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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Healthy Granola Nut Cookies

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Technically to call a food item granola, you need oats – And these cookies definitely don’t have oats. However, granola is typically a breakfast item and these cookies are perfect to eat for breakfast! They’re sweet but not too rich, filling but not too heavy, and the mixed nuts add a nice little crunch. They’re also great as a snack or even a light dessert. I could go on and on about these addicting little treats, but instead I’m going to jump right into the recipe so you can try them out and see for yourself how delicious they are!

Bonus- These are gluten-free, grain free, and dairy free, so they work for just about any dietary restriction!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 2 cups mixed nuts and/or seeds (think: Brazilian, pecans, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds)
• 2 cups coconut flour
• ½ cup coconut oil, melted
• 4 tbsp raw, organic honey, melted
• 2 tsp allspice
• 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
• ½ tsp ground ginger
• 2 cups organic apple sauce
• 2 tsp almond extract
• 1 cup raisins

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Preheat oven to 350°
• Add mixed nuts to food processor. Pulse for 30 seconds.
• Add allspice, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and raisins to processor. Pulse for 10 more seconds.
• In a separate mixing bowl, combine coconut flour, applesauce, coconut oil, and honey. Mix well. Add nut and raisin mixture and mix well to combine.
• Using an ice cream scooper or a spoon, scoop “dough” into small rounds and place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
• Place cookie sheet in oven and bake for 30-40 minutes or until cookies begin to turn golden around the edges.
• Remove from oven. Let cool. Eat and enjoy!

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Healthy Granola Nut Cookies Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Nuts and seeds are a good source of healthy fats and help maintain the structure of every cell in our body. They control inflammation, lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease. Raw honey is honey that is unpasteurized, unheated, and unprocessed in any way. It is known to be an anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal food. It strengthens the immune system and can even be used on the skin to help heal cuts and wounds. Raw honey is known to be a natural remedy for a variety of conditions such as allergies, acne, skin burns, and rashes. Coconut flour is a great alternative to baking flour. Not only is it gluten free, but also high in fiber and high in protein. Also- a little bit goes a long way, so one package will last for many recipes.

Broccoli and Toasted Almond Salad

If you have read my previous posts, you know I’m all about quick and easy recipes. I also eat salads pretty regularly – I pack one up for lunch and bring it to work every day. Usually I use spinach as the base and add various toppings like carrots, cucumbers, fennel, beets, etc., and top it off with some fig balsamic, pomegranate vinegar, or coconut aminos for the dressing. But sometimes I want a salad that has something besides a spinach base, which is why I fell in love with this simple broccoli salad. The only real work associated with making this is toasting the almonds and chopping up some veggies. It can be made in under 10 minutes and is easily transportable. Not to mention, it’s vegan, (almost) raw, paleo, and all that other good stuff. The toasted almonds are definitely the star of this show, so make sure not to skip out on those. This salad is even tastier when you add a little avocado and lemon on top. Also, if you don’t have red wine vinegar, you need to find some. Using RWV for the dressing goes especially well with this dish, although you would be fine using a standard oil/balsamic mix too.

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• ½ Red onion, sliced thinly with a knife or mandoline
• 1 bag broccoli florets, chopped
• ¼ cup sliced almonds
• Red wine vinegar, or other dressing of your choice
• 1 Avocado (optional)
• 1 tbsp Grapeseed oil
• salt and pepper to taste

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

• Pour grapeseed oil into a frying pan on medium heat
• Add toasted almonds to frying pan and toss with oil
• Add salt and pepper while constantly mixing the almonds around the pan. Once they start to darken, take them off the heat and let them cool on a paper towel. Be careful because they will burn quickly!
• Add broccoli, onion, and almonds to a large bowl. Toss with red wine vinegar and top with avocado (optional)

Pretty simple, but oh so delicious!

Broccoli Salad Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU 

Broccoli, in addition to being a great anti-inflammatory food, plays a role in our bodies ability to detox and rid itself of unwanted contaminants. It also contains a strong dose of vitamins A and K, two nutrients that help keep our vitamin D levels balanced. Almonds and other nuts may contain a decent amount of fat, but don’t worry, it’s the good kind. They’re high in monosaturated fats, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease. Magnesium is also abundant in almonds and helps improve the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the body.

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!

Green Coconut Smoothie

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

Todays post is going to be short and sweet (literally).  If you read my previous post you know that I’ve been experimenting quite a bit with coconut lately, and I’m so excited to share this amazing coconut smoothie recipe that I finally feel like I’ve perfected. I’ve made many a’ coconut smoothie in my day – coconut milk, kale, and blueberries; coconut milk, peaches, and spinach; coconut milk, blueberries and spinach (you get the idea) – but none of them were anything to write home over. The great thing about this recipe is that it has coconut meat in it, which is the best part of the coconut for you. I guess it was about time to overcome my fear of cracking open an actual coconut, because it was the secret to this drinks delicious success!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHAT YOU NEED:

• 1 Young Thai Coconut
• 1.5 cups coconut milk
• 1 tbsp organic raw honey
• 1 tbsp coconut oil
• 1 large handful spinach/kale/baby kale

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

PREPARATION

Serving size: 2 full pint glasses

Crack open coconut with a sharp knife by “hammering” on all sides and twisting to pop open (be careful!). Drain water from coconut into blender. Scoop out coconut meat with a spoon and place into blender. Add honey, coconut oil, and greens. Blend well.

And that’s it! This smoothie is so good you’ll be craving it every morning (I know I do)!

Enjoy!

Green Coconut Smoothie Becauseitsgoodforyou.com

WHY IT’S GOOD FOR YOU

Young Thai Coconut meat contains only 65 calories and is a good source of manganese, potassium, and magnesium. Coconut water contains electrolyte levels similar to those in our blood and was even used for blood transfusions during WWII – It was known as the “fluid of life” among soldiers and medical staff. In addition, it’s also packed with B vitamins as well as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

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!

You are what you eat

Dr. Victor Hugo Landlahr, a nutritionist, radio show host, and pioneer in nutritional awareness, popularized the phrase “You Are What You Eat” in his book with the same title, published in 1942.1  Years later, we are finally beginning to understand what this phrase really means.

Everything we put into our body has the potential to effect us.  Whether it’s food, water, soda, medication, breathing in the city smog or even fumes from household cleaning products– all have the capability of altering our overall health and well-being.  Of course some of these things, like healthy foods, clean air, and vitamins are good for you, but most of the other things we unknowingly consume on a daily basis, are not so good.

But what we don’t know can’t hurt us, right?  Wrong.  Does it make enough of a difference in our bodies to really matter?  Yes, definitely.

Here is some proof.

In an article titled, “The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health,” Tieraona Low Dog, MD, discusses various diets and micronutrients that have been associated with decreased levels of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.2  One study found that a diet rich in whole foods (fruits, vegetables, fish) gave middle-aged, British individuals protection against the onset of depressive symptoms.   On the other hand, another group of individuals who consumed a diet consisting mainly of processed meats, sweet desserts, fried foods, and high-fat dairy products had increased vulnerability for depressive symptoms.3

Need more?

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as fish oil) to the diets of 30 individuals with bipolar disorder actually alleviated many of their symptoms.3  Also, eating foods high in protein has been known to increase alertness.4  Switching to a gluten-free diet helped one patient with celiac disease and schizophrenia by offering a complete resolution of both diseases (as shown on a brain scan).5

Still a skeptic?  Even walking through the self-help section of your local bookstore will show more than a handful of inspiring success stories similar to the ones presented.  The truth is, individuals all over the world have experienced dramatic, positive changes in their health just by altering what they eat.  Many have also seen major changes in their health by adjusting the ways that they think.  The human body and spirit are incredibly resilient, but if you treat it well, it will flourish. I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy that scoop of double fudge brownie ice cream after you break up with your significant other.  Or that you can’t test out the pork belly sliders at that trendy new restaurant everyone is raving about.  But if you treat your body right, it will treat you the same in return.  And the next time you feel like something is a little off, pay attention and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It may be saying more than you think!

1 Dog, L.T. (2010). The role of nutrition in mental health. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. doi: 16(2):42-46.
2 Akbaraly T.N., Brunner E.J., Ferrie J.E., Marmot M.G., Kivimaki M., Singh-Manoux A. (2009). Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 195(5):408-413
3 Stoll, A.L., Severus, W.E., Freeman, M.P., Rueter, S., Zboyan, H.A., Diamond, E., Cress, K.K., Marangell, L.B. (1999). Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Archive of General Psychiatry. doi: 56:407-412
4 Rogers, P.J. (2001). A healthy body, a healthy mind: long-term impact of diet on mood and cognitive function. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. doi: 60:135-143.
5 DeSantis, A., Addolorato, G., Romito, A., Caputo, S., Giordano, A., Gambassi, G., Taranto, C., Manna, R., Gasbarrini, G. (1997). Schizophrenic symptoms and SPECT abnormalities in a coeliac patient: regression after a gluten-free diet. Journal of Internal Medicine. doi: 242: 421-423.