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Creating Comfort Food With Added Nutrition

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For years, parents have been figuring out ways to sneak nutrition into meals, creating a generation of kids who didn’t know their brownies had actually been spiked with veggies.

And that’s a good thing! Food doesn’t have to necessarily taste healthy in order for it to be good for you. From gooey side dishes to decadent desserts, we all have our go-to dishes when we just need a little comfort.

Here are some popular meals that adults and kids agree are delicious — with a few tricks to boost their nutritional content:

Mashed Potatoes

We all know there’s nothing better in the world than a pile of velvety-soft mashed potatoes, layered with butter, milk and perhaps, a bit of sour cream. But you don’t have to take out any of your favorite ingredients. Instead, try adding mashed cauliflower. Cauliflower blends smoothly with the flavor of the potatoes and is loaded with vitamin C, fiber and antioxidants.

Casseroles

Lasagna, green beans, cheesy hash brown breakfasts — there are so many delicious casseroles out there! The only problem with them is they tend to be weighed down by a lot of cheese, carbs and fats (of course, that’s what makes them comforting and delish).

But did you know that you can doctor up your casseroles with plenty of healthy ingredients to make them both palatable and healthy? Some examples include using steamed fresh veggies instead of canned, brown rice instead of white, whole-grain pasta and low-fat sour cream or milk.

“A casserole gives you an opportunity to mix a whole bunch of cancer-protective foods in a single dish,” said Melanie Polk, director of nutrition education at the American Institute for Cancer Research to WebMD. “It’s a way to combine beans, whole grains and vegetables.”

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Ground Flaxseed Meal

An easy way to get a little more fiber and omega-3 essential fatty acids in your diet is by adding ground flaxseed meal to your food. There are plenty of ways to add a teaspoon here and there — try putting it in your meatloaf, baked goods or oatmeal.

It also tastes great (and by that, we mean undetectable) in an old lunchbox staple, the peanut butter sandwich. Just plop a spoonful in the peanut butter, stir it up … and voila!

Desserts

There’s many ways to make desserts a little more nutritious without losing the treat factor. Have you ever tried adding pureed carrots and spinach to a brownie mix?

One simple way to add protein to your dessert is to slip in some vanilla or chocolate plant-protein powder. You can add this to a milkshake, pumpkin pie or a batch of cookies for a sweet flavor boost that’s as good for you as it tastes.

We’re always sharing recipes for sweet, nutritious treats. Check out our recipes for Vegan Berry Nice Cream, Angel Food Cake, and Buttery Pecan Protein Cookies at home today!

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Remember — watch your serving size, eat a variety of foods and remember that treats, even comfort foods, should be enjoyed and not fully avoided. The key is moderation. Bon appetit!

Our Foundation Awards Funds to 8 Rescue Groups

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When you shop at Life’s Abundance, you become part of a homeless dog or cat’s success story! A portion of company profits is set aside to issue grants to rescue groups in need of financial aid. Whether you buy a product for your dog or cat, or nutritional supplements for yourself, your purchase helps fund efforts to save the lives of homeless and neglected animals around the country and bring joy to their new families.

Our nonprofit, The Dr. Jane Foundation, has provided support to small and medium-sized rescue groups since 2007. Each one of these organizations work hard to combat animal homelessness and overcome the effects of abuse and neglect through love, determination and medical care. 

Many organizations are just getting off the ground or lack sufficient financial support — that’s where The Dr. Jane Foundation steps in. Our foundation has awarded over $200,000 to more than 150 deserving organizations! 

Thanks to your business, The Dr. Jane Foundation recently approved funding for eight more deserving non-profit rescue groups. Here’s a little background on the amazing work of the organizations that received grants this quarter:

CAMO Rescue

CAMO Rescue, located in Houston, Texas, works to save dogs in high kill shelters through action and education. They work with shelters in the area to move dogs at risk of euthanasia into foster homes, and to ultimately find their forever family. They also educate the community about the importance of spaying, neutering, and the vaccination of pets. CAMO is a no-kill rescue that operates on donations, a small group of devoted foster homes and loving families that turn former homeless dogs into beloved family members. 

Fences For Fido

This group based out of northwest Oregon helps add comfort, safety and medical care to dogs that have a family, but whose only living space is the backyard. The volunteer labor force builds fences and insulated dog houses to provide these companions with freedom of movement and a safe, warm environment. They also spay and neuter and provide critical vet care, all at no cost. Over the past 9 years, Fences for Fido has unchained over 1,600 dogs in Oregon and Washington! In 2014, the organization was instrumental in the passage of Oregon’s first anti-tethering law, which restricts the amount of time a dog can be left on a chain.

Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation

This dedicated group provides wheelchairs for dogs in need. Each recipient gets to use the cart free of charge until it is no longer needed. Then the cart is sent back to the foundation where they prepare it for the next animal in need. The organization was set into motion when founder Jason Parker’s black lab Gunnar was hit by a car and lost the use of his back legs. After spending all of his money on vet bills, Jason could not afford a wheelchair for his beloved friend. Luckily, Jason’s friends and family stepped in to help him get a wheelchair for Gunnar. Jason then realized that there might be many other people in his situation, so Gunnar’s Wheels Foundation was born. Jason and Gunnar were chosen as GoFundMe Heroes in April 2017, propelling the foundation into the national spotlight — now the foundation receives multiple requests for help every day. Their goal is to help every animal that is in need of a wheelchair.

K Kids Dachshund Rescue, Inc.

Located in Virginia, this all volunteer team is dedicated to finding adopters for dachshunds from shelters and surrendering owners. Each rescued pup is placed into a foster home, given veterinary care with special attention to any health issues, and evaluated to ensure the best match with their forever home. The rescue group aims to prevent dachshunds from entering the shelter and rescue system altogether. They do this by educating owners on common dachshund health and behavior issues, financial counseling about veterinary expenses, and estate planning in case the dachshund outlives their human.

Operation Topcat

Formed in 1995, Operation Topcat helps stray and feral cats in the North Carolina area. The group recommends and uses the trap/neuter/vaccinate/return strategy for all cats. This means that all cats are spayed, neutered, microchipped and given age appropriate vaccinations.  Many cats are good candidates for family life and will be placed for adoption. Those that are unsocialized or feral will be marked for easy identification before being returned to their colony for continued care and feeding by their caretaker. This practice takes great commitment by volunteers and donors, but has been proven to reduce overpopulation while providing humane care for these felines.

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Panola County Cat Rescue

This non-profit was founded in Batesville, Mississippi with the mission to reduce the feral, stray and homeless cat population in the area. The group sterilizes and vaccinates adult feral cats that can’t be rehomed as pets. They also find homes for stray cats and kittens that are able to be socialized. The organization’s long-term goal is to open a cat shelter and work with other rescue organizations to grow a network of foster and adoptive homes and to support those devoted individuals who care for feral cat colonies. 

Project POOCH, Inc.

Founded in 1993, Project POOCH pairs incarcerated youth with difficult-to-adopt dogs in Oregon. Guided by professionals, these youth learn to train, groom and find new forever homes for their project dogs. Research shows that the program has had a positive effect on the rehabilitation of both the young trainers and the dogs, with the youth demonstrating improved behavior and heightened traits such as honesty, empathy and nurturing. Each dog, lead by his handler,  must graduate through a series of behavior and canine good manners tests before being adopted into a new home. Project POOCH has helped change the lives of incarcerated youth and saved the lives of many dogs.

RuffRiders Foundation Inc.

RuffRiders volunteers transport dogs from overcrowded shelters to other welcoming organizations across the Western U.S. where they’ll have their best chance at finding a forever home. In addition to transportation, RuffRiders advocates for humane education, adoption and fostering. All donations are used to help give dogs a second chance at life.

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At Life’s Abundance we thank you for your business and for the impact your purchase decision is making on hard working volunteers across the country and the dogs and cats they support. Together, we are helping animal rescue groups achieve their dreams of making a positive difference in the world, one animal at a time.

How To Eat A Plant-Based Diet On A Budget

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While just a decade ago it was tricky and costly to go vegan or vegetarian, it’s much easier today to embrace a healthy plant-based diet. Some people still hesitate to take the plunge for one reason – the myth that eating a plant-based diet is just too expensive. Don’t you need a lot of costly exotic ingredients?

The answer is no! While investing in a healthy diet is a great idea for everyone, you don’t need to buy a lot of fancy foods to sustain this lifestyle. If you strip it down to the basics, you will find that anyone can afford a plant-based diet on a minimal budget. With a little bit of know-how, a healthy diet packed with nutrients and bursting with taste will fit your budget without breaking the bank.

 

Here are a few affordable plant-based diet tips to get you started:

 

Prepare your own food

The surest way to rack up an expensive food budget is to eat out at restaurants all the time. Most restaurants, even fast-food joints, offer plant-based options at a premium. Dining out should be an occasional treat or avoided altogether if you're on a strict budget. Save by packing your own work lunch and keeping a stash of veggie-friendly snacks in the car so you won’t be tempted to give in to expensive cravings. Try making a vegan smoothie with our delicious vanilla or chocolate plant-based protein powder and some frozen fruit for an inexpensive and healthy snack.

Embrace whole foods

Whole foods are plant foods that are unprocessed and unrefined. They are not only healthy and packed with the essential nutrients your body needs, but sometimes they can be the affordable choice too. For example, a banana is cheaper than a bag of chips and a baked potato is cheaper than fries.

These are some super-healthy and nutrient-dense foods to focus on:

  • Fruits – In-season fresh fruits are budget-friendly, so check out your farmer’s market for deals. Dried fruit such as raisins, cranberries, apricots, and dates are a great, inexpensive snack that can satisfy any sweet tooth.
  • Vegetables – Leafy greens and fresh, in-season veggies are kind to your wallet. Expect to pay a bit more for organic food – they'll be less expensive when they’re in season, so buy them and freeze for later. You can even mix a drink with our Greens Blend for a blend of raw, organic grasses and mushrooms.
  • Beans and Legumes – Dried beans such as pinto, navy, black, and garbanzo are very inexpensive when bought in bulk, rather than the canned varieties. Lentils of all colors are also affordable and packed with nutrients.
  • Starches – Yams, potatoes, pumpkin, brown rice, oats, bulgur wheat, barley, millet, oats, and whole-grain pasta are inexpensive and filling. Starchy foods are an important source of energy and provide nutrients including B vitamins, iron, calcium and folate.
  • Proteins – Tofu, tempeh and edamame all originate from soybeans and are considered whole sources of protein. Nuts are packed with protein and are uber-portable.  For extra cost-savings, you can even grind your own tasty nut butter at home!

Buy in Bulk

Whether you’re buying a larger family-sized package or browsing the bins at your local health food store, it can really pay off to up-size your purchases. You’ll get a much better value than smaller packages, mainly because you’re not paying for the packaging. Check the store’s unit pricing labels to find out the exact cost per ounce, pound, or liter so that you can easily compare and find the cheapest option. Buying from the bulk bins can easily save close to half the price of a packaged product, and as a plus, you can determine exactly how much -- or little – you want to buy.

Prepare Simple Recipes

Quick and easy vegetarian or vegan recipes are surprisingly inexpensive. Look for recipes that keep the ingredients list to a minimum – aim for 5 ingredients or less. Simple doesn't have to mean boring, though. Start with a starch as your base and build your meal around that with flavorful ingredients, herbs, and spices. For example, rustic mushroom risotto with rice, mushrooms, veggie stock, and plant milk, or spinach, tofu, and cashew cream vegetarian lasagna. How about a spicy onion, bell pepper, tofu, and pineapple stir fry over rice?

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If you were considering making a change, these tips will get you started towards eating a plant-based diet affordably. Once you make the commitment and begin, we'd love to hear other creative ways you discover that help you stick with your healthy new routine!

Dog Training: The Secret to Canine Cooperation

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We love our dogs — and we want other people to love our dogs as well. This is why some basic dog training will enhance your bond with your dog while improving their relationship with your friends and family. Having a well-trained dog or puppy will make your life a whole lot easier and enhance your experience as a dog parent.

Whether you are interested in basic obedience training or simply want to teach your new puppy the house rules, the key to any successful dog training begins with the fundamentals: communication and consistency.

Here are some successful dog training tips:

 

Reward behaviors that you want to enforce
Obedience training can be overwhelming for new dog parents, especially when trying to break your dog from bad habits like jumping up on people, leash pulling or barking. Let's face it, trying to train your dog to do what you want him to do – like to 'sit' on request – is a more straightforward task than breaking your dog's bad habits. However, all good training methods utilize the fundamental principles of consistency and clear communication.

Most dogs are people-pleasers – they want to learn. But it is up to us as dog parents to be competent communicators. We must let our dogs know what we want to happen and ensure that we don't unintentionally reward undesirable behaviors to confuse our messaging. Rewarding your dog comes in many forms including verbal praise, pets and treats like Tasty Rewards.

Establish a routine
Dogs thrive on routine. It is easy to reinforce good habits when your dog understands what it is that you expect from them. If there are multiple people in your household, it is imperative that everyone be on board with helping to maintain a consistent routine.

When house-training a new puppy, begin by establishing a routine that includes not only when your puppy goes outside but also where. Establishing a regular time and place for potty breaks will help your puppy learn to recognize what the desired behavior is.

If you want to teach your new dog to sit on request, then everyone involved in puppy training must use the same cues to request that behavior. If half of the household is asking your dog to 'sit' but the other half is saying 'sit down' for the prompt, it can create a confusing situation for your new pup. It is critical to establish what the verbal prompts will be and make certain that everyone is using the same language from the start.

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When 'no' means 'no'
Training your new puppy to understand the word 'no,' can be an effective tool. But be clear what you expect when you use that word. For instance, the word 'no' might be used specifically for those situations when you want your dog to immediately stop what they are doing – such as running out of the house or chewing on something they shouldn't. The key is to not overuse it.

Develop well-defined cues to shape other behaviors. If you want to break your over-eager pup from the habit of jumping up on strangers, then it may be more useful to use a specific cue like 'off.' Simply repeating 'no' for any undesirable behavior can lead to uncertainty, or lose significance from overuse. Remember, be specific and use distinct commands to produce more positive outcomes.

The power of recall
Training your dog to come to you when called is an extremely valuable behavior that provides a measure of safety and security for both you and your pup. As with any other dog training exercise, a clear direction will produce a consistent outcome.

To begin with, always use your dog's proper name. Most dog parents have several nicknames for their pups, but when working on recall or other dog training exercises, it is imperative to stick to your dog’s proper name. Save your favorite 'pet' names for cuddling on the couch or informal playtime.

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There are many tools and methods to use when training your dog or puppy, but the most successful training outcomes depend on clear communication. Be fair, be consistent, and reward your dog for good behavior. A well-trained dog who understands your expectations will have more confidence, be allowed more freedoms and be a much happier canine.

4 Ways to Embrace Self Improvement Month

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The myth that self improvement is difficult can lead you to put off your goals for way too long. It’s time to change that!

Given that September is Self Improvement Month, now is the perfect time, If you’re ready to focus on bettering yourself, start by making small changes. After only a month or two of attention to these new ways of life, they will rewire your brain and become habits rather than efforts.

Here are four easy adjustments to jumpstart your self improvement, find greater serenity and love who you see in the mirror!

1. Clear Clutter
Believe it or not, clutter is a reliable stress indicator. The more cluttered your environment, the less likely you are to feel mentally balanced and physically healthy. If you’ve wanted to tackle clutter for a long time, start now. You’ll notice a stress decrease immediately.

A clutter-free environment will also make it easier to assess what you have and what you still want. For example, many people are surprised to discover that once they get rid of half their clothes, they quite like their remaining wardrobe! The clarity then allows you to identify what you might add to your life — a new chair, a fresh fuzzy blanket, or even a replacement set of spoons.

Narrowing down your possessions to know exactly what you have rather than simply replacing everything that’s lost in the mess allows you to be much more intentional. You’ll find that buying items that you really desire and believe in is a much more cost effective strategy. You can even take this opportunity to pursue more environmentally friendly and less toxic purchases.

2. Adjust Your Diet
One reason you might feel physically drained is due to diet, but it’s easier than you think to make adjustments that lower your sugar consumption, keep you fuller and increase your nutrient intake. Here are four changes to start with:

  • Clean out the fridge and start using clear containers. This will give you an unobstructed view of the fresh, healthy food available to you.
  • Switch out soft drinks for seltzer water — if you want to switch it up try our Minerals & Antioxidants or Greens Blend mixes.
  • Replace white bread with organic whole grain options (many of which are just as soft and even tastier than white).
  • Add a veggie to every meal, even if it’s just a small pile of spinach, a handful of cherry tomatoes or sliced peppers.

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3. Tackle Your Finances
It’s hard to imagine a bigger source of dread than finances, but financial wellbeing is absolutely critical if you’re to be a happy and serene person. Again, start small. Clean out that teetering pile of old bills and file them in folders or shred them. Once you “declutter” your finances a bit, start tracking your expenses, categorize your spending, and set money-saving goals.

4. Begin Exercising
Because so many people find exercising intimidating, we’ve saved it for last. Once you have other habits in place, you’ll find it less scary to start a fitness routine. First off, don’t get discouraged if you don’t immediately see drastic weight loss. Research shows that you need to handle that through diet, so when you start a regimen and don’t see massive pound shedding, don’t fret.

Instead, think of exercise as a gift to your heart, blood vessels, brain and muscles. Even a 10-minute walk around the block at lunchtime or a quick evening jaunt with the doggo is a great first step. If you keep it up, you will pick up steam naturally.

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See? There's nothing on this list that you can't do, and it’s not hard to see that small changes can have big benefits. Choose one of these to start today, looking not for perfection or huge results, but rather for consistency. With a little dedication you’ll be amazed by how these changes stack up over time, leaving you with an overall greater sense of fulfillment!

Toxic Algae: Is it safe for my dogs to swim?

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On a beautiful sunny August day, three dogs named Abby, Harpo, and Lizzy went for a swim at a pond in Wilmington, North Carolina. They were happy and healthy pups. And by the days’ end, all three were gone. The cause: toxic algae.

It sounds like a scene from The Blob or straight out of your worst nightmares. How can something as benign as a swim in a lake turn deadly? Sadly, these tragic stories are popping up in the news from the Pacific Northwest all the way down to the far reaches of the southeast. The good news is, knowledge is power. You can avoid these potentially devastating situations by being aware of your pet’s surroundings. Information is hard to find and often confusing, even for a veterinarian- so I put some information together that I hope you will find helpful. Here’s what all dog owners need to know about toxic algae blooms:

What is toxic algae?
Blooms of blue-green algae derive from small bacteria called cyanobacteria. In large numbers, these bacteria aggregate to resemble a greenish sludge on the surface of bodies of water. While the current blue-green algae blooms in the news are associated with lakes and ponds, algae blooms occur worldwide in all types of bodies of water. Some, but not all, forms of these algae produce deadly toxins. These blooms are called Harmful Algal Blooms (HAB).

Why is this happening so much lately?
While toxic blooms are nothing new, they do happen more frequently in the hot, sunny days of summer and fall. Summer rainstorms also dump nutrient-rich runoff into bodies of water, fueling the algae’s growth. Slow-moving water is more likely to experience blooms, hence the increased incidence in ponds and lakes versus oceans and rivers.

Do toxic blooms only affect dogs?
No, the toxic effects of HABs can affect many animals. We see these incidents most commonly in dogs because they spend more time swimming than other pets. In addition, they often swallow water while they are swimming and are more likely to ingest a toxic dose.

These toxins can cause illness in people, birds, and other wildlife. In addition, the toxins can be absorbed by fish and shellfish, causing a chain reaction in the food supply. A 2015 outbreak on the West Coast decimated fisheries, causing die-offs of fish and shellfish from Alaska all the way down the California coast.

What are the effects of the toxins?
When a dog swallows water with algal toxins or grooms the algae off his fur, the effects can be seen in minutes to hours. Algae produce different types of toxins that affect the liver, GI tract, and neurologic system. With liver disease, clinical signs start in minutes to hours and include vomiting, diarrhea, jaundice, seizures, and weakness. With neurotoxins, pets can also fall ill in minutes to hours. Affected animals produce excessive saliva, experience tremors, have difficulty breathing, seizures, or collapse. Both types are deadly. Even touching toxic algae can cause skin irritation or respiratory inflammation.

Regardless of the specific toxin, any of these symptoms after swimming in a lake should be considered a medical emergency. There is no known antidote to the toxin. Your veterinarian can provide supportive care and treat the symptoms, but sadly many dogs succumb to the illness.

dog swim fetch

How do I know if a lake or pond is experiencing a HAB? Is all algae toxic?
Not all algae produces deadly toxins. In fact, most do not. That’s the good news. The bad news is, one cannot tell simply by looking whether an algal bloom is toxic or not. Blooms often produce a greenish scum on the surface of the water, but can appear brown as well. Sometimes there is no mat on the surface at all and the water simply has a greenish tint. If you see water that looks like this, don’t take chances. Keep yourself and your pets away unless you have specifically been given the green light by your local municipality.

According to the CDC, the following warning signs indicate a body of water that is potentially unsafe:
Avoid entering or playing in bodies of water that: smell bad look discolored have foam, scum, or algal mats on the surface contain or are near dead fish or other dead animals (for example, do not enter a body of water if dead fish have washed up on its shore or beach)

Is there an agency that monitors water safety?
Suspect water can be tested to determine whether toxins are present in the water. Just because the water in one lake is deemed safe, it doesn’t mean the lake a few miles away is also safe.

To reiterate: these blooms are found across the globe, in lakes, ponds, and oceans. Your county or state health department is usually your best resource for finding out the current status in your area. Some states list “HAB Incident Reports” indicating harmful algal blooms in the region, such as this site maintained by the California Water Quality Monitoring Council.

A last word of caution: In an era of tightening budgets, routine monitoring is not the standard in many places and testing may not occur until after a problem is noted.

When in doubt, just stay out!

Vegan Berry Nice Cream Recipe

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It’s summertime and it’s peak berry season — so you know what that means. It’s time for a berry infused frozen treat! Everyone will come running to try this delicious nice cream recipe, packed with vegan protein. It’s a healthy, simple and extremely satisfying snack.

Ingredients

  • 3 frozen bananas
  • 1 cup frozen raspberries (or frozen fruit of your choice)
  • 1 scoop Life’s Abundance Vanilla Plant Protein
  • ½ cup coconut milk

Directions
Peel three ripe bananas and freeze in an airtight container overnight. In a high speed blender, combine the frozen bananas, frozen raspberries, Vanilla Plant Protein and coconut milk. Blend until smooth. Enjoy immediately or store in the freezer.

Pet Vaccine Facts: Dogs vs. Cats

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It’s National Pet Immunization Awareness Month! Did you know that in addition to the “core vaccines” all cats and dogs need, there are also non-core diseases that you can get vaccines for as well? Your family vet will tell you which non-core vaccines your pet should receive, depending on factors such as their age and breed.

In honor of this awareness month, talk to your vet to make sure your four-footers have their latest vaccines and boosters. Always keep your vaccination records and schedule annual checkups for your furry family members to ensure they stay healthy and happy!

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6 Foods That Will Give Your Teeth Something To Smile About

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We often eat for our body's health — which is a great thing — but how often do your teeth and gums weigh in on your nutritional decisions?  Many of us forget that the food we eat can help us keep our teeth clean.

Just about anybody can tell you that sweets aren't good for your teeth. Those pesky sugars in candy, soft drinks and even sticky, dried fruits can wreak havoc in the form of cavities. But enough with this negativity! Rather than living a life of avoidance to protect your teeth, start reaching for foods that have a lot to offer your pearly whites (and the pink flesh that cradles them).

There are a lot of great foods out there that help keep your teeth clean and your smile healthy! Here are six toothsome choices that can keep your teeth clean:

1. Dairy. No, it doesn't make your teeth whiter. It does something far better: the calcium in milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products keeps the enamel strong. Plus, a lot of dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, which is linked to lower rates of tooth decay in children. Even better, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends that kids eat certain cheeses as a snack or after a meal. “Cheeses such as aged cheddar, swiss, mozzarella and Monterey jack stimulate the flow of saliva, clearing the mouth of food debris and acting as a buffer to neutralize the acids that attack teeth. The calcium and phosphorous found in cheese also reduce or prevent decreases in pH levels of saliva and promote remineralization of tooth enamel.” Huzzah. Pass the cheese board!

2. Get your crunch on. No, silly, not with chips. Crisp veggies and fruits — like celery and apples — are packed with water and fiber and do a great job cleaning as you chomp.  According to the American Dental Association, chewing stimulates saliva, which can wash away acids and food bits and keep your teeth clean. 

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3. Leafy greens.  Crunchy and fibrous greens like chard, kale and spinach help strengthen our gums and teeth. These leafy greens offer the boost of vitamin C many of us are missing in our oral care regimen. Even if you're not a salad person, it's easy to slip leafy greens into your soups and stews. You can even add our Greens Blend to your morning smoothie for a delicious shot of plant power and vitamin C. 

4. Green tea. Yes it's trendy and delicious. But did you know that green tea is super healthy for your mouth? Green tea is loaded with flavonoids, which contain compounds called catechins that fight cancer and act as antioxidants. “Catechins should be considered right alongside the better-known antioxidants like vitamins E and C as potent free radical scavengers and health supportive for this reason,” says a study from the Journal of Indian Society of Periodontology. “It has been suggested that green tea also promotes periodontal health by reducing inflammation, preventing bone resorption and limiting the growth of certain bacteria associated with periodontal diseases.” Drink up!

5. Raw onion. Phew! Really? Yes, it's true that raw onions might stink up your breath but some dentists have called them a “superfood for super teeth.” They contain antibacterial sulfur compounds that kill dreaded bacteria that lurk in the mouth and cause tooth decay.

6. Shiitake mushrooms. These mushrooms are currently being explored for their potential for oral health benefits. Recent studies have shown that shiitake mouthwash can improve good bacteria and destroy bad oral bacteria.  But are you brave enough to rinse your mouth twice a day with a pungent shiitake mushroom mouthwash?  If the idea of eating mushrooms instead is easier to swallow, try our Greens Blend drink mix.  Fortunately, it's delicious and comes complete with a 5-mushroom blend, including shiitake. 

Keep in mind just one thing. Although tasty, one should never replace brushing, flossing and gargling with chewing a mushroom or a piece of raw onion. Your significant others will thank you!

Is Therapy Training Right for Your Pet?

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Pet therapy, also known as animal-assisted therapy, is a wonderful way for your companion animal to help people in need. Registered therapy animals visit schools, hospitals, prisons, libraries, nursing homes and other facilities where interactions with pets could help people. Pet therapy activities, such as petting, brushing, walking, playing fetch, doing tricks or even something as simple as gazing into each other’s eyes, not only help people take their mind off their own problems, they can have physiological effects, too.

Oftentimes, animals can reach humans in a way that other people can’t, making them feel safe and unconditionally loved. There’s no denying that the human-animal bond is powerful. Fearful children and patients feel braver and stronger in the presence of a companion animal. Studies have chronicled numerous positive effects for hospital patients, including lowered blood pressure rates, heart rates and stress levels. Even though cats, birds, rabbits and other small animals make wonderful therapy workers, in this post we’ll be focusing on therapy dogs and what characteristics are needed for a good candidate.

Characteristics Well-Suited to Therapy Dog Requirements

To determine whether or not your dog is cut out for therapy work, keep in mind that the most successful therapy dogs really enjoy interacting with people, willingly allow strangers to pet them, are able to walk nicely on a leash without pulling, are able to remain calm around distractions and pay close attention to their handlers. These canines should be comfortable around children, as well as a variety of medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, canes and walkers. They also need to be tolerant of potentially rough handling and jerky movements, as children and people suffering from illness may not be able to be as gentle as you or me. Additionally, dogs who are brave, like to nudge your hand for attention, or frequently put their head in your lap usually make for amazing therapy workers.

Generally speaking, most therapy dog training programs require your pooch to be at least one year old, have proof of up-to-date vaccinations and be tested to ensure they’re free from infectious organisms. To become a registered therapy animal, your dog must undergo a temperament evaluation to establish that his or her personality is a good fit for the program. Even though therapy dog requirements vary, the certification process usually involves two or three supervised visits to judge how well your dog reacts when faced with new environments.

How Do I Get My Therapy Dog Training Certification?

There are several national non-profit programs that certify dogs for pet therapy. Among these, Therapy Dogs International, Alliance of Therapy Dogs and Pet Partners are stellar organizations and great places to start learning more about this community of healers. 

If you feel like your companion animal might be well suited to this important work, contact one of the local chapters in your area. They will tell you everything you need to know about therapy dog training and how to register. Many of you will be happy to note that dogs need not be purebred for certification.

And, remember … a good therapy dog is only half of the partnership. You, as the handler, are vitally important to this equation. Be forewarned, it’s a significant investment of your time, and the work can be emotionally demanding. But most who do this work find the benefits to others far outweigh the personal costs.  

Have you ever had a personal experience with pet-assisted therapy? We would love to hear your story, just leave your comments in the section below.  

LINKS:

Alliance of Therapy Dogs https://www.therapydogs.com/

Pet Partners https://petpartners.org/

Therapy Dogs International https://www.tdi-dog.org