Eat Smart! Celebrate the benefits of tea during National Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month and on a cold wintery day, nothing can be more refreshing than a steaming cup of tea.

A cup of tea has many health benefits

Tea contains antioxidants, has less caffeine than coffee and actually keeps you hydrated.

It is the second most popular beverage in the world, behind water. All tea – be it white, green, black or oolong – comes from the same plant and all varieties are beneficial. The difference is in the processing. For example, white tea is harvested from young plants. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves and has more amounts of polyphenols than black or oolong tea.

Research shows that the amount of polyphenols in 4-6 cups of green tea a day can lower risks of cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. But do not add milk to your tea. German researchers have found that milk blocks the beneficial polyphenols in tea.

Tea has no calories plus it has a third less caffeine than coffee, about 30 milligrams. Green tea may even help boost your metabolism slightly. In a small study, participants burned about 65 more calories a day when they drank tea as compared to an equal amount of water. The study also reported a significant increase in fat oxidation (turning fat into energy) with tea over water.

Drinking 4 cups of tea not only hydrates as well as a liter of water, but is a great antioxidant, protects the immune system, guards against a variety of cancers and even boost your metabolism.

And with flu and cold season upon us, there is nothing more soothing than drinking a cup of hot tea.

Brewing the perfect cup of tea

Take your pick – white, green, black or oolong – and brew a pot of refreshing and healthy tea. The key to a great cup of tea is in the brewing time – longer does not make it better, it makes it bitter. Follow these simple four steps to a great cup of tea.

1) Place one bag or one teaspoon of leaves for each 8 oz. cup of water in your cup or teapot.

2) Heat the water in a kettle, boiling for black tea, hot, not boiling for white or green tea.

3) Pour over the tea and step away from the cup or pot. Resist all temptation to dunk the bag or stir the leaves during the brewing process.

4) Keep an eye on the clock – it only takes a few minutes.

Suggested brew times:

  • White: 4-5 minutes
  • Green: 1-2 minutes
  • Black: 2-3 minutes
  • Oolong : 3 minutes
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10 healthy things to do when it’s cold outside

Unrelenting winter weather might be keeping you stuck indoors during these cold months. Though it may seem easier to hibernate than hustle to hit your daily step goal, it most certainly is not the healthiest alternative. Stay active and hit your walking goals with these ten simple, tried and true activities.

1. Go mall walking. You might just be surprised at how many steps you get in by spending the afternoon strolling the mall. We aren’t looking to speed walk the mall in record time but to get up, get out and get moving. Shopping optional!

2. Run up and down stairs. Of course, not everyone has a set of stairs at their house but keep this in mind if you do. Run up and down your stairs for 10 sets of 10. You don’t have to do it all at once, but say every hour on the hour, sprint up and walk down your stairs. If you can’t sprint, walk it. No stairs, no problem. Find a sturdy chair or stool you can step up and off of.

3. Clean the house. You’ll be surprised how many steps you can get in cleaning your house from top to bottom. Our modest home with two floors easily adds 5,000 steps in just a few hours time. Bonus: you’ll enjoy staying inside a freshly cleaned house.

4. Do bodyweight exercises. Bodyweight exercises are a great way to get in additional movement, but don’t let it replace your workouts. We aren’t looking to fatigue the muscles, but to use them, get the blood flowing and the heart rate up. Jumping jacks, lunges, burpees, pushups, squats etc. are all exercises you can do with no equipment.

5. Ski. Snowboard. Snowshoe. Yep, if you are bundled up with the appropriate outdoor apparel, you can head outdoors and enjoy winter sports. If you don’t know how, take a lesson. Don’t have the equipment, rent it.

6. Go sledding. Going down a big hill with snow being thrown in your face can be exhilarating. So can walking up the hill once you get to the bottom. Sledding is hard work. Golf courses usually have some great hills.

7. Play hide and seek. This is not just a game for kids. While this doesn’t provide a whole lot of movement, it is still more activity than sitting on the couch.

8. Go to the gym. Unless you are snowed in, the cold is no excuse to skip the gym. We realize it can feel like a chore, to warm up the car, bundle up, and traipse through a snowy parking lot while your cheeks are freezing, but make the best of it. Hit the weights, maybe walk a little on the treadmill afterwards, then instead of rushing to get home, use the sauna, steam room or hot tub. Instead of a quick, get in, get out mentality, if you are putting in the effort to get to the gym, take the time to reward yourself  with a little pampering when your workout is complete.

9. Self-Myofascial Release. Most of you are like, what the heck is that. If you haven’t heard of self-myofascial release (SMR), it is a form of self-massage done with a foam roller. The benefits of SMR are many, correcting muscle imbalances, improving joint range of motion, relieving muscle soreness to name a few. You can roll just about every muscle in your body.

10. Rearrange the furniture. As long as you are going to be cleaning your house, why not move the furniture along with it? Not only is moving heavy furniture a great workout, it can lift your moods as well. If you don’t like change, then when you are cleaning, be sure to pull the furniture away from the wall and vacuum behind it.

This list is of course not meant to be all-inclusive but just some ideas. If you live in a cold climate and find yourself sitting instead of moving, give one of these a try. Now it’s your turn… what is your trick to packing the most steps into your day? Especially when the weather doesn’t call for a walk around the neighborhood?

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Be Calorie Wise for Thanksgiving

The average American eats about 3,000 to 3,500 calories during Thanksgiving lunch / dinner (the actual meal). This usually comes to over 4,000 calories for the day in total. Throw in second helpings of dessert and other goodies and you can imagine how that can spiral out of control.

Here are some helpful holiday tips to help you avoid gaining the usual 5-10 pounds during the holiday season.

1. Chew sugarless gum while cooking. This may help decrease food sampling.

2. Drink a glass of water before eating. Water is a natural appetite suppressant and may help with overeating during this holiday season.

3. Make a deal with your friends or family that there will be a healthy alternative for every unhealthy dish (ex. Marshmallow Yams and then have sweet potatoes or Stuffing and then have steamed vegetables.)

4. Bring your own healthy, tasty dish to a family or friend holiday gathering.

5. Eat slowly. It can take your brain up to 20 minutes to realize that you are full. Put your fork down between bites or take 2 to 3 breaths before taking another bite. Eat until you are satisfied not full.

6. Finally, try to avoid drinking alcohol because it reduces inhibition and may result in overeating. Instead, try drinking apple cider, fruit juice or light eggnog.

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Health Benefits of Pumpkin

PumpkinPumpkins pack a powerful nutritional punch. Just a half cup has about 25 calories, is high in fiber, low in fat and loaded with vitamin A which helps protect against infections plus keeps your eyes and skin healthy. Pumpkin also has more potassium than a banana.

Both canned pumpkin and fresh have about the same nutritional values. When buying canned pumpkin, check the label to make sure it is 100 percent pumpkin and not canned pumpkin pie mix which is higher in calories.

Fresh pumpkin must be roasted before you can use it in a recipe, which you can do easily in an oven or microwave. Just cut the pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and cook until tender. Then scoop out the flesh and puree it in a blender or food processor before adding it to your recipe. Look for a pie pumpkin in the produce section, which is about the size of a melon and much smaller than the traditional carving pumpkin used for Halloween.

And don’t forget the pumpkin seeds which are a great snack. A cup of pumpkin seeds in the shell contain 285 calories and about 11 grams of protein. They also contain polysterols which help reduce cholesterol levels.

With the holidays just around the corner comes the onslaught of food and more food. Good news is that many of the foods on the Thanksgiving table, like pumpkin, can be very good for you when prepared without added sugar or fats. Next week’s Eat Smart! will feature some eating strategies to help you get through the Thanksgiving holiday.

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Move! Walk Yourself Happy

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In one research study, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. All three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with but what happened over time was drastically different.

Six months later, the groups were tested again to determine their relapse rate.

Medication alone: 38% had slipped back into depression

Combination of exercise and medication: 31% had slipped back into depression

Exercise alone: Only 9% relapse!

You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and improve your health.

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