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Arsenic is a substance known to cause all sorts of health problems in people and animals the world over.  It has certain healing properties, but like many other organic substances, it can have detrimental health effects in large enough doses.  Like cyanide, with regular and long enough exposure, it can cause similar health effects over time.  Unfortunately, the dangers of arsenic in food supply stores are quite real, and one of the leading culprits is rice.

Just How Bad is the Problem?

The arsenic is measured in micrograms, and it has been shown that approximately 50 micrograms per liter in water is enough to start causing cancer concerns over time.  Unfortunately, it is practically impossible to eliminate it from the diet altogether.  Not only is it a natural substance in the earth, but the concentration levels increase in areas with a lot of vehicle traffic or where unclean energy sources like coal is burned.

Basmati and other aromatic types often have far less per cup than other types.  Interestingly enough, the types imported from places like Thailand and India often contains less than the same types produced in the United States.  Some White Basmati from India contains so little per serving that it is barely traceable.  The same grown in California contains around 2.3 mcg per serving.  Non-basmati types can contain as much as 11 mcg per serving.  That whole grain brown may not actually be that great after all.

Alleviating the Dangers of Arsenic in Food Supply

Rice is one of the few grains that work well with a GFCF diet.  It is easy to substitute it for pasta as a side dish or main ingredient in many recipes, and the milk is a great substitute in recipes.  If arsenic is a concern, consider eliminating milk made from it and opting for almond or coconut milk instead.  To further lower the potential risks, rinse the grains before cooking until the water runs clear.  The mere act of rinsing can reduce the levels by about 25 percent.  Using triple the water during cooking can further drop levels by another 50 to 60 percent.  Simply drain off the excess water when cooking is complete as you would do with pasta.

However, make sure the levels in your water source are not very high, because that can negate or worsen any effects rinsing may have.  You can also reduce the amount eaten each week.  Have it once or twice a week instead of three or five times.  Finally, switching to other acceptable grains like quinoa may help too.  It is not necessary to completely remove it, but reducing the whole grains and eliminating processed rice products will go a long way in reducing the risks.

Science does many good things for humanity. Computers exist which allow instant communication over great distances, enhanced learning and greater precision in almost every aspect of daily life. Cars are safer, and medicines can now do amazing things with safety. However, when science goes wrong, it really goes wrong. Genetically modified foods are a prime example of this.

What is a Genetically Modified Organism?

Genetically modified organisms are often referred to as GMOs. To genetically modify food, scientists learned how to alter the structure of a plant to give it certain properties. Some were made resistant to drought. Others were given the ability to stand up better to certain pests. Others yet require the use of specific pesticides during the growing season because, though the same pesticides act as a herbicide on other plants, they will not kill the crops modified to work with them.

The Problem with Genetic Modificationcrops

Pest-resistant crops and drought-resistant crops sound like they could actually be good things, right? It sounds fantastic as a theory, but in practice, it seems to be a different story. Not only is there some question as to what trace amounts of pesticides do to the human body, but it seems that genetically modified foods can cause some serious problems. In addition, the scientists have never been required to ever research what potential harm these new crops could do to humans.

Some physicians are going so far as to treat illnesses with a GMO-free diet, because they have found that these genetically-modified organisms tend to come along with higher rates of allergy and toxicity. A French study also found that GMOs are responsible for some huge tumors in rats. The scientists were not sure if the tumors were a result of the genetic modifications to the foods or the special pesticides needed to grow them. It seems that the problem is a combination of the genetic modifications and the specially formulated pesticides.

How to Avoid Genetically Modified Food

Unfortunately, it is not possible to simply read a food label in the United States and know whether the item contains genetically modified organisms. Some companies have volunteered that information on their packaging, but those are rare. There are calls for the FDA to require GMO information on food packaging, but as of yet, nothing is in the works.

So how can a person tell which foods are genetically modified and which are not? Thankfully, there is an effort underway to help people with that very thing. It is called the “Non-GMO Project,” and it is a database of foods that are GMO-free. Because evidence is mounting against the safety of foods with genetic modification and their associated pesticides, eliminating genetically modified organisms from an autistic child’s diet seems prudent. Doing so should help immensely, especially in terms of allergens and digestive issues.

And, if you live in a state that has a ballot item that is focused on creating labeling for all foods, please remember to vote! As consumers, we should have the right to know what we are consuming so that we can choose what foods we decide to eat.

More information at:

Genetic Roulette: movie

Food, Inc documentary (watch it free)

Tender Beef Snacks…an alternative to Beef Jerky

It’s tough to find beef jerky-type products that aren’t loaded with MSG and other preservatives, while also being gluten-free. However, this week’s review is about PJ’s Beef Snacks.  I tasted all three varieties of PJ’s Beef Tenders and their Cracked Pepper Beef Slices. My overall impression was that these are a great alternative to traditional beef jerky. First, they are (as the name implies) quite tender unlike traditional jerky which can be quite tough to chew. Second, they have distinct flavors that are neither overpowering with salty flavor or greasy (like some other brands of jerky). The snacks are not only gluten-free and free of preservatives, they even have 35% of your RDA of Vitamin C and calcium too.

The Original Flavor of the Beef Tenders might be referred to as “plain”, but I found it to have a nice beefy flavor without being too salty. The Teriyaki Flavor  of the Beef Tenders was slightly different from the Original Flavor, it was like “Original Plus” because it was a subtle teriyaki flavor, not an overpowering one. And, the Cracked Pepper variety of both the Tenders and the Slices definitely had the most kick to it, but again you could taste other flavors besides the pepper so it definitely had some dimension. I believe my favorite flavor was the Teriyaki though.

The only downside to this great snack right now is that it’s not yet in stores. You can order it directly from the company here. Or if you’d like to check out this great snack option in person, you might want to visit a tasting event that PJ’s is hosting in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

Disclaimer: PJ’s Beef Snacks provided me with  free samples of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.

If you have Celiac disease or any kind of gluten intolerance, you will have to give up certain foods in order to keep any symptoms from flaring up.  But considering that there are over 3 million Americans who have Celiac disease, more and more gluten-free options are becoming available.  You don’t have to even give up Chinese food.  In fact, you never really had to give up Chinese food, but you will have to avoid some of the sauces and noodles.

The Incredible Variety of Chinese Food

Chinese food isn’t all about Chinese take-out; that would be like judging all of American cuisine from McDonald’s (ew, gross!).  But even at your favorite Chinese take-out, you can ask them to hold the sauce or ask about lighter fare.  You can often choose brown rice over white rice.  Stir-frying brings out, instead of covering up, the flavors inherent in all of the ingredients.

Chinese restaurants and take out places want to please their customers in order to stay in business.  They are aware of food allergies and the requirements of vegans or vegetarians.  They also will try to include some gluten-free Chinese food or dairy-free dishes on their menus.  You want to avoid anything that may have food additives, a thick sauce, or bread or pastry coating because these would contain gluten.

One alternative before going out or ordering out is to check out Select Wisely.  This website contains Cantonese translations to be sure you are communicating your needs directly.  Although most Chinese food establishments have excellent multi-lingual skills, some still have mostly native-speaking staff, especially in larger cities.

Make It Yourself

The best way to assure that you have gluten-free Chinese food is to make it yourself.  A wok is the best way to cook gluten-free Chinese food, but if all else fails, a big frying pan will do.  If you want to avoid rice (which you don’t have to), use crunchy bean sprouts.  The cooking itself takes only a few minutes.  It’s the chopping that will take up the most of your time.  But once you practice vegetable and meat chopping, you will get faster and may find it a fun way to engage your children in the kitchen as well.  The more you do it, the easier it gets.

The main spices of gluten-free Chinese food are the same as for any other Chinese cooking – fennel, peppercorns, cloves, star anise and cinnamon or ginger.  Many commercial Chinese Five Spice mixes will often have salt and pepper and garlic powder in them.  Fresh garlic is another must for gluten-free Chinese cooking, unless you really hate garlic or have been told by your doctor to cut down on it. Be sure to use a tamari soy sauce, however, because regular soy sauce has gluten in it.

Two Restaurant Options

I know of two restaurant options that do cater to a gluten-free diet (and it’s pretty easy to avoid dairy at Chinese restaurants). These two restaurants are:

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro

Pei Wei

Do you know of other Chinese restaurants that cater to gluten-free eaters? Please add them in the comments below.


breadUnderstanding and Preventing Celiac Symptoms

Celiac disease or gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE) affects about one in 133 people in the United States today. According to studies, celiac disease happens to 5-15 percent of those people who have siblings and other family members who are suffering from this ailment. However, among identical twins, about 70% of twins suffer from celiac symptoms shortly after the other is diagnosed with the disease. Given these high incidents of the disease among twins, doctors often subject the other twin to a series of test for celiac disease even if the other twin does not manifest any celiac symptoms.

Although there are so many people who are suffering from celiac disease in the country today, it not really clear as to what causes this type of ailment. Some medical professionals believe that celiac disease can be genetic judging by the way twins often display the same celiac symptoms, but there is still no concrete evidence to support this claim.

What are the Common Symptoms?

Some of the most common celiac symptoms are abdominal cramping, intestinal gas, bloating, distention of the stomach, chronic diarrhea and/or constipation, anemia, and weight loss even if the person has large appetite. In some other cases, celiac symptoms may come in the form of dental enamel defects, bone or joint pain, osteoporosis, depression, infertility, and fatigue and even ulcers. Since most of these symptoms are non-exclusive to celiac disease, one should not assume that you are suffering from celiac symptoms if you suffer from any of these conditions. In fact, a lot of medical professionals warn against starting a gluten-free diet until the existence of celiac disease has been medically confirmed.

How to Know If You Are Indeed Suffering From Celiac Symptoms

The only way to know for certain whether or not a person is suffering from celiac symptoms is to conduct a small bowel biopsy. This process involves gastroscopy or the passing of a tube from the mount of the patient to the gut where a small sample from the wall of intestine is taken for study. This can be quite an uncomfortable procedure but since a blood test is not always sufficient to establish if a person is suffering from celiac disease and the celiac symptoms can easily pass off as symptoms of some other types of diseases, this uncomfortable procedure is important to determine the true condition of the patient.

For more information about Celiac Disease, please visit these resources:

Celiac Disorder Foundation

National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse

National Foundation for Celiac Awareness


I thought I’d change things up this week and do a restaurant recommendation. Believe it or not, Chipotle Mexican Grill has actually been around since 1993, but I admit that it’s really just gotten onto my own radar. They have many locations in the USA, Canada, and the UK.  There are many things to love about Chipotle – almost everything is gluten-free, their meat has no antibiotics in them, and all the produce is organic. It’s a fast-food restaurant where you can actually eat healthy!

For the gluten-intolerant, here’s a look at their allergen menu. However, the only item that has gluten is the flour tortillas. Imagine, going to a restaurant and not having to worry about gluten for the large majority of the menu; it definitely makes it fun to order food there! The fact that all the produce is organic and the meats have no antibiotics is just icing on the (figurative) cake.

Last night, I took Nicholas to Chipotle for his birthday dinner. He loves to order the Taco Kit on the kids menu – two hardshell tacos, his choice of meat (uually Barbacoa, the spicy choice), beans, and guacamole. Since we are also dairy-free, we always splurge to get the additional guacamole (believe me, it’s worth it!), in lieu of cheese and/or sour cream. I ordered two hardshell tacos for me as well, but I chose the carnitas topped with generous dollops of guacamole. Sometimes, I will order the taco salad which is salad, meat, rice, and guacamole (in my version, at least). I skipped this last night because my son is not able to have rice at this time and he does get upset if we eat something in front of him that he isn’t allowed to eat.

Nicholas and I thoroughly enjoyed our dinner from Chipotle Mexican Grill last night. I definitely recommend Chipotle as a terrific option for dining if you have to avoid gluten and other allergens. The food is tasty and healthy and with many locations to serve you – it’s the perfect choice for a dinner (or lunch) out!

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