This weekend was my smoothie-making assistant’s 1st birthday. Edison celebrated by spending the weekend in Sudbury, learning to swim in the many lakes that make Sudbury a great place to spend warm summer days.
In honor of Edison’s birthday, I wanted to share with you the health benefits of pet ownership. There is support that sharing your life with a pet supports psychological growth and development as well as physical health benefits.
While research into the human-animal bond is in its infancy, studies are showing results that many pet owners and animal lovers can attest to. Some of the largest and most well-designed studies suggest that having a four-legged companion improves cardiovascular health. People that coexist with pets are more likely to have lower heart rates and lower blood pressure than non-pet owners.Additionally pet owners have been shown to display milder responses to stressors and more rapid recovery when in close proximity to their pets (the same results were not found when the pets were replaced by human companions, spouses and friends). Research has also found that pet-owners tend to have higher fitness levels and engage in more activity than non-pet owners which may also correlate to the cardiovascular health benefits.
Not only are dogs “mans best friend” but they are also conducive to helping their owners develop more human contacts and companions. Several studies have shown that walking a dog leads to more conversations and helps one to connect socially more than walking alone. Further research has shown that animal interactions are also beneficial to children; pets are a source of comfort and provide children with a greater understanding of compassion and empathy. Animals are now being used in therapeutic relationships in hospitals, nursing homes and schools.
This particular area of study is still in its infancy but as a animal-lover and pet-owner I can’t say I am surprised by the promising results.
It was such a beautiful summer day today that there was no denying a smoothie was going to be a necessity. Not just any smoothie would do, I had a craving for something pink, slightly chocolaty and loaded with antioxidants to help protect my skin from sun damage. Cherries have an abundance of anthocyanins, which help to reduce oxidative stress. Studies have also shown that the anthocyanins in cherries may help to prevent muscle pain related to intense exercise.
Super Antioxidant Chocolate Cherry Smoothie
½ -1 cup unsweetened almond milk
½ frozen banana
1 scoop chocolate protein powder (I used Natural Factors Whey Factors)
1 cup frozen cherries
1 tsp dark cocoa powder
1 tbsp ground flax seed
Blend all the ingredients together and enjoy.
Even Edison wanted some of this smoothie.
During my undergrad and some post-grad education, my source of income was a great part-time job at a local Starbucks. I loved working for the company but sympathized with those people on restricted or specialized diets and the confusion surrounding drink ingredients and the lack of food available for them to enjoy while out with friends. Its not easy to find options for such special diets but its not impossible and Starbucks is one of the companies that has been introducing more options for its customers to enjoy.
Gluten Free Options:
- Most drinks available are gluten-free; just be cautious with the Frappuccinos because the chocolate chips added to some (ie Double Chocolatey Chip and Java Chip) contain cookie pieces and the Frappuccino Light base contains gluten. Unfortunately, a number of the add-ins at Starbucks are manufactured in facilities that also use gluten so the risk of cross contamination is still there so use caution and your own judgment when placing a drink order
- Starbucks has released some pastry options in the past but those never lasted long so they have recently made prepackaged gluten-free options available. The Kind Bars located by the cash registers are a good option for a quick snack as are the bags of Food Should Taste Good Sweet Potato chips (these are a personal favourite of mine).
- If you look in the refrigerated section of the pastry case where the bottled drinks and sandwiches are kept there are often platters of vegetables and hummus, fruit salad, and a fruit and cheese plate (the crackers in it are separately packaged so they do not cross contaminate the rest of the plate).
- If you are looking for something to have as part of a meal or as a more substantial snack check out the smoothies (strawberry banana, orange mango and chocolate banana). The protein powder used in these is made of whey protein and also contains a fiber blend and while it doesn’t contain gluten these drinks are prepared in the same blender pitchers as the Frappuccinos so there is a risk of cross contamination from the chocolate chips and Light base.
Dairy Free Options:
- Starbucks has soy milk available for creating any of their drinks but watch out for other sources of dairy such as the caramel syrup used in Caramel Macchiatos, mocha and white chocolate syrups and many of the toppings for drinks. A responsible barista should ask if you want to include these things in your drink if you order it with soy milk or provide some sort of warning that those constituents are not dairy free…unfortunately this doesn’t happen often.
- Also be aware that cross contamination with dairy is likely when ordering espresso bar drinks or any of the blended options despite the fact that there are separate pitchers reserved for drinks made with soy. The steaming wands on the espresso bar are only wiped clean between drinks so dairy particles are likely to lurk there and on more than one occasion I have seen a drink made with lactose-free milk prepared in the soy pitchers.
- As far as dairy -free food options go many of the same things listed as gluten-free are also dairy-free with the exception of the fruit and cheese plates and the smoothies. However, the smoothies can be prepared with soy milk and without the whey protein powder to make them dairy-free.
Have you ever wondered why chicken nuggets are all the same uniform 3 shapes or what is actually in a hot dog? Check out the Mechanically Separated Poultry that some restaurants and food manufacturers consider to be “food”