Dangers of gluten-free diet

Is gluten-free menu a good solution for you?

Gluten-free diet is a must for people with coeliac disease which is a serious immune disorder. The consumed gluten causes a gut reaction which prevents the nutrients’ absorption and it causes the symptoms of nausea, diarrhoea and bloating. This disease affects only 1 in 100 people around the world.

Pastas, noodles, bread and pastries, crackers, baked goods, cereals and granola, sources and gravies, beer, brewer’s yeast, etc are  dangerous for people with gluten intolerance. Check the full list of gluten-containing food here.

Now as the gluten-free diet has become trendy, you can find gluten-free products in every supermarket and it is believed by many people who don’t have the coelic disease condition that it is a good option for a healthy way of life.

We are going to discuss if this belief is really true.

Peter Green, the director of the Celiac Disease Centre at Colombia University and other US nutrition and medicine experts believe that avoiding barley, wheat and rye in the daily diet may bring more damage than benefits. It is actually thought that gluten-free menu isn’t a very healthy diet for several reasons.

All the non-gluten-containing grains are not fortified whereas wheat flour is fortified with iron, folic acids and vitamins B. This way, it is not very unusual for a person who goes for the gluten-free diet to be iron or folate-deficient.

Also as it turns out that people who follow a gluten-free diet have increased levels of heavy metals (lead, mercury and arsenic) and it becomes the result of consuming the big amount of rice as rice seems to absorb all these heavy metals from the ground at a higher rate than other grains.

Besides this diet is low in fiber and high in fat and sugar and it can be potentially dangerous for the weight gain and high level of cholesterol.

Furthermore, potentially it is not the best medium for microbiota – bacteria which live in guts and play an important role not just in digesting food, but also in strengthening the immunity.

This way, it is advised to any person with a gluten-free life style to use only organic rice and folate and iron supplements in order to prevent the possible deficiencies and to be under the supervision of an experienced dietitician.


Pescetarian diet – pros and cons?

Lately I have realized that I subconsciously avoid any food with meat and I prefer eating fish or seafood.

As I have continued following the pescetarian life-style, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing anything important, so I made a research about pescetarian diet and its pros and cons.

Who is a pescetarian?

The word “pescetarian” is a mixture of the “pesce” (“fish” in Italian) + tarian (short for “vegetarian”).

Sometimes you will find this term written as “pescatarian”.

A pescetarian is a person who mostly follows a vegetarian diet but also adds fish and seafood to it.

Even though the red meat is a source of iron, protein and other vitamins, many people associate the red meat consumption with the higher risk of the development of cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. Besides red meat is quite heavy for the stomach to digest it.
Chicken meat is easy to digest, but it is healthy only if we talk of organic stock. It can be even dangerous to eat non-organic chicken because of the hormone levels and other nasties injected in the meat.
Anyway, most of people I know refuse from eating meat because of ethical reasons as they are against slaughtering animals for food.

At the same time many people find a vegan or a vegetarian diet too limited or too strict (for example, vegan and vegetarians can lack Vitamin B12, proteins, zinc, etc), this way pescetarian life-style is a very good option for them.

Why is being a pescetarian beneficial for you?

There is one very important advantage in adding fish to your daily menu.

It is a very rich source of Omega 3 fatty acids. These fatty acids are very important for the healthy eye sight and nervous system.

They act as the anti-inflammatory agents in your body fighting with chronic diseases such as arthritis, and they also make your skin and hair look healthy.

Fish is a natural source of protein which you might be afraid to lose if you refuse from meat products and besides the fish protein is easily digested by the human’s body.

Omega 3 fatty acids defend your brain from Alzheimer’s disease as the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) decreases the chances of developing dementia lately.

The vitamin D contained in fish will help you to fight with the early signs of depression.

Cons of being a pescetarian.

The cons are connected not with the fish meat itself, but with the chemical composition of the certain fish meat.
Some fish meat contains the high mercury amount and once this mercury gets accumulated in your body, it can cause irreversible changes to your nervous system, so it is very important to choose fish with the low levels of mercury.

Please strictly AVOID using this kind of fish for your pescetarian menu: tuna (ahi, albacore, bigeye, yellowfin), shark, mackarel (king, spanish, gulf), tilefish, orange roughy, swordfish, marlin, grouper, sea bass, bluefish.

Feel SAFE to add this fish and sea-food to your pescetarian menu: salmon, herring, crab, crawfish, catfish, clam, butterfish, anchovies, croaker, flounder, mackarel (atlantic, chub), oysters, pollock, perch, trout (rainbow, freshwater), sardines, shrimps and scallops, telapia, squid, mullet.

Please check the full list composed by the US Drug and Food Administration for the high and low level mercury fish here.

Pregnant women should be specially careful with the choice of fish as the high mercury level can lead to the delays in the fetus development.

If you are pregnant and consider to be a pescetarian, please check the following advice from the US Drug and Food Administration here.



What are eco-testers good for? How to protect ourselves from food with high nitrate content?

Today I want to discuss an important topic with you – How to protect yourself from food with the high content of nitrates.
I have recently moved to Cyprus and here I like to get my fruits and vegetables directly from farmers, who assure me that their products are fully organic, free of nitrates, etc.

Yes, they really taste much nicer than the supermarket stuff and they have rich smell.

However, I started to ask myself a question if I’m really making a safe choice and how healthy are these fresh fruit and vegetables I get every day?

It is common knowledge that different chemicals, fertilizers and pesticides are used for growing fruits and vegetables. The increased concentration of fertilizers in the soil can lead to the severe damage of your health. Out of all chemicals nitrates are the most harmful and if they are consumed by you daily, it can be bad news for your organism and will bring to developing serious diseases.

What are nitrates? 

Nitrates are nitric acid (HNO3) compounds which plants (fruits, vegetables) extract from the soil. Nitrates are harmless by themselves, but as soon as they get into our bodies, they are transformed into the poisonous nitrites.

Nitrates are specially dangerous for children.

Example of diseases caused by the high level of nitrates:

I think all of you know personally people who got food intoxication after consuming watermelons, cucumbers and mushrooms. Apart from the food intoxication, vomiting and diarrhea, the high level of nitrates can lead to such serious diseases as:

  • Methemoglobinemia (baby blue syndrome). It is blood disorder at which the insufficient level of oxygen is delivered to the cells. Usually hemoglobin carries oxygen through your blood, but in case of methemoglobinemia, the specific type of hemoglobin (called methemoglobin) is produced by your body. Methemoglobin carries the oxygen through your bloodstream, but it doesn’t bring it to the cells. If produced in excessive quantities methemoglobin starts replacing your normal hemoglobine which leads to hypoxia and its consequences such as headache, nausea, shortness of breath, rapid heart rate and fatigue. Even loss of consciousness in the most severe cases.
  • Cancer. After being consumed nitrates are converted to nitrites. After the reaction with natural and synthetic compounds nitrites produce N-Nitroso compounds, many of which are in fact, carcinogenic.
  • Birth Defects. It is possible that nitrites and N-Nitroso compounds are connected with birth defects.
  • Disruption of thyroid function.

So are we being exposed to dangerous chemicals while buying our fruits and vegetables from farmers? Unfortunately, the control over nitrate levels in fresh fruits and vegetables is neglected in most places. It is not a secret that many farmers use too much fertilizers and this will result in the dangerous level of the nitrate content in fruits and vegetables produced by them.

Is there a way to protect ourselves? 

Yes, there is. There are special devices called nitrate testers, eco-testers or green-testers. They are small and portable. They are meant to quickly determine the level of nitrates in fruits and vegetables you are about to buy.

Eco-testers are suitable for farmers, distributors, shop owners, restaurant owners, in fact, for all those people who want to protect their own health and the health of their customers/consumers.
In just three seconds you can make the decision whether you have made the right choice about the food you are going to get.

What are the dangers of green-testers?

You can become obsessed with measuring whatever food you are getting 🙂 Like I ended up doing )))
Apart from this humorous remark, there are no other dangers, only profits. And yes, don’t forget to wash your eco-tester probe after every use.



Lose and gain weight at the same time!

Have you heard of food which makes you gain weight and lose weight at the same time?
Sounds perplexing, doesn’t it? We will try to understand together how it works. Let’s take nuts (hazelnuts, cashews, almonds etc), bananas, bee pollen, avocado as examples.
Let’s fist understand how much calories they contain. I used the Program called Fitness Pal and Fat Secret as a reference.
Hazelnuts – 628 calories per 100 gr. There are about 90 calories in 10 pieces. Out of them: fat – 81% fat, carbs – 11%, protein – 8%.

2) Cashews – 553 calories per 100 gr. There are about 85 calories in 10 pieces. Out of which: fat – 66%, carbs – 22%, protein – 12%.

3) Almonds – 576 calories per 100 gr. There are about 69 calories in 10 pcs. Out of which: fat – 73%, carbs – 14%, protein – 13%.

4) Bananas – 89 calories in 100 grams. One medium banana contains 105 calories. Out of which: fat – 3% fat, carbs – 92%, protein – 5%

5) Bee pollen – 16 calories in 1 teaspoon. Out of which: fat -14%, carbs – 55%, protein – 31%.

6) Avocado – 160 calories per 100 grams. One medium avocado contains 322 calories. Out of which: fat – 77%, carbs – 19%, protein – 4% protein.

As we can see hazelnuts, cashews, almonds and avocados are rich in general amount of calories and in fat.

Bananas and bee pollen are rich in carbonates. So potentially they can never be used for weight loss, but it is not as simple as that.

The thing is that any of that products above can replace you one snack during a day at a lower amount of calories than your usual meal.

For example, if you have nuts or bananas or avocado instead of your snacks, it will eventually lead you to the weight loss.

If you add all that on the top of your usual meals of snacks without cutting the portions, it will increase you weight.

Here I want to come back to bee pollen. In my opinion, it is very difficult to use it instead of your snacks, so most probably you will add it to your food (yogurt, milk or smoothie). However, in comparison with other foods it doesn’t contain many calories at all, while providing you with many nutritional elements for your daily menu and fastens your metabolism. So most probably you will not start gaining weight consuming bee-pollen, but you will start losing it instead.

I hope I helped you to clear your mind about products which promise you to gain and lose weight 🙂


Is “organic” fish another myth?

Organic fish – is there such thing?

In my previous blog post I have already discussed with my readers what “organic” really means. If you have missed this article, click here.
If we talk of organic chicken, it is easy! Organic chicken means that the chicken was fed with organic food (food grown without pesticides and other harmful substances), it was grown without antibiotics and growth hormones and had the relative freedom of movement.

What about fish? Can we really be sure that the fish we are eating is organic and if it can fit our organic food menu?

Let’s get into details.

The New Zealand and Alaskan wild salmon are the most expensive fish in the salmon market as they grow in the cleanest and pristine environment, far from the industrial pollution.

This is definitely the healthiest option we can find on the market, but as we don’t really control the fish environment and the food they eat, we can not label them as organic.

Fish dealers and farmers are trying hard to catch up with the organic market as it brings millions of profit. However, we can not call the farmed carnivorous fish “organic” because of one simple reason – they prey on small fish which may be not organic.

So in order to farm really organic fish, farms need to control the quality of water as well as the food supply as well. So in order to grow organic carnivorous fish, farmers will also need to grow organic small fish to feed the farmed carnivorous fish with. And it is a very complicated infrastructure!

Nowadays about 50 percents of the world’s consumed fish are grown in aquafarms. And most grown species are carnivorous. I have come across an interesting article about whether the carnivorous fish can be made vegetarian in order to fit the “organic” label.

Are there any fish farms (aquafarms) certified as organic?

In Europe there are strict rules which farms must meet in order to be considered organic. You can get more information on the regulations here.

The main organic aquafarms are located in the UK, Ireland, France, Greece and Germany.

In Europe the ECOFISH project develops a guide to help to conventional fish farms switch to organic ones.

However, USDA does not certify any organic aquaculture production at the moment. The USDA National Organic Program (NOP) is just in the process of creating standards of organic practice for aquaculture.

As we can see there is still much of improvement to be introduced so that we could have really organic fish on our tables.

Nevertheless, don’t be upset to discover that your fish oil supplements are not 100% organic.  I personally go for brands which offer the fish oil from wild Alaskan salmon and krill oil from Antarctica as they are more ecologically safe. You can check the fish and krill oil supplements I recommend personally here.