Sunday, September 15, 2013

5 Little-known Benefits of Tea

My personal collection of tea varieties  (Photo by Nasty)
Despite the ubiquitous presence of coffee shops and sodas, tea is still the world’s most popular drink (that’s if you don’t count water, of course). Perhaps it’s because the health benefits of drinking tea have long been known. They go from as simple a promise as weight loss to downright medical wonders like helping prevent cancer, heart disease and diabetes. In case those still aren’t enough reason for you to start your own collection of tea, how about these?

Prevents Flu Better than Vaccines – The studies involved taking green tea supplements rather than taking the brew, but the results are nonetheless remarkable. Clinical trials have demonstrated green tea-based supplements reducing the risk of flu by 75%, outperforming vaccinations which reduce the risk by only 60%. Green tea in beverage form is loaded with polyphenols, long recognized to actively suppress many bacterial, fungal and viral species, thus helping your overall immune system.

Improves Eyesight – Studies show that drinking green tea could be protective of the eyes.  Researchers believe the catechins in green tea are able to help protect the delicate tissues of the eye from glaucoma and other eye diseases. 
3. Protects Your Bones – Studies show that regular tea drinkers have higher bone density--a very good predictor of fracture risk—compared to non-tea drinkers. It’s attributed to compounds found in tea such as phytoestrogens, flavonoids, catechins and fluoride. What’s more important is how long a person has been drinking tea regularly rather than how much tea was consumed daily. So go reach for that tea bag now.

Even the mugs you use can add to the pleasure of drinking tea  (Photo by Nasty)
4. Relaxes the Mind – Tea contains a unique amino acid, L-theanine that may modulate aspects of brain function, helping relax the mind without making you drowsy. Theanine is actually used for treating anxiety, high blood pressure, and for preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

5.       Keeps you Looking Young – The high levels of antioxidant polyphenols in tea—particularly white tea--are said to help prevent wrinkles and fine lines. As one ages, the skin gradually loses elasticity due to the breakdown of elastin and collagen. Extracts in white tea are said to prevent or delay this breakdown, thus making each cup of tea something like dipping into the fountain of youth.

Do note that these studies are based on traditional green, black or white tea--the beverage derived from leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Bottled green tea drinks are a completely different story; most of these are loaded with sugar and possibly contain insignificant amounts of extract or flavoring.

To gain these benefits, go the old-fashioned way by pouring boiling water over a teabag or loose leaves in a tea infuser and letting it steep until the flavor is just as you like it. Serve hot or cold.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Oatmeal for Breakfast

My staple breakfast favorite

For grownups, breakfast is necessary to help us perform at our best. For children, it’s even more crucial than that. Skipping that first meal of the day creates a stoppage in the constant flow of energy and nutrients needed by their growing bodies and developing brains. Surprising as it sounds, not breaking their fast when they should creates a period of semi-starvation that can lead to physical, mental and behavioral problems.

My personal breakfast-of-choice is a bowl of oatmeal sprinkled with raw honey and smothered with almonds, walnuts, and a variety of seeds. In a future post, I'm going to tell you all about that collage of nutty flavors in that picture above that keeps each mouthful an unpredictable treat. It's a surefire way of keeping breakfast from getting boring.

I don’t use just any kind of oatmeal. I stick to old-fashioned slow cooking rolled oats – which are oat groats (oat kernel with the hull removed) that have been steamed, rolled out and flattened. 

Oatmeal is an excellent source of fiber, and studies show that the unique fiber in oatmeal called beta gluten helps the body fight off infections better, thus enhancing overall immunity against diseases. The fiber also keeps you feeling fuller for longer, so it will help ease those mid-morning cravings.

Keep in mind, not all oatmeal are alike. Although nutritionally speaking, instant and slow-cooking oats are about neck and neck, instant oatmeal has a higher glycemic index, which is why I avoid it. Diabetes runs in my family, and so far, I’ve done a good job of avoiding it. Old-fashioned oats have a glycemic index of 55 (classified as low GI) compared to 83 for instant oatmeal (classified as high GI). Quick-cooking oats fall in the medium GI range. I also prefer rolled oats’ chewier texture that makes eating it more of a pleasure. 

In addition, many instant oatmeal variants have some undesirable additives—such as sugar, hydrogenated oil, artificial flavoring and salt. Always check out the fine print at the back that lists any added ingredients.

Few people know that non-dairy creamer is a trans fat source

Acesulfame K is an artificial sweetener suspected to be a carcinogen