Your ultimate resource for gluten-free eating and shopping.
If you eat gluten-free, a gluten-free foods list can be a valuable resource. Navigating stores and restaurants to find gluten-free food options may be challenging at times. This gluten-free foods list can help you know what to look for (and what to look out for) when choosing grains and other foods that may contain gluten.
Currently, using a “gluten-free” label is optional on food products sold in the U.S. All products that are labeled “gluten-free” must contain less than 20 parts per million gluten. The 20 ppm threshold was set because it is virtually impossible to reliably detect levels below this (it’s like finding a grain of sand in a swimming pool). Plus, research shows that most people with celiac disease, an immune response to eating gluten, can handle these small (<20 ppm) amounts of gluten with no ill effects.
All food labeled “gluten-free” meets these standards, but not all gluten-free food is labeled (especially products that are naturally gluten-free). The ingredient list on the package label is your best tool to be sure, and you can always contact the food company directly if you’re unclear. Here are some things to look out for when you’re buying gluten-free foods.
Gluten-Free Whole Grains: Oats, Cereals, Breads and More
Grains (including bread, pasta, rice, crackers), specifically whole grains, are an important part of a healthy diet. Whole grains are a good source of healthy carbohydrates, providing energy to get you through the day. Most whole grains are high in fiber, which keeps you full and helps with digestion. Though many grains have gluten, a wide variety are naturally gluten-free.
Naturally Gluten-Free Grains & Starches:
• Oats: But be aware that oats may be processed in a facility that also processes wheat. You’ll need to confirm your oats are labeled gluten-free or check with the manufacturer to rule out cross-contamination.
• Potatoes and potato flour
What to Avoid When Shopping for Grains:
If you’re not sure if your bread, crackers, pasta and other grain-based products are gluten-free, a quick look through the ingredients can help you tell. Avoid products that contain any of the following, as these are NOT gluten-free.
• Other forms/varieties of wheat that should also be avoided: whole wheat, spelt, wheat berries, kamut, durum, farro, farina, bulgur, graham, semolina, bromated flour • Barley
• Triticale (a cross between rye and wheat)
Try Them: Healthy Gluten-Free Dinner Recipes
Gluten-Free Vegetables & Fruits
That’s right, gluten can even sneak into some of your fruits and veggies, though this is no reason to avoid them! All fresh, whole vegetables and fruits are naturally gluten-free and important to include in a gluten-free diet. Low in calories, fat and sodium and delivering a variety of vitamins and minerals, fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants. Produce is also a top source of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol and keep you full.
But when you move out of the produce aisle and start looking at packaged produce, be wary. Some types of processed vegetables and fruits may be prepared or preserved with ingredients that contain gluten. Plain fresh and frozen (without sauce) vegetables are all gluten-free, but double-check ingredient lists on packages to be sure. When buying canned veggies, buy those packed with water or natural juices (typically the healthier option anyway). For dried and pre-prepped vegetables, double-check the ingredients to make sure there are no gluten-containing flavorings or stabilizers. The concern for gluten in fruit comes when fruit is canned, dried or (less likely but possible) frozen, as gluten-containing ingredients may be added during the process. Here’s what to look out for when selecting gluten-free fruit and vegetables.
What to Avoid When Shopping for Fruits and Vegetables:
• Hydrolyzed wheat protein
• Modified food starch: If the label doesn’t specify what type of starch is used, check with the manufacturer, as it may be wheat.
• Malt: Including malt syrup, malt vinegar, malt extract, malt flavoring
• Gluten stabilizer
• Maltodextrin: This is OK when made from corn, potato or rice starch. If it’s made from wheat, it will be labeled: you may have a reaction, though many claim the gluten is destroyed in processing.
• Potato starch/potato starch flour
• Distilled vinegar
• Mono- and diglycerides
• Oat gum
• Citric acid, lactic acid and malic acid
Most protein sources—both animal and vegetable proteins—are naturally gluten-free. Additional ingredients, such as fillers and flavor enhancers (including spices, rubs and sauces) are where gluten can sneak into your meats and veggie proteins. Use this list to help you decide which proteins can fit into a gluten-free diet.
Naturally Gluten-Free Proteins:
• Red meat: Fresh beef, pork, lamb, goat, bison, duck, etc. (Check any marinades.)
• Poultry: Fresh chicken and turkey (Check any marinades.)
• Seafood: Fresh fish, scallops, lobster, clams and more are all naturally gluten-free. (Check any marinades.)
• Tofu: It’s made from soy, which is gluten-free, but check for any additional ingredients with gluten.
• Nuts and seeds
Proteins That Need a Second Look:
• Processed meats: Including hot dogs, pepperoni, sausage, etc. These may have gluten added, so be sure to check the ingredient list and avoid those with wheat gluten, wheat starch or wheat dextrin.
• Cold cuts: It’s rare, but cold cuts may have gluten-containing ingredients added; cross-contamination can also happen at the deli on the meat slicer.
• Ground meat: Ground beef or ground turkey can have gluten added in as filler. Be sure to check the ingredients carefully.
• Vegetarian burgers and other meat substitutes: Some flavors and brands are made with ingredients that contain gluten. Be sure to check the labels.
Proteins to Avoid:
• Seitan: This vegetarian protein is literally gluten. So avoid this if you’re following a gluten-free diet.
Don’t Miss: Vegetarian Gluten-Free Recipes to Try
Gluten-Free Sauces, Spices and Condiments
Sauces are one of the most common places gluten slips in unnoticed. Gluten-containing ingredients can be used as thickeners, stabilizers or flavor enhancers in many common condiments. Wheat flour is a common thickener in many sauces and marinades, which means they contain gluten. Be aware of the following sources of gluten that may not be super-obvious. And also watch out for cross-contamination once these items are in your home. For example, a knife used to spread mustard on wheat bread shouldn’t be dipped back into the mustard jar if you want it to stay gluten-free.
Sauces, Spices and Condiments That Are Usually Safe:
• Mustard: Some specialty or flavored mustards may contain gluten, so always check the ingredients.
• Mayonnaise: Typically not made with gluten, but check the ingredients to be sure.
• Dry spices: Most single-ingredient herbs and spices (think dried basil, garlic powder, chili powder) do not contain gluten, though because of cross-contamination concerns it’s best to look for specifically labeled gluten-free spices or check with the manufacturer.
Sauces, Spices and Condiments That Need a Second Look:
• Ketchup and Worcestershire sauce: Both of these condiments can be made using malt vinegar, which is not gluten-free. Double-check the ingredients.
• Barbecue sauce: Avoid BBQ sauces made with barley-based beer, soy sauce, malt vinegar, barley malt flour and possibly bourbon (see “Beverages” below), as these typically contain gluten.
• Soy sauce: Soy sauce is traditionally made with wheat, so it usually is not gluten-free unless otherwise marked.
• Malt vinegar: Malt vinegar isn’t just a French-fry dipper. It’s also found in some salad dressings and sauces and it’s not gluten-free. However, white vinegar, distilled vinegar and apple-cider vinegar are all gluten-free.
Gluten-Free Desserts & Sweets
Many sweets and desserts are made with wheat flour or other ingredients with gluten. As more companies are making gluten-free versions of products, remember that gluten-free sweets are not necessarily healthier for you than regular treats, but they will prevent a bad reaction if you’re sensitive to gluten.
Make at Home: Gluten-Free Dessert Recipes
Sweets That Are Usually Safe:
• Chocolate: Chocolate does not naturally contain gluten, though some manufacturers have add-ins that do contain gluten. There is also a risk of cross-contamination, so it’s best to check the label on chocolate.
• Hard candy and gummies: These candies don’t usually don’t contain gluten; avoid those listing “wheat flour” as an ingredient.
• Ice cream, sherbet, gelato, frozen yogurt: These treats are generally gluten-free, but steer clear of those with pretzels, cookie dough, graham crackers, brownie bites and other gluten-containing add-ins.
Sweets to Avoid:
• Grain-based desserts: Cookies, cake, brownies, pie, doughnuts, pastries, cheesecake, etc. are almost always made with gluten, unless marked “gluten-free.” Even crustless cheesecakes and fruit desserts may have wheat flour in the filling.
• Licorice: This sweet candy may be made with wheat flour and therefore is not gluten-free, unless otherwise noted on the packaging.
• Barley malt: Avoid sweets made with this ingredient, which is used to sweeten some candies and chocolates.
Gluten-Free Drinks and Beverages
There are plenty of gluten-free beverages, but you do need to pay attention to be sure you don’t slip up with a sip of gluten. Water, of course, is naturally gluten-free and is your best healthy way to stay hydrated. For all prepared beverages, be sure to check the ingredients, as variations and blends may contain gluten.
Drinks and Beverages That Are Usually Safe:
• Coffee and tea: These beverages are both naturally gluten-free, but if you’re sensitive to gluten it’s best to check and make sure there was no cross-contamination with your coffee beans or tea leaves, or added ingredients in blended beverages.
• Juices, sodas and sports drinks: Check the label to be safe, but these generally won’t have added gluten-containing ingredients.
Drinks and Beverages That Need a Second Look:
• Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages need to be navigated more carefully, as different varieties do contain gluten. Beer is made with hops, barley or rye—meaning it does have gluten and should be avoided, though many companies are coming out with gluten-free beer varieties. Cider is a good gluten-free alternative (it is made with fermented apples), as is wine, because it is made with grapes. Hard alcohol is generally safe: Those not made from grains, such as rum (made from sugarcane) and tequila (100-percent agave) are typically gluten-free. Other distilled alcohols (gin, whiskey, bourbon, vodka, etc.) may be made from grains, but the distilling process renders them gluten-free. However, reactions have been reported, so to be completely safe, experiment with a small amount or look for “gluten-free” labels.
Scientists are discovering that your gut health impacts so much more than just your digestion. The billions of bacteria in your gut can impact your entire body. “Gut bacteria are connected to aspects of health we never suspected,” says Rob Knight, Ph.D., co-founder and principal investigator of the Human Gut Project. “Cardiovascular disease, the immune system, liver disease, even neural function and the brain—it’s far-reaching in a way that wouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar 10 years ago.”
Pictured recipe: Simple Sauerkraut
Here are three surprising reasons why you should care about your gut health.
Gut Bacteria and Weight Loss
Let’s start with a topic that has baffled scientists and dieters alike: weight loss. But surprisingly, gut bacteria and weight loss may go hand-in-hand. When researchers at the University of Iowa gave mice a drug known to cause weight gain as a side effect, they discovered that the rodents’ microbe composition shifted, slowing their resting metabolic rate. An abundance of the wrong bacteria in our gut may even cause unhealthy cravings, according to a study in BioEssays. By controlling our hormones and hijacking the nerve that connects our brain to our gut, bacteria may manipulate us into making poor food choices.
Gut Health and Anxiety
Cravings are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to your gut influencing your thoughts and feelings. Eating more probiotic-rich fermented foods like kimchi or miso soup is associated with less social anxiety in people considered neurotic (compared to those who eat less fermented foods), found researchers at the College of William and Mary. They believe there are compounds in probiotics that may help suppress anxiety.
Allergies and the Microbiome
Microbiome advances have also blown the research doors off of allergy and autoimmune conditions. In fact, you may be able to go so far as to predict whether infants will develop food allergies by looking at their gut microbiota, according to Canadian researchers. Those with less diverse microbiomes at 3 months old are more likely to develop milk, egg or peanut sensitivities by the time they’re 1 year old.
The Gut Health Diet
How does your microbiome grow? Just like a thriving garden depends on the right mix of plants, your gut health hinges on a good balance of bacteria. Here are 3 simple rules to help you nurture your “gut garden.”
1. Eat Probiotic Foods
Probiotics, such as kimchi, yogurt with live active cultures, fresh sauerkraut and tempeh, provide the gut with beneficial bacteria. Not all bacteria survive the trip through the stomach, but those that make it settle in the gut or exert positive effects as they pass through. Try these 7 fermented foods for a healthy dose of probiotic bacteria.
2. Feed Good Bugs with Prebiotics
Prebiotics encourage the growth of the right bacteria in your gut. “If taking probiotics is like planting what you want in your garden, eating prebiotics is like fertilizing them,” says Rob Knight, Ph.D., co-founder and principal investigator of the Human Gut Project. Prebiotics contain fibers that don’t digest all the way, so they leave leftovers for the gut bacteria to eat or “ferment.” They also help keep things moving in your gut, which is important for maintaining your gut health. Prebiotic-rich foods include Jerusalem artichokes, onions, garlic, asparagus, chicory and bananas.
3. Starve Out Bad Gut Bacteria
Think of the bad bacteria in your system as weeds to thin out to correct an unhealthy gut. Research shows that too much sugar and saturated fat feed the bacteria associated with obesity, allergies and even your happiness. A void overdoing it on junk food with these healthy recipes to satisfy your cravings and help squash the bad bugs in your gut.
After seeing malnutrition firsthand while working in Africa for seven years, Josh Tetrick, CEO of Hampton Creek, returned to the U.S. determined to create a cheap and healthful source of protein. He teamed up with biochemists, farmers and chefs to find a plant with the properties and nutritional value of the conventional chicken egg—minus the chicken. The result? A more sustainable and affordable protein, derived from the Canadian yellow pea, found in Hampton Creek’s Just Mayo (sold at Whole Foods, Walmart, Safeway and more) and cookie-dough mix. We talked to Tetrick about his initiatives.
Why do we need plant-based food alternatives?
We still eat in ways that aren’t good for the environment because it’s tasty, cheap and convenient. I want to create a new food system that makes it ridiculously easy for people to make more sustainable choices—starting with the egg. We’re not trying to replace the egg, but instead make another very efficient protein.
How can we use plants to impact the global food system?
We source our plants from farmers across the world. My heart is very much still in Africa, and I’d like to plug those farmers into a sustainable farming model that makes the food system even better at the same time. We’re focused on solving problems for people everywhere—not just people who can afford pricier food.
Finding the next food solution and feeding the world. We’ve identified plants that can help us use less sugar in packaged foods. And we’re working on high-protein low-cost snacks to transport to third-world countries.
Whole grains have a leg up on refined ones when it comes to health. But start baking with them and you may be disappointed.
Essentially, white flour is sugar in the guise of starch—no wonder it tastes so good!
The healthy part of whole grains—the bran and germ—can taste bitter and weigh down bread and baked goods like biscuits. However, when grains are sprouted the bitterness goes away and the natural sweetness comes forth without sacrificing the nutritional perks.
In other words, sprouted flour tastes more like white flour but still has all the good-for-you benefits!
Tear into one of these flaky sprouted-wheat biscuits and you’ll be a believer too.
Get the Recipe: Sprouted-Wheat Biscuits
What Is It?
“Sprouted” Grain Defined
Whole grains—with a little warmth and moisture added—begin to sprout (or germinate, for all you science nerds).
Once sprouted, the wet grains are either ground into a dough or dried and milled into flour. The dough is made into sprouted-grain breads found in the bakery section or the freezer case of your grocery store. (Their high moisture content can increase their risk of spoiling.)
Sprouted chips and crackers are usually made from sprouted-grain flour—as are these biscuits.
Are They Easier on Your Gut?
In the sprouting process, some of the grains’ carbohydrates are broken down into a more easily digestible form, which means they have slightly less carbohydrate than unsprouted grains and may be easier on your gut.
But are they better tolerated if you have a gluten sensitivity? Research shows sprouted grains do have less gluten, however: “People experience gluten sensitivity differently, so it’s impossible to say that sprouted grains are more easily tolerated,” says Stefano Guandalini, M.D., founder and medical director of the University of Chicago’s Celiac Disease Center.
But not all sprouted grains contain gluten. Gluten-free grains like rice and amaranth can be sprouted too.
Are There Benefits to Sprouted Grains?
Advocates say sprouted grains deliver more vitamins, minerals, fiber and protein than their unsprouted counterparts. And there’s some supporting research: one study from the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found more fiber and amino acids (the building blocks of protein) in sprouted wheat after a 48-hour germination period.
Another study showed up to a fourfold increase in folate in sprouted rye. Still, the science is somewhat limited and we don’t know if those extra nutrients stick around after sprouted grains are processed into flour.
—Sara Haas, R.D.N., L.D.N.
Look for sprouted-wheat flour at natural-foods stores or online at organicsproutedflour.net or kingarthurflour.com. Flours from white wheat berries give lighter results while those from red wheat give the typical “wheaty” look.
Keep allergy symptoms at bay with a little help from these foods.
Achoo! Gesundheit! When you suffer from allergies, your body launches an immune response against an irritant—pollen, grass, mold—triggering itchy, watery eyes, congestion, a runny nose and general misery. Here are three foods to help keep the wheezing and sneezing under control plus your allergy questions answered.
These little green trees are rich in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that’s been found to fight airway inflammation, helping allergy and asthma suffers stay wheeze-free, research shows. One University of California, Los Angeles, study suggests you only need to chow down on 100 to 200 grams—about one cup—of the super-veggie per day.
Recipe to try: Chile-Roasted Broccoli
Serve up this sneeze-fighting fish tonight. The omega-3 fats EPA and DHA in salmon act as antioxidants and prevent your body from releasing histamines, chemicals that cells pump out during an immune response causing allergic reactions, notes a study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Other omega-3-rich fish to try: mackerel, sardines and tuna.
Recipe to try: Roast Salmon with Chimichurri Sauce
The flavonoid quercetin, found in citrus like oranges and lemons, may help thwart symptoms like sneezing,runny nose and congestion, reports a Japanese study. Quercetin seems to help blunt the expression of the genes that control the histamine response. Apples and red wine are two other quercetin-rich foods.
Recipe to try: Tangerine & Roasted Beet Salad with Feta & Pistachios
Answers to Your Top Allergy Questions
Should I skip sugar, gluten or dairy if I have seasonal allergies?
Giving up sugar, gluten or dairy for seasonal allergies is unnecessary, says Bassett. The theory is that sugar, gluten and dairy can cause inflammation, which is an immune response. Since allergies are an immune system overreaction, these foods have your immune system on high alert already so your body could be more prone to overreacting to allergens like pollen. So, theoretically, cutting out inflammatory foods will lessen symptoms. The problem? “There’s no scientific evidence to support this theory,” says Bassett.
Will disinfecting everything protect me from allergies?
Actually, a house that’s too clean could put your kids at an increased risk for allergies. For instance, kids of families who washed dishes by hand were 43 percent less likely to suffer from eczema, asthma and allergies than those whose parents used a dishwasher, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics. Hand washing removes fewer germs than the dishwasher, and increased exposure to microbes may have a protective effect, helping to shore up children’s developing immune systems, researchers say.
Do certain foods exacerbate my allergies?
There is a link between seasonal and food allergies. It’s called oral allergy syndrome (OAS). When you eat certain foods, your body thinks you’re also consuming pollen. “Over half of people who have seasonal pollen allergies may experience ‘oral allergy’ symptoms that include tingling, itchiness and/or mild swelling of the mouth, lips, tongue and throat after eating certain foods,” says Clifford Bassett, M.D., founder and medical director of Allergy and Asthma Care of New York. Here’s a look at the foods that may cause OAS. (If you really love these foods, cooking can destroy the problematic proteins, alleviating this effect. Peeling sometimes helps too.)
Allergy: Birch pollen
Watch out for: Almonds, apples, carrots, celery, cherries, coriander, fennel, hazelnuts, kiwis, peaches, parsley, pears, plums
Allergy: Grass pollen
Watch out for: Celery, melons, oranges, peaches, tomatoes
Watch out for: Bananas, chamomile tea, cucumbers, dandelion greens, echinacea, melons, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, zucchini
When it comes to getting more fiber, these 6 high-fiber foods deliver maximum bang for your buck. Trade up to these fiber powerhouses to get your fiber fill for the day. (Find out how much fiber you should eat.)
Swap: Your bottled green juice
For this! A homemade green smoothie that still contains the fiber-rich fruit and vegetable pulp—upwards of 13 grams of it. (Get the ultimate green smoothie recipe.)
Swap: The granola on your yogurt
For this! A couple tablespoons of chia seeds. You still get the crunch, plus 10 grams of fiber; the same amount of granola has 1 gram.
Swap: The apple you usually snack on
For this! Raspberries. With 8 grams per cup, they’re among the most fiber-rich fruits—even compared to apples, which have half that amount.
Swap: Your chicken soup
For this! Veggie chili loaded with beans. A 1/2 cup of beans serves up between 6 and 8 grams of fiber (chicken has none) and they’re a good source of lean protein and phytonutrients.
Swap: White pasta
For this! Whole-wheat pasta. It may seem obvious, but did you know one serving—depending on the brand—can have triple the fiber of white pasta? Bump up the fiber and get a serving of vegetables with these veggie noodle recipes.
Swap: Brown rice
For this! Quinoa. Surprisingly, 1/2 cup of brown rice only nets you 1 gram of fiber. Quinoa has 3—and can easily stand in anywhere you’d use rice.
Try some of our favorite delicious and healthy quinoa recipes.
If you’re up on the latest weight-loss trends, you’ve likely come across apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar advocates say that drinking a couple of tablespoons each day can help you lose weight by suppressing appetite, stimulating digestion and burning fat. Most vinegar lovers drink it diluted with water as a beverage. But, before you pucker up to apple cider vinegar, check out what the research actually says.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Calories and Nutrition
Apple cider vinegar has very few calories: only 3 per tablespoon. The compound in apple cider vinegar believed to have beneficial effects on health is the acetic acid, which is actually found in all commercial vinegars, including red-wine and balsamic.
Apple Cider Vinegar and BMI
Sipping apple cider vinegar isn’t a weight-loss cure-all by any means. However, there is one small study that shows a little bit of promise. When obese adults in Japan were given vinegar to drink—groups drank either no vinegar, 1 tablespoon or 2 tablespoons daily—those who drank vinegar had lower weight, body mass indexes (BMIs) and body fat after 12 weeks compared to people who didn’t drink vinegar. The vinegar drinkers also had smaller waists and decreased their triglyceride levels. Before you go guzzling vinegar, remember this was a very small study and it also happened to be conducted by a vinegar producer.
Don’t Miss: The Best Foods for Weight Loss
Apple Cider Vinegar and Blood Sugar
Whether you have diabetes, prediabetes or are just trying to keep your blood sugar in check, apple cider vinegar may help. Adults at risk for type 2 diabetes had slightly lower fasting blood sugar levels (by about 9 percent), compared to a control group, after drinking 1 tablespoon of vinegar twice a day for 12 weeks, according to a study in the Journal of Functional Foods. This suggests that apple cider vinegar may have a positive impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. Though the people in this study didn’t lose weight, it might be worth trying a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar before lunch and dinner to help control blood sugar levels.
Must Try: Healthy, Homemade Salad Dressing Recipes
Other Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has also been shown to lower triglycerides, improve cholesterol levels and decrease fat storage in the liver. When rats (with and without diabetes) were fed vinegar for four weeks, they had a reduction in triglycerides and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and an increase in HDL (“good”) cholesterol. However, not enough human studies have confirmed these effects, and more research needs to be done.
Apple Cider Vinegar and Teeth
If you do choose to drink apple cider vinegar, dilute it with water to protect your teeth. According to Julie Brann, D.M.D., a dentist in Phoenix, apple cider vinegar has about the same acidity level as sodas. “The problem with acidic foods is that they eat away at your enamel. If you are going to drink apple cider vinegar, dilute it with water and don’t let it sit in your mouth for too long,” says Brann.
You’ve heard it before but we’ll say it again: there’s no magic bullet for weight loss, and apple cider vinegar is no exception. Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet, minding portions and adding more activity. However, there may be small health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar. So while we wait for the researchers to dig deeper, we’ll be enjoying these salads that use apple cider vinegar in the dressing: Apple & Grilled Chicken Salad with Cheddar Toasts and Kale, Carrot & Apple Salad.
You might be asking yourself what is the difference between soluble vs. insoluble fiber. “Soluble fiber absorbs water and bulks up in your stomach, which promotes a feeling of fullness. It’s also the type that acts like a sponge on cholesterol,” says Tanya Zuckerbrot, R.D., author of The F-Factor Diet. Good sources of soluble fiber include beans and lentils, as well as carrots, oatmeal, apples and citrus fruits. “Insoluble fiber is like nature’s broom. It helps speed up the passage of waste through your digestive tract and reduces the risk of colon cancer and other diseases,” she adds. “It’s often referred to as ‘roughage’ because it comes from the woody, or structural, part of plants, such as broccoli stems, the outer kernel of corn, wheat and whole-grain cereals—as well as the skin and seeds of fruits and vegetables.”
Featured Recipe: Moroccan Kidney Bean & Chickpea Salad
You need both types of fiber in your diet, but experts say you don’t need to worry about how many grams of each you get. Most fiber-rich foods contain some of both, anyway. As long as you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains that are high in total fiber, you’ll get the benefits of both.
Don’t Miss: High-Fiber Recipes to Help You Slim Down
And that’s where reading labels comes in. Food manufacturers add all sorts of enticing labels to products—like “Whole grain!” and “Good source of fiber!”—but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the fiber powerhouses you’re hoping for. Here’s the deal: in order to be “high fiber” a food must contain at least 5 grams per serving (20 percent of the daily value) as required by the FDA. If it has between 2.5 and 4.9 grams a serving, it can be labeled as a “good source of fiber.” And if it has at least 2.5 grams of added fiber (see “Are Manufactured Fibers as Good for You as Natural?”), the food can boast “more fiber” or “added fiber.”
Products labeled “whole grain” can also lull you into a false sense of fiber-richness. “Whole grain means you’re getting all three parts of the grain—including the bran, which is where the fiber is—so it’s definitely more nutritious, but it does not guarantee that it’s high in fiber,” says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. You’ll have to look for the actual grams of fiber to know for sure.
Must Watch: 4 Easy Ways to Eat More Fiber
In family living rooms and backyard patios, Cubans nourished an improvised restaurant scene through years of isolation. Take a taste of the island's exceptional food traditions.
With its crumbling mansions, vibrant music, friendly people and brilliant colors, Cuba is easy to romanticize. You can’t help falling in love with the place—and with the food. Dishes are layered with complex flavors that reflect the various people who have lived on the island: Taíno Indians, Spanish and French colonialists, African slaves and Chinese plantation workers. You’ll taste soups and stews flavored with aromatic sofrito—chopped onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano and black pepper sautéed in olive oil—and the piquant sauce called mojo, made from garlic, sour orange, cumin and oregano.
In Havana’s Miramar neighborhood, Lilliam Domínguez, a former fashion designer, has been serving food for 19 years. La Cocina de Lilliam, her paladar, or privately owned restaurant, is a refuge of terracotta tiles and lush greenery. Her menu displays both Cuban and European influences—she is as famous for her crisp malanga fritters as she is for her fish en papillote. A recent highlight on her menu was an extraordinary tamal en cazuela, a deeply satisfying Cuban corn porridge.
But because Cuba continues to have food shortages and governmental restrictions, it’s impressive that any restaurant serves consistently good and fresh food. The secret to good dining in Cuba is to eat at resourceful paladares like Domínguez’s rather than the often uninspired state-run restaurants.
“It’s all about starting in one market and then moving to another to see who has what. I deserve five Michelin stars for the effort I have to put into finding ingredients every day.”
Ever since 1960, when the U.S. instituted a trade embargo, Cuba has experienced great hardship, even hunger. The Communist government turned to the Russians, who transformed Cuba’s agriculture into a model where diversity was replaced by large, state-owned farms that depended on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, which the USSR supplied cheaply.
But when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, so did the Cuban economy. An era of near-starvation, euphemistically called the “Special Period,” ensued. Suddenly there was no fuel for tractors, no money for industrial inputs. Because farmers couldn’t afford cattle feed, many of Cuba’s cows starved to death. This loss was especially painful for a meat-loving culture whose classic dishes include ropa vieja—meltingly tender shredded beef—and picadillo, ground beef cooked with tomatoes, olives and raisins. Dairy products also disappeared from the stores. Rationing, which had been in place for decades, became severe, and even staples like rice, beans and oil were suddenly scarce.
To compensate, people began growing their own vegetables and fruits. In Havana, vacant lots were transformed into urban farms called organopónicos, and today these small farms cover roughly 8 percent of the city. Lacking chemicals and equipment, the Cubans went completely green by default, plowing their fields with oxen, fertilizing with manure and crop residues, and wielding machetes against the weeds. Organic hasn’t been merely a trend in Cuba—it’s been a necessity.
Like the organic farms, the paladares also started as the USSR collapsed. A few enterprising Cubans opened these private restaurants in their homes, hoping to earn a little extra money. These spaces, whose very name signals that they’re all about taste (paladar means “palate”), offered an alternative to the mediocre fare served in state-run establishments. But because private enterprise was illegal, and food scarce, the paladares were at first considered subversive. It was only in 1994 that they were legalized, after the government realized how much they contributed to the economy. Now paladares are a vital, and vibrant, addition to Cuba’s culinary landscape. The driving forces behind many of these restaurants are not professionally trained chefs, but home cooks finely attuned to the flavors of their homeland.
Cuba’s national policy now supports organic and community-based farming. More than 200 state-run biological research centers nurture beneficial insects and bacteria that are used to keep pests at bay naturally.
But keeping a fully stocked kitchen in the absence of a reliable food system calls for some sorcery. For her paladar, Domínguez relies on personal relationships with suppliers and she’s understandably reticent about naming her sources. Fish is particularly difficult to obtain, an irony for an island nation. But with Miami a mere 90 miles away, private fishing boats are largely banned to keep Cubans from fleeing. Fishermen Domínguez has known all her life bring her fish and seafood daily. Others who know her reputation for quality sometimes show up unannounced with their fresh catch.
“Before my first trip to Cuba, a food editor strongly warned me to bring food or go hungry as the food was unpalatable. My experience was exactly the opposite.”
—Photographer Ellen Silverman
Domínguez visits multiple farmers’ markets every day, often spending hours shopping: “I deserve five Michelin stars for the effort I have to put into finding ingredients every day.” She invents recipes to take advantage of whatever she’s been able to find and afford. The supply chain is so unreliable that she can’t count on having the ingredients she wants when she needs them, especially spices, which makes the quality of her menu all the more remarkable.
These days the question on everyone’s mind is what will happen to the Cuban food scene once the trade embargo is lifted. When chemical fertilizers and pesticides are once again available, will the organopónicos begin to disappear? Ingredients will certainly be easier to obtain, but will their quality be as high? And what about the prospect of an American fast-food invasion?
Domínguez is optimistic. “The new relationship with the U.S. is something to celebrate,” she says. “Increased access to food can only strengthen our local businesses.” She’s not worried. Perhaps because she knows how to survive.
Darra Goldstein is a Williams College professor. Her latest book is Fire + Ice: Classic Nordic Cooking (Ten Speed Press, 2015).
Photographer Ellen Silverman is co-author of The Cuban Table: A Celebration of Food, Flavors, and History (St. Martin’s Press, 2014). Her video “My roots lie here,” a portrait of four elderly Cubans, was shown recently at an international Latin American film festival in Havana. It is available on Vimeo.
You spend about half of your waking hours at your job. While certain jobs like construction or manual labor have clear hazards, you can’t assume that if you are clocking time in an office environment that it’s a healthy place to be. Many occupations deliver stress, sedentary behavior, and unhealthy habits along with the paycheck, which can take their toll both physically and mentally.
But whether you work from a home office or sit in a corporate cubicle, there are things you can do to make your workplace better for your health and wellbeing. Here’s how to give your office space a health makeover, according to the experts.
Remind yourself to sit less
People who work at desks should stand or walk around for at least two hours a day to avoid health risks related to too much sitting, according to a 2015 British study. “Moving around throughout your workday is really important,” says Robert Graham, MD, director of integrative health and wellness for Northwell Health System, in Great Neck, NY. “Not only is it good for you physically, but studies show that it can increase productivity and more likely to focus on the task at hand.”
Computer programs like Move for iOS or Big Stretch Reminder for Windows can remind you to take breaks at regular intervals; some even provide suggestions for stretches and exercises you can do at your workspace. Can’t install software on your work machine? Download an app to your smartphone, or use the free website RegularBreaks.com.
Clear the air
It’s not unusual for office environments to trigger what’s known as occupational allergies—sensitivities to chemicals in carpet, office furniture, or paint, for example, that can trigger problems like headaches and rashes. And even if you don’t have physical symptoms, it’s possible that stuffy air in your workplace could be hampering your brainpower: In a 2015 Harvard University study, offices with increased ventilation and lower levels of air pollutants were linked to better employee performance.
You may not be able to change furnishings or ventilation system at your job, but perhaps you can let in some fresh air by keeping windows open while you work. If that’s not an option, consider getting an air purifier with a HEPA filter for your desk.
Try a standing desk
If your workplace allows it, switching to a standing desk can help you sit less and move more during the day. But being on your feet all day can also lead to aches and pains, so look for a setup that allows you to adjust the height or your work station and use a chair when needed.
You can even make a DIY standing desk if you don’t have the space or resources for a real one; just be sure to keep your computer monitor at eye level, and your arms bent at 90 degrees to reach the keyboard, to avoid neck and arm pain.
Paint your walls green
Shades of green have been linked to enhanced creative thinking, says Sally Augustin, PhD, an environmental psychologist and principal at Design With Science. “And most of us have to be creative at work, whether we’re coming up with a new advertising slogan or figuring out how to analyze data on a spreadsheet in a different way,” she says. To get the most out of your walls, choose a hue that’s quiet and calming—like a sage or sea-foam green. “Colors that aren’t very saturated but relatively bright put us in the right sort of relaxed mental state to be doing knowledge work.”
Can’t paint your space? Wallpapering your cube with a green backdrop or adding green elements to your desk may also be helpful, Augustin says. And whatever you do, she adds, avoid red; it’s been shown to negatively affect analytical performance.
Add a plant
Bringing nature into your office can be a great way to inspire creativity and a feeling of wellness, says Augustin. “Plants are great from a psychological perspective,” she says. “You don’t want to pack too many into a small space, but it can be great to have a small plant on your desktop, or something a little larger in the corner of your office.”
Opt for green, leafy plants, rather than cacti—whose spikes can create the opposite of a relaxed feeling—or flowers with a strong scent, which can be distracting or irritating. Some plants, like the sansevieria, may even improve air quality in your office.
Display (a few) personal items
Decorating your desk can help you feel comfortable, which can reduce workplace stress and dissatisfaction, Augustin says. But to avoid a cluttered feeling, which can actually cause more stress, stick with just a few items.
“Pick out three or four things that are significant to you—like a family photo or an award you’re particularly proud of—and make sure those are in your view,” she says. “But remember that the more stuff you add to your desk, the more your brain has to constantly scan and keep track of. Working in a crowded space can be mentally exhausting, even if you don’t realize it.”
The smell of citrus can lift your spirits and improve thinking and memory, says Augustin. “I like to keep an aromatherapy dispenser on my desk that makes my work area smell like lemon,” she says.
Skip candles and air fresheners that use artificial scents (and release potentially irritating chemicals), and opt for an essential oil diffuser that delivers a subtle, natural aroma. Keep in mind, though, that any scent may cause irritation or allergic reactions. If breathing in a scent all day bothers you, try sucking on lemon candies while you work, instead.
Stop eating at your desk
“One of the most important things you can do during the work day is to not eat at your desk,” says Dr. Graham. “Have a dedicated area where you can go to get out of your own environment and have lunch, preferably with other people, so you can truly get that break during the day.”
Sitting down to lunch away from your desk won’t just keep crumbs out of your keyboard; it can also help reset your brain for an afternoon of productivity. Plus, it can stop you from eating mindlessly while you work or surf the Internet. “We are not great at multi-tasking,” says Dr. Graham. “If you’re eating while distracted, you are much more likely to overeat.”
Pay attention to posture
Sitting all day isn’t the healthiest thing for you, but slouching all day is even worse. “Posture is very important, both to health and to workplace performance,” says Dr. Graham. “Sitting up tall gives you a sense of accomplishment, while slouching and slumping make you feel tired and lazy.” On top of that, hunching over a computer is a leading cause of back pain.
Invest in (or ask your boss to provide you with) an ergonomic desk chair that supports correct posture. You can also try a gadget like the Lumo Lift, a tiny sensor that pins to your shirt and vibrates when it senses you slouching forward.
Squeeze in mini workouts
Even if you can’t fit in a full workout over your lunch break, you can still do some simple stretches and strength moves right in your office. Keeping small workout props, like hand weights or resistance bands, within eyesight can encourage you to take exercise breaks throughout the day. “And even if you don’t have equipment, you can do things like chair yoga or standing push-ups, using nothing but your office furniture,” says Dr. Graham.
Sitting on an exercise ball can also help engage your core muscles while you work, but make sure you don’t slouch forward while you’re using it. To keep this trick from backfiring, swap out your desk chair for just 10 to 20 minutes at a time and pay close attention to your form.
Take your pet to work
Allowing people to bring their dogs to work reduced job stress and boosted employee satisfaction in a 2012 study from Virginia Commonwealth University. And it wasn’t just dog owners who benefited from the pet-friendly policy; other employees who came into contact with the animals reported less stress, as well.
“Of course, it is important to have policies in place to ensure only friendly, clean and well-behaved pets are present in the workplace,” the study authors said in a university news release; it’s also important to take into consideration coworkers who may be allergic to pets.
Adjust your lighting
Getting natural light during the day is ideal, so your best bet is to sit near a window if possible. In fact, people with windows in their offices get better sleep and are more physically active than those without, according to a 2013 study from Northwestern University. “Being exposed to daylight helps keep your stress levels and your circadian rhythm in check,” Augustin says.
If windows aren’t an option, consider the temperature of your office lighting. “Cooler, bluish light is generally good for analytical thinking, while warmer bulbs are better for socializing and interaction with other people,” says Augustin. Having a desk lamp you can turn on and off, rather than just one overhead light, can also help reduce eyestrain.