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.  


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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.