and it has been lasting quite a while. I definitely like the noticeable smell of oranges, and it seems to do what it is supposed to: it cleans just fine.

Gluten-Free Fruits and Vegetables

Fresh fruit and veggies: although I did not list specific examples here, there are quite a few great money-saving deals on fresh vegetables (lettuce, carrots, celery, asparagus, spinach, tomatoes, etc) and fruits (raspberries, blackberries, cherries, strawberries, watermelon, apples, cantaloupe, honeydew, figs, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, etc) at Costco, and of course these are all great gluten-free diet options.

The prices generally beat the grocery store (substantially in many cases), but the prices vary considerably with the seasons and availability just like at any other store, so I did not provide specific cost-examples. I am rather sure that we save enough *just* on the fresh fruits and veggies every year at Costco to pay for the membership; that should give you a feel for what the savings can add up to.

More Gluten-Free Costco Bargains to Come...

This is the second installment of the Costco gluten-free products discussion. I plan to do more, as there are a lot of GF deals to still enumerate here (and products I really like). Stay tuned for the next list of bargains. I hope you have a Costco location near you so you too save you money on gluten-free products.  Also, there are more items listed on my prior blog here: Gluten-Free Food / Product Bargains at Costco in 2011.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Chocolate : Gluten-Free Healthy Diet Component

Chocolate in your Gluten-Free Diet for Improved Health

Chocolate as a preventative measure for cardiometabolic diseases

Thank God chocolate is gluten-free! I love chocolate, and it is nearly its own "food group" in my diet. And, chocolate is once again getting more attention from the medical and scientific community researching its potential to influence our health in a positive way. I have written about the health benefits of chocolate / cocoa here on the Gluten-Free Blog in the past, including this blog from just a year ago about how Dark Chocolate Lowers Blood Pressure. This latest research reinforces prior findings.

The BMJ (British Medical Journal) just published their research findings about chocolate in a paper titled "Chocolate consumption and cardiometabolic disorders: systematic review and meta-analysis". Those "disorders" looked at include cardiovascular disease (coronary heart disease and stroke), diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. And, chocolate consumption proved to be quite beneficial in reducing some symptoms of those diseases/disorders.

Chocolate Consumption leads to Substantial Reduction in Risk of Cardiometabolic Disorders

I for one do not require further encouragement to consume chocolate, but it is nice to know that my cocoa and chocolate addiction could at least help me maintain better overall health as part of my gluten-free diet. This particular study came up with the following Results/Conclusions (directly quoted excerpts from the BMJ article):

Chocolate Study Results

From 4576 references seven studies met the inclusion criteria (including 114 009 participants). None of the studies was a randomised trial, six were cohort studies, and one a cross sectional study. Large variation was observed between these seven studies for measurement of chocolate consumption, methods, and outcomes evaluated. Five of the seven studies reported a beneficial association between higher levels of chocolate consumption and the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. The highest levels of chocolate consumption were associated with a 37% reduction in cardiovascular disease (relative risk 0.63 (95% confidence interval 0.44 to 0.90)) and a 29% reduction in stroke compared with the lowest levels.

Chocolate Study Conclusions

Based on observational evidence, levels of chocolate consumption seem to be associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of cardiometabolic disorders. Further experimental studies are required to confirm a potentially beneficial effect of chocolate consumption.

Getting more Chocolate in your Gluten-Free Diet

If you want to bump-up the amount of chocolate in your gluten-free diet in hopes of obtaining some of those same beneficial results, how can you best go about that? First of all, keep in mind that the benefits shown in these studies can be offset by the negative effects of consuming too many calories, too much fat, too much sugar, and so on.

Next, keep in mind that it is the COCOA that is apparently providing the health benefits through its polyphenol content and anti-oxidants — thus, plain cocoa is going to provide the most health benefit for the buck, followed by dark chocolate. Keep in mind that many forms of chocolate (like milk chocolate) will contain saturated fats that are certainly not "healthy". So, my personal opinion is that you should find ways to primarily consume cocoa without all the added fats, sugars, and such.

Sure, I am going to get my cocoa in my gluten-free chocolate cakes, cookies, and so forth, but I get most of my cocoa in frequently-consumed healthier creations like my near-daily gluten-free pancakes (where I use a LOT of cocoa), and in my homemade chocolate smoothies (again, much cocoa) just to name a couple.  Cocoa is a rather versatile ingredient, and it makes a great gluten-free "flour" from my experience (high in fiber and even some minerals).

See my prior blog for links to various Gluten-Free Recipes using cocoa : including diet-shakes that I have posted online.  That chocolate-chia-seed-pumpkin-spice "milkshake" (its actually dairy-free) is one great way to get a low-cal cocoa-enhanced flavorful summertime treat (note: I personally use a lot more cocoa than the "normal" amount shown in the recipe; I also use unsweetened rice-milk or hemp-milk and add a packet or two of PureVia stevia for sweetness to keep the sugar down).

Enjoy your cocoa!

Continue to read this Gluten-Free Blog for all sorts of gluten-free recipes, product-reviews, and related information.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Lower triglycerides with Spices

Spice-Up Your Gluten-Free Diet and Lower your Triglycerides

The Health-Benefits of Common Spices

I was just reading an interesting publication from the Journal of Nutrition wherein Penn State researchers were reporting their observations regarding the effects of a High Antioxidant Spice Blend (in one's diet) and how these significant amounts of various common spices could reduce the typical post-meal Insulin and Triglyceride responses while increasing antioxidants too, particularly when added to a high-fat meal.

Lowering triglycerides is certainly a good thing, since high levels of triglycerides (in your blood) are linked to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. And, since humans are "hard wired" to enjoy the taste of high-fat meals, if it could be as simple as adding some significant doses of culinary spices to our gluten-free diets to help lower our triglycerides, I am all for it.

Which Spices, and How Much Spice?

This particular study was not done using gluten-free foods, but that should not matter since the only difference between the "control" group and the "spice" group was just the spices — implying that it is only the spices that account for the observed reduction in insulin and triglyceride responses:
"The researchers added two tablespoons of culinary spices to each serving of the test meal, which consisted of chicken curry, Italian herb bread, and a cinnamon biscuit. The control meal was identical, except that spices were not included." 
All of the spices used within this study are generally what I would consider "mainstream" spices — though turmeric would be the one spice I would more closely associate with Indian and/or middle-eastern cuisine, and cloves are used rather sparingly in Western dishes too from my experience (clove can quickly overwhelm other flavors). Here are the spices that were used in the study:
"In the spiced meal, we used rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika,"
If one considers all the possibilities for using such spices, many wonderful and tasty main dishes, appetizers, desserts, and even drinks come to mind. I use a LOT of cinnamon in my daily gluten-free buckwheat pancakes for example, and I enjoy making Chai Tea with Cinnamon, Cloves, and even a bit of black pepper (plus Cardamon and other complementary spices). I like turmeric, garlic, black pepper, and paprika in dishes ranging from potato salad to quinoa/rice dishes to the chicken curries (mentioned in the article).  There are many, many tasty dishes where these spices could be used to produce fantastic flavor-filled meals.

My only concern in reading this article was related to the amount of spices the researchers used: two tablespoons.  The didn't give a breakdown of how much of each spice was used, but my first thought is how I can consume a LOT of spices like cinnamon, garlic, and black pepper, but I use relatively little oregano, paprika, clove, and turmeric due to their relative "strength" (flavor-wise) in dishes.  I can consume two tablespoons of cinnamon in one batch of my pancakes, but I can hardly dream up a way to consume (in an enjoyable fashion) two tablespoons of clove at once :)

Results: Substantially Lower Triglycerides and Lower Insulin Response

The results were rather significant and encouraging:
"We found that adding spices to a high-fat meal reduced triglyceride response by about 30 percent, compared to a similar meal with no spices added."

Wow, 30 percent lower just from the addition of these spices!  That is certainly noteworthy. If you want to read more details, you can find the original article here I would definitely like to see some other studies confirm these results in the coming months and years.  You would think it would be very easy to do so, since the study sounded quite simple to duplicate

The results went further too:
When the meal contained a blend of antioxidant spices, antioxidant activity in the blood was increased by 13 percent and insulin response decreased by about 20 percent
The insulin-response numbers alone should be getting the attention of any researchers studying diabetes / blood-sugar conditions and treatments.  20% is a substantial number for sure.

So, whether or not spices produce this desirable lowering of triglycerides in your gluten-free diet or not, it sounds like an easy enough change to consider working into your meal program.  The cost of spices may be semi-prohibitive, but if it could offset medical costs, I'd personally choose investing in spices.  I am working on ways to add more of these spices to my own gluten-free foods on a daily basis, and it is mainly just the turmeric, paprika, and clove that I do not regularly consume, so my changes should be minimal.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Costco Gluten-Free Bargains 2011 - Part 1


Costco Gluten-Free Bargains, Deals, and Money-Saving Items

I wrote a Gluten-Free Blog entry about Gluten-Free Food Bargains at Costco a couple years ago, and thought it was a good time to post some updates to that blog as Costco has introduced new gluten-free items and/or modified the pricing of gluten-free foods that have been available ever since I wrote the original article.

We have been able to really save a lot of money purchasing some of our regularly-used gluten-free items from CostCo, and enough so that the savings definitely pays for the annual membership. I have compared the bulk-pricing of certain gluten-free diet items to the non-bulk-pricing counterparts in normal grocery stores, and in some instances we are saving well over 50% on the same items! This adds up to huge savings over the period of a year (i.e., the membership period) and has easily exceeded the $50.00 annual fee.

I will be posting more of these observed gluten-free items and prices in future blogs, as there are many more items to list than I want to cram into on blog entry :)

Gluten-Free Quinoa at a Great Price

Gluten-Free Cheap Quinoa at Costco

Quinoa is a gluten-free grain that is a perennial favorite with me! As such, this Costco gluten-free bargain is a huge money-saver for me. This 4-pound bag of Earthly Delights Organic Quinoa is only $9.49, which pushes the per-pound price down to a very reasonable $2.37/pound! Compare that to what some grocery stores want for small boxes — I have even seen prices at some grocery stores approaching a per-pound price that is up there with what Costco charges for this entire 4-pound bag!

Needless to say, when you find money-savings potential like this on a gluten-free diet food that you regularly consume, the savings adds up. I prefer Quinoa to rice for many reasons — taste, texture, and nutrition — and thanks to this much more affordable way of buying quinoa, I can also like it without feeling like the price is much of a detractor.

Gluten-Free Tasty Bite Madras Lentils

Gluten-Free Tasty Bite Madras Lentils at Costco

As you can see in the picture, Costco wants $6.99 for a box of (4) 10-ounce packages of these ready-to-eat Madras Lentils. I rather enjoy these semi-spicy Indian-inspired lentils over a bit of rice or quinoa. I have also found that these work well as a baked-potato topping. They are simple to prepare (just microwave them for about 90-seconds), and I find the price decent for a total of 8 servings (pushing the per-serving price under a dollar).

I am not going to do a full product review at this time, but I will say that I like the fact that they are vegetarian, gluten-free, have no MSG or preservatives, and are all natural. They only have 150 calories per serving, and that includes a nice 7grams of protein and 14% of the RDA of Iron. What I do not care for is the 510mg of sodium per serving, but luckily I consume very little sodium in my diet otherwise, so this is not a big deal for me personally. But, it is something to consider.

Gluten-Free Almond Butter

Gluten-Free Almond Butter bargain at Costco

If you have shopped around for almond butter, you know that it can be rather expensive depending where you find it. Well, here comes Costco to the rescue with a very nice deal on what is clearly labeled "gluten-free" Almond Butter from Maranatha (brand), with a nice big 2# jar costing just $5.99. At $3.00/pound, this is getting down into the price territory of peanut-butter, and as such you may want to try some wonderful variations to peanut-butter cookies or similar gluten-free desserts and recipes (especially if someone you know has a peanut allergy but can still consume almonds).

This almond butter is ground to a "creamy style" consistency, though it is still very thick. Why? Well, this is the real deal: it has only ONE ingredient — ground dry-roasted almonds. That's it! No added sodium (awesome!), no added anything. As such, the almond oil naturally separates to the top and you have to stir it in once you open the container. It's full of protein too (7g per 2 tablespoons). At only $3.00/pound, I turn to almond butter much more often that I would otherwise.

Gluten-Free Rice Dream Organic Rice Milk

Costco sells this gluten-free rice milk in cases of twelve (12) one-quart-sized (i.e., 32-ounce) containers for $16.49. This brings the per-quart price down to $1.37, which is by far the best price I have found it for anywhere. It is not uncommon for me to see the same quart-sized containers at the grocery store for $1.99 or higher. And, since this product has a rather lengthy shelf-life, you can buy a case, save some money, and have it around for quite a while.

We use enough of this gluten-free drink to save a lot of money over a year. In fact, the savings on this rice milk alone nearly pays for our membership. We use a fair amount of it on breakfast cereals as well as in things like our homemade gluten-free smoothies. I personally tend to mix it half-and-half with Living Harvest's Tempt hemp-milk to cut down on the carbs a bit while also introducing some extra Omega 3's and 6's into the equation, but the hemp-milk is around $4.00/quart as compared to this $1.37/quart bargain rice-milk from Costco.

Gluten-Free Pure Via : Stevia Sweetener at Best Price anywhere

Pure Via (Pepsi company's brand of Stevia Sweetener) has saved me countless calories and carbohydrates, and now Costco is saving me a lot of dollars as well — they have the Pure Via Stevia Sweetener (which is gluten-free per the company website's FAQ) for only $9.79 for a 400-packet box. This 400-count box gets the per-packet price down to a very reasonable 2.5-cents/packet.

With no carbohydrates and no blood-sugar impact, this sweetener is great for my morning tea or coffee. I admit I like my tea rather sweet, so I will use 2 packets of Pure Via in a large (20-ounce) glass of tea in the morning. I also use it in my smoothies to sweeten without calories, which is handy when I am using otherwise low-sugar ingredients in the smoothies particularly.

I have not yet tried to bake any of my gluten-free desserts with it yet, but sooner or later I hope to see if I can create some reduced-sugar dessert recipes by substituting at least part of the sugar with this Stevia product. If so, buying stevia in bulk at Costco will make even more sense than it already does. Again, this deal is saving me a lot of money already (I have seen smaller packages/boxes of PureVia sell at prices that are 5-times or more the per-packet price this Costco bargain offers).


Gluten-Free Corn Tortillas : Super Bargain

Mission Brand Corn Tortillas - 100 count - $2.99! (that is 5#12oz of tortillas!) Clearly labeled gluten-free and a super-deal at just 3-cents per tortilla! These gluten-free tortillas are wonderful for making all sorts of "wraps" also - whether you like placing some salad items in them, your favorite meats, etc. I am utterly amazed at the price of only 3-cents each! Wow! They hold up rather well in the fridge, and I have managed to use one bag of these over a period of 3 months without a problem. These are a no-brainer purchase for me, as I enjoy gluten-free corn tortillas in my diet on a regular basis.

More Gluten-Free Costco Bargains to Come...

This is just the first installment of the Costco gluten-free products I will be discussing here. So, stay tuned and I will be bringing another list of deals to you soon. Hopefully you have a Costco near you where you can take advantage of these low prices and bulk-items when it can save you money.

CONTINUED... the following link takes you to my next round of Costco Gluten-free Bargains : 2011 part 2 here on the Gluten-Free Blog.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Antibiotics and Celiac Disease : Any Connection?

Do Antibiotics Make Celiac Disease More Likely?


Antibiotics Disrupt Gut Ecology, Metabolism

Today's Gluten-Free Blog entry was inspired as I was reading an interesting article that discussed the findings published in materials originally provided by the American Society for Microbiology, whereby researchers from Canada described many of the interactions between the intestinal microbiota and host [in their testing, the "hosts" were mice], and showed that antibiotics profoundly disrupt intestinal homeostasis (i.e., equilibrium as maintained by physiological processes). So, what happens when your intestinal equilibrium is potentially compromised by antibiotics?

Could there be a connection to gluten-intolerance and/or Celiac disease? Some portions of their findings sure made me wonder. Given how massive shifts were observed in the levels of things like hormones that affect our immune system, sugar metabolism, and more, I could not help thinking that there could be a connection with gluten-sensitivity and/or Celiac Disease.

I have also heard the term "leaky gut syndrome" thrown around by some people (though not a "recognized diagnosis", it is a hypothesis that your gut wall suffers increased permeability from exposure to toxins, infections, and medications like antibiotics). This term has been used alongside Celiac Disease and/or gluten-intolerance, autism, and chronic fatigue syndrome to name a few. Whether it is a really the cause of any of these conditions is unknown, but the theory (in relation to celiac / gluten-intolerance) is that while your intestine is in a state of increased permeability, gluten proteins (e.g., Gliadin glycoprotein) can cross into the blood where the proteins would be targeted by antibodies, and thus eventually induce an allergic/immune-response to gluten as a result of stimulating the release of cytokines (I will come back to the cytokine thing later in this blog).

Why Intestinal Microbes are Important

Normal, healthy humans each carry around several pounds of microbes in their gastro-intestinal tracts. As gross as this may sound, we need these beneficial microbes. As stated in the article (on Science Daily):
"Intestinal microbes help us digest our food, provide us with vitamins that we cannot make on our own, and protect us from microbes that make us sick, amongst other things,"
So, how profoundly do antibiotics interact with these necessary and beneficial microbes?

Antibiotics Caused Huge Changes, Including Hormone Shifts

Researchers examined over 2000 molecules present in mouse excrement before and after (administration of antibiotics to the mice) to see what changes were observable and induced by antibiotics. The "after" (antibiotics) exam showed some really amazing (perhaps scary) results where:
The second round of mass spectroscopy revealed a very different metabolic landscape. The levels of 87 percent of the molecules detected had been shifted up or down by factors ranging from 2-fold to 10,000-fold. 
The most profoundly altered pathways involved steroid hormones, eicosanoid hormones, sugar, fatty acid, and bile acid. "These hormones have very important functions in our health," says Antunes. "They [hormones observed here] control our immune system, reproductive functions, mineral balance, sugar metabolism, and many other important aspects of human metabolism."
OK, I don't know about you, but the thought of antibiotics profoundly altering various hormone levels in my body is a bit frightening. The quotation above really got my attention with regards to my interest from a gluten-intolerance / Celiac Disease standpoint, particularly  the words "control our immune system".  Given that Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine, and that the researchers observed huge shifts in the metabolic landscape that included hormones that control our immune system, one really has to start wondering if there IS a connection between Antibiotic use and Celiac Disease.

This is where I also made a mental jump back to the associated (hypothesized) "leaky-gut syndrome" and the proposed step where leaky-gut leads to the stimulated release of cytokines. Well, Cytokines are cell-signaling protein molecules secreted by the nervous and immune systems. And, more interesting may be the fact that (as Wikipedia notes): "Biochemists disagree as to which molecules should be termed cytokines and which hormones. As we learn more about each, anatomic and structural distinctions between the two are fading."    So, if cytokines are essentially a class of hormone, and antibiotics have been shown to substantially alter hormone balances, could this "leaky gut" view of Celiac Disease, Autism, and such have some merit? Hmmm... sure seems there could be some connection.

Antibiotics Can Lead to Bad Things (for Human Health)

If you have read this Gluten-Free Blog entry to this point, you are probably already thinking: "antibiotics may be causing issues for people". Well, I was sure thinking that as I read the study that inspired me to write this, and there is a nice summary-statement included in that scientific article that will confirm this line of thinking:
The findings have two important implications, says Antunes. "First, our work shows that the unnecessary use of antibiotics has deleterious effects on human health that were previously unappreciated. Also, the fact that our gut microbes control these important molecules raises the possibility that manipulating these microbes could be used to modulate diseases that have hormonal or metabolic origins (such as inmmunodeficiency, depression, diabetes and others).
The bottom-line (as I took it to be): avoid unnecessary exposure to antibiotics. Simply put, there are risks with taking them. Sure, there are some types of infections that may absolutely require treatment with antibiotics, but all too often they are over-prescribed because we (the end-user) go in to see our doctor and make a big fuss about "needing" antibiotics, or perhaps we encounter a doctor whose first line of "treatment" is antibiotics for everything (been there before!). Fact is, we need to be educated (medical) consumers and understand what antibiotics can do for us and what they can not.

Although this is just my opinion, I personally think there IS a connection between antibiotic use and Celiac Disease / Gluten-Intolerance. I developed this condition soon after being given a course of antibiotics for a supposed sinus infection (one which a week later another doctor decided I never had!), and it just makes me that much more curious as to whether there is a connection. Also, I know a LOT of people that also "developed" Celiac Disease and are now on a mandatory gluten-free diet for life, soon after a round or two of antibiotics (especially in people that normally did not take antibiotics). This is perhaps purely anecdotal evidence, but I have encountered enough such "evidence" to make me wonder. And, this scientific study just helped provide a foundation for at least a portion of my concerns.

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