Gluten Free is it for me?

By Jessica Bombace, Recent ASU Nutrition Student 

Have you ever went food shopping and saw a gluten-free product, thought to yourself “oh this is healthier!” buy it and didn’t even know what gluten is?

Well if you have, you are not alone, I will be honest I am guilty of this situation if not once a couple of times.

So let’s clear the air on what is this gluten we speak of!

  • Gluten is basically a protein that can be found in wheat, barley and rye products.

I was guilty of buying gluten-free products thinking they were healthier alternatives but didn’t know what gluten was. This happened before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease earlier this year. This has dramatically changed my lifestyle in every way I eat. Not only do I have to change products at home but also going out to eat has changed for me.


Following the gluten-free diet and not having any intolerance towards gluten or have celiac disease has become pretty popular lately.  To be exact, the years from 2011-2016 sales in gluten-free products have significantly increased 116% (2). While sales increase 116% within 5 years, according to the Food & Function Journal, people in the US with celiac disease are .71%. The real question that keeps popping in my head is, “Does someone without any health conditions towards gluten even benefit from a gluten-free diet and is it healthier?


A study was conducted on campus in Phoenix, Arizona this year to compare glycemic levels between people who consumed gluten-free pasta versus traditional pasta (2). This study was considered to be a double-blind randomized crossover trial (2). At first, the study had 16 participants that volunteered (2). Before the study was conducted 2 people withdrew and halfway through the study another person withdrew (2). That left the study 13 subjects to figure out the difference between gluten-free pasta versus traditional wheat pasta (2). The 13 people’s ages ranged from 19-55 years old with three people being obese (2). All of these adults were considered healthy; people with prior health conditions were not accepted (2).  Meals in the study consisted of 80g of dry elbow pasta in salted water, with 4 TBS of butter, ½ cup of 2% milk and 20 g Kraft processed cheese sauce. People who ate gluten-free pasta there was 3 different kinds of gluten-free pasta ( brown rice pasta, rice and corn pasta, and corn & quinoa). Blood insulin was measured in venous blood and portable glucose check monitor measured capillary blood glucose.

Results: Glucose scores for gluten-free diet pasta were 14%, 18% and 47% above traditional wheat pasta (2).


Misinformed people think that following a gluten-free diet is healthier but the study shows a gluten-free actually raises your glucose levels significantly.


Gluten and Celiac Disease   

  • Gluten and celiac disease go hand-in-hand, not in the pleasant way but there is a relationship between them.
  • Celiac Disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine as well as interfering with the absorption of nutrient (1).
  • Not only do people with celiac disease have to avoid gluten ingredients in their food, they must also look out for gluten in medicines, lip balms and vitamins (1).
  • Celiac disease is considered an autoimmune disease. Which basically means that a process that is usually normal (person w/o autoimmune disease), someone with an autoimmune disease’s body thinks that this process is dangerous and their immune system responds by attacking (in this case) the villi (in the small intestine for nutrient absorption).
  • If villi in your intestines continue to get destroyed then it may lead to malabsorption since the villi help with nutrient absorption.



If a person with celiac disease consumes gluten they can experience the following symptoms:


Infants & children (mostly digestive symptoms)

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Pale, foul-smelling fatty stool
  • Weight loss


Adults (one or more)

  • Unexplained irony-deficiency anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Arthritis
  • Bone loss or osteoporosis
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Tingling numbness in hands or feet
  • Seizures
  • Missed menstrual periods
  • Infertility or recurrent miscarriage
  • Canker sores inside the mouth
  • Itchy skin rash called dermatitis herpetiform



Here is a sample of a gluten-free diet that I follow

“Yay” foods

  • Amaranth                  > legumes                                > soy
  • Arrowroot >nuts                                        > wild rice
  • Buckwheat >millet
  • Cassava >rice
  • Corn                        >potatoes
  • Flax > seeds


“Nay” foods

Wheat: including einkorn, emmer, spelled, Kamut



Triticale (a cross between wheat & rye)


The good news is celiac disease is very rare. If you don’t have the disease and are not sensitive to the gluten protein, you don’t need to go gluten-free. Remember, protein is very important in our diets.


I personally did not have a good doctor so I had to find a new one along with educating myself on this disease. I learned that not only is gluten found in food but also items such as toothpaste and shampoo. That really blew my mind, who would’ve known!

For more informative articles, be sure to check out the Fill Your Plate blog. New articles are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.


(1) Celiac disease. (2008). National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Retrieved from


(2) Johnston, C. S., Snyder, D., & Smith, C. (2017). Commercially available gluten-free pasta elevate postprandial glycemia in comparison to conventional wheat pasta in healthy adults: a double-blind randomized crossover trial. Food Funct8(9), 3139-3144. doi:10.1039/c7fo00099e



[photograph]. (2016). Retrieved from

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The Benefits of Electrolytes

By Emily Carver, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

It’s summer and that means more and more time spent outside. Warmer weather brings about such happiness as children flood the parks, local swimming pools, and sports arenas. With extra playtime in the sun, children (and adults alike) start to get thirsty and begin looking for something to drink. What’s triggering that thirst?

Amit Bhavsar guzzles electrolytes in between completing the 500-meter swim and 11.1-mile bicycle portions of the 2011 Sprint Triathlon outside Hangar 101 on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, May 22, 2011. Bhavsar was among approximately 225 service members and local community members who gathered under a chilly, gray sky to participate in the triathlon. The event was hosted by Headquarters Battalion and Marine Corps Community Services Semper Fit division.

We all have an internal command center that keeps track of when our bodies are in need of something. When it comes to a dip in fluids, our thirst mechanism kicks in and tells us we’re thirsty. This could be because we might have had too much salt with a meal, ran around long enough to sweat profusely, or been so sick and unable to keep anything down.


When the thirst mechanism signals the thirst alarm, our body goes to work ensuring it stays protected for as long as it can. Signals to our kidneys reduce our urine flow so the water can return into our bloodstream. If whenever you’re thirsty you notice your mouth is dry, this is another indication the body is at work to protect you, as it draws water out of your mouth to your bloodstream, where it’s needed most. All of this is done to stave off dehydration. Our bodies are quite fascinating and with our body weight between 50-70% fluid, it’s clear to see how serious our bodies take a reduction in fluid.


One thing that’s important to maintain and regulate our fluids are electrolytes. They balance it by controlling the movement of fluid in and out of our cells. What are electrolytes exactly? They’re minerals like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium that balance many of our body functions.


Electrolytes are critical in enabling nerves to respond to stimuli. Sodium and potassium play a key role in making sure our nerves fire and respond completely and accurately. Interestingly enough, our muscles can be effected from low levels of electrolytes, and that’s because if our nervous system isn’t working properly, it’ll send the wrong signals to our muscle fibers which can make them contract or twitch. Because of the mixed messages, extra calcium is pumped into the muscles, and it isn’t until after they’ve contracted will the calcium be able to leave, and the muscle finally able to relax.


You can see how important it is to ensure you’re getting adequate amounts of water every day in order to help your body run efficiently and stay in balance. This is especially true when doing intense exercise in heat or high humidity because even if your thirst mechanism kicks in, it’s likely your body is needing more fluid than you think.


It can be difficult though to reach for that glass of water because water can be boring sometimes, even when it truly is the best choice for us. But there are other options in addition to plain old water that will help you stay hydrated.


Food for one. Food can often be overlooked as a source for water. In fact, cucumbers and iceberg lettuce are about 95% water. Pineapple has an 86% water content, and baked sweet potatoes have a 76% water content. Surprisingly, per the US Department of Agriculture, much of our daily water intake comes from the foods we eat.

Beyond foods, other drinks like coffee, tea, and milk can be good sources as well. For those who are active in vigorous sports or perhaps sick unable to keep anything down, those options might not be the most desired choices.


The first drink many might turn to a sports drink to replenish their nutrients, but one thing to know about sports drinks is they were and are designed for high-performance athletes. By high performance, I mean professional athletes that train 6-8 hours a day as their bodies are desperately needing hydration.


For those who do a recreational activity, sports drinks might not be the best choice. Though they contain some needed minerals, they also contain sugars and can be high in calories which can be detrimental to one’s health over time. Especially children’s health. Inappropriate drinking of sports drinks can lead to erosion of their tooth enamel due to the citric acid in the drink.


One alternative to sports drinks is coconut water. 100% pure coconut water is high in vitamins and minerals and can help with rehydration. Another option is fruit. Research is showing bananas can have the same nutrient replenishment as a sports drink.


Of course, a really great option is to make your own homemade sports drink, and it’s easier than you might think. So, next time you or someone you know is in need of extra fluids, give this recipe a chance and see if it isn’t better than anything you can buy on the shelf.


Orange Twist Sports Drink

3-4 cups water
¾ cup freshly squeezed orange juice (about 2-3 oranges)

¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ tsp sea salt or real salt

2 tbsp. raw honey or maple syrup

A few drops of concentrate mineral drops (optional)


Mix all ingredients together and store in the fridge.

This recipe and more delicious homemade sports drink recipes can be found on the Mommypotamus website.




Thompson, J., Manore, M.M., Vaughan, L.A. (2014). The Science of Nutrition. Glenview, IL. Pearson Education, Inc.

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Fill (Not Garnish) Your Plate with Green Onions

By Erika Guzman, Recent ASU Nutrition Student


Green onions. Scallions. Spring onions. All interchangeable names for the delicious fresh green onion vegetable without the overwhelming punch. The colorful green stalks that are perfect for garnish. But have you ever eaten them as a primary vegetable and not just a garnish? Why isn’t it eaten for its benefits rather than just for color or garnish?

Green onions are quite beneficial to your health besides just sprinkling on dishes for color and garnish. They contain heart-enhancing compounds full of vitamins and minerals, perfect for cardiovascular health and lowering coronary heart disease risks. For bone and blood health, a single green stalk has nearly 20mcg of vitamin K; that’s 16% of the recommended dietary allowance! As for vitamin C, there’s about 1.6 mg, or 2% RDA. In Japanese culture and health, it’s believed if you wrap a leek around your neck, it’s supposed to help fight against colds and flu because of the vitamin C and other benefits in it.

Green onions also benefit eye health. It has vitamin A, which is needed for the retinal receptors to absorb light. Another thing that seems to be overlooked is that green onions contain natural quercetin or flavonoids. Quercetin is an antioxidant, just like the antioxidants found in green tea and red wines, and it provides antihistamine and anti-inflammatory benefits when consumed.

Overall, these small vegetable packs in a punch with a number of benefits. The flavor is milder than a regular white or red onion, and it’s a nice starter for picky eaters or people who aren’t as adventurous, even if it does start off as just a garnish. Otherwise, for those who enjoy this vegetable, it’s very cheap and keeps well in the fridge in the crisper and can last about 4 to 5 weeks! So instead of using a stalk or for a boost, why not make it a side dish or a meal? Here are some recipe ideas to enjoy and get the most out of the bunch:



The Fill Your Plate website has hundreds of different recipes to choose from. Give your family a variety of options that they will love.




Delange, B. Ph.D. (2015). Vitamin A. Oregon State University. Retrieved at


Farmer Foodshare. (n.d.). Green Onions. Farmer Foodshare. Retrieved at


Fruits and veggies: more matters. (n.d.). Green Onions: Nutrition. Selection. Storage. Fruits &

Veggies, More Matters. Retrieved at


Kerns, Michelle. (n.d.). Benefits of Green Onions. SF Gate. Retrieved at


Only Foods. (n.d.). Spring Onion. Only Foods. Retrieved at


Sahul, Deepika. (2012). Health benefits of spring onions. Times of India. Retrieved at

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Fill Your Plate with Cantaloupe

By Kevann Jordan, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

As mentioned on Fill Your Plate, Arizona ranks second in the production of Cantaloupe nationwide. This beautiful melon is grown both in the spring and in the fall. With spring here, let’s talk about this incredible melon!

Cantaloupe has many nutritional benefits. Research has found that Cantaloupe can be beneficial against Cancer, asthma, metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and dehydration (just to name a few).


Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition found that diets rich in beta-carotene from plant sources, like cantaloupe, may protect against prostate cancer. Though cantaloupe comes in second to carrots on the beta-carotene scale, few people realize that Cantaloupe contains 30 times more beta-carotene than fresh oranges.


Not only is beta-carotene beneficial in warding off cancer, it has also been found that people are much less likely to develop asthma if they consume high amounts of beta-carotene.

Metabolic Syndrome:

A study involving women in Iran showed that consuming cantaloupe, due to its high levels of phytonutrients, drastically reduced their incidence of metabolic syndrome.  By lowering participant’s levels of C-reactive protein in their bloodstream, they were able to lower their inflammation levels and in turn their chances of metabolic syndrome. Cantaloupe ranked higher than many other commonly eaten fruits thought to be higher in polyphenol including kiwi, grapefruit, clementines, watermelon, and pineapple.

Macular Degeneration

Cantaloupe also contains the antioxidant zeaxanthin. Why is this rarely talked about antioxidant good for us? It has the ability to filter out harmful blue light rays, playing a role in protecting our eyes from damage from macular degeneration.

High Blood Pressure

It is now known that getting adequate potassium is almost as important as limiting one’s intake of sodium in the treatment of high blood pressure. Cantaloupe is an excellent source of potassium. In addition to being a good source of potassium, cantaloupe is also a good source of fiber and vitamin C, both of which support heart health.


Great news for us in Arizona, cantaloupe’s high water content helps ward off dehydration!

Additional great news…

Medical News Today reports that cantaloupe receives 10 rankings in our food rating system—the same number as raspberries, one more than strawberries and six more than blueberries. Cantaloupe scores an “excellent” for both vitamin C and vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids). It scores “very good” for potassium, and “good” for a host of B vitamins (B1, B3, B6, and folate) as well as vitamin K, magnesium, and fiber. When the edible seeds of the cantaloupe are eaten, this melon also provides a measurable about of omega-3 fat in the form of alpha-linolenic acid.

How to Pick a Winner!

Contrary to what Jerry Seinfeld thinks, you do not roll a cantaloupe down the aisle to find a ripe melon. Here are a few simple clues:

  1. Picking it up and feeling its weight. Does it feel fuller and heavier than you would expect it to? If so, that’s a good thing, because it’s an indication of the cantaloupe’s ripeness
  2. Press gently on the top of the cantaloupe (the stem end), it should give way very slightly
  3. The rind should be cream or yellow colored, not green or gray
  4. Ripe cantaloupe has a cantaloupe aroma-but not overpoweringly.


Quick Snack Ideas

  • In a blender or food processor, purée cantaloupe and peeled soft peaches to make delicious cold soup. Add lemon juice and honey to taste.
  • Top cantaloupe slices with yogurt and chopped mint.
  • Dry cantaloupe seeds for a healthy and crunchy snack
  • Add some sparkling water to freshly squeezed cantaloupe juice for a delightfully refreshing drink in the warm months of the year


Be sure to wash and scrub the outside surface of a cantaloupe before cutting to decrease the risk of harmful bacteria like Salmonella transferring to the flesh of the melon

Fill Your Plate offers hundreds of other recipes. If you’re looking for other articles be sure to check out the Fill Your Plate blog. New articles are posted every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Our Family Favorite

Simple Cantaloupe Granita

Serves 6


2 to 3 cups finely chopped cantaloupe

1/4 to 1/3 cup sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1 cup crushed ice


  1. Place all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a 13 x 9-inch baking dish and place the dish in the freezer for 45 minutes, or until it becomes semi-firm.
  3. Scrape the mixture with a fork and serve in champagne glasses or dessert dishes.

Provided by: Michele Borboa, MS. on

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Carbohydrates and Diabetes: What You Should Know.

By Kat Brown, Recent ASU Nutrition Student

What are carbohydrates?

Carbohydrates are a macronutrient that provides fuel for the body. They are broken down into glucose in the body and are a big part in controlling your body’s blood glucose levels. The main types of carbohydrates are sugar, starches, and fiber. These can also be classified as simple or complex carbohydrates.  When counting carbohydrates in the diet all three types should be considered. 3 The different types of carbohydrates may affect your blood sugar differently so it is important to work with your dietitian to learn what carbohydrates are best for your diet.


What types of carbs should you be consuming?

The recommended types of carbohydrates for consumption include whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes.1 Nuts can be a great snack and vegetables with edible skin or seeds are also great choices. When choosing pasta, breads, and cereals look for whole grain or whole wheat options. Foods with naturally occurring sugar like milk are better options than foods with extra sugar added such as juices and soda.  The guidelines for the general public should be followed for individuals with diabetes.

  • Whole Grains: Half of all grains consumed should be whole grains.
  • Fiber: Daily recommendation for women is 25g and for men 38g.


How do carbohydrates affect your diabetes?

The America Diabetes Association cites that in 2012 29.1 million Americans were suffering from diabetes and that diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. The CDC states that eating healthy is one of the top ways to prevent and manage diabetes.  Glycemic control is a crucial part of controlling and managing diabetes. Carbohydrates are ranked according to how they affect your blood glucose levels. 2 A carbohydrate with a low GI will not cause blood glucose values to rise as quickly as a food with a high GI value. 2


Important labs for monitoring your diabetes.

  • Glycated hemoglobin (A1C) test2

Goal: <7%

  • Random blood sugar test

Normal values < 200mg/dL

  • Fasting blood sugar test

Normal values 70-100 mg/dL

  • Oral glucose tolerance test

Normal values

  • LDL <100mg/dL2
  • TG < 150mg/dL2
  • HDL >40mg/dL for men; > 50mg/dL for women2
  • An eye exam may be necessary to check for blood vessel function
  • Foot exam to check for proper nerve function


Making Good Choices:

  • Consider portion sizes.1 Make sure that you are reading labels and eating appropriate serving sizes. Refer to the diabetic exchange for accounting for each serving size.
  • Choose whole grains that will provide fiber. Choose whole grains that will provide fiber. A whole grain food will contain the grain seed, germ, bran, and endosperm.3
  • Avoid sugary beverages which can quickly elevate blood glucose levels.
  • Incorporate at 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into a daily routine.5 This has been found to help lower insulin requirements, improve insulin sensitivity, and improve glucose tolerance. 5


Talk to your Dietitian

Each person’s needs are different so it is best to consult with your dietitian to develop a personalized diet plan to manage your diabetes.4 Medical Nutrition Therapy can be used to help treat your diabetes and develop the best well-rounded diet plan to maintain your blood glucose levels. Talk to you RD about carbohydrate counting and exchange.








  1. Marcason, W. (2014). What is the role of carbohydrates in the management of diabetes? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 114(10), 1696.
  2. Saul, N. (2010). Using the glycemic index in diabetes management. The American Journal of Nursing, 110(7), 68; 68-69; 69.
  3. Evert, A., Boucher, J., Cypress, M., Dunbar, S., Franz, M., Mayer-Davis, E., et al. (2013). Nutrition therapy recommendations for the management of adults with diabetes.36(11), 3821 – 3842.
  4. Wylie-Rosett, J. (2012). Medical nutrition therapy for youth with type 1 diabetes mellitus: More then carbohydrate counting. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 112(11), 1724; 1724-1727; 1727.
  5. Hayes, C. (2008). Diabetes and exercise. AADE Position Statement, 34(1), 37-40.
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