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!

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Juicing 101: Behind the Scenes

juice cleanse becauseitsgoodforyou.com

There were several pro’s and con’s to my 3-day juice cleanse experiment. On the one hand, I realized that multi-day juice cleanses weren’t for everyone because I didn’t quite feel all the positive effects that I read about in the testimonials. On the other hand, I did learn a lot of delicious juice recipes and even began creating some recipes of my own! My juicing has definitely been up since the cleanse and I even find myself occasionally craving an 8oz glass of nutritional gooddness. While my last post documented my juicing experience, this post is dedicated to sharing some of the recipes I made (drank) over the cleanse. I started out the weekend following the recipes listed in the back of Zoe Sakoutis and Erica Huss’s book, “The 3-Day Cleanse,” but about halfway through the second day I began experimenting with my own recipes (mainly because I a) started running out of ingredients and b) have a difficult time following recipes exactly). For more juice and meal recipes, definitely check out Sakoutis and Huss’s book. It’s an easy read and has a ton of nutritional information that anyone can benefit from. But anyway, enough with the rambling and on to the recipes!

*If you feel a bit lost after reading that paragraph, take a look at my previous post: Accomplishing Some Things and Failing at Others: Juicing 101 –  here

I’ll start off with my favorite recipe, the tastes-like-you’re-drinking-ice-cream, CASHEW MILK. This was always the last drink of the day, to prevent you from waking up starving the next morning.

WHAT YOU NEED:

• ½ cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 1 hour (in 1 cup water)
• 2 cups filtered water
• 1 ½ teaspoon extra virgin coconut oil
• ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
• 2 teaspoons agave nectar
• pinch of sea salt

PREPARATION:

Drain the nuts and combine all ingredients into a blender. Blend well, until completely smooth. Store in a refrigerator and shake well before use.

BLUEBERRY PEACH – This is another easy recipe you can make in your blender. It’s great as a breakfast smoothie or mid afternoon snack.

Blueberry Peach Juice becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 cup frozen blueberries
• 1 cup frozen peaches
• 1 ½ cups rice milk

PREPARATION:

Place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

GREEN JUICE – This one you need a juicer for, but it’s still super easy. There may be a lot of greens, but the apples make it sweet.

Green Juice becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• Large handful of spinach
• Large handful of kale
• 2 Apples (I used Golden Delicious)
• ½ large cucumber
• Small handful of parsley, stems removed
• 1 lemon

PREPARATION:

Wash all ingredients. Cut the peel from the lemon. Cut cucumber into pieces that will fit through a juicer. Core the apple and cut into pieces that will fit through a juicer. Run ingredients through the juicer. Scrape pulp from sides and run back through juicer if needed.

SPINACH BLUEBERRY APPLE JUICE 

Spinach Blueberry Juice becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• Small handful of spinach
• 10 oz blueberries
• 1 Granny Smith apple
• 1 lemon

PREPARATION:

Wash ingredients. Core apple and cut into pieces that will fit through a juicer. Cut peel from the lemon. Run all ingredients through the juicer. Scrape pulp from sides and run back through juicer if needed.

CRAZY JUICE – This is where things started to get crazy (obviously)

Crazy Juice becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• Large handful of kale
• Small handful of parsley
• 1 cucumber
• 2 carrots
• 1 lemon

PREPARATION

Wash all ingredients. Cut stems from parsley. Cut cucumber and carrots into pieces that will fit through the juicer. Cut peel from lemon. Run all ingredients through juicer. Scrape pulp from sides and run back through juicer if needed.

There you have it. Five delicious juice recipes to get you started on your juicing journey. Do you have any favorite recipes? Or have you completed a juice cleanse and experienced similar, or different, results? If so, please share!

Happy juicing!

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!

Hearty Lima Bean and Barley Chowder

Bean and Barley Soup. Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Several months back I watched the documentary Forks Over Knives and I immediately had to buy the cookbook.  For those of you who are not familiar with Forks Over Knives, it’s a documentary that shares success stories of individuals with major health issues (heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol) who have seen their illnesses literally reverse by becoming vegan and eating only whole or plant-based foods.  Personally, I’ve recently become more of a believer in the “eat right for your blood type” ideology (more about that concept in a future post), but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great documentary with some amazing stories shared by people who have integrated healthy eating into their lifestyle and seen incredibly positive results.  Also, studies show that Americans typically eat way more meat and dairy than we should be eating, so incorporating more whole foods and veggies into a diet is never a bad thing.  Another pro is that the recipes taste good. I’ve tried a handful of Forks Over Knives recipes and I must admit, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all of them.  The only negative aspect of the book are the lack of food photos, so I figured I’d share a couple of my own.  I made this soup last week when we had a whole two days of rain and I felt like eating something warm and hearty.  Now we’re back to 90 degree heat and I’m back to eating salads.  California weather is always a surprise.

Bean and Barley Soup. Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

*Note: This recipe makes A LOT of soup. Unless you are making it for a dinner party, or plan on eating it for 3 days in a row (like I had to), I would recommend cutting the recipe in half. 

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 8 cups water or vegetable stock ( I used 4c water, 4c stock)
• 1 cup dry baby lima beans
• 1 cup chopped white or red onion (I used white)
• 1 cup chopped carrot
• 1 celery stock, finely chopped
• 1/2 cup pearl barley
• 1 tbsp crushed garlic
• 1 teaspoon thyme (or another herb. I used parsley)
• Salt and pepper to taste

BEFORE: Soak lima beans in water overnight then drain.

PREPARATION:

1.  Place water and lima beans in a large pot and bring to a boil.

2.  Add onion, carrot, celery, pearl barley, crushed garlic, and thyme.

3.  Bring back to a boil.

4. Reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for about 2 hours, or until the broth is creamy and
the barley and beans are tender.

6. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

OPTION: The next day I decided to sauté some mushrooms, garlic, and kale before adding the soup to reheat.  I topped it with a little Sriracha and the juice from a couple lemon wedges – It tasted even more delicious than the first time!

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Barley may be used to help in the prevention and management of diabetes by slowing glucose absorption.  It is a great source of dietary fiber. Barley also contains phytochemicals which may reduce the risk of cancer and other diseases, as well as antioxidants, iron, magnesium, zinc, and other vital nutrients.

Lima beans are also a high-fiber food. They’re considered to be heart-healthy because they are low in fat and contain no cholesterol. Lima beans are a good source of protein and aid in digestion.

Enjoy!

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

The Cutest Little Tapenade Stuffed Mushroom Recipe

I’m a big fan of bite -sized food.  Not only are you preventing a mess from forming around the corners of your mouth, but you’re also tasting every delicious flavor of a recipe- all in one bite!  It’s quick, clean, and satisfying.  And who doesn’t love a good miniature?! Like these baby bella mushrooms, for example:

baby bella mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

On that note, I’ll share with you a bite-sized recipe that I whipped up recently for a friends barbecue.  The host had already prepared an array of amazing food options, but I wanted to contribute by adding a snack that would appease omnivores and herbivores alike.  I immediately thought of mini stuffed mushrooms, and after some perusing around on the internet, I found this olive tapenade recipe that I thought would be a perfect filling!

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED:

• 3 cups baby bella mushrooms, stems removed and chopped in half
• 1-2 square sheets parchment paper
• 1 1/2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted
• 1 1/2 cups green olives, pitted
• 5 cloves of garlic
• 2 tbsp capers
• 1 red bell pepper, roasted and cut into 1″ sections
• 1/2 oz parsley
• 3 tsp lemon juice
• 1/2 oz basil
• 5 tbsp olive oil

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

PREPARATION:

1.  Place olives, pepper, capers, garlic, and about half of the mushrooms stems into a food processor.  Push the “pulse” button about 15 times at 1 second intervals.
*Although a  food processor is the easiest method, it’s not the only one.  You may choose to chop the ingredients up by hand, but it could take you a while.

2.  Add the basil, parsley, olive oil, and juice from the lemon.  Pulse again for about 15 times at 1 second intervals, or until everything looks well chopped. Remove from processor and set aside.

 

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade becauseitsgoodforyou

3.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

4.  Place the baby bella mushrooms, stems removed, on to a plate or a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
* If you think you can spoon the tapenade on to the mushroom without making a big mess, a baking sheet may be the better option here, so you don’t have to transfer them to one later.  I learned this the hard way. 

5.  Spoon a small bit of tapenade in to the mushroom where the stem used to be.

olive stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

6.  If you haven’t done so already, place mushrooms on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and place in oven.  Cook for about 15-20 minutes or until the mushrooms begin to “sweat” and are soft to the touch.

7.  You’ll probably need to do two rounds of baking unless you have an extra-large baking sheet. If not, wait a few minutes for the mushrooms to cool and enjoy your beautiful (and delicious) bite-sized creation!

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

olive tapenade stuffed mushrooms becauseitsgoodforyou

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU:

Mushrooms are often used in weight loss programs because they are very low in calories, sodium, and fat, while adding fiber to your body with every bite.  Mushrooms are also a great source of potassium (1 large Portobello mushroom contains more potassium than a banana),  a mineral that has been known to lower blood pressure and reduce the chance of stroke.  Riboflavin, niacin, and selenium are also a part of  the health benefits of mushrooms and aid in the prevention of prostate cancer.1

Although olives have a high fat content (about 15-30 percent), they still offer several health benefits.  For example, olives are abundant in vitamin E as well as polyphenols and flavonoids.  They are also an anti-inflammatory and can prevent against certain cancers and heart disease.2  Olives originated in the Mediterranean, an area that still frequently consumes large amounts of olives and olive products/fats (such as olive oil).  Research shows that people in this region show fewer instances of diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and colon cancer compared to the United States, whose residents typically consume a diet high in animal fats.3

RESOURCES
1. http://www.vegetarian-nutrition.info/updates/mighty-mushrooms.php
2. http://www.livestrong.com/article/43114-nutrition-information-olives/
3. http://www.everynutrient.com/healthbenefitsofolives.html

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.