No-Bake Granola Bars (gluten-free, low sugar)

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Wow. Let me just start by saying, it’s been a while. This summer has been absolutely insane, but in a good way! I’m working full time at two different locations (both of which I love), beginning my career as a therapist intern, and still conducting personal research on the relationship between nutrition and mental health. Speaking of which, if you haven’t had a chance to “like” becauseitsgoodforyou’s page on Facebook, you may have missed the link to the article I wrote regarding the relationship between food sensitivities and Autism Spectrum Disorder that was published on Psychologytoday.com. I was working with a mentor for several months to  perfect the article and I must say, I am pretty satisfied with the way it turned out. I also hope I am able to provide a little extra help and insight to those who read the article and are dealing with ASD.

Anyway, on to the good stuff.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Although I may not have physically been on becauseitsgoodforyou.com, my heart has still been here and I definitely haven’t stopped experimenting in the kitchen. Some recipes have turned out amazing and some were, well, not so amazing. I’ll try to keep up with posting some of the better ones that I happened to snap pictures of before serving to friends (or devouring myself). The no-bake granola bars you see on this post are somewhat similar to my granola nut cookies that I posted back in April although these are actual granola, as they contain oats, and are slightly healthier in my opinion. The core of this recipe stemmed from another blogger’s granola bars  (see: Coco and Tea) and was adjusted to fit my needs. I’ve been on this low sugar kick for the past month so I opted against adding any additional sugar aside from the natural sweetness of nuts, fruit, and a little bit of honey and vanilla flavoring. The first batch turned out way too crumbly and would fall apart after taking one bite. This batch however, turned out just right! I think the almond butter is the secret to binding everything together in this recipe.

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1 cup raw mixed nuts (Brazil, pecan, almond, peanut, macadamia, etc)
• 1 cup chopped dried fruit (I used raisins and apricots)
• 1 cup ground seeds (pumpkin, flax, sunflower, etc)
• ½ cup raw, creamy almond butter
• ¼ cup sunbutter
• ¼ cup raw honey
• ½ cup coconut oil
• ½ tsp vanilla extract
• dash of salt
• coconut oil cooking spray
• Optional: Chia seeds and/or coconut flakes and/or protein powder

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Pour oats, mixed nuts, dried fruit, and ground seeds to a large bowl. Toss well.
• Mix sunbutter, almond butter, coconut oil, salt, honey, and vanilla in a small saucepan. Heat on low, stirring often, for about 3 minutes or until mixture is well combined.
• Pour wet ingredients into bowl with dry ingredients and mix with a spatula until the dry mixture is completely covered.
• Lightly spray your hands with coconut oil cooking spray.
• Press mixture firmly into a small baking pan (using your hands is the best and easiest way, hence the coconut oil spray)
• Option: Top with chia seeds, coconut flakes, or sprinkle protein powder for added nutrients
• Place pan in freezer for 20 minutes or until granola hardens
• Cut into rectangles and serve

No-Bake Granola Bars Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Grinding these seeds beforehand and keeping the granola bars un-baked were two very important factors when creating this recipe, as it optimizes the amount of healthy, Omega-3 fatty acids your body can absorb from the seeds. Omega-3’s help control the amount of inflammation in our body, lessening the risk of arthritis, diabetes, asthma, and even cancer.  Incorporating a small handful of nuts every day into your diet can help with weight loss, stress-reduction, reduce the risk of lung cancer, lower cholesterol, assist in healthy heart health, and prevent cognitive decline. A study performed by UCLA even showed that a small handful of walnuts per day could assist with men’s reproductive health. In addition, nuts are a great source of dietary fiber, protein, and B-vitamins.

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Going Paleo

Most of the recipes I post on this site are either vegan or pesco-vegan friendly, but in all honesty, I follow a mostly Paleo diet. About a year and a half ago, after watching all the plant-based diet documentaries, I decided to cut back on my meat consumption. I went from eating meat twice a week, to once a week, to none at all. Then I began cutting out other things like cheese and cream. I switched to using almond milk in my cereal and tea rather than skim milk or vanilla creamer. Eventually I grew into what I liked to call a pseudo-vegan (I was still eating fish) and began increasing my intake of soy rich foods, rice, legumes, and grains.

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIt was fine for a little while, but then I started experiencing some strange symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, mental fog, skin allergies, etc. and I knew something wasn’t right. After sharing these issues with my Naturopathic Doctor, she decided to run a food allergy panel to see if I was allergic to any of the foods I was eating. I also began keeping a food diary and taking note of how I felt, physically and emotionally, after each meal. The food allergy panel came back showing I was in fact showing some allergic reactions toward many of the food items I was consuming on a regular basis. By keeping a food diary, I noticed that many of my physical and mental symptoms I was experiencing resulted after eating a dish with tofu, wheat, rice, or soy. Through drawing my blood, I also learned that I had an O blood type – the most primitive blood type and the type most associated with individuals who thrive off a Paleolithic diet.

According to Dr. D’Adamo, author of “Eat Right for Your Type,” our blood type can help determine what type of foods we should or should not be eating. But he’s not the only one who believes this theory. In Japan, asking someone their blood type is similar to asking someone what their astrological sign is. They believe it not only shows what type of diet you should be on, but it is also an indicator of certain personality traits. For example, an A blood type is said to be creative and analytical, B blood types are known as easygoing and flexible, O’s are objective and practical, and AB’s are intuitive and spiritual. His theory may also explain why many individuals have altered their diet – to either plant-based, lean meat-based, gluten-free, or the like – and seen their medical issues completely reverse. It just goes to show that everyone is unique and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another (you can read how I discovered this notion for myself here).

Robb Wolf is a huge advocate for the Paleo diet. He was a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat to write “The Paleo Solution,” a book that made the New York Times Bestseller’s list. He’s also a strength and conditioning coach, a blogger, public speaker, and has a podcast, all devoted to living a Paleo life. He describes the Paleo diet as the healthiest way we can eat- because it’s the way that our ancestors ate. The Paleo diet is sometimes called the Paleolithic diet, the Caveman diet, Hunter-Gatherer diet, or the Stone Age diet. It’s derived from the principle of consuming an ancient diet of wild plants and animals that hominid species consumed nearly 10,000 years ago, before the agricultural revolution and the production of man-made grains. The basics of it are as follows:

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comFoods to Eat: Lean proteins such as beef, chicken, duck, lamb, turkey, organ meats, elk, eggs (all must be organic/antibiotic free, grass-fed, and free-range), fish that is low in mercury and caught in the wild or from a company that uses sustainable farming methods, plenty of vegetables, most fruits (low glycemic is best), nuts (except peanuts), seeds, and healthy fats (avocado, coconut).

Foods to Avoid: Dairy, grains, processed foods and oils, sugars, starches, legumes, and alcohol.

The trick to this diet is knowing what to use as a substitute. Coconut milk is a great substitute for dairy products and is a good source of healthy fat. Almond milk also works well as a “creamer” for coffee or tea. Coconut flour and almond meal can be used for baking or “breading.” Extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil is encouraged over vegetable oils or seed oils (corn, canola, safflower). Once you get the hang of it, eating Paleo is pretty easy. For those of you who are interested in switching to a Paleo lifestyle, stay tuned! I’ll be sharing recipes in my next post to help get you started on your journey.

The Paleo diet also contains many positive anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that an anti-inflammatory diet has helped many individuals suffering from a variety of health issues including asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders. Inflammatory foods not only affect the body, but also affect the brain. Inflammatory responses have even been linked to symptoms of Asperger’s and Autism. For further information on the role of inflammation in the body, you can check out this post here.

Now that you know the ins and outs of going Paleo, do you think you’ll try to make the switch? Or have you tried living Paleo before and found that maybe it wasn’t the right fit for your blood or body type? I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to check back for my future post with some tasty Paleo recipes!

Everything You Need to Know About Supplements

Although flu season should be over, the ugly little virus is still making it’s way into many of our homes and bodies and holding on to this season as long as it possibly can. I’m sure many of you have been frantically running to your local drugstore to stock up on Emergen-C, Airborne, or the generic brand of 1,000mg vitamin C tablets to help boost your immune system. I bet you’ve even been super diligent about taking your One-A-Day or Centrum multivitamin lately, just to be safe. I also bet you didn’t know that many of the vitamins you are consuming actually contain much less of their stated active ingredients, are rancid before they hit the shelves, contain genetically modified materials, or contain traces of pesticides, mold, and salmonella. Maybe you are one of the more health conscious people and only buy your vitamins from Whole Foods or a similar natural foods store, but did you know that even some of those “healthy” brands don’t test for the presence of genetically modified materials and may contain other unnatural binders and fillers? Does this surprise you?

VitaminE Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Unfortunately, supplements are not required to be regulated for product quality the same way pharmaceuticals are. The FDA devotes so much more time, energy, and money toward testing pharmaceutical drugs that it seems as if they barely pay any attention to what supplement companies are putting into their products and selling to the public. That’s not to say that the FDA doesn’t ever check supplement companies for quality assurance. They routinely issue warning letters to various pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies and list it on their website which you can view here. However, during the production and packaging process, just like with food, these supplements may be exposed to harmful chemicals or lose some of their nutritional value. This is one of the reasons it’s important to buy from companies that test not only their raw materials, but also test the finished product to make sure the product actually meets the label claim. In other words, if you buy a vitamin bottle that says each capsule contains 10,000 IUs of Vitamin A, you want to be sure you’re actually consuming 10,000 IUs of vitamin A. Like I mentioned earlier, companies that don’t do rigorous testing on their products may be selling items that have little (or no) nutritional value and may even be rancid by the time they hit the shelves and sold to the public.

   If by now, you’re on the verge of warding off nutraceutical companies altogether – don’t. You just need to do a little homework before you go out and buy your next bottle of vitamin C. Talk to the staff when you go to Whole Foods, Sprouts, or any other natural foods store. Ask them what products they use and if they have seen good results. Talk to your Naturopathic Doctor or other licensed alternative health specialist about what products they use for their patients and ask for recommendations on where you can find these products (if they aren’t sold in-office). While doing your research, a good website to check out is ConsumerLab.com. There, you’ll find a huge list of results from tests and product reviews on supplements and health products. You can also be on the lookout for a “USP” stamp on vitamin bottles, a label that means it has been tested and approved by the United States Pharmacopeial Convention. If you’re really dedicated to your research, you can even call the supplement company directly and ask for someone who can answer some product quality questions for you. If they are a good, honest company, they will gladly offer the information. Ask them what kind of tests they run on their products. Ask if they work in an FDA inspected facility, if they ever reject their products due to negative test results to protect the consumers, if they check for the presence of herbicides, fungicides, or heavy metals, if they have independent labs complete objective tests on their products, or if they use exipients (any binders or fillers) in any of their products. To make things a little easier for you, I’ve also listed below some basic rules to follow when trying to find good quality supplements in your local health/natural food store. When it comes to your health – a little research goes a long way!
Supplements Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

SUPPLEMENT RULES
• Buying vitamins in liquid form is always your best bet
. Liquids are typically more pure and you’re more likely to get maximum absorption. The next best thing is to buy the vitamin in a powder, or dry form. Vegan capsules are also great and sometimes more convenient if you’re in a rush or need to take it to go. Tablets should be your last resort as they tend to have artificial binders in order to hold everything together.
The darker the packaging, the better. During shipping, vitamins have the potential of being exposed to a variety of weather conditions such as extreme heat, cold, or light, all of which can compromise the integrity of the product. Typically, supplements that have a dark brown or tinted casing means that the company who produced it is attempting to keep everything temperature controlled to prevent rancidification.
• Unless you’re on a 20-vitamin-a-day regimen, opt for taking your vitamins individually over taking a multivitamin. Yes, that means if you want to take vitamin B, calcium, zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin A every day, then you will be taking 6 different vitamins from 6 different bottles, daily. Multivitamins are still beneficial, but ingesting these nutrients individually allows for a greater chance of absorption.
• If you are planning to take a high dosage of a vitamin or are trying a new herb for the first time, always discuss your plan with a professional first. Although “overdosing” on vitamins is incredibly rare, it can send your body into detox mode and you may experience some unpleasant and potentially dangerous side effects. As stated earlier – do your homework and talk to people who specialize in this subject.
A good fish oil is a refrigerated fish oil. Anything you buy on a shelf is rancid or artificial. Enough said.

   Hopefully these guidelines help you in your journey toward finding good quality supplements, staying healthy, and keeping those colds away!

Accomplishing Some Things and Failing At Others: Juicing 101

Life has this funny way of throwing curveballs when you least expect it. These last few months for me have been challenging, to say the least. I started a new job, moved into a new apartment, learned the art of confrontation, and spent way too much time baking holiday sweets that aren’t suitable for posting on this website. For these reasons (and many others) I haven’t been updating this blog as much as I would have liked to. But a new year brings new beginnings and I am once again vowing to devote more time toward pursuing personal projects. One of the most important things we can do to stay emotionally healthy is to reserve enough time for ourselves and focus on activities that make us happy. Easier said than done, of course.

Juice Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIn an attempt to regain some balance and detox all the sugar I consumed over the month of December, I embarked on a 3-day juice cleanse.  I followed the advice given by Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss in their book “The 3-Day Cleanse.” I wrote down some recipes, went to Whole Foods the night before, bought a grocery cart full of fruits and vegetables, and set up my juicer for the next morning. I chose to complete the “foundation” cleanse: A medium-leveled plan for those who eat fairly healthy but who are new to the multiple-day juice cleanse routine. Now, I’m no novice to the juicing world entirely; I’m only new to the world of multi-day-juice plans. I typically drink a couple of juices per week and have survived a few one-day juice cleanses, mostly when I’ve felt under the weather and wanted to kick the virus out of me as fast as possible. And let’s be honest, I snuck a few almonds and cashews in between beverages.

This time however, was different. It was time to stop thinking about doing a juice cleanse and just do it. The testimonials I read were inspiring: People were losing weight, feeling ecstatic and full of energy, gaining confidence, overcoming health issues, and seeing allergies and skin issues disappear! My expectations were high and I was going into this thing full force.

The foundation cleanse called for a daily serving of 2 fruit juices, 3 green juices, and 1 nut milk – with recipes provided in the last pages of the book. It required preparation by eating  all raw foods for a couple of days before the cleanse, cutting out caffeine, meat, alcohol, and cigarettes. In the days following the cleanse, solid foods are to be reintroduced slowly, warning that digestive systems may enter into a type of “shock” if solids and cooked foods were consumed too quickly. I reread a few vital sections of the book and felt confident enough to dive in to my weekend a la juice.

Juice Cleanse Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

The days of juicing went by and I waited for the change. My testimonial. My enlightening experience from consuming nothing but raw fruits and vegetables in liquid form for 3 days. I waited for it to be difficult, to feel those intense cravings, to feel a sense of accomplishment when I resisted – but I felt nothing. Nothing besides a 2-day-long headache that was probably just my body going through a sugar withdrawal (I had managed to develop a sugar addiction by incorporating dark chocolate into my diet almost every day since Christmas).

Juice Cleanse Becauseitsgoodforyou.comHonestly, the most difficult part was not the hunger, it was the desire to sit down for a meal, cut a piece of food, and be able to chew it in my mouth. It was even a struggle to drink the last of the juices that I needed to consume because I wasn’t hungry enough to drink it! I didn’t really crack until about 8:00pm on the last day, Sunday. I only had 3 of the required 6 juices per day, I was tired, and in no condition to chop a cutting board full of produce and run it through the juicer even one more time. I sat and debated with myself for a while, trying to decide whether it was worth it to finish the weekend off strong. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that maybe juicing wasn’t for me. Maybe my diet was adequate enough that I didn’t really need a juice cleanse. Yes, there were some pro’s that resulted from my weekend a la juice, but overall it wasn’t the revelation I was expecting. This whole experience just turned out to be another lesson in the philosophy of “what works for one person doesn’t work for everyone.” After that, I picked up some spring rolls and veggie pho, ate it happily (and slowly), and went to bed. And you know what? I felt fine. No digestive shock. No crazy nausea. Just the warm feeling of contentment that comes after eating a big bowl of soup on a cold night.

Juice Cleanse Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

So the question now is – do I still believe in drinking juices? Yes. Do I think that some people benefit greatly from juice cleanses? Sure. Do I think that drinking juice is a great way to obtain a ton of nutrients and a great way to live healthier? Definitely. Do I think that everyone will benefit from dedicating days of their lives to drinking nothing but liquified produce? Not entirely. But this is how we learn, and at least now I can say I tried it. Who knows, maybe next time I’ll try a new kind of cleanse and feel something totally different. The point of this story? Do what’s right for you. No one knows your body better than yourself, so listen to what it’s saying and follow it’s direction!

PS- One “pro’s” of this cleanse was discovering how to make cashew milk, a drink I am now obsessed with. A recipe for this as well as other recipes used during the juice cleanse are soon to follow!

Because Your Pet Deserves Real Food Too

Miso for Natural Pet Food Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Meet Miso. She’s a four-year old fancy feline with some serious sass. But she’s also incredibly lovable and endlessly entertaining. Oh yeah, and she’s on a diet.

Last winter, I came home from work and Miso greeted me with her typical meow and a squinty right eye. As I picked her up and looked closer, I noticed her eye was totally bloodshot and full of green mucus. She was also acting particularly lethargic and disoriented. Panicking, I immediately called the vet and scheduled an appointment for the next morning. Miso had not been to the vet since her spay appointment as a kitten and my guilty conscience for this was beginning to rise. I took full blame for her apparent pain.

Whole Pet Food Becauseitsgoodforyou

Luckily, the vet said it wasn’t anything serious; that it was just a little winter cold. However, he did tell me that she was a few pounds overweight and was well on her way to developing kitty diabetes. This news came as a shock to me. First, I had no idea animals could even become diabetic. Second, I had fed Miso Purina One since she was a kitten, a brand I thought was one of the best. How was this happening?

The vet gave me a lesson that day on how many brands of pet foods contain unnecessary fillers, preservatives, hormones, and excess carbs that are contributing toward disease and other illnesses in our furry friends. Sound familiar? How many Americans are experiencing health-related difficulties associated with consuming too many fast-food burgers and other “fake” food products? It appears that food manufacturers are more concerned with finding ingredients to put into their products that are cheap than ingredients that are actually healthy. And now it’s not only affecting Americans, it’s affecting our pets as well. The vet recommended switching Miso to a wholesome, all natural cat food, cutting down her daily portion size, and increasing exercise. I took his advice and am happy to report that Miso has been 100% healthy since her last visit to the vet and is slowly but surely approaching a more normal weight for her age and size.

To support this post, I recently walked into a local CVS and took some photos of the ingredient labels listed on the back of several cat and dog foods. Take a look at these:

unhealthy pet food becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Unhealthy_pet_food_whiskas2 becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Will Falconer, a Homeopathic Veterinarian wrote an article discussing the differences in healthy pet food versus unhealthy pet food. He mentions animal byproducts as one of the worst ingredients because it consists of all the leftover parts of the animal meat that are unfit for humans to eat. Many of these animals were treated with hormones and raised in unfit and unsanitary living spaces. It also includes animals that were diseased, disabled or dying during the time they were slaughtered. Preservatives such as BHT and BHA (you can see it listed on the back of the Beggin Strips bag) are actually toxic.

Will goes on to say that the best way to feed your pet is to make your own wholesome pet food, but if that sounds too difficult for you, look for food that only contains high quality ingredients, then mix in some organic, raw meats, vegetables, or eggs to enhance the nutrients and to mimic what your pets ancestors would have eaten in the wild.

My vet recommends using Science Diet or this Trader Joe’s brand (shown below) cat food (which is much cheaper). If you take a look at the picture you can get a sense for what a healthier type of cat food ingredients label looks like.

wholesome_cat_food2 becauseitsgoodforyou.com

wholesomecatfood2 becauseitsgoodforyou.com

I’ll admit it took some time for Miso to warm up to her new, healthier meal plan. But now, with most of the excess weight off, she is able to prance around and finally jump up on those high ledges she could never reach before. She also hasn’t caught a cold or any type of sickness since I switched her food. And of course, she just loves showing off her new, slimmer figure!

cat diabetes becauseitsgoodforyou.com

So next time you’re shopping for pet food, take a second to turn the bag around and look closely at the ingredients before you buy it. If you take the time to keep your own body healthy, you can surely take the time to help keep your pets body healthy!

Makeover + Big News!

If you haven’t noticed, Because It’s Good For You just got a makeover! Big thanks to Hak Lonh of Champion & King for his amazing photography skills and help in adding a little life to this website. Also, thanks to the fruits and vegetables for being such amazing models! Who knew produce was so photogenic? I mean, just look at this artichoke!

artichoke becauseitsgoodforyou

Beautiful, right?! And check out these berries:

berries becauseitsgoodforyou

That just goes to show that the best looking things are natural, not artificial!

ALSO- Because It’s Good For You is now on Facebook! Anything I post on WordPress will automatically be linked to both sites, but I’ll also be adding extra health-related news and fun facts only on Facebook – so please follow both to stay informed! You can find the “Like” box in the upper right hand corner of this page, or you can find a link to it here.

Tumblr, Twitter, and (maybe) Instagram are soon to come as well! Stay tuned!

Autism Spectrum Disorder and Food; Is There a Relationship?

In the months following my undergraduate graduation I did what any normal recent grad would do: I looked for a job.  I was still unsure of whether I wanted to continue on toward a master’s level education, but more unsure of whether I could even find a decent job with only a B.A. in psychology (it’s not easy).  Through hours of searching through Craigslist and other various job search engines, I began to notice a trend:

“Behaviorist Needed for After-School Program for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder;” “ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) Specialist Needed for Non-Profit Company Working With Children with Autism;” “Tutor/Nanny/Daycare Personnel Needed to Work with Children on the Spectrum.” 

Line after line showed similar results.

And then I moved on to graduate school to attain a M.A. in Clinical Psychology and again, began looking for a job.  The results were practically undistinguishable from the ones I found nearly 3 years earlier; except there were more positions opening!  Even the graduate school I attended was in the midst of developing an entire floor of the building dedicated to their new ABA program, a fast growing field in the realm of psychology (Although ABA is not solely dedicated to individuals on the autism spectrum, it is a large focus of the major.  Their method lies in behavioral techniques and modification – altering behavior based on reward, positive reinforcement, and the like. Emotions are not at the forefront of treatment like it would be in a clinical psychological setting).  I had come in contact with children on the spectrum throughout the course of my traineeship as a middle school counselor and had several acquaintances with siblings or children on the spectrum, but I had never received advanced training in the area.  But obviously, this was a big deal.  I couldn’t help but wonder, ‘what causes this developmental disorder? Why is this becoming so prevalent now when it was barely recognized 50 years ago?’

My parents and grandparents didn’t know any elementary school classmates who had autism or asperger’s.  And today, they don’t have any friends or know of anyone their age who are on the spectrum.  So what’s going on?

In talking with peers, professors, and other individuals about the topic, I’ve heard just about every theory in the book:

“We are in the midst of an evolutionary process.  The human brain is evolving to disregard emotional and social cues and focussing solely on intellectual and logical processes;” “Autism Spectrum Disorder has always been around. We just never noticed it before because it didn’t have a name;” “There must be something in the water.” 

Sure, these are all possible reasons, but there’s something to be said about the last theory.  There may not be something in the water, per say, but there definitely is something in the food that we eat.  Especially with all the changes and “advancements” we’ve seen in farming and agriculture in the last century.  Cancer rates have also increased over the last century.  See a relationship?  Maybe.

An article published recently in The New York Times by Moises Velasquez-Manoff proposed an even bigger theory: that a third of cases of autism appear to be the result of an inflammatory response that occurs while the child is in the womb.  The immune system produces an inflammatory response when it feels like it is under attack by something foreign in an attempt to return to homeostasis.  In autistic individuals, the inflammatory response overpowers the anti-inflammatory response and is heightened at varying degrees, hence the reason autism is viewed as on a spectrum. The article goes on to discuss animal studies performed to support this idea, such as injecting “autistic antibodies” (that bind to fetal brain proteins) into the wombs of an experimental animal group and noticing marked autistic behaviors in their young such as repetition and social withdrawal. The question now is, what are our bodies trying to protect us against? Why are these inflammation responses occurring?

Duane Law, L.Ac. has done a bit of research on inflammation, allergies, and the stress response.  In one of the chapters of his book, Before Meds After Meds: Complimentary and Alternative Medicine for Anxiety & Depression, he discusses how food allergies occur.  Our digestive systems are not always able to properly break down some of the foods that we eat and, thinking we may have just swallowed a foreign substance, sends the body in to a protective mode and causes inflammation.  If it’s serious enough, our fight-or-flight response kicks in, stress hormones are released, and sugar is poured from cells into our blood stream to make sure we have enough energy to run or fight against the hypothetical danger.  An increase in blood sugar levels results in an increase in dopamine, the reward neurotransmitter (the same neurotransmitter that accounts for addictive behaviors) and causes us to feel cravings.  So basically, the foods that we so often crave, like refined sugar and sweets, are the things that we are allergic to because our body cannot naturally process them.  Let’s break this down a bit more. If we abide by the standard American diet, we are constantly eating foods we are allergic to without even realizing it.  Think about it – You can go weeks without eating fast food but the second you put your mouth around a Big Mac, you want another one.  Same with sweets – the more chocolate cake you eat, the more you crave it.  People who suddenly quit drinking Coke or Diet Coke get headaches, irritability, intense cravings, and moodiness – all because our body is stuck in this vicious cycle of addiction and inflammation.

This idea opens so many doors of possible answers to many every-day health problems.  If our stress response is being kicked and inflammation is occurring every time we eat something that is unnatural, what other kinds of effects do you think that has on our organs? Our moods? Or even on our brain?  Could it have something to do with the inflammation response that occurs in the brain of individuals with autism, as discussed in the article?  These are all questions that have yet to be researched and answered.  But I do know one thing – it should definitely make us think twice about the things we put into our bodies.

For more information on autism spectrum disorder, including resources, please check out:
http://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism or http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/asd.cfm

When Can You Break The ‘Organic’ Rule?

We have all heard that eating organic is the way to go if we want to prevent ourselves from ingesting potentially harmful chemicals hidden in our fruits and vegetables.  But how many times have you gone to the grocery store on a budget and noticed that organic avocados are almost a dollar more than non-organic avocados?  Being a recent college graduate, I know what it feels like to worry about those extra dollars adding up.  I sometimes have wondered if one word could really make that big of a difference.  Unless you consistently shop at Sprouts, Whole Foods, or have an amazing farmer’s market in your town, buying organic can be difficult, costly, and make shopping twice as long and frustrating.

Although purchasing (and eating) solely organically grown food is still the best option, there are some non-organic foods that you could slip into your mouth without feeling a tremendous amount of guilt or anxiety that you just ingested 80 different kinds of pesticides.  Psychology Today was kind enough to list them out in a recent issue and I felt like it was also worth mentioning here.  So, here you go:

NON-ORGANIC FOODS YOU CAN EAT SAFELY AND (MOSTLY) GUILT-FREE

1. Onions – 1 Pesticide
Dicloran is a fungicide and the only pesticide that onions carry – and was found present in only .03 percent of samples tested.  However,  dicloran is banned in most European countries, and probably for good reason.

2. Sweet Corn – 1 Pesticide
The neurotoxin dimethoate is the only toxin in sweet corn and was only found on 2.3 percent of samples tested.

3. Pineapples – 6 Pesticides
Triadimefon is the most common pesticide found in pineapples, but was still only present in 4.5 percent of samples. Carbaryl is a neurotoxin found in trace amounts in pineapples and is also banned in most European countries (I think they’re on to something).

4. Avocado – exact number unstated
Abamectin is the major pesticide in avocados and has been known to lead to tremors and loss of coordination in high doses.  However, all avocados are good sources of fiber, folate, and phytosterols (aka – good fat).

5. Asparagus – 9 Pesticides
The pesticides found were only present in about 3.3 percent of samples tested.  These included methomyl and chlorpyrifos, both neurotoxins.

6. Sweet Peas – 12 Chemicals
Dimethoate was found present in over 10 percent of samples tested.  The other chemicals were found in anywhere between 0.1 – 12.1 percent of samples.

7. Mangoes – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Imidacloprid and glyphosate are the 2 major pesticides in mangoes;  Although glyphosate is relatively non-toxic to humans.

8. Eggplant – 17+ Chemicals
17 looks like a lot of chemicals, but the amounts found in the samples were only small traces.  It’s main ‘star’ is the hormone disruptor endosulfan, which was found in 16 percent of samples.

9. Cantaloupe – 27 Pesticides
Endosulfan is also the most common pesticide found in cantaloupe.  The other pesticides were found in percentages ranging from 0.2-28.8 of samples.

10. Cabbage – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Chlorpyrifos is a pesticide and nerve disruptor found in cabbage.  Chlorothalonil is a potential carcinogen and can damage eyes and skin in high doses.

11. Kiwi – 2 Major Pesticides + small traces of others
Glyphosate and paraquat were found in 57 and 35 percent of samples. Glyphosate is harmless, although paraquat has been linked to Parkinson’s disease.

12. Watermelon – 28 Pesticides
28 different pesticides were found in 0.2-5.1 percent of watermelon samples. The most common are imidacloprid and thiamethoxam, both neurotoxins, and methamidophos, a far more toxic nerve disruptor.

FOODS YOU SHOULD ONLY EAT IF GROWN ORGANICALLY (AKA “THE DIRTY DOZEN”)

1. Apples – 40 + Pesticides
Workers who apply pesticides to apples, particularly diphenylamine or DPA (which is linked to bladder tumors), are required to wear long sleeves and gloves to prevent exposure to these fungicides and carcinogens.

2. Celery – 64 Pesticides
Pesticides discovered were found on every celery tested, most of which are used to kill moths, beetles, and other bugs by stimulating their muscles to contract.

3. Strawberries – exact number unstated
One of every two non-organic strawberries grown contain the fungicide captan, a possible carcinogen.  Pyraclostrobin is also very present in strawberries and has been known to cause skin and eye irritations.

4. Peaches – 62 Pesticides
Most peaches tested contained pesticides that may cause damage to the liver, kidneys, nervous system functioning, and reproductive systems.

5. Spinach – 48 Pesticides
Permethrin and imidacloprid are found in almost every other leaf of spinach sampled, and can disrupt nerve signals.

6. Nectarines – 33 Pesticides
Formetanate is a neurotoxin that was found in half of the sample of nectarines tested.

7. Grapes – 34 Pesticides
Cyprodinil was found in 3/10 Chilean grapes and can cause eye, nose, and skin irritation.

8. Bell Peppers – 49 Pesticides
26 of the 49 different pesticides found in bell peppers are hormone disruptors, while 13 of them are neurotoxins. Imidacloprid is also present in more than 80 percent of samples tested.

9. Potatoes – 37 Pesticides
Imidacloprid is found again in high doses in potatoes, along with chloropropham which can irritate the skin and eyes in high doses.

10. Lettuce – 51 Pesticides
Imidacloprid strikes yet again in 73 percent of lettuce samples tested. Lettuce also has DCPA, a herbicide, and dimethomorph, a fungicide that can damage lungs if inhaled.

11. Blueberries – 52 Pesticides
Approximately 30 percent of blueberries contain the fungicide boscalid, which is toxic to the liver and thyroid, as well as pyraclostrobin, a skin irritant.

12. Kale – 55 Pesticides
Similar to lettuce, kale contains DCPA and imidacloprid, found in 30 and 50 percent of samples.

TAKE NOTE: This is not a list stating what NOT to eat. All of these produce items still have nutritional benefits and are very good for you! Just remember that when in doubt – choose organic. Then you will never have to worry about eating anything foreign or in addition to the tons of vitamins and minerals that are naturally present in these food items.

If you would like more information or  are looking for a way to eat organic without spending a ton of money, Psychology Today wrote another beautiful online article to help. You can find it here.