Category Archives for "Healthy Living"

December 13, 2018

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

who should eat a gluten-free diet?

A few years ago, hardly anybody had heard of the word “gluten”. But now, it’s gluten this and gluten that. It has become such a buzzword. Honestly, I question how many people who keep spouting off about it even know what it is. A bunch of sheep, if you ask me.

These days you are hearing about gluten on a daily basis, and the message is always to avoid this component of food at all costs. However, how true is this? Is this just a fad diet? Is there science behind it?

I came across an article recently in the Health section on cnn.com that set out to answer this question, and the answer may surprise you (or not).

Is Gluten Bad For You?

As one dietitian in the article puts it, “That’s the $64,000 question.” If you want to get the answer, here is what they say: going gluten-free is not beneficial for everybody, regardless of how often you hear it touted by celebrities, athletes, and social media influencers.

Who Is the Gluten-Free Diet For?

As mentioned above, this diet isn’t for everybody. Don’t just listen to all the buzz you hear about it and say “Oh, I should try that!” It isn’t a universal weight loss diet or a general healthy eating plan.

Rather, this kind of diet is specifically designed for individuals who have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Don’t have either of those conditions? Then this diet isn’t for you. Plain and simple. When a person who has celiac disease consumes gluten, it stimulates a response in the immune system that can cause damage to the small intestine. This has an effect on the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients like carbs, fats, proteins, vitamins, minerals, etc. When these nutrients do not get fully absorbed, it can lead to a deficiency in essentials that promote better health. Even further, it can lead to osteoporosis, anemia, and other health issues.

When someone with celiac disease avoids gluten in their diet, it gives time for the intestine to heal and more efficiently absorb nutrients. This will lessen the severity and frequency of symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue, and stomach pain that celiac disease sufferers are regularly afflicted with.

Why Is It So Popular?

Despite it being designed specifically for those with celiac disease and non-gluten celiac sensitivity, that hasn’t stopped this diet from gaining popularity among the general population. The article states that there were almost $1.6 billion in sales in 2015 in the gluten-free food market, with that number likely higher in the following years. Most of this revenue is due to consumers who have no medical reason to be eating these kinds of foods, and conversely, a good percentage of those who should be following this kind of diet isn’t doing so.

The main reason behind this is all marketing and word of mouth. You see it everywhere. Who doesn’t want to eat healthier? Or at least think that they are eating healthier? Honestly, there just isn’t enough research done on these kinds of things. People just see or hear a celebrity or an influential friend talk about something like this, and it just spreads.

The moral of the story is this: if you don’t have one of the conditions described in this article, there is no need for you to go gluten-free. In fact, it comes with risks like nutrient deficiency.

December 13, 2018

Simple Way to Eat Healthier

simple way to eat healthier

Time magazine is one of my favorite publications, and as I was perusing their online articles today I came across one that was of particular interest to me, considering my passion for health and wellness (which lead to the creation of this site). It talks about simple ways that you can eat healthier. Who wouldn’t want that? We all know that it is important to eat healthy to keep our bodies working and looking their best, but it is so easy today to eat unhealthy foods out of convenience.

It talks about how we are drinking less soda than we used to, which is a step in the right direction, but in general, there really hasn’t been any improvement in the American diet in quite a while. We are still consuming too many red meats, proteins, and refined grains. On top of that, a lot of the diet fads are pushing for anti-grain and low carbs, but that is depriving us of healthy fiber sources. So what do they suggest we do to eat healthier?

Easy Way to Eat Healthier

The biggest culprit in having in a bad diet these days is convenience. There are just so many things pulling us in each direction in our lives like careers, family, and a social life, that often we make unhealthy food choices out of convenience. We simply don’t have the time to make a proper grocery list and make a healthy meal at home. Restaurants are so abundant and there are tons of food delivery options these days. Unfortunately, by not getting healthy home-cooked meals, we’re often consuming way too much salt and other unhealthy additives.

What to Do Instead


The article goes on to suggest that we make a commitment to home-cooked meals. I say commitment because it means making the time to do grocery shopping and prepare a meal at home.

It may mean cutting a little bit of time from socializing or sitting in front of the television, but the benefits are worth it.

eat healthier with home-cooked meals

By making meals from scratch at home, you have complete control of what you’re putting in your body.

While it is hard to eat healthy when you go outside the house, on the flip side it is tough to eat unhealthy if you are preparing meals at home with whole food ingredients. It is stated in the article that most of the problems in our diet are that we don’t consume enough “real foods”, rather we consume a lot of processed and packaged foods.

Another advantage beyond the health benefits – you’ll save money! Think of what it costs for an average night out at a restaurant. The prices are marked up and you’ll be paying gratuity on top of that. The price of preparing a meal at home has declined over the years, and you can save even more money by being a smart shopper.

One more tip – plan ahead. Prepare multiple meals at once and have them ready for the next few days to heat up for a quick meal. Maybe set aside your Sundays to meal plan and prep for the week as best as you can, freeing up more time during the week for other necessities in life.

December 13, 2018

Depression and Your Diet

how your diet affects depression

I was browsing through the news today and I came across this article that had some pretty eye-opening tidbits in it. The first is the opening sentence where it states that depression is the leading cause of disability among American adults aged 15-44. It impacts more than 16 million adults. I guess I didn’t quite think of depression as a disability, per se, but then again I’m racking my brain to think of something else that would outnumber this issue.

Secondly, the crux of the article was quite intriguing as it describes how the foods that you eat, or don’t eat, can have an effect on depression. As I’m all about learning as much as I can about health topics, and sharing this wisdom with my readers, I present the findings and my analysis below.

The Link Between Diet and Depression

The article cites new research that studied the results of 41 various studies that examined food and depression. The first thing that is noted, and it popped out at me considering all of the time I’ve spent writing about this topic on this site, is how a Mediterranean diet exhibited a 33% lower risk of developing depression over following a regular diet. The key factor in this result is the high amount of omega-3 fatty acids that are consumed in this diet with lots of fish and plant-based foods.

On the other side of the results, which should come as no surprise, is the finding that eating a lot of processed foods, sugars, and saturated fats can increase the chances of having depression.

It is advised to also stay away from products that contain flour, sugar, hydrogenated oil, high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners.

It is theorized that these kinds of foods interact with the bacteria in your gut. This can cause inflammation in the body, an unhealthy and unattractive physique that can lead to depression.

Alternatively, there are foods that can help boost your mood and reduce the risk of depression. These include berries, tomatoes, avocados, cruciferous leafy greens like spinach and kale, seeds, walnuts, and beans. To be honest, it reminds me a lot of the items I listed in another post about Paleo diet foods.

On top of making sure that you get enough of the above-mentioned foods in your diet, it is recommended to get enough exercise. Not only does this help keep your body in shape and at a healthy weight, which can boost your self-esteem, it also releases endorphins which are the “feel good” hormones.

December 13, 2018

Diet and Exercise Effect on Cancer Risk

reduce the risk factors for cancer by eating a proper diet and getting enough exercise

When it comes to reducing the risk of developing cancer, you know the usual suspects to stay away from if you want to stay healthy. Of course, you should avoid smoking cigarettes. That is one of, if not the leading killer in the U.S. and directly contributes to lung cancer and other issues.

On top of that, you need to be following a proper diet and getting plenty of exercises to maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight, whether it be slightly or to the point of obesity, can increase your risk factors of getting cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Carrying excess weight brings the risk of developing cancer of the breast, colon, esophagus, pancreas, and kidneys, as told by ACS.

Maintain a Healthy Weight to Prevent Cancer

With the above warning, there is even more reason to make sure you are keeping your body in check at a healthy weight. Beyond just the cancer risk, there are so many other health issues that can develop from being overweight. Carrying extra pounds puts undue stress on your heart, requiring more effort to pump blood to your body, which increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), cardiovascular issues, and stroke.

So how do you go about keeping these risk factors down? As mentioned above, be sure to make smart choices in the kitchen. A healthy body all starts there.

The cancer society recommends that you eat smaller portions of high-calorie foods, as well as make sure to get enough fruits and vegetables in your diet. 

get enough exercise and eat a healthy diet to reduce the risk of cancer

These two food groups are high in nutrients and antioxidants, as well as high in fiber content that keep your digestive system working efficiently.

As to what not to eat, stay away from processed foods, as well as unnecessary sugars and saturated fats. There are a number of diets that I write about on this site that have a lot of literature with meal plans, recipe books, etc. that make it easy to follow a healthy diet. I suggest you take inventory of what you are eating and find a meal plan that works best for your lifestyle and can easily be part of your routine to eat healthier.

Aside from being smarter in the kitchen, it pays to be active. The cancer society recommends that you get at least 150 minutes of exercise per week, or that can be cut in half with 75 minutes of rigorous exercise. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Take your dog for a walk, it will be great for both of you! If the grocery store or convenience store is within walking distance, walk instead of drive. There a lot of small changes you can make in your routine that can go a long way to getting more exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Stay disciplined with your diet and exercise and you should feel healthier, and help ward off the risk of cancer and other health issues. The key is just sticking to it!

December 13, 2018

Managing Rheumatoid Arthritis With Your Diet

managing RA with your diet

Rheumatoid arthritis is a common affliction of the joints that emerges as you enter older age. Current estimates that it affects roughly 1% of the population or more than 2 million people. While it is more common in women, being 2 to 3 times more likely to become afflicted with it, the severity of the symptoms is far greater in men.

While it is more prevalent in older age, people at any age can get it. There is no certainty on the exact cause, leaving doctors and researchers stumped, which makes it even harder to find a reliable cure. Many theorize that it is brought upon by bacteria or a virus that affects the immune system, which makes it attack our own joints.

What separates rheumatoid arthritis from other forms of arthritis is that it is symmetrical in nature, meaning that it will affect both wrists, hands, knees, etc. During bouts of arthritis, the joints become swollen, inflamed, and have limited range of motion.

Many are turning to painkillers to help relieve the symptoms. One particular method is to use CBD for arthritis as it reduces inflammation and acts as a natural pain reliever. Outside of pills and topical treatments, your diet can be controlled to help manage this affliction.

Diet for Rheumatoid Arthritis

Many of the foods that are staples of a Western diet are some of the culprits that can exacerbate the symptoms of RA. Salt, sugars, and fatty foods are all commonly found in a regular diet, though these are all promoters of inflammation in the body. Consumption of these foods only further elevates the symptoms of RA and bring more pain to the joints.

If you are suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, it is recommended to change up your diet to minimize the amount of the above-mentioned foods in your daily consumption. The Mediterranean Diet is one such meal plan that has these characteristics, as it is largely plant-based. You could also consider adopting a Paleo diet which derives from the foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate, cutting out processed foods and refined carbohydrates. Additionally, a gluten-free diet is optimal for the alleviation of RA symptoms.

Related reading:

Switching to one of the above-mentioned meal plans can lead to a decrease in arthritis-related symptoms, and may also decrease the need you have for medications to control this issue. Additionally, though the joints are in pain, it is beneficial to keep active so that the joints are flexible and the supporting muscles are strengthened. Consider low-impact activities like swimming, yoga, or an elliptical to reduce the pain from shock absorption by the joints in more high-impact activities.

In short, while RA cannot be cured, simple shifts in your diet and lifestyle can go a long way to lessen the severity of the symptoms. If you have any other tips on how to manage RA, feel free to leave your comment on this post!

December 13, 2018

Low Carb Foods for the Paleo Diet

low carb foods for the paleo diet

I wrote elsewhere on this site about the Paleo Diet (hlcomic.com/paleo-diet), which is a throwback to eating like our hunter-gatherer ancestors used to eat. They couldn’t just drive down the street and head to McDonald’s, or order some delivery from UberEats or get a meal delivery service – all those conveniences that we have today.

No, they ate what they could grow and they could kill. But you know what? They were quite healthy, relative to the amount of technology and medical science that was available in those days.

While I went into detail on the Paleo Diet in the post I linked to above, I felt it would be helpful to provide a cliff notes post of the types of foods that you can eat if you want to adhere to this diet.

Paleo Diet Low Carb Food Examples

Paleo Diet Low Carb Food Examples

The main principle of this diet is to stay away from refined carbohydrates that you find in a lot of grains, pasta, bread, etc. However, you can eat simple carbohydrates like fruits that provide healthy energy sources. If you are looking to cut carbs out of your diet as a means to throw it back to the Paleolithic Era for weight loss, here are a number of foods you can safely eat and stick to this meal plan.

Raspberries

This delicious fruit is lower in carbs and sugars compared to other fruit options. It tastes great and is so versatile. You can eat it as a snack alone or add it to other dishes for a fruity flavor. They are low-glycemic and high in fiber, both of which are helpful for weight loss and overall health.

raspberries are a great option on the paleo diet

Strawberries

These berries are some of my favorites to add to my bran cereal in the morning. They are rich in fiber and antioxidants that promote overall health and wellness.

Strawberries have also been linked to cardiovascular health, have anti-cancer agents, and can help stabilize your blood sugar levels.

eat strawberries to stick with the paleo diet

Not to mention, like raspberries, they are so versatile and make a great addition to a salad.

Avocados

Unfortunately, you will have to say goodbye to avocado toast on the Paleo diet because of the bread, but that doesn’t mean you have to bid farewell to avocados.

They are high in fiber, low in carbs, and rich in healthy fats. They are deemed a “superfood” due to their high content of essential vitamins and minerals.

Blueberries

Linked to cardiovascular health, eye health, cognitive enhancement, antioxidant benefits, and tons of other health benefits, blueberries are a true superfood.

They are also high in fiber and low in sugar relative to other fruits. They are a great source of energy and can also regulate your blood sugars.

blueberries are amazing antioxidants and low in carbs

Spinach

There is a reason why Popeye loved this leafy green! It is a tremendous source of minerals that support bone health, reduces inflammation, and combats cancer. It is also high in fiber to keep your digestive system healthy. On top of that, it is one of the best protein sources among vegetables.

health benefits of spinach

Kale

It’s been a trend for the last few years for great reasons. Kale is powerful in detoxifying the body, improving your immune system and lowering the risk of cancer. It also is anti-inflammatory, which is great for weight loss.

Additionally, it has high water content, making you feel full faster, with lower caloric intake, so you are less prone to overeat.

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