A Cup Of Tea Warms Your Heart And More!

I get up early to workout most mornings, before my kids get up.  Then my day often feels like its pace is a dead-run.  Around 4:00 PM, my energy begins to wane.  Coincidently, that’s usually the time my children complete their homework.  What I enjoy at that time, is a cup of hot tea, and to just ‘be’ for a few moments.  Decompress.  Hear about the stories of the day, and recharge my batteries.  

An added bonus is the health benefits tea provides:

  • Tea contains antioxidants. Oolong and Green tea provide this.
  • Tea may reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. A study found a nearly 20% reduction in a risk of heart attack and a 35% reduced risk of stroke around people who drank1-3 cups of green tea per day. *
  • A Japanese study found that tea can decrease tooth loss due to a positive balance of pH in your mouth
  • Herbal teas are known to assist in better digestive functions. I use Dandelion tea for this purpose.
  • Iced brewed tea if enjoyed without adding sugars or sweeteners is calorie free!  I brew, then chill blends of green and Oolong tea every day instead of soda.

Sample Teas

I recently tried several varieties from Adagio.com through their sampling offerings. The Peach Oolong and fragrant and satisfying.  I love that they provide info on the levels of caffeine and the temperature and steep times for optimal enjoyment for each kind.

Tea is Good for the Heart & Reduces Cancer

American Dietetic Association Spokeswoman, Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD boldly says, “There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea. It has less caffeine than coffee, and the compounds in tea-their flavonoids- are good for the heart and reduce cancer.”  For me though, it’s not just about the tea, but the life-experience of enjoying a quiet moment with my family.

*www.today.com/series/one-small-things/top-10-health-benefits-drinking-tea

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Could Biodynamic Farming Be Better For You & Your Community?!

Just when you thought you were well versed in healthy eating terms, they throw another food label into the mix to keep things interesting!  

Biodynamic describes a sustainable farming method that looks at the farm itself as a ‘living organism’.  This means that the growing site is self-sustaining, self-contained and follows the cycles of nature, explains Elizabeth Candelario, managing director of Demeter, the global certification program for biodynamic farms and products.  She explains that biodynamics builds on the organic protocols, but then takes the measuring bar a bit further.  It guides how the farms are managed, based on the natural rhythms of each plot of land.

Another critical element to this healthy growing style is that 10% of the total acreage must be set aside for biodiversity including sustaining and improving pollination health. (Bees blog).  It considers protection of endangered species, wildlife and diverse life forms to be a priority (cleaneating.com– Jan/Feb 2017).  

The drive behind this style of farming is protection of the land, and growing more flavorful produce and fruits while protecting the environment. Caldelario explains that ” the healthier the soil, the healthier the food, the healthier the person, the healthier the planet.”

This is the seal that denotes farming this way, and you can find farmers who are certified at biodynamicfood.org.  Ask your grocer to carry their products for the better health of your family and your community.

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Kale and Chorizo Soup

Food and soup should ignite a flavor opportunity for soul, while promoting good health for your body!

A health concern that many people have is to reduce inflammation, which can lead to disease and oxidative damage (which is why we seek out antioxidants).  One system-boosting food is dark, leafy greens as in the Kale and Chorizo Soup. They promote better brain health and are packed with folate and phytochemicals.  

This recipe includes other health boosting ingredients like olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes. Flavor and all that?!

Kale and Chorizo Soup – Cooking Light:

Serves 8 (serving size about 1 1/3 cup)

  • 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped yellow onion
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 7 oz, dry-cured Spanish Chorizo, diced
  • 6 cups unsalted chicken stock (I buy organic)
  • 3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, washed and quartered
  • 1 (14.5-oz.) can unsalted diced tomatoes, drained
  • 12 oz. curly kale, tough stems removed, leaves torn or chopped

Instructions:

  1. Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium.
  2. Add onion and garlic; cook, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 5 minutes.  
  3. Add stock, salt, pepper, potatoes, and tomatoes; increase heat to high.  
  4. Bring to a boil.  Partially cover pan, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. Stir in kale; simmer until potatoes are tender and kale softens, about 5 minutes.

Nutrition:

Calories-242
Fat-12.6g
Protein-13g
Carbs-20g
Sugar 5g
Chol-22g
Iron-2mg
Sodium-616mg

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All Or Nothing Behavior with Weight

When people feel frustrated with their weight or are faced with health issues that are worsen by their weight, they tend to make goals that are ‘all or nothing’.  Typically, this avenue of pursuit doesn’t end with you achieving your weight goal.

If you were making decisions involving a business, you would never decide to set goals that could not be attained; why do it with your weight?  

A more realistic, doable course of action for your weight is better.  

There are a lot of changes that can be made to improve your weight and health:

Ditch soda for quenching and refreshing choices

such as fruit/herb infused water, or brewed and chilled green tea.  I use lemon green tea, apple spice tea and dandelion tea (to soothe tummy troubles). I brew all three in a mug. Cool and add to 32 ounces of water. A squeeze of fresh lemon is wonderful as well.

Eat the foods you like, but tweak them over time toward lower salt, fat and sugar.  

This mindset allows you not to feel deprived and forced to eat foods you don’t like.  Portion control and frequency of consumption are important if you want to see your weight drop.  Over time, you will see your attraction to fried, over salted and sugary items reduce along with your weight.  

Eat at home more than you eat out.

Between the dreaded (but delicious) bread basket and not being in control of the ingredients or process of cooking, eating in restaurants can hinder your weight goals.  Cooking at home gives you the opportunity to try new recipes and to be in control of fats and ingredients.  

Take a cooking class, watch healthy cooking ideas on FoodNetwork, or visit my healthy food boards on Pinterest

Ignite a passion for flavorful, energizing foods. Many find using a healthy meal delivery service such as Hello Fresh delivers diet-conscious dinners for $11.50 per portion to your door for you to cook.

Make sure your plate is 1/2 full of veggies, 1/4 protein (non meat varieties work well), and 1/4 full of complex carbs (quinoa, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, sweet potatoes, etc.) at meals.  

Fresh fruit versus fruit juice is an easy change.

Snacking mid afternoon helps you avoid vending machines and drive thru windows.

I enjoy cottage cheese, 15 almonds with a string cheese, apples and a slice of sharp cheddar, Greek yogurt, or 2 hard boiled eggs and find them very satisfying.

Get your rest.

A lack of sleep can raise your cortisol levels (fight or flight hormone), which can lead to belly fat.  Evaluate your bedtime rituals if you have trouble falling asleep.

  • Disengage from electronics
  • educe stress with a bath or
  • reading all help signal that your brain needs to disengage and rest

Laughing and Gratitude

It may seem irrelevant, but laughing and being grateful can effect your weight. A constant state of stress and depression can keep you stuck at your weight. Look at what improves your mood, or ask for help if needed.

Being unhappy with your weight can be a vicious cycle of binge eating, rollercoaster weight loss and general unhappiness. Let’s work together to find a more permanent, health-oriented way.

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Can The MIND Diet Help My Brain?

Eating healthy and exercise has been proven to help prevent diabetes, heart disease, obesity and many forms of cancer. It’s also key to memory, focus and preventing disease as we age,  to remember that your brain is a muscle.

The brain is like a muscle. When it is in use we feel very good. Understanding is joyous.” -Carl Sagan

(http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/c/carlsagan125868.html)

Focus on the brain as a muscle demands maintenance through healthy fuel and fitness. This healthy attitude requires you to integrate its’ maintenance with the focus you attend to your body.  Rebecca Katz, the author  of The Healthy Mind Cookbook: Big Flavor Recipes To Enhance Brain Function, Mood, Memory, and Mental Clarity attributes brain fog and depression as proof of the brain-body connection. She believes “the kitchen and the gym may hold the keys to clear thinking.

An emerging study has been investigating the connection of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet with its blend of olive oils, whole grains, vegetables and lean meats and brain health. Health.usnews.com reports, The MIND diet, which stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay,” was developed by Martha Clare Morris, a nutritional epidemiologist at Rush University Medical Center, through a study funded by the National Institute on Aging and published online February 2015.

Morris’ team followed the food intake of 923 Chicago-area seniors. Over 4.5 years, 144 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The longer people had followed the MIND diet patterns, the less risk they appeared to have. Even people who made “modest” changes to their diets – who wouldn’t have fit the criteria for DASH or Mediterranean – had less risk of developing Alzheimer’s. The study found the MIND diet lowered Alzheimer’s risk by about 35 percent for people who followed it moderately well and up to 53 percent for those who adhered to it rigorously.

  • Every day, you eat at least three servings of whole grains, a salad and another vegetable.
  • The MIND diet recommends drinking a glass of wine. (While a little alcohol consumption seems to be better for the brain than none at all, you could skip the wine since it’s not necessary to follow the guidelines to the letter to benefit.)
  • On most days you snack on nuts, and every other day you eat half a cup of beans.
  • You eat fish weekly, and poultry at least once per week.
  • A half-cup serving of berries (blueberries are best) are recommended and olive oil is preferred.

The brain connection with exercise is not completely understood, but it’s accepted that exercise changes your brain chemistry 

Also, that “exercise helps the brain factor that helps new brain cells to form, while keeping existing neurons young.” (CookingLight.com).

The research on the MIND diet continues and there is support for its healthy diet recommendations for brain health.

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The Astonishing Impact School Lunches Have on Childhood Obesity Rates

Issues surrounding the nutritional value in school lunches is a significant issue impacting childhood obesity rates in the United States.  

EverydayHealth.com states that kids who buy lunch at school had a 30% greater risk of obesity than those who brown bag theirs.

The stats revealed were a part of a University of Michigan study of over 1000 sixth graders, and results were published in the American Heart Journal.

The study found that in addition to the nutritional quality of the food as a factor in the statistics, was a lack of activity for those children.

Two or more hours of sedentary activity in front of a TV or video games increased the risk of obesity by 19%.

These two factors can lead to an unbalanced, dysfunctional metabolic profile (see my blog on Metabolic Syndrome from Feb. 28, 2013).

The solution involves

  • creating opportunities for activity for the young people
  • reducing their screen time
  • improving the nutritional profile of their lunches

Previously, the theory on childhood obesity centered around behavioral factors and hereditary or genetics factors.

According to the study, obese children had three common markers.  They were:

1.       Less likely to have consumed milk with in the previous 24 hours to being involved in the study 983% VS, 90%)

2.       More likely to consume school lunches on most school days (45% vs. 34% that home-pack)

3.       More likely to consume regular soda’s and soft drinks daily (40% vs. 30% who don’t consume daily)

4.       Had significantly less exercise.  Less than 20 minutes a day in the week before the study and less likely to participate in school or after-school organized sports.

Making positive changes to the growing problem of childhood obesity impacts everyone in the US, even if they don’t have children themselves.  If the upcoming generation is plagued with health issues due to an increase in metabolic profile issues, it burdens the healthcare system, doesn’t allow for the children to reach their potential in education, and creates mental health issues for them as a group. Let’s all get involved in some way to create positive change.

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A Healthier Lifestyle Might Be The Best Medicine

Our fast-paced society has lengthened our 8 hour work day to what is literally or figuratively becomes a 12 hour day.  We hope to get more work done, and if it didn’t get completed then we bring our work and electronics home to ‘finish’.  Seems that we are trying to eek out the most productivity we can out of every day in hopes of succeeding in

1) finishing our work

2) getting noticed by the boss

3) closing the sale

4) getting more accomplished.  

But do we really? Is the best way to get more done, to spend more time doing it?  More and more studies say, NO!

Strategic Renewal of Energy

More research is showing that strategic renewal of energy through forms such as

  • morning workout
  • short afternoon naps
  • longer sleeping hours
  • frequent 4 day vacations

make for a more efficient and productive employee.  

Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.

According to an article in the New York Times (2/10/13), “Physicists understand energy as the capacity to do more work. Like time, energy is finite; but unlike time, it is renewable”.

It seems counter-intuitive that if we take more time off, we would be more productive.  But just like a child’s toy that uses batteries, if the batteries run low, the toy doesn’t work as well.

Systems Need a Break

Our bodies communicate to us that the systems need a break; fatigue and even illness are often a body’s way of demanding that we take a break.  We often override those signals by ignoring them, squashing them with caffeine, OTC stimulants and power drinks, or with prescription or illegal drugs.  These options may resolve the problems temporarily but for long-lasting resolve, a healthier choice must be made.

More major companies comprehend this connection.  They are providing workout/yoga classes and facilities, on-site child care that allows their employees to have lunch with their children, and require that employees honor at least part of their given vacation benefits for time off. 

“Using dirty energy today for faster results” as the article describes, will not achieve the long-lasting goal of creative, positive, efficient work results.  Taking care of yourself allows you to provide the best service or results for your work community.

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A Fat Is A Fat…Isn’t It?!

Whether we’re trying to lose weight or just avoid gaining it, many of us think steering clear of dietary fat is the first step. Rather than cut out all fat, however, we’d be better served if we focused on what types of fats we eat.

Fat gives your body energy, keeps your skin and hair healthy, helps you absorb certain vitamins but needs to eaten in moderate portions.

The average adult should get about 20-30 percent of their daily calories from fat and less than 10 percent of their daily calories from saturated fats, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 

Keep Fat Portions Moderate

To keep portions moderate, remember that eating a whole avocado (30 grams of saturated fat) does not mean your body gets MORE healthy fats because you ate it all, versus half.  No more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat and each fat gram contains 9 calories.

Saturated and Unsaturated Fats

A diet high in saturated fat, found in animal products and some vegetable oils, can lead to heart problems. Eating the right amount of unsaturated fats can help your heart It’s recommended to get a daily maximum of 22 grams of saturated fat.

Unsaturated fats, including monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are considered good-for-you fats.

Omega-3, Omega-6, and Polyunsaturated Fats

Omega-3 and omega-6 fats, which are both considered unsaturated, are both considered essential fatty acids, because our bodies can’t make them on its own.

Polyunsaturated fats can help lower total cholesterol, while monounsaturated fats can raise “good” cholesterol, or HDL, and lower “bad” cholesterol, or LDL.

So where can you find these unsaturated fats?

  • Avocado
  • wild-caught salmon
  • and other fatty fish such as
  • tuna or mackerel
  • almonds and other nuts (1-2 ounces)
  • olives
  • olive or coconut oils one tablespoon of flaxseed that’s been ground which makes it easier for the body to absorb the health benefits which include the over 4 grams of healthy fat. 

A quick way to remember this all-too-confusing information is to steer toward whole foods, in appropriate portions, and stay away from processed foods (shop the exterior aisles of the grocery, instead of the interior ones).  If needed, consult a nutritionists for food choices and recommendations.

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Muscle Is Made In The Kitchen & The Gym!

Wouldn’t it be great if you could work out hard and eat whatever you’d like, even after your metabolism changes after 40?! The reverse would also be the preferred choice of many; to eat healthy foods but never need to work out to maintain your desired weight and muscle tone.

Now it’s back to reality, and both of the groups described above will be disappointed. You need both the gym and the kitchen to maintain muscle tone and to achieve better health and desired weight over time.

Fuel for Your Body and Your Workout

Consider the food you choose to eat as fuel for your body and your workout.

If you expect your engine to work at peak-performance while filling it with processed foods, saturated fats, sugar and alcohol regularly, you’ll experience sputtering, clogging and inefficiency.  

To the contrary, if you use lean, quality proteins and non-meat proteins to support your muscles’ recovery after exercise, you will be rewarded with better quality energy and verve.

Carbs

Carbs, having been portrayed as the ultimate villain in the weight loss world, have been redeemed. Carbs, in conjunction with proteins and healthy fats, all play a critical role in tissue, muscle repair and growth.

When You Eat

It is also important when you eat.  Protein works most efficiently when spread out throughout the day.  

When combining carbs and protein, you boost the nutritional value of both, which benefits muscles, mood and your mind.

Carbohydrates increase the presence of tryptophan (think Thanksgiving) which makes you feel happy. Win-win!

Exercise

Exercise is equally important as the nutritional aspect! Exercise promotes

  • bone density
  • helps manage ideal weight ratios
  • helps maintain and increase muscle tone
  • improves balance as you age.

The harder you train at regular exercise, the higher your calorie burn during those efforts, and that extends even after you’ve hung up your sport shoes.  

According to Oxygen.com, “The best time for women to increase food consumption is around exercise; before, during and after. This strategy takes the greatest advantage of heightened sensitivity of skeletal muscle to absorb and utilize carbohydrates to refuel, recover and grow lean muscle.” (October, 2014).

Remember that workouts and choosing high quality fuel for your body is a blessing, not a chore. Be the biggest cheerleader for your own best-health!

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Oatmeal Could Be A Perfect Breakfast Choice!

Need some healthy breakfast ideas?  Look no further than oatmeal.  Just a cup of cooked oatmeal contains 4 grams of fiber;  nearly the same amount that’s in an apple or a cup of cooked brussels spouts. It’s incredibly versatile and you can find it just about anywhere. I enjoy old fashioned oats, steel cut oats and when I travel I take pre-packaged high fiber oatmeal packs. Get a cup of hot water and you have a filling snack or healthier airport choice.

More Filling

Oatmeal is more filling than other breakfast choices because it’s loaded with fiber.  A 2014 study published in the American Journal showed that participants who ate oatmeal felt fuller for longer than those who ate the same serving size of standard breakfast cereals. 

Can Lower Cholesterol

Oatmeal can lower your cholesterol as many high-fiber foods do.  The soluble fiber in oatmeal helps to reduce the body’s absorption of “bad” cholesterol that can increase the risk for heart attacks and strokes. It is a good choice for people with diabetes because it helps regulate blood sugar levels.

Budget Booster

Oatmeal can be a budget booster as well.  Because I eat it every day, I buy it in bulk at a warehouse grocery.  It can cost as little as 20 cents per serving.

Ease in Cooking

Ease in cooking makes it a healthy and easy breakfast choice to make, though different varieties range in cook times. Old fashioned oatmeal cooks in 15 minutes. I cook one cup oats with 4 cups of water. I add ground cinnamon and turmeric (both have anti-inflammatory properties) to my cooking process, though it gives the flavor a bit of a bite.  I distribute the finished product into 4 separate containers adding 20 frozen blueberries to each portion.  I seal them securely and enjoy them everyday.  

Steel cut oats, though similar in nutrition as old fashioned oats, takes 25 minutes to cook. The texture is more rounded that old fashioned and many people prefer this variety. 

I have also pinned (Paulas Healthy Living on Pinterest) several options to cook oatmeal overnight in a slow cooker. This can be a great option when feeding large groups of people.

Try adding

  • chia seeds or ground flax for additional nutritional value
  • vanilla, cinnamon, real maple syrup or puréed pumpkin for different flavors

I also enjoy a cup of egg whites with vegetables, and have my oatmeal mid-morning. It keeps my energy levels and focus on target all morning.  It can help you make better choices at lunch as well.

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