To Tea or Not To Tea

To Tea or Not To Tea

According to legend, tea was discovered around 5,000 years ago by a Chinese emperor who was boiling water as leaves from a wild tree blew into his pot.  When he drank it he enjoyed feelings of joy and wellness and since then tea has been used not only for medicinal purposes but for everyday pleasure and enjoyment also.  (BTW, they never explained why the servants weren’t boiling the water or what he would be using it for, but hey, legends! 😀)

For centuries the Chinese empire closely protected their tea, from the cultivation of the crop to the final preparation.  Only young women who were considered for their supposed purity were to handle the tea and they were not to eat certain foods like garlic, onions, or even strong spices to prevent their fingertips from contaminating the precious crop.

There are more than 1,00 types of Chinese tea, but 2 basic teas that are most commonly known and commercially produced today are green tea and black tea.

Originally, and for many centuries, all tea was green tea.  However, by the mid-17th century, the Chinese trade routes were well established with India and Europe, and the resulting demand and long distances were problematic for the delicate green tea leaves.  Chinese growers then discovered a special fermentation process that allowed them to preserve the tea leaves while keeping its flavor and aroma longer.  The resulting black tea became the staple product for export.

In today’s global market, the time and distance in trading commodities are not a problem and with the expansion of countries that grow tea there is no longer a problem transporting green tea, so it is as common and black tea.

From a health perspective, there are numerous benefits of drinking tea.  As a basic beverage, it helps you stay hydrated and to keep up with the amount of water a human body requires daily.  With a high level of antioxidants, tea is also heart-healthy, and some studies have shown that drinking tea is also good for your teeth and possibly even helping to prevent cancer.

The type of tea you drink will make a difference.  The Camellia sinensis plant (or tea plant) is the source of almost all caffeinated teas, including green, white, black, and oolong teas.  Since all these types of tea come from the same plant one might think the health benefits are the same, but apparently not.

Green and white tea are often regarded as the healthiest because they are less processed and have the highest levels of polyphenols, which are micronutrients that can improve or treat digestive issues, weight management challenges, cardiovascular (heart) diseases, diabetes, and even neurodegenerative disease.

Anna Ardine is the clinical nutrition manager at Magee-Women’s Hospital of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and has explained that there is a lot of information regarding the health benefits of tea.  In one study that used results from numerous reports, people who drank 1-3 cups of tea/day showed a nearly 20% reduction in the risk of heart attack and a 35% reduced risk of stroke.  Those who drank 4 or more cups of tea a day showed a 32% lower risk of a heart attack and lower levels of LDL cholesterol.

For the benefits of heavy tea consumption without having to drink 4+ cups of tea, matcha tea is a good option to consider.  Matcha is made from ground tea leaves and is supposed to have the nutritional equivalence of 10 cups of regular green tea.

Being a good source of antioxidants, tea helps to keep us young and protect us from the harmful effects of pollution.  It is somewhat like preventing rust on your car.  Traditional tea is also lower in caffeine, with approximately half the levels of coffee and herbal teas are caffeine-free.

Recent animal studies also suggest that green tea may help to prevent bone loss.  Moringa tea comes from a plant that is native to South Asia and has more calcium than milk.  It also has high levels of vitamins A and K as well as iron.

Since tea changes the pH in your mouth, it may also help in preventing cavities and decrease tooth loss since it does not appear to erode tooth enamel like many other common beverages, according to Japanese researchers.

Ayurvedic practitioners have used holy basil or tulsi tea for centuries to keep the immune system strong after illnesses or injuries because of its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

There are also herbal teas like chamomile that are antispasmodic, so they are good for people with Irritable bowel syndrome, and with added ginger, it can also calm nausea.

In addition to all the benefits and potential benefits of tea, one of the most obvious is that it is a no-calorie alternative to water.  It comes in a variety of flavors and you can always create your own, whether hot or cold.

Our own Wise Women’s Tea is a blend of green and black teas (organic of course!) and a touch of bergamot for a fine citrusy flavor, much like Earl Grey.

Fiber – Digestive Draino

Fiber – Digestive Draino

The TV ads say that we need more fiber.  Doctors tell you that you need more fiber.  Product packaging promotes having more fiber than the other guys.  So what exactly is fiber and why should we care?

Dietary fiber is a plant-based nutrient that passes through your digestive system relatively intact; it’s not digested into sugars like most carbohydrates.  It is sometimes referred to as bulk or roughage and since it is not digested or otherwise broken down like most foods we consume, so what goes in your body essentially exits in the same form.  Although it might not contribute much in the way of nutrients, what fiber does in the process of moving through your system is where the benefits come in.

Fiber is important to digestion and regularity, weight management, cholesterol maintenance, blood sugar regulation, and more. It has also been linked to longevity and decreasing the risk of cancer.

Blood sugar regulation is another benefit of a high fiber diet.  The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine published a meta-analysis of studies about the relationship between fiber and blood glucose (blood sugar) levels.  Findings show that higher fiber intake can reduce blood glucose levels during the standard fasting blood glucose test (a test of blood sugar levels after an overnight fast).  Glycated haemoglobin, which occurs when proteins in the blood mix with blood sugar, is related to increased risk of diabetes complications, and levels of that decrease with an increase in fiber, and soluble fiber is particularly helpful in that regard.

Cancer prevention is a hot topic among medical professionals and there are some differing opinions about the effectiveness of fiber in fighting cancer.  The National Cancer Institute says that fiber does not reduce the risk of cancer to a significant degree, but the British Journal of Medicine published a report based on multiple studies regarding fiber and a reduced risk of colorectal cancer.

A more recent study suggests that the effectiveness of fiber is determined by the individual’s type and amount of gut bacteria.  In the lower colon, the fiber reacts with bacteria and can sometimes ferment into a chemical called butyrate. A high fiber diet can encourage the growth of the bacteria, which may cause cancer cells to self-destruct.

Some scientists think that fiber could actually help people live longer.  One recent study suggests that cereal fiber, from foods like cereal, whole-grain bread, and pasta, is especially effective. Over a 14-year period, those who ate the most cereal fiber were 19 percent less likely to die than those who ate the least. A meta-analysis of relevant studies published in the American Journal of Epidemiology concluded, “high dietary fiber intake may reduce the risk of total mortality.”

For those who want to add more fiber to their diet, it is recommended that they start out slowly, adding around 5 grams of fiber a day for 2 weeks, according to the University of Michigan.  Boosting your fiber intake too quickly can cause cramps, bloating, or diarrhea. The recommendation also includes a balance of two non-caffeinated drinks for each one you consume. Since caffeine is a diuretic it causes a loss of fluids and can increase constipation.  Here are some recommended tips for a beneficial high fiber diet:

  • Start your day with bran cereal or oatmeal and berries
  • Add legumes or beans to your lunch salad or soup, or try a meatless burger made with beans or lentils.
  • Dinner should include more high fiber vegetables like broccoli, corn, brown rice, or whole-wheat pasta.
  • Add fruit to every meal, especially berries.
  • Take dietary supplements that are high in fiber.

Low fiber diets may be required for those with medical conditions, like those undergoing radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery, so they need to give their digestive system a rest.  They might only need such a low fiber diet for a short time while others need a longer time because of conditions like diverticulitis, Chrone’s disease, or ulcerative colitis.

For those on low fiber diets, refined grains, ripe melons, peaches, bananas, apricots, and many cooked vegetables are still OK, but they should consult with their doctor to be sure of their individual needs.  They definitely need to avoid those high fiber foods noted earlier, as well as spicy and fried foods, processed meat, caffeine, nuts, and cocoa products.

 

Two Types of Fiber

Fiber is generally categorized as either soluble or insoluble.  Good sources of soluble fiber include beans, lentils, oatmeal, peas, citrus fruits, blueberries, apples, and barley. The soluble fiber in these foods includes gum, pectin, and mucilage.  They dissolve in water and in the body they become a gel-like substance.

Good sources of insoluble fiber include foods with whole-wheat flour, wheat bran, brown rice, cauliflower, potatoes, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Some foods, like nuts and carrots, are good sources of both types of fiber.  Although whole wheat flour and wheat bran contain gluten which is an anti-nutrient, they need to be included in the list for those who can tolerate them. I don’t recommend anything with gluten in it for those with any kind of digestive issue, but more especially for folks with autoimmune issues.

Insoluble fiber like cellulose, hemicellulose, and lignin mostly retains its shape while passing through the digestive system.

According to the Institute of Medicine, men under the age of 50 should consume 38 grams of fiber each day and older men 30 grams.  Women under 50 should consume 25 grams a day and over 50 years of age the recommendation is 21 grams. According to the Institute, most Americans do not consume enough fiber.

 

Benefits of Fiber

Both soluble and insoluble fibers have health benefits.  Insoluble fiber speeds up the digestive process, maintaining regularity and helping to avoid constipation.

Psyllium husk is a fiber that draws water into your intestines to help fecal bulk and soften stool, making it easier to pass. Psyllium husk is also thought to help relieve loose stool by absorbing water, making your stool more solid.

Soluble fiber helps to reduce cholesterol levels in the blood and helps to decrease blood glucose levels (blood sugar).

Heart health is improved because the digestion of fiber requires bile acids, which are partly made of cholesterol.  The liver pulls the cholesterol from the blood to create that bile acid and in doing so it reduces the levels of LDL cholesterol, the bad stuff.

Flaxseed is also a commonly used fiber to help reduce LDL cholesterol and help prevent constipation, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other medical conditions.

Glucomannan is another dietary fiber and is derived from the root of the konjac plant.  It works in the stomach and intestines by absorbing water to form a bulky fiber and may also slow the absorption of sugar and cholesterol from the gut, reducing cholesterol levels and controlling sugar levels.  It is one of my favorite fibers because of its impact on constipation, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

Acacia gum is a soluble fiber that is commonly used as a medicine taken orally for diabetes, obesity, and irritable bowel syndrome.  It is also used as a prebiotic to promote “good” bacteria in the intestine and to remove toxins from the body. As a source of dietary fiber, it also tends to make people feel full, so they might stop eating sooner than they might otherwise, which can lead to weight loss and lower cholesterol levels.

Inulin is a type of fermentable fiber that is found naturally in the roots of many foods, such as whole wheat, onions, garlic, and artichokes, and is commonly extracted from chicory root and added to foods.  Inulin is fermented by bacteria that normalize the colon and is considered a prebiotic, which may improve gastrointestinal health as well as potentially enhance calcium absorption.

Our all-new FiberMender has 10 grams of fiber and with 4 types, you’ve got Digestive Draino at your fingertips! I LOVE this stuff!

Easing into a cleaner lifestyle

Easing into a cleaner lifestyle

During the holidays, it’s perfectly fine to savor one of your favorite desserts or to have an extra glass of egg nog or two, but you shouldn’t use the whole season as an excuse to overindulge.

Tens of thousands of Americans will resolve to lose weight and to get healthier in 2020.

I have weight loss on the brain today because I’m seeing everyone’s New Year Resolutions. I thought the timing was just right to talk a little bit about how to take baby steps to ease yourself into a healthier eating regime.

You may be hesitant to adopt a healthier lifestyle for fear that you’ll have to change too much all at once, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming!

Here are five tips that you can use to help ease into a cleaner diet:

 

Cut back on take out.

By shopping for fresh ingredients and making your own meals, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor! Fast food is chock full of unhealthy fats, sodium, sugar and calories. There are also preservatives and other chemicals that our bodies could do without.

 

Learn to read labels.

Very little good comes out of boxes where food is concerned, but if you know how to read labels, you can start making better choices. If you have to spend more than a few seconds to decipher a food’s label, then your body won’t know what to do with those unpronounceable additives either! Skip anything with flavor enhancers, flavorings or fake colors.

 

Stop drinking calories.

Sugary coffee drinks, sodas, juices . . . they’re not good for us. They serve no nutritional purpose and they are nothing but empty calories. Reach for water to quench your thirst and you’ll be doing yourself a big favor.

 

Eat more vegetables.

Bulk up on veggies. Eat them with every meal and don’t be stingy. I’m not talking about iceberg lettuce, either! Reach for dark leafy greens (organic, please!) like spinach and kale. Snack on carrot sticks and broccoli. Eat a rainbow each day and you’ll be amazed with the results.

 

Stop buying crappy food.

You know which foods are not serving your health, so stop buying them. You don’t need those cookies and cakes. Those tubs of ice cream and bags of chips look good at the time, but if you bring them home, you’ll only eat them— so leave them on the store shelves!

 

The Secret of Soup

The Secret of Soup

One of my favorite winter foods is soup; especially healthy homemade soup . Nothing quite compares to a big bowl of steaming soup to warm you up, feed you when your not feeling well, or simply act as a comfort food.

Soup is good food, like the commercial says. The only problem with canned soups is they aren’t as healthy as when you make them yourself.

Soups are typically filled with vegetables, meats, and herbs. It’s a nutritional powerhouse . One of the best parts of eating soup is that you also enjoy the broth that everything was cooked in which means you’re not losing any vitamins or minerals that may have leached out during cooking time.

It is easy to plan for making soup. When I have a few leftovers from a yummy meal I’ll store them in a freezer safe zipper-topped plastic bag in the freezer. The next time I’m making a soup I can plop those leftovers in the pot. Sometimes I’ll toss them in the blender or food processor and puree them before I add them for a different texture.

Here’s a rich and creamy soup for you to enjoy this week.

Print Recipe
Butternut Bisque
Course Soups & Stews
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Course Soups & Stews
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Prepare squash by cutting in half and baking for 90 minutes OR by microwaving for 10 to 15 minutes or until softened.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat; sauté onion, garlic and apple until onion is translucent.
  3. Add flour, curry powder and nutmeg and continue to cook until apple is tender.
  4. Place squash in a food processor or blender along with skillet ingredients; add 1 cup of broth and puree until smooth.
  5. Pour contents into a large saucepan or Dutch oven.
  6. Add remaining broth, tomato paste, evaporated milk and sage.
  7. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes before serving.
Recipe Notes

NUTRITION per serving: 224 Calories; 2g Fat; 13g Protein; 45g Carbohydrate; 9g Dietary Fiber; 4mg Cholesterol; 416mg Sodium. Exchanges: 2 Grain (Starch); 1 Lean Meat; 1/2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat. Points: 4

 

If you’d like to see even more delectable soup recipes check out our Casseroles, Soups & Stews collection of ebooks. . Stock up and treat your family to some warm winter dinners today.

Eat Nutritiously to Fight Holiday Depression

Eat Nutritiously to Fight Holiday Depression

We are completely entrenched in the Christmas season and for so many, also completely entrenched in holiday depression. Having gone through holiday bouts of depression myself, I will never discount anyone’s depression. I will tell you however, there are things you can do to fight the oppression of depression. Even if you don’t “feel” like it, you can take action against it.

One of the most effective things in battling any sort of depression (and it is a FIGHT!) is feeding yourself right. Poor eating actually helps fuel depression. In the midst of all the scurrying around during the holidays, we end up shortchanging ourselves and eating poorly. We “save up” for the Big Feasts or parties and starve ourselves or eat fast food because we’re too busy.

Having a plan really does make a difference. We have a great Christmas menu that gives you a menu for the big meal, recipes and the itemized grocery list to keep the panic level at bay. But even with lists and plans, there’s still a lot to do that can cause stress, which only contributes to that downward spiral.

Add poor eating to that and you’re going to be struggling big time to keep your chin above water.

To fend off bad eating, make yourself a big pot of soup (in your large crock cooker) to keep yourself from “going there.” You need something easy, delicious and nutritious to get you through.

Below is a recipe for a major crock cooker full of phytochemically rich veggie soup that you can tweak here and there with the variations I have added to keep you from getting bored. Once the soup has been initially cooked, put it in the fridge and heat up what you need in a small saucepan. The soup is vegetarian and low-carb friendly, too.

And while you’re running around over the next few days finishing up your last-minute shopping, remember to drink your water. Water is a nutrient, not a beverage. Drink a lot of water and keep yourself hydrated.

Print Recipe
Leanne's Basic Vegetable Soup
Veggie Soup in an earthenware bowl
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Servings
servings
Ingredients
Veggie Soup in an earthenware bowl
Instructions
  1. In a large soup pot, heat the one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium high heat.
  2. Add the onion and cook till nearly translucent, now add the garlic. Don’t let the garlic brown and saute another couple of minutes.
  3. Add the rest of the chopped veggies, sauteing for just a minute or two; use extra olive oil if you need it for the rest of the veggies. Remember–you’re not cooking them– just sauteing them for the wonderful flavor this quick step will infuse in your soup.
  4. Add the thyme and salt and pepper while sauteing.
  5. Now put the veggies in the crock cooker, add the tomatoes and broth.
  6. Cook on low 7-9 hours (depending on your crock cooker) or high 4-6 hours.
  7. Just before serving, gently mash some of the potato chunks against the side of the crock-pot to thicken the soup, give it a stir and serve.
Recipe Notes

Nutrition Per Serving: 94 Calories; 3g Fat; 7g Protein; 12g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 0mg Cholesterol; 286mg Sodium. Exchanges: 0 Grain(Starch); 1/2 Lean Meat; 2 Vegetable; 1/2 Fat. Points: 2

SERVING SUGGESTIONS: Grilled cheese sandwiches on whole grain bread and a spinach salad.

Quick Fixes for Variations on the Basic Veggie Soup
Now remember, don’t do these to the whole pot of soup! Just the little bit you pull out to fix yourself for lunch, etc. so that you can do all the Quick Fixes.

Quick Fix #1: Tex Mex Veggie Soup. Add some (eyeball it–how much do you want?) black beans (drained and rinsed), a little bit of cumin and chopped cilantro. Top with some tortilla chips and cheese, or serve with a quesadilla.

Quick Fix #2: Tuscan Veggie Soup. Add some (eyeball it again) cannellini (white kidney beans) or white beans (drained and rinsed), a little bit of Italian seasoning and some chopped kale. Cook till heated through and the kale is tender.

Quick Fix #3: Minestrone Veggie Soup. Add some cooked pasta, a little dried basil and top with a fresh grating of Parmesan cheese.

Quick Fix #4: Autumn Veggie Soup. Add some diced acorn squash or butternut squash, a handful of cooked brown rice, a sprinkling of nutmeg and some chopped parsley.

Beat Winter Dehydration

Beat Winter Dehydration

Is it just me or is it easier to remember to drink your water in the summer?

Just because the temperatures have dropped, doesn’t mean your water intake can take a dip, too. Our hydration needs don’t change much in the winter months–our body functions still need water to make it function optimally.

In warm or cold weather, your body loses water the same way– through sweating, breathing and urinating. Whether you’re inside or outside, summer or winter, you’re losing water the same way and you need to hydrate the same way by making sure you’re drinking water. Exercise is an important way to not only stay fit, but detoxify your body though sweating. Replenishing your body with water after a workout is essential to restoring balance.

We are all different and have different activity levels, so the best real gauge of your own hydration status is your individual output. Hold on to your water here… this might get gross, but it’s important to know.

When you go to the bathroom, yellow urine means you need to drink more water, whereas clear or light yellow urine means you are well hydrated. Signs of dehydration are pretty easy to identify. Be aware of your body and catch them quickly. If you feel thirsty, have dry mouth, are light-headed, can’t focus well, feel tired or notice your skin is dry, then you need to drink more water.

Bottoms up!

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