The ‘Disease Du Jour’

So, what exactly is ‘a celiac’? Well, for starters, they aren’t a tribe. She/He isn’t ‘a celiac’. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that is linked to gluten intolerance. It’s surprising to think that gluten intolerance has been around forever but everyone has just recently been wrapped up in the gluten-free craze. So what exactly is gluten and how does it affect us?

Gluten is a protein found in flour (types wheat, rye, and bulgar), that traps air during baking and gives foods their crumbly texture. People with celiac disease have an autoimmune response to this protein and are not able to digest it. This is the reason behind stomach pains that occur when gluten is ingested. For those who do not have celiac and want to maintain a gluten-free diet, it is good to know that it is not necessarily healthier. Unless you have celiac disease, there is not really any reason that you would need to ‘go gluten-free’.

People who do have celiac disease can control it by limiting the amount of gluten in their diet. To do this, stay away from products containing wheat, rye, and bulgar flour. This includes bread products, crackers, pasta, and beer (womp). There is a chance of ‘contamination’ in oats and certain soy products. It is also good to note that gluten is added as a stabilizing agent to some products you wouldn’t expect, such as ice cream and ketchup. Even though it is at much smaller quantity than in other products, gluten is also present in pastries.

Amy’s brand products  are gluten free and they aren’t half bad! I would recommend trying some of these if you are gluten intolerant.

Not All Produce Is Created Equal

It’s true! Produce is the most nutrient dense when it is picked. The nutrients break down as time goes on, leaving food that has traveled a long distance to get to grocery store shelves much less nutrient dense than its fresh counterpart. I am a huge proponent of buying locally grown food. Not only is the food better tasting and better for you, but it is also better for the environment. Not as much waste is produced from packaging materials and green house gas emissions are lower because the produce is not being shipped half way across the world. Today I went to a local farmers market with my mom and we got so much great produce! I also love that they sell flowers and herbs at this farmers market. Check out the coleus plants my mom bought!

We ended up spending $27 dollars for: 4 coleus plants, 1 package each of blackberries and raspberries, 5 tomatoes, 1 bag of salad mix (that was grown chemical free!), 1 bag of raw peas, a yellow squash, a head of broccoli, golden beets, and 1 yellow onion. I will admit that this is more expensive than the grocery store price, but I think it is worth it when you can really taste the difference!

Look at how fresh the veggies are!

I suppose I should revise my prior statement since some of the ‘vegetables’ in the picture are actually fruits. Yep! To settle the age old question: Tomatoes are a fruit. They are generally mislabeled because they are vegetable-like due to their savory flavor and cooking qualities. Yellow and red tomatoes, however, do have the same nutrient content (similar to the ‘brown vs white’ egg dilemma). The difference is in their pigments. There are three different categories of pigments: carotenoids, chlorophylls, and flavanoids. Tomatoes, along with carrots and some fruit such as pineapple, fall under carotenoids. Carotenoids impart yellow, orange, and red colors to foods. Lycopenes and carotenes are the sub-categories of carotenoids that are in tomatoes; lycopenes in red and carotenes in yellow/orange. Lycopenes have been proven cancer fighting agents because of their high phytochemical content. Phytochemicals are non-nutritive compounds in food that offer health benefits. In tomatoes, these are: antioxidants!
Therefore, the fresher your tomatoes, the higher the content of phytochemicals in lycopenes, the more antioxidants you get per bite! Is that incentive enough to buy locally grown produce?

3 Cup Start

I want to talk about the most important (and in my opinion, the best) meal of the day: Breakfast! Hate to break it to everybody reading this, but all of the talk about breakfast ‘jump starting your metabolism’ is mostly just…talk. The increase in metabolic activity it provides, if any, is very minimal. It is more important that breakfast sets the tone for what you eat for the rest of the day. Every once in a while, a giant stack of pancakes or french toast is just what the doctor ordered. However, on a daily basis, I try to stick to a tip my mom taught me about a 3 cup breakfast: 1 cup of cereal, 1 cup of milk, and 1 cup of fruit. Now, as with any other dietary tip, this is a guideline. The important point is that your meal should consist of a protein (milk, yogurt, or eggs, are my personal favorite), a carbohydrate (whole grains being best, of course), and a fruit or in some cases a vegetable. When I don’t have time in the mornings to make my personal favorite, an egg white omelette with sauteed spinach and mushrooms with feta cheese, I turn to the classic cereal and milk, or yogurt, with berries. Lately, I have been making my own version of a yogurt parfait!

Usually, I scale down the 3 cup breakfast to 1 cup of yogurt, .5 cup of berries, and 2/3 cup of granola, this is only because I like to eat more small meals throughout the day. In my opinion, the best parfait consists of plain greek yogurt, frozen berries, and maple and brown sugar granola.

Personally, I love the texture that frozen berries give. I also like to buy them because they store better than regular berries and can be used in soooo many ways. Also the variety of blueberries and raspberries is a great source of antioxidants! Granola is one thing that I feel gets a bad reputation that it doesn’t deserve. Yes, granola is higher in calories than most other cereals, but if you are controlling your portion sizes it is a perfect component to any meal or snack! It contains mono and poly unsaturated fats (the good fats), and fiber which will aid in digestion and help you feel fuller for longer. Greek yogurt completes the trio perfectly since it is usually 0% fat and is packed with protein.

This perfect breakfast combination is quick to make and sooo delicious! Add a bit of raw honey or agave nectar for some extra sweetness. Yummmm. Have a great day 🙂 

Thinspiration!

Let me just preface this post with something I firmly believe: exercise should be about being healthy and feeling great about yourself, a fit body is just an extra perk!

So you’re looking for ‘thinspiration’ to motivate you through tough workouts and the daily fight against chocolate cake? Take down the picture of Kate Upton or Bar Raefeli that is hanging on your refrigerator and replace it with this:

I am willing to bet that to 95% of you, this is just another graph. However, for me, this is all the thinspiration I need (also, my understanding of this graph will determine my grade on my mammalian physiology test tomorrow)! My professor says that in order to truly understand some material, you need to be able to teach it. So, in every effort to ace my exam, I am going to attempt to explain the significance of this graph in layman’s terms to all of you non-sciency readers. I wish I could say that what I am about to explain isn’t thrilling to me, but lets be honest, I’m a nerd and I love this stuff. Also, for anyone who is reading this who knows a lot more about this subject than I do, please correct any errors I make in my explanation. 🙂

Here goes nothing!

For those who are not aware, it is a common misconception that increasing your heart rate during exercise is the ultimate goal. NO. You want to be just like person X whose statistics are recorded in the graph above. They are increasing their stroke volume during exercise in addition to increasing their heart rate. Stroke volume is what is important because you want your heart to be strong enough to pump more blood with each beat. The only thing that is decreasing in the graph is TPR (for the sake of this explanation, this is blood pressure). NORMALLY if TPR decreases, this means there is less of a pressure difference between your aorta and left ventricle, which would lead to less cardiac output. However, in the graph it is clear that this person’s cardiac output is way up. This is due to the increased flow of blood in and out of the heart (which is essentially stroke volume). Think about it this way: if your ventricles can take in more blood and pump out more blood, you will still get an increased cardiac output even with decreased TPR. KUDOS if you have made it this far! I kept the explanation short and sweet. Hopefully you understand a little more about why you want to strive to condition your heart to increase stroke volume and not just beat faster! Happy exercising 🙂

The Running Bug

Anyone who has been bitten by this psychological bug, knows exactly what I am talking about. I, fortunately, have been bitten hard. I LOVE running. It clears my mind, allows me to spend time outside (my most favorite of places), and most importantly: energizes me and makes me feel wonderful! When I first came to the University of Maryland, I was completely new to the sport. I would just exercise on the treadmill a few times a week at the fitness center in my apartment complex. Watching food network on the flatscreen TV in front of me was the only thing that would get me through 30 minutes at 4.5 mph. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am in no way a marathon runner, but I couldn’t be more proud of how much I have accomplished over the past 3 years of running.

Today, my half marathon training is commencing and I could not be more excited. I could hardly sleep last night because I was so excited to wake up and hit the trail. For anyone who lives in a city such as College Park and loves the outdoors, I am sure you can imagine my excitement for waking up to run in the woods away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Just to give you an idea of what I am talking about, this is my escape:


I guess it’s about that time that I introduce you to my other love affair: food. My life revolves around the stuff. I love anything and everything (coming from a father who used to feed me anchovies as a late night snack, it’s hard not to). Recently, I have been trying to get more into the all natural, herbivore diet. I could never cut out animal products completely! As a dietetics major, I am completely aware of all of the health benefits of iron, protein, and the most famous omega fatty acids.

A few days ago, while in my own personal heaven, the grocery store, I stumbled upon this great stuff:

Now I know each person has their own way of doing things when it comes to exercise and eating, and you should do what works best for you! For me, however, I CANNOT eat before I run. Even on a morning like today, I woke up and laced up my shoes and was out the door after just a few gulps of the best stuff, H2O (sugary sports drink rant to follow, stay tuned!). I literally could not wait to get home and try my new grocery store find! The entire time I was running, I was contemplating how I could use peanut wonder: a smoothie? toast? smother it over a banana? At any rate, I couldn’t wait to try the stuff!

I would say that I am somewhat of a ‘-nut butter connoisseur’. I have tried everything from almond to cashew to the all-natural stuff, heck, I even went out on a limb and bought sunflower seed butter (let me tell you, it’s not worth the price tag). This stuff however, peanut wonder, is the BOMB. Seriously amazing. It has just the right amount of peanut flavor, a little sweet, and extra salty. It is made from peanut flower (sorry, not real peanuts), so most of the fattening oils have been removed. Compared to peanut butter, it has about half of the calories and, check out the label, 85% less fat! I know, I know, the protein is lacking compared to the real stuff, but I think the sacrifice is worth the 100 cals!

Either way, I came home to a fantastic post-run breakfast and now I am ready to start the day!