Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Peak Heart Rate for Women : New Formula

Though not particularly related to my normal Gluten-Free topics, I thought this news would be interesting to all you women out there that may be exercising as part of your overall gluten-free diet and wellbeing strategy; or perhaps you have an aerobic activity "stress test" to take as part of a health-evaluation.

A research headline about how to calculate peak heart rate (and thus how to calculate target heart rate) for women caught my attention just as my wife was approaching her gym's annual fitness-evaluation session. As part of many physical fitness evaluations and exercise plans, one must know what their ideal "peak hear rate" (aka, maximum safe heart rate, or HR-max) is for their age. This is calculated with a formula that begins with a rather high number, and then adjusts downward based on age.

According to the latest research from Northwestern Medicine, it turns out that the existing peak hear-rate formula being used for women -- the same one that was used for men -- does not fit reality: women truly are different from men! :)

Here is an excerpt that summarizes the findings, and the new peak heart rate calculation formula for women, arrived at after a rather large study (nearly 5500 women):

"Women are not small men," Gulati added. "There is a gender difference in exercise capacity a woman can achieve. Different physiologic responses can occur. " Gulati was the first to define the normal exercise capacity or fitness level for women in a 2005 study.

The old formula -- 220 minus age -- used for almost four decades, is based on studies of men. The new formula for women, based on the new research, is 206 minus 88 percent of age.

The difference in the calculation results can be substantial.
And, keep in mind, this peak heart rate is what is most often used to calculate your ideal "target heart rate" for achieving aerobic exercise (i.e., generally 65% - 85% of peak heart rate). So, the ideal workout target heart rate calculation for women needs to start with the newly adjusted peak heart rate number. Since working out with a peak heart rate above your target zone will lead to anaerobic results, it is important to stay within your target zone (short of "hardcore training" practices and such).

What is most concerning perhaps is that women may have been pushed to reach an otherwise unobtainable heart-rate during stress tests and exercise. Perhaps now the "targets" are not just obtainable, but also safer and ideal for women:
"Before, many women couldn't meet their target heart rate," Gulati said. "Now, with the new formula, they are actually meeting their age-defined heart rate."
So, here's hoping this news helps all the female readers of the Gluten-Free Blog stay in even better health and gain a better understanding of their ideal heart rates. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Black Raspberries in Season

Fresh black raspberries: awesome gluten-free treat!

I just started picking the ripening black raspberries a few days ago here at our home in Northeast Ohio, where we were lucky enough to have purchased a property that has these wild black raspberries plants growing nearly all around its perimeter.

After just 10 minutes of picking, I secured the first quart of these fresh black raspberries, which were quickly rinsed off, bagged, and put into the fridge for later. They did not last long though, as they make a wonderful gluten-free snack that is full of flavor, antioxidants, and fiber too. And, fresh = best.

The pace of the black raspberries ripening as they become fully in-season should increase now, and I am looking forward to a bountiful harvest. Last year, we were able to collect well over 6 quarts before the season ended, and they held up nicely in the fridge (and we froze some for later too).

The plants seem to spread like wildfire from birds redistributing seeds. This year there are new black raspberry bushes growing up around the deck outside our living room, and they were not there last year. And, there are bushes lining the edge of the nearby field. At this pace, there should gallons coming over the next few years. Excellent!

One thing I look forward too once enough berries have been collected is a favorite gluten-free dessert: black raspberry pie! mmmmmm! Counting down as the pie baking date approaches!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Improved Gluten-Free Bread

I was just reading a science article about how researchers at Teagasc (the agriculture and food development authority in Ireland) are working to improve the taste, texture, and consistency of gluten-free breads through the use of the "pseudocereal" grains in gluten-free bread recipes. Their findings, not surprisingly, are that using pseodocereals (including amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat) results in a tastier, more nutritious gluten-free bread for coeliac disease sufferers as compared to "traditional" heavily starch-based gluten-free/wheat-free bread recipes (that almost exclusively use starches such as rice, potato and corn flours/starches -- each of which offers nearly zero nutritional value beyond carbs).

Here is some of the material quoted from the report I was reading, that is interesting, but rather widely known already (or so I thought):
Although gluten-free alternatives are readily available in the market, these products are often characterised by a crumbly, brittle texture, and are perceived as being of inferior quality compared to the wheat products they are intended to replace. In addition to quality defects, gluten-free foods are also characterised by an inferior nutritional quality. They have been reported to contain lower levels of essential nutrients such as B vitamins, iron and fibre, than are contained in wheat products. This is mainly due to the fact that gluten-free products are generally formulated with starches and refined flours, and are not usually fortified.
It [Teagasc] has focused on using the so-called 'pseudocereals' amaranth, quinoa and buckwheat to replace wheat in bread formulations. These cereals are gluten-free, and are also rich in nutrients; therefore, their incorporation in the gluten-free diet could not only add variety but also improve nutritional quality.
"Other characteristics of these [pseudocereal] seeds, such as their high protein, fibre and mineral content, as well as the presence of many bioactive components (compounds with beneficial effects on the body), make them attractive alternatives to traditional gluten-free ingredients (such as rice, potato and corn flours/starches) in the production of high quality, healthy gluten-free product,"...

What I found surprising is not the result of their research, but why they need to do "research" at all. Many of us have known for a long time that gluten-free bread recipes that use buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth and the like produce a much higher quality and more "real" bread. In fact, I'd say these researchers at Teagasc need to just start looking at some of the recipes on this Gluten-Free Blog and other such blogs, to perhaps make some further observations about improving gluten-free bread recipes, like:
  • using even more of these nutritious grains and seeds; like Teff, Millet, Sorghum, Flax, Chia and such
  • consider using some bean-flours perhaps
  • experiment with including whey protein in their gluten-free baking to simulate the effects of Gluten (without Gluten)
  • consider Cinnamon, Cocoa, and other spices as potential "flours" since they are high in fiber plus other beneficial attributes like antioxidants and such
  • include things like pumpkin pulp and other squash and vegetable puree that can add moisture, fiber, and improve the overall consistency
  • and other creative things we experienced Celiac sufferers have come up with in our recipes

Although we have not published all of our favorite bread recipes on our Gluten-Free Recipe Library and/or here on this Gluten-Free Blog in the past, we have quite a few posted that make use of some interesting mixes of grains, including:

The gluten-free recipes above still contain some of the basic "starch" type flours, but they all also include additional higher-nutrition grains like quinoa, buckwheat, teff, and such. Each recipes varies in its formulation, as each was created with different objectives. E.g., the Gluten-Free High-Fiber Multi-Grain Bread was pretty much all about getting as much fiber and nutrition into a gluten-free bread recipe as possible, while also getting great texture and taste.

Next: Making a Dairy-Based "Gluten"...
The next thing in the report that I found somewhat interesting was this quote: "Teagasc food researchers working at Ashtown and Moorepark are investigating the conditions required to produce a dairy-based ingredient with properties similar to gluten in a gluten-free dough system".

Well, guess what... again, I think these researchers should look around the Internet gluten-free blogs and such to gain some insight into what is already known to work. We have been using isolated whey protein in gluten-free baking to simulate "gluten", since before writing about it here on the Gluten-Free Blog back in 2007. If used properly (i.e., determining the right proportion to use per-recipe), it really can create that binding-power that is similar to gluten, while still being gluten-free. And, I am sure others have used various dairy-derivations to create some gluten-like binding power in their recipes too.

Oh well... maybe the researchers just have a pile of cash or a grant or something they need to find a way to spend. But, even if that is the case, it'd be nice if they started with what is already known and see if they can extend it even further. Like all Celiac / gluten-free / wheat-free persons, I welcome any further improvements to my gluten-free bread recipes.