Tagged "Wellness"

What's the Deal with Raw Milk?

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Wellness trends come and go – some of them are ephemeral, while others are more lasting. One consistent, ubiquitous and largely underground trend, however, is actually thousands of years old: Consuming raw milk.



For those uninitiated, raw milk is, simply put, milk that comes straight from the cow’s udder. Years ago, it wasn’t considered to be a conscious wellness decision to drink it; it was just the way things were done.



Given that most of us don’t own a cow, let alone have regular access to a farm, we get our milk from a grocery store. This milk is pasteurized – meaning it has undergone a sterilization process to kill off potentially harmful bacteria, viruses and microorganisms, such as e.coli. Pasteurization also helps to extend the shelf life of milk, enabling us to safely keep a gallon on hand for several weeks. Given that pasteurization creates a safer product, the FDA has declared the interstate sale of raw milk illegal, but state-by-state regulations vary. As of April 2016, the sale of raw milk in retail stores was legal in 13 states, while 20 states prohibit the sale of raw milk altogether.



Well, it turns out that the same microorganisms and bacteria that we kill off when we pasteurize milk may actually have some health benefits. Many claim that drinking raw milk can help do things like heal allergies, improve digestion and boost the immune system. In short, the concept of consuming “good” bacteria – now a firmly recognized wellness tenet – is at the core of the argument for raw milk. Some people are so insistent on the benefits of raw milk that they'll cross state lines in order to procure it. Very controversial stuff. 



Generally speaking, most medical practitioners – and the Center of Disease Control and Prevention – agree that drinking pasteurized milk is a much safer choice. They also think that the bacterial benefits of raw milk are largely overstated and the risks are far too great to outweigh any potential upside. While we here at BusyHappyHealthy can’t say definitively, we do think that pasteurization was invented for a reason (to prevent the spread of diseases like tuberculosis!) and aren’t really keen to rock the boat when it comes to this issue. We recommend sticking to organic, pasteurized milk, ideally purchased from a smaller producer and getting your healthy bacteria fix from probiotics or fermented foods. Or, forego the cow altogether and stick to homemade nut milks – our personal favorites!

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Four Work Habits That May Be Derailing Your Health

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

We’ve discussed the importance of a healthy workplace at length on this blog, and rightfully so. After all, the average American spends 8.8 hours of his or her day in the office. To contextualize this, that’s more time than we spend doing any other activity, including sleeping. Given the outsize importance of work in our lives, fostering a healthy workplace is absolutely critical. That’s why we’re sharing the four sneakily (or not-so-sneakily) wellness-derailing work habits. Read on!


That Friday happy hour.

Let’s be clear about one thing: We’re all for team bonding and, for that matter, for a good old-fashioned happy hour. But post-work drinks can turn from casual to crushing quickly, which is why it’s important to be conscious of several things when punching out on Friday. For one, given that most of us roll right into happy hour straight from the office – usually on an empty stomach, at the end of a long week – drinking alcohol can impact us very, very quickly. Limit your drinks to one or two, maximum, and space them out, sipping on water on seltzer to ensure you stay hydrated. Moreover, if you know that a happy hour is looming, eat a protein-heavy snack before you head out the door, such as a serving of nuts, a hard-boiled egg or a low-sugar protein bar. Doing so will slow down the absorption of alcohol, plus you won’t be tempted to (slightly) drunkenly order that plate of chicken fingers.


That drive-by office candy bowl snag.

It may not seem like anything, but grabbing a scoop of M&Ms here or a couple of mini Twix bars there from the beloved office candy bowl can really add up throughout the day. In fact, you may be unwittingly and unconsciously downing hundreds of calories if you’re a regular candy bowl devotee. I say “unwittingly,” because when food isn’t technically “yours” – say, you’re picking off of your husband’s plate – it’s easy to disassociate from it. (In other words, you start to think those calories “don’t count.”) But your body doesn’t distinguish from your candy versus your office’s candy, so wise up.


Those days of marathon meetings.

Ever look at the clock and realize you’ve been sitting in a conference room for three hours? It’s a sobering (and bizarre) feeling. While your meeting might be productive work-wise, those long stretches of being sedentary really take a toll on your body. In fact, researchers and medical professionals alike are now sounding the alarms, noting that “sitting is the new smoking. We’re not saying abandon your meetings, but make a point to get up, stand and stretch your legs every 20 minutes or so, ideally for about five minutes. Don’t worry if your colleagues are giving you strange looks. Simply tell them, “I have some back issues and my doctor told me I need to get up and move regularly.” No one will say a peep.


That afternoon coffee break.

When I first started working, my younger colleagues and I made a habit out of getting out of the office around 4 o’clock to take a break, gossip and gulp down a latte. Many times I remember not even wanting coffee – and feeling jittery after consuming it – but I simply enjoyed the ritual. That’s understandable: I’m all for taking an afternoon break with work buds, especially if you're putting in long hours – which I did at the time. But relying on the quick fix of caffeine, particularly at that time of day, can really do a number on your bod: For one, it can tax your adrenals, leaving you feeling more rundown than you were pre-java. Furthermore, the additional of sweeteners and other sugary additives can cause your blood sugar to spike and then crash, again leaving you lethargic. Lastly, it can disrupt your sleep pattern, keeping you wide awake at night and  you guessed it  rendering you exhausted in the morning. So, by all means, head out for “a coffee” with your coworker, but opt for a sparkling water, low-sugar green juice or a caffeine-free herbal tea.

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Mercury and Seafood: What You Need to Know

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Are you an avid podcast listener? Then perhaps you’ve tuned into S-Town, the white-hot podcast about John B. McLemore and the small town of Woodstock, Alabama. At the risk of totally digressing off-topic, the subject of mercury poisoning is touched upon repeatedly throughout the series and cited as a possible cause of some of McLemore’s more erratic behavior. While he repeatedly exposed himself to mercury through more technical methods – and the levels of exposure were much higher – it had me thinking: What role does mercury exposure play in our day-to-day lives?


This question is particularly pertinent for me; I am currently pregnant and ongoing, regular mercury exposure to a growing fetus can be quite harmful – producing neurological and development defects. The source of most of our mercury exposure? The foods we eat, particularly seafood. Given I’m a big fish fan, this was scary news. Are you concerned, too? Here’s what you need to know about mercury and seafood:


It’s an environmental issue. Sadly, our exposure to mercury is growing because of environmental pollution. In short, burning waste and coal causes this metal to be released into the air; every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so mercury then falls back into the earth, often settling in our oceans, lakes and streams. And this isn’t a concentrated issue: All 50 states have issued mercury advisories and as of 2010, 18 million lake acres and approximately 1.4 million river miles were covered by some type of consumption advisory.


Predatory fish are those highest in mercury. Given that mercury is found in our waterways, it’s no surprise that fish are adversely affected. In particular, predatory fish – such as shark, swordfish, ahi tuna, mackerel, marlin, tilefish and orange roughy – contain the highest levels of mercury, as their exposure amplifies as they consume other fish.


Pregnant women need to be the most cautious. While we all need to watch our mercury intake from the aforementioned fish (read: don’t have swordfish for dinner every single night), pregnant women are particularly at risk. Not only should you avoid eating these fish during pregnancy, if you’re considering getting pregnant you should ease up on the consumption of such food, as methylmercury can accumulate in your bloodstream over time.


Don’t freak out. I read all of these things about mercury after I had some mindless bites of my husband’s ahi tuna recently and basically lost my mind. But, really, I rarely did (and don’t) eat that varietal of tuna, and predatory fish are not and were not a regular part of my diet. The adverse risks significantly grow with steady, regular exposure, so simply be mindful of your consumption – and reduce it altogether when expecting. Plus, remember that other cultures – particularly the Japanese – eat a diet loaded in raw fish, including mackerel and ahi tuna  and continue to do so regardless of being pregnant. Furthermore, many fish – such as salmon and tilapia – are great sources of omega-3s, which are amazing for your growing baby and for you, regardless if you're pregnant. So, when it comes to mercury: be smart, be cautious but also be realistic. Which is pretty good life advice anyway, right? 

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What Fruits and Vegetables You Should Be Eating Now, According to Region

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Across the United States, Farmer’s Markets are overflowing with delicious fresh fruits and vegetables: We’re talking about uber-ripe berries, fragrant herbs and the biggest damn tomatoes you’ve ever seen. But even if there are consistently “seasonal” produce across state lines, where you live often dictates what fruit and veg should be picking up this time of year.


Ahead, we’re sharing our regional picks – and how we like to eat ‘em, too. Read on!


Northeast – Arugula

Shopping in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont? Opt for spicy, bitter arugula, which is still in season in these more northerly states. Loaded in Vitamins A and K, plus folate, arugula is a very protective food, helping to fight inflammation, promote ocular health and even lower your risk for cancer. We love noshing on arugula in a simple salad with fresh lemon and, if you’re okay eating dairy, some shaved Parmesan cheese.


Mid-Atlantic – Strawberries

In states like Maryland, now is the time to grab your strawberries – they’re just coming into season. These juicy, antioxidant-rich beauties are fantastic sources of Vitamin C, plus are great choices for a bit of sweetness for those of us who are dessert addicts. We love eating them on their own, adding them to baked goods or pairing with some coconut yogurt for breakfast. Yum.


Southeast – Peaches

Dining in South Carolina? We have two words for you: PEACH SEASON. Yup – the golden child (or… fruit) of Southern cooking is coming into season and it’s time to stock up. Like strawberries, peaches are loaded in antioxidants and are deft at fighting free radicals, the nasty buggers that cause things like oxidative stress and cell breakdown. In terms of preparation, we love pairing sweet peaches with something savory, like a pork loin; we’ve also been known to blend them up with coconut water to spritz on as a free radical-fighting facial toner. Seriously, trust us on this one.


Southwest – Tomatillos

If you’re in New Mexico, you eagerly await the onset of tomatillos each season. Come mid-June, you can start shopping for these regional delights, which happen to pack a potassium punch, plus are strong sources of fiber and manganese. Use ‘em in vibrant salsas and aromatic stews all through summer and into the fall.


Northwest – Cherries

Shopping in Washington State? Pick up some blood red cherries, one of our all-time favorite fruits over here on team BHH. Similar to other berries, they’re loaded in antioxidants and are filled with flavonoids, the most potent of all free radical fighters. We’re all about snacking on these puppies straight, but keep in mind they do contain a fair amount of fructose per serving, so don’t feel liberated to eat the whole box in one sitting.


Midwest – Carrots

Sure, potatoes and sweet corn are just coming into season, but if you’re in Iowa, opt for the less starchy selection of fresh carrots. Infinitely snack-worthy and endlessly versatile, carrots are a fine source of beta-carotene and fiber (and when consumed, beta-carotene converts in the body to Vitamin A, the nutrient responsible for maintaining eye, skin and neurological health). We love pairing carrot with fresh ginger for a healthy soup or whipping up this salad from our fave spot, ABC Kitchen.






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It’s Wedding Season: Here’s How to Stay Healthy

Posted by Julia McVeigh on

Can you hear church bells ringing? Indeed, we’ve officially entered “wedding season,” the four or five month span where many of us are flitting from place to place to witness ones and friends exchange their vows. And while weddings can be amazingly fun, they also aren’t always the healthiest events on earth; open bars, limitless cocktail weenies and energy-draining travel can leave even the healthiest of us feeling worse for the wear. As such, we decided to compile some easy-to-implement wellness techniques for wedding season. Here they are.


Know when to say “yes” and when to say “no.”

Let’s start at the beginning: Deciding whether or not to attend a wedding in the first place. Having attended countless weddings (including my own), I can tell you that you don’t need to RSVP “yes” to every single invitation. Instead, be realistic about your schedule, your finances and your connection with the couple before committing to what will be a busy, sometimes expensive weekend. Does the prospect of traveling to Kentucky for 24 hours to catch your ex-coworker’s wedding feel totally overwhelming? Are you invited to a destination wedding that would cost as much as a weeklong vacation with your family? Be honest with yourself and answer these hard questions: Do you really need to go? And does it make sense to go? If the honest answers are “no,” feel free to politely decline and send along a nice gift and gracious note. Trust me, the couple will understand. (And if they don't, you probably should go!) 


Plan ahead of time!

If you do decide to attend a wedding, don’t put yourself in the stressful situation of figuring out key details – transportation, accommodations, wardrobe, gift – a week ahead of time. Rather, take the time, ahead of time, to plot out how your weekend will look. Book your flight and accommodations well in advance to avoid price hikes or sold-out wedding blocks, and decide on your outfit and make any relevant appointments (hello, manicure!) with plenty of time to spare. After all, this weekend is supposed to be about celebrating... not about stressing out about the fact that you have to cough up $700 for your flight to Dallas.


Eat something before the ceremony and reception. 

Ever enter a wedding reception starving? That first drink hits you like a freight train and, more likely than not, you end up scarfing down five sliders in ten minutes. (Maybe that’s just me?) Regardless, it’s a very, very bad idea to head to a wedding hungry, because you’ll be drinking on an empty tummy and you’ll be tempted to consume a lot more (usually unhealthy) appetizers than you normally would. Eat a filling, protein-filled snack before you head out, such as a quarter of an avocado with a hard-boiled egg or bring along a bag of nuts or a low-sugar protein bar to discreetly nosh on before the ceremony to avoid wedding hanger. 


Watch the booze.

Ah, this is a universal recommendation, isn’t it? But seriously, weddings are often sloshed-up affairs where one glass of wine can easily spiral into ...many over the course of a five-hour night. As such, enter the event with a clear game plan to avoid that dreaded next-day hangover. Select a clear, low-glycemic spirit like tequila and pair it with a zero calorie, hydrating mixer like club soda. Sip on it slowly and be sure to pair every drink consumed with a full 8-ounce glass of water. Another great tip? Start your night with a club soda -- you'll "fill yourself up" a bit, plus avoid the aforementioned drinking on an empty stomach scenario. 



Instead of making like a barfly or trolling the dessert table, get on your feet and hit the dance floor once the band or DJ starts playing. Not only is it just plain fun (I mean, who doesn't want to do the limbo with a 85-year-old grandma?), it’s a great way to get in a bit of exercise, socialize with friends and avoid eating overdoing it with the sweets and drinks. Moreover, it’s always nice to shake off that filet mignon dinner. See you on the dance floor?! 

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