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Bean Dip or Spread

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 cups cooked pinto beans

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 cup cooked green onions with tops

1/8 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried dill weed (optional)

1 or more drops liquid hot sauce, to taste

 

Drain beans and save 2 tablespoons of the liquid.  Mash beans until almost smooth.  Use a pastry blender, fork, electric blender, or food processor.  Add saved bean liquid, oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oinion.  Stir until well blended.  Season with pepper, dill weed, and hot sauce.  Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Makes 8 servings: One serving: 3 tablespoons.*One serving contains: 124 calories; 0 mg cholesterol; 250 mg sodium; 18 g carbohydrates; 5 g protein;  4 g fat or 27% of total calories.

 

To Vary: Use black beans, navy beans, or garbanzo beans (chick peas) in place of the pinto beans.  If using canned beans, pour the beans in a strainer, rinse with cold water, and drain thoroughly.  This will reduce the sodium content in canned beans.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Egg Safety

Easter eggs in nest on grunge wooden background

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Easter is just a few weeks away, and many children will find colored eggs nestled side by side with chocolate bunnies in cheerful baskets or lurking in hiding places awaiting to be discovered.  Always handle eggs properly to prevent foodborne illness.  Consider the following when planning on buying eggs for dyeing and for keeping a few days before Easter.

 What should you consider when purchasing eggs?

Always buy eggs from a refrigerated case. Choose eggs with clean, uncracked shells. Don’t buy out of date eggs. The USDA grade shield on the carton means that the eggs were graded for quality and checked for weight under the supervision of a trained USDA grader. State agencies monitor compliance for egg packers who do not use the USDA grading service.

What does the date on the egg carton mean?

Egg cartons with the USDA grade mark must display a “Julian date”*, the date the eggs were packed. Although not required, they may also carry an expiration date beyond which the eggs should not be sold, but are still safe to eat. On cartons with the USDA grade mark, this date cannot exceed 30 days after the eggs were packed in the carton. Depending on the retailer, the expiration date may be less than 30 days. Eggs packed in cartons without the USDA grade mark are governed by the laws of their states.

How should eggs be refrigerated?

Refrigerate raw shell eggs in their cartons on the middle or lower inside shelf, not on the door, and away from any meat that might drip juices or any raw produce that might contact eggshells. Cover or wrap well any egg mixtures or leftover cooked egg dishes. For all perishable foods, including eggs and dishes containing eggs, allow no more than 2 hours at room temperature for preparation and serving, 30 minutes to 1 hour when it’s 85°F or hotter without refrigeration.

How long are eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

Raw eggs maintain their freshness for 4-5 weeks after purchase if kept refrigerated continuously.

How long are hard cooked eggs that have been refrigerated, safe to eat?

A hard cooked egg, if keep in its shell, can be safely refrigerated for up to one week.

I just realized I left the egg carton on the kitchen counter overnight. Are the eggs safe to use?

Temperature fluctuation is critical to safety. After eggs are refrigerated, it is important that they stay that way. A cold egg left out at room temperature can sweat, facilitating the growth of bacteria. Refrigerated eggs should not be left out more than 2 hours.

COOKING WITH EGGS

What is an adequate temperature to cook an egg?

Eggs you serve immediately at home need to be cooked to 145 degrees and if serving in a serving line in a commercial kitchen they must reach 155 degrees.  Please do not use raw eggs unless they are pasteurized in homemade ice cream because people can become infected with salmonella from raw eggs.  Mix the eggs with a little milk and sugar and heat quickly to 160 degrees to a custard state and then cool down and mix with your other ingredients when making homemade ice cream if you like that rich taste eggs give it.

How does Salmonella infect eggs?

Salmonella bacteria are found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and humans. Salmonella may be found on the outside of the egg shell before the egg is washed or it may be found inside the egg if the hen was infected. It is estimated that one egg in 20,000 eggs may contain Salmonella  Eggs contain natural antimicrobial substances in the egg white, and all eggs are washed and sanitized before they are packed. Egg recipes properly prepared in individual servings and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. Inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking are all factors that have contributed to disease outbreaks. Salmonella is destroyed by heat. Eggs that have been handled and cooked properly should not cause human illness.

What usually causes salmonellosis?

Salmonellosis outbreaks are most often associated with animal foods, including chicken, eggs, pork and cheese, but have also been reported related to cantaloupe, tomatoes, alfalfa sprouts, orange juice and cereal among other foods. Human carriers play a big role in transmitting some types of salmonellosis. Salmonella bacteria can easily spread from one food to another and from  foodhandler to food if improper handwashing  is practiced.

The majority of reported salmonellosis outbreaks involving eggs or egg-containing foods have occurred in food service kitchens and were the result of inadequate refrigeration, improper handling and insufficient cooking. If not properly handled, Salmonella bacteria can double every 20 minutes and a single bacterium can multiply into more than a million in six hours. Properly prepared egg recipes served in individual portions and promptly eaten are rarely a problem. You can ensure that your eggs will maintain their high quality and safety by using good hygiene, cooking, refrigeration and handling practices.

Are eggs the only source of Salmonella bacteria?

No. Salmonella bacteria are widely found in nature and easily spread. The bacteria can be found in the intestinal tracts of animals, birds, reptiles, insects and people. While the egg itself may not be contaminated when you buy it, it can become contaminated from various sources, such as hands, pets, other foods and kitchen equipment, too.

When dyeing eggs for Easter, be careful not to crack them because bacteria can enter the eggs through the cracks.  Use food-grade dyes, such as commercial egg dyes, liquid food coloring or fruit drink powders.  Hard-cooked eggs should not sit out unrefrigerated for more than 2 hours.  Keep eggs refrigerated until you put them into Easter baskets.  Store eggs on a shelf inside the refrigerator rather than on the refrigerator door so they stay fully chilled.

A really good idea, if the kids plan to eat their eggs is not to use the hard cooked eggs for hiding but replace with plastic eggs and save the hard cooked one for them to eat later. If eggs are cracked or broken during the hunt, children may be disappointed when you have to throw them away.  Therefore, it is better to keep the hard cooked eggs refrigerated until the hunt.  Then, all can sit down and enjoy a safe Easter egg feast.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

March is National Nutrition Month

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AUBURN, Alabama—National Nutrition Month® is a nutrition education and information campaign created annually in March by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. The campaign focuses on the importance of making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits.

Go Further With Food

“Go Further with Food” is the theme for 2018. Its importance is timely for many reasons. Whether you start the day off with a healthy breakfast or fuel before an athletic event, the foods you choose can make a difference. Preparing foods to go further at home can have a positive impact. Nutrition experts can also help people adopt healthier eating styles and reduce food loss and waste.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has sponsored National Nutrition Month since 1973. Each year it encourages consumers to eat better and to exercise more frequently to improve or maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Keys to Healthy Eating

The Academy says, variety, balance and moderation are the three keys to healthy eating.

No one food group can supply all the nutrients a body needs. Eating a variety of foods from several of the food groups to meet your nutritional needs each day is important.

“Most Americans eat way too much food,” said Tera Glenn, a regional agent in human nutrition, diet and health with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. The average portion size for most people equals two or three servings per meal instead of the recommended serving size.

Glen says appropriate portion sizes range from 1/3 cup to one cup, depending on the food and sometimes how it is cooked. If you don’t have a measuring cup to measure the food, use these tips as a quick reference:

  • 3 ounces (one serving) of meat, poultry or fish is about the size of a deck of playing cards or the palm of a woman’s hand.
  • One serving (1 ounce) of cheese is equal to one thin slice of prepackaged cheese or a chunk about the size of your thumb.
  • One serving of chopped green salad is a small handful of greens. A balanced diet, set up with the appropriate number of daily calories for your activity level, age and size, includes appropriate servings from each food group.

Eat in Moderation

What and how you eat may help you lose or maintain weight. Proper nutrition may help protect you from health problems later in life. It also allows you more flexibility in your food choices.

Contact your county Extension office for more information on National Nutrition Month.

 

Photo by Chinnapong/shutterstock.com.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Valentine’s Day Desserts

Baking background with a heart of flour on a wooden table with kitchen utensils, rolling pin and a red and white checkered tablecloth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strawberry Cheesecake

Butter-flavored vegetable cooking spray

1  10-ounce package frozen sliced strawberries

1  3-ounce package strawberry-flavored gelatin

1  cup 1% lowfat cottage cheese

1/2 cup nonfat sour cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar (optional)

2 teaspoons lemon juice

1 or more drops red food coloring (optional)

2 kiwifruits (optional)

Directions

Lightly coat a 7-inch spring form pan or deep 8-inch pie pan with cooking spray.  Thaw and thoroughly drain the strawberries, saving liquid.  Add water, if necessary, to make 1 cup of liquid.  Heat strawberry liquid to almost boiling.  Add gelatin and stir until dissolved.  Cool some.  Beat cottage cheese until smooth.  When gelatin is cool, but not firm, combine it in a large bowl with cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, and lemon juice.  Beat until it is smooth and beginning to be fluffy.  Fold drained strawberries and food coloring into gelatin mixture by cutting a spoon through strawberries and gelatin and turning gelatin over strawberries.  Continue doing this until the strawberries are well distributed and color is even.  Don’t mix too much.  Pour into pan, cover, and chill 10 to 12 hours.  To serve, cut cake into 2-inch wedges; garnish with sliced kiwi.

Makes 12 servings.  One serving: 1 wedge 

*One serving contains: 62 calories; -1 mg cholesterol; 94 mg sodium; 12 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; -1 g fat or 4% of total calories.

Note: To reduce calories, use sugar-free strawberry gelatin.

 

Strawberry Shortcake 

3 cups clean, sliced strawberries

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons baking powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons sugar

1/4 cup corn-oil margarine

1/2 cup cold skim milk

1/4 cup ice water

Butter-flavor vegetable cooking spray

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 pint heavy whipping cream

2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar

Directions

Sprinkle strawberries with 1/3 cup sugar and toss lightly.  Cover and refigerate until needed.  Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and 4 teaspoons sugar in a large bowl and stir until evenly mixed.  Add maragine and cut it into the flour mixture with a pastry blender or fork.  Or, you can use two knives, cutting on opposite directions.  Continue doing this until the mixture looks like coarse meal.  In a small bowl, combine milk and water and mix.  Add milk mixture all at once to the flour mixture.  Stir vigorously until dry ingredients are moistened and the mixture thickens.  Generously coat a baking sheet with cooking spray.  Drop dough by tablespoons onto sheet.  Lightly flour hands and pat dough into 12 shortcakes of uniform size and thickness.  Sprinkle a little sugar on top of each shortcake, using about 1/4 teaspoon on each.  Bake at 425’F. for 10 to 12 minutes.  Serve shortcake warm or cool.  When ready to serve, beat cream until almost thick.  Add confectioners’ sugar and continue beating until stiff.  Place shortcake on serving dish.  With a fork, split each shortcake and lift the top half, as you would a biscuit.  Cover bottom half with sliced strawberries and replace top.  Add more strawberries and whipped cream.

Makes 12 servings.  One serving: 1 shortcake.

*One serving contains: 229 calories; 27 mg cholesterol; 192 mg sodium; 29 g carbohydrates; 3 g protein; 11 g fat or 44% of total calories.  

Note: To make one large shortcake, press dough evenly into a 9-inch round or 8-inch square cake pan lightly coated with cooking spray.  Bake at 425’F. for 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Cool on a metal rack 5 minutes and then remove from pan.  Split carefully and fill same as individual shortcakes.  

Strawberry Shortcake (Reduced Calories, Cholesterol, And Fat.) Follow recipe for strawberry shortcake but use 2 cups of lowfat vanilla yogurt in place of 1/2 pint whipping cream.  Stir confectioners’ sugar into yogurt.  This will reduce calories to 185; cholesterol to 3 g; and fat to 5 g or 22% of total calories.

Find these recipes and more in the Auburn Cookbook.

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

 

 

Teatime Tassies

A high angle close up shot of several pecan mini tarts sitting on one of great grandma's 1800's vintage French cooling rack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Try this wonderful recipe for the holidays!

 

1 (3 oz.) pkg. cream cheese                                 1 egg

1 stick margarine, softened                                1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup all-purpose flour                                        1/2 cup pecans, chopped

1 cup brown sugar

 

Cream together cream cheese and margarine.  Using  a spoon, stir in flour to make soft dough and roll into 24 balls, about the size of walnuts.  Using a small cup muffin tin, press each ball into cups and chill one hour.  Meanwhile, beat together sugar, egg, and vanilla until frothy.  Stir in nuts.  Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full.  Bake in a preheated 300′ F. oven for 25 to 30 minutes.

Yield:  24 tassies

 

Source: Mrs.  Laura Rogers’ St.  Clair County High School Home Economics Class.  (I’ve made lots of these since high school-so esay and absolutely delicious!  A must for the holidays!)

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Football Season and Tailgating Parties

Hot wings, nachos, pigs in a blanket, beer, and popcorn, a tailgate party spread.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the arrival of fall comes football season. What’s more fun than gathering with friends for a tailgating party?

However, don’t let cooler weather fool you into thinking you don’t need to consider the possibility of food-borne bacteria spoiling your party. Be proactive and follow a few simple procedures for safe food handling – then you’ll be sure to go home healthy from a fun day with friends.

* Before, during and after preparing your food, be sure you wash your hands, lathering them with warm soap and scrubbing for a full 20 seconds. Set up a large drink container with a spigot as your water source.

* Include moist towelettes or hand sanitizer for guests to use.

* Keep two separate insulated coolers: one for drinks and one for food. This will keep your food well chilled since the drink cooler is likely to be opened more frequently. Place coolers in the shade and cover them with blankets to help hold in the cold temperature.

* Place cold and frozen foods into coolers. Don’t assume your cooler can chill foods adequately if the food is at room temperature prior to packing.

* Pack foods in reverse order so that the last ones packed will be the first ones used, allowing food at the bottom to stay chilled longer.

* Meat and other similar raw foods should be packed in sealed plastic bags or containers in a chilled, insulated cooler. This will prevent contamination of other foods from leaking juices. Store raw foods separately from ready-to-eat foods.

* Take meat out of the cooler just in time to place on the grill. Never place cooked meat, fish or poultry back in the container that the raw meat, fish or poultry was in. Use a clean pair of tongs and a clean plastic plate or platter when removing the cooked items from the grill. When marinating meat, fish or poultry, discard the leftover marinade after you place the items on the grill. Never use this marinade on the cooked item.

* Use a meat thermometer to judge the safe internal temperature of meat and poultry over 2 inches thick (145F or higher for steaks and chops and 155F for ground meat, 165F or higher for poultry). For meat or poultry less than 2 inches thick, look for clear juices as signs of being done.

* Use separate cutting boards to prevent cross contamination of raw and cooked foods. Wipe them clean with paper towels at the barbecue and toss them in your dishwasher to sanitize when you return home.

* Perishable foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, sandwiches with mayonnaise and salads should not be kept at temperatures above 40F for more than two hours. When the outside temperature is 90F or higher, food should be left out for no longer than one hour.

* If deli or takeout foods such as fried chicken, potato salad or coleslaw are on the menu, make sure they are eaten within two hours of pickup.

* Hot food should be kept at 140F or hotter until served. Try wrapping your hot casserole or other item in several layers of aluminum wrap, followed by newspapers and a towel.

* Cover all food with plastic wrap, aluminum foil or lids, or keep foods and supplies in their original packaging to prevent contamination.

* If you’re not sure if food is still safe to eat, resort to the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.”

 

Shelby County Regional Extension Agent Food Safety and Quality:

Angela Treadaway

Office: 205-669-6763

Mobile: 205-410-3696

Email: treadas@aces.edu

 

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

 

Spice up your child’s lunchbox with these quick but healthy food options

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Most parents want to provide healthy food options when packing lunches for their kids, but often fail to realize which nutritious ingredients they are leaving out.(Photo, right: Pexels)

Surprisingly, it does not take an Iron Chef to pack a yummy and nutritious lunch. However, it does take parents who are knowledgeable about the food they are buying and parents who are willing to try new and creative recipes. Teresa Forehand, a regional Extension agent in human nutrition, diet and health, recommends five tips for busy parents to use when packing healthy food options.

Sneak in Vegetables

Parents should always include vegetables in lunches. According to Forehand, they can do this in creative ways that children may not even realize. “Hide veggies in anything from guacamole for sandwich spreads to muffins with carrots or zucchini baked into them,” Forehand said.

Convenience

“I buy pre-sliced apple wedges for convenience,” Forehand said. “Also, a banana cut in half with the end dipped in Splenda or dry Koolaid is a hit.” These simple tips help save parents time in the morning while still offering creativity. Michelle Floyd, mother of 6-year-old twins, said, “I like to make fruit and vegetable dip on Sunday nights, that way I can quickly add them to my girl’s lunches during the week.”

Alternatives

Some parents believe that packing bags of chips in lunches is too easy to pass up, but according to Forehand, not all chips have to be unhealthy. Parents should opt for a whole grain alternative like Sun Chips. “Veggie chips are crunchy and delicious,” Forehand said. “Cookies are a nice treat but choose whole grain options such as oatmeal.”

Know Your Child

It is important to know what portion size your child will need when packing healthy food options. “One slice of bread is a serving for a preschooler but not for elementary school children,” Forehand said. “Usually 2 ounces of protein, 4 ounces of juice, 8 ounces of fluid milk or yogurt are proper serving sizes.” She also suggests that parents look for artificial coloring that can be added into ingredient lists. These ingredients can be problematic for children with ADHD. For example, the ingredient label will list red #40 or yellow #5.

Be Creative

“Wraps are easy and fun,” Forehand said. She also encourages getting creative with the fillings you put in your wraps. “Ham and cream cheese or taco meat and guacamole or turkey and Swiss are good, but use whole grain tortillas.” Most of the time you can be creative with ingredients you already have, it just takes a little bit of time and imagination. Anna Weeks, a nanny for three kids, says her favorite way to get creative with them is to make a healthy snack called ants on a log. “Since my kids are picky eaters, we like to mix things up at snack time,” Weeks said. “We usually make a treat called ants on a log, where we take a banana and put peanut butter and raisins on top.”

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Elder Fraud & Identity Theft Workshop: Monday, August 7, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday,
August 7, 2017
1:30 p.m.-2:30 p.m.

Location:
Shelby County Extension
56 Kelly Lane
Columbiana, AL 35051

To Register Call:
Emily Hines, REA
205-757-5393

Emily Hines
Regional Extension Agent
Family Resource Management & Workforce Development
205.757.5393

 

Meeting Agenda

Elder Fraud (30-60 min.)
 Learn what elder fraud is,
 how to recognize financial scams
 and what you can do to defend yourself.

Identity Theft: (30-60 min.)
 Learn what identity theft is,
 how identity theft happens, and
 how you can deter, detect, and defend yourself from identity theft

 

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M University and Auburn University) is an equal opportunity educator and employer.
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Blood Pressure: What’s Your Number?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Approximately 75 million people in the United States have high blood pressure. This means one out of every three people is impacted by this disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, heart failure and other heath concerns. These illnesses contribute to approximately 1,000 deaths each day in the United States alone.

These staggering numbers  explain why the CDC organized a campaign to raise awareness about the negative impact high blood pressure can have on your health.

May: High Blood Pressure Awareness Month

Each year during the month of May, the CDC joins forces with other health agencies to educate communities about the risk factors associated with high blood pressure.

One of the most important aspects of this campaign is to educate citizens on their responsibility to know and understand their individual blood pressure reading. This combined effort aims to combat the effects of this disease and ultimately save lives.

The Silent Killer

Donna Shanklin, an agent with Alabama Cooperative Extension, explained that high blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it has no obvious symptoms until it is too late.

“The best way to protect yourself is to know and understand your blood pressure reading,” said Shanklin.

It is important to realize that high blood pressure can affect the young and old alike. Hayden Alford, a speech therapist, was diagnosed with high blood pressure at 27.

“While having a routine health screening, I was diagnosed with high blood pressure,” said Alford. “I had not experienced any symptoms and was caught completely off guard with my diagnosis.

“I now take medicine every day and with the advice of my doctor, I have made a few lifestyle changes that seem to help me manage this disease.”

Shanklin pointed out getting a blood pressure is easy and quick.

“Health care workers check blood pressure readings the same way for children, teens, and adults,” she said. “They use a gauge, stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff.

“Even so, more than 20 percent of people with high pressure don’t even know they have it.”

The Basics

To better understand why blood pressure is a good indicator of cardiovascular health, let’s start with the basics. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute defines high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as a common disease in which blood flows through the arteries at a higher than normal pressure. Knowing and understanding the numbers associated with high blood pressure, as well as other risk factors, plays a critical role in the diagnosis, treatment and maintenance of this disease.

According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure reading has a top number between 90 to 100 and a bottom number that is between 60 to 80. Shanklin stresses, “high blood pressure or hypertension puts your health and quality of life in danger. Left uncontrolled or undetected, high blood pressure can lead to other health issues.”

Shanklin suggests using a chart like the one below from the American Heart Association as a guide to understanding how to interpret your reading.

Be Smart With Your Heart

National Blood Pressure Month serves as an important reminder that awareness is the key to understanding and managing this important aspect of our health.

For additional information on high blood pressure and activities sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,  visit the following links:

 Featured Image by Rob Marmion/Shutterstock.com

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!

Gluten-Free Lifestyle: Is it Good for our Health?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nowadays, you can’t go anywhere without hearing the words gluten-free. You may feel pressured to jump on the bandwagon diet that celebrities endorse.

Every grocery store, restaurant and many convenient stores offer a variety of gluten-free options to satisfy the growing popularity of this lifestyle. To understand what all the buzz is about, Dr. Onikia Brown, an Alabama Extension nutrition specialist, offers her insight and expertise on gluten-free living.

What is Gluten?

“Gluten refers to two proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt: gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects,” said Brown. “Gluten is found in many foods, not just those grains because it helps to develop a chewy, satisfying texture.”

Most people tolerate gluten in their diet, but those who have Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy, will not be able to digest it properly.

“About 1 percent of the population has Celiac disease. People who have this disease have an autoimmune response to gluten proteins, where their immune system attacks the lining of the small intestine,” said Brown. Common symptoms include bloating, headache, joint pain and fatigue.

“A simple blood test that looks for the tTG-IgA antibody and a biopsy of the small intestine can determine if someone has Celiac disease,” added Brown.

“Less is known about gluten sensitivity, which affects as many as 6 percent of the population,” said Brown. Some experts believe gluten is not the cause of this condition, but rather FODMAPs. These are “short-chain carbohydrates found in many foods, including wheat, some fruits and vegetables, which can cause various digestive symptoms,” said Brown.

Foods to Eat and Avoid

Most everyone thinks that a gluten-free diet will help you lose weight. This is because foods that contain gluten have ingredients including added sugars, fats and preservatives. These ingredients are found in pizza, beer, desserts and snack foods, but there are also many high calorie gluten-free processed foods. Brown said it is important to read and understand food labels to make informed decisions about food choices.

Gluten-free foods to include in your diet are fresh fruits and vegetables, eggs, beans, lentils, peanuts, seeds, tree nuts and fresh fish. Avoid licorice, foods that contain modified starch, matzo, imitation fish, soy sauce, bouillon cubes and brown rice syrup.

“The health of the gut bacteria directly impacts overall well-being,” said Brown.

The Alabama Cooperative Extension System (Alabama A&M and Auburn Universities), is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Everyone is welcome!