Simple Tips for Building (and keeping) Strong Relationships

Tips for Building Strong Relationships Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIn honor of Valentine’s day I opted to put on my therapist hat, pull out my couples therapy handbook, and jot down some quick tips on how to maintain a healthy relationship. We all know that this holiday is a day of love and appreciation; A day where you can forget all the arguments and troubles of the past and focus on the moment. You dress up. You plan ahead. You buy gifts for one another and open them during dinner at a nice restaurant that required a reservation weeks in advance.  It’s a day solely designed for focussing attention toward your significant other and letting them know how much they mean to you. The question is – why do people need a holiday to provoke these kinds of actions? Why is it so difficult to remember to show our love year round?

All relationships take work. Whether it’s a new relationship or one that’s been around for 50 years, you need to feel confident that your choice to be with this one particular person is for a good reason (and the other person should be reminded of why you chose to be with them too!). If you’re having difficulty keeping that spark alive outside of Valentine’s Day, it may be time to work on building a sturdier support system for your relationship. Here are some tips that may help you and your significant other re-ignite that fire:

Discover Your Strengths. What makes you strong as a couple? Maybe you travel well together, or you are both clean and organized. Do you share similar hobbies? Do you both like to cook or play tennis? Are you the couple that other couples invite over for game night because they know everyone will have a good time? Are you skilled at balancing your daily activities together? Do you communicate well? Try and find at least 5 strengths and write them down on a piece of paper. Keep it in a safe place and refer to it when you need a reminder of why you two mesh so well together.

Go On Dates. Real Ones. Even if you have been with your partner for 20 years, dates are still extremely important to maintaining a healthy relationship. If you haven’t been on a date in forever, then start small. Plan an outing for 2 nights a month just as a couple. Then bump it up to once a week. Assign one person to plan the first date and try to keep it a surprise. The next time, the other person can plan the date. Try not to plan something last minute because it takes away from the anticipation of the date. Set a day and time that works with both of your schedules so you don’t feel stressed or rushed. And don’t feel pressured to spend a lot of money by going out to an expensive dinner every single time. Plan a picnic in the park or take a couples cooking class. Be creative! A good friend of mine planned a “wine tasting night” at her and her husband’s house. They bought a few bottles of wine, placed them on their kitchen table, stuck white paper over the labels, and numbered each of them. Then, they poured a little of each wine into glasses to taste, talked about the different flavors and decided on what wine was their favorite before removing the white paper. She said even though they had been married for a few years, it was one of the most fun nights they had ever shared together.

Use “I” Statements. If you have ever taken a communications course, you know the importance of using “I” statements when conversing over a heated topic. Saying “I feel” rather than “you always” can make a huge difference in settling an argument. It helps make the argument more constructive and less criticizing. Even if you are in the heat of the moment and are tempted to throw some harsh insults at your partner – don’t. Words can leave a lasting scar and creep back up when you least expect it. Also, stay away from saying absolutes. I guarantee your partner doesn’t “always” leave the toilet seat up or “never” take out the trash. Try to stick to things that are true and don’t bring up certain instances just to prove a point. The goal of arguing is to come to a mutual agreement. Relationships require a lot of compromise and both members need to be willing to give a little sometimes in order to keep things peaceful and healthy.

Simple Tips for Building and Keeping Strong Relationships Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Try Something New. What have you both been wanting to do but never have? Maybe it was your dream to go on an African safari or backpack through Europe. Maybe you want to learn another language or run a marathon. If you want to skydive and your partner wants to learn to sail a boat, make an agreement to try out both- together. Or find a new event or hobby that you both can agree on. It’s important to maintain your own interests and hobbies aside from your significant other, but trying new things as a couple can help keep things fresh and exciting. Another couple I know created a bucket list for the year of activities they wanted to complete together. In January, they made an agreement that every few weekends they would set out to cross an activity off the bucket list. If you are looking for a way to stay in the “honeymoon” phase of your relationship all year round, this is it!

Do Something Thoughtful. Remember when you first started dating and you were surprised with a freshly picked rose on your car window? Or you received a funny email from your partner who was trying to cheer you up when you had a rough day at work? Try to bring those activities back. Leave a little love note somewhere unexpected for your partner to find. In conversation, bring up a memorable moment from when you two first met. These little cues will send reminders to your brain of how much you value your partner. When life becomes chaotic, we need reminders to keep our minds focussed on the positive things in our life because these are the things that help keep us going.

Moral of the story (or post): Simple activities can go a long way in helping maintain healthy relationships. And remember – showing love and appreciation for your partner is not something that should only occur on one day per year (we all know that Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark holiday anyway, right?). Real relationships need to be nurtured and cared for just like anything else. A plant will never grow if you don’t water it and give it a little sunshine. So now that you have the tools, get out there and show some love!

Is there anything unique that you and your partner do to keep your relationship alive? Any fun or interesting date ideas? Post in the comment section below!

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Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut

Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

I’ve developed a minor obsession with two new types of food; Kelp noodles and coconut. To be honest, I was never a big fan of coconut or kelp growing up, but lately I can’t seem to get enough of either of them! I think this dish is really what changed it all for me. The flavors go well together and the kelp noodles are so thin you barely notice the ocean-y aroma that kelp products sometimes emit. Not to mention, they are fat-free, gluten-free, and very low in calories and carbohydrates. This dish also fits under the “quick and easy” category as it only takes about 20 minutes from prepping the ingredients to taking the first warm and delicious bite! Another great quality that I love to find with food is the room for flexibility. Feel free to experiment with different vegetables and spices to adjust it to your liking!

Kelp Noodle and Coconut Soup Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 3 cups vegetable broth
• 1 12oz package kelp noodles
• 1 14oz can coconut milk
• 3 tbsp fish sauce
• Juice from ½ lemon
• Juice from ½ lime
• 1 large shallot, finely minced
• 2 tsp raw honey ( I recently decided to make the switch from agave to raw honey because of new information about agave that I discovered, particularly this article. This photo was taken before the switch. )
• 1 tbsp grated ginger
• 2 green onions, sliced
• ½ tsp ground coriander
• ½ tsp red pepper flakes
• 1 cup cooked or raw shrimp, cleaned and peeled (optional)
• 1 small bunch cilantro, stems removed

Kelp Noodle and Coconut Soup Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• In a large bowl, combine vegetable broth, fish sauce, lemon juice, lime juice, ginger, shallot, honey, coriander, green onion, coconut milk, and red pepper flakes. Bring to a low simmer.
• Rinse and cut noodles into a few smaller sections (they tend to get tangled and are difficult to separate without cutting first). Add to mixture.
• Let simmer for about 10 minutes on medium-low heat.
• At the last minute, add cilantro and shrimp.
• Remove from heat, pour into bowls and top with an extra sprig or two of cilantro.
• Serve and enjoy!

Kelp Noodle Soup with Coconut Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Coconut milk is rich in antioxidants, as well as C, E, and B vitamins. It is a great substitute for cow’s milk as it does not clog arteries and is easier to digest. It also contains magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and iron. Kelp is rich in sodium algenate, an element that is known to protect the body from radiation as well as remove it. It is also a good source of iodine which helps maintain healthy thyroid function. Chlorophyl is abundant in kelp and helps stimulate red blood cell production, increasing oxygen flow around the body.

Do you have any good recipes with kelp noodles or coconut? Please share in the comments section below!

Quick and Easy Super Bowl Snack Recipes

Super Bowl Sunday is not only a day of sports, it’s a day of food. And by food I mean the greasiest, fattiest, meatiest meals out there. Go to any Super Bowl party and you’ll find a bacon-wrapped this or a beer-battered that; Chips and dips and cheese galore! It’s a time when you test out all the ideas you gathered from eating food at the county fair and don’t have to lie about owning a portable deep fryer. According to an article by nwi.com, Americans consumed approximately 11 million pounds of chips and 1.25 billion pounds of chicken wings last year on Super Bowl Sunday. Not to say that you can’t enjoy a bite or two of your friends famous cajun chipotle chili cheese dip, but unless you want to be catapulted into a giant food coma by 3rd quarter, you better incorporate some snacks that your body won’t hate you for eating the next day.

Don’t know what to make? It’s cool. I got you covered.

MINTY CUCUMBER VEGGIE DIP

Minty Cucumber Veggie dip Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• ½ English cucumber (seeds removed)
• ½ cup mint leaves
• 1 large container Greek yogurt (approximately 10oz)
• Lemon (optional)
• Salt and pepper to taste

Minty Cucumber Dip Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

Spoon yogurt into a large bowl. Finely chop mint leaves and cucumbers and combine with yogurt in bowl. Add salt, pepper, and lemon (optional) to taste. Serve with fresh cut veggies like carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, etc.

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Cucumbers are sometimes referred to as a superfood because of their endless nutritional benefits. They help hydrate the body, nourish the skin and hair, are a good source of B vitamins, contain cancer-fighting properties, help aid in digestion and weight loss, relieve bad breath, and help relieve gout and arthritis pain. Greek yogurt is a good source of protein, calcium, and contains healthy bacteria such as acidophilus and lactobacillus.

Minty Cucumber Dip Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

SPICY CHICKPEA POPPERS – These are super quick and easy to make. And they are perfect for nibbling as well as satisfying a craving for something spicy.

Spicy Chickpea Poppers Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 15oz cans chickpeas, drained and patted dry
• 2 tablespoons grape seed oil
• 1 tsp cayanne pepper (This makes them moderately spicy. Adjust according to your spiciness needs)
• salt and pepper to taste

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 375°. Toss chickpeas with grape seed oil, cayanne, salt and pepper. Place in large baking dish or cookie sheet. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until they become slightly crisp and golden in color (be careful not to over bake). Add more salt and pepper if needed before serving.

Spicy Chickpea Poppers Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Chickpeas are low in fat and high in fiber. They lower cholesterol, aid in weight loss, and help promote a healthy intestine. They also are a good source of protein – a benefit to keep in mind if you are a non-meat eater.

CHICKPEA DIP – I had some leftover chickpeas, so I decided to make another chickpea dish. The great thing about this dish is that it’s simple and you have the ability to be creative. Feel free to switch up the herbs or adjust the spices to your liking. You can eat this with fresh cut veggies, crackers, or any other healthy side. It may also go well as a dressing for a sandwich or wrap.

Chickpea Dip Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 cup cooked chickpeas
• 2 tablespoons olive oil (or grape seed, olive, walnut, etc)
• ¼ cup fresh cilantro
• Juice from half a lemon
• Juice from half a lime
• Salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas, oil, cilantro, lemon juice, lime juice, and a few dashes of salt and pepper into a food processor. Pulse on low until well combined. Spoon into a bowl and serve with crackers, fresh cut vegetables, etc.

Chickpea Dip Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

You already know the health benefits of chickpeas! And cilantro also promotes healthy cholesterol levels by lowering LDL (bad cholesterol) while increasing HDL (good cholesterol) with its many antioxidants, essential oils, and vitamins, including vitamins A and K.

BEET CHIPS – I saved the best for last. These are absolutely delicious. In the past, I had a bit of a chip addiction and these help fill the void without adding the guilt. This recipe I actually borrowed from marthastewart.com but added my own touch by including a bit of salt and pepper.  You’ll need a mandoline to slice the beets for this recipe, as well as a vegetable peeler.

Beet Chips Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WARNING: DO NOT wear a nice outfit while making this dish. The beets are difficult to slice and have the potential to go flying. And they definitely like to leave their mark. Washing your hands after handling these guys is going to make you feel like you just did something you only see in horror flicks.

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 medium red beets, washed and peeled
• 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tsp salt
• Small dash of pepper

*Depending on the size of your baking sheet, you may need to cook the beets in two batches. 

Beet Chips Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

Preheat oven to 350°. Thinly slice beets with a mandoline, then toss in a bowl with oil, salt, and pepper. Line beets on a baking sheet and bake for 18-20 minutes, or until edges of the beets begin to dry and curl up. Remove beets and place on cooling rack. They will become crispy as they cool.

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Beets are literally a nutritional powerhouse. They contain vitamins A, B, and C, magnesium, potassium, fiber, iron. and phosphorous, to name a few. They are an aphrodisiac and aid in new cell growth during pregnancy. They have cleansing properties, particularly in relation to the liver. They help prevent cancer. They lower blood pressure. They promote good mental health by containing the amino acid tryptophan, a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. Feeling down, anxious, or tired? Eat a beat. It will help boost your mood as well as provide your body with many, many other nutritional benefits.

Beet Chips Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Now it’s your turn. What are YOU bringing to this years Super Bowl party? Or- Did you try any of the recipes above? Let me know in the comment section below!

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!

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!

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