How 'bout green tea?

Green Tea health benefits

Green tea is showing up everywhere these days from face wash and shampoo, to energy drinks. Though green tea’s health benefits have been known in the Eastern hemisphere for thousands of years, recent research is confirming these benefits and revealing what makes green tea so effective.

History of Green Tea

Green tea, black tea, white tea and oolong tea all come from the same species of plant camellia sinesis. These are actually the only teas that can officially be called tea. Each tea has a unique flavor, color and properties depending on the way it is processed.

Green tea is very minimally processed and has been used as a medicine in China for over 4000 years. Green tea has been used to treat depression, digestive issues and nervous conditions. Due to the findings of modern research, green tea has become popular in the Western Hemisphere as well. 

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea can boost metabolism. Green tea’s catechins, in combination with its moderate caffeine content, can help you burn fat more quickly.

Green tea helps prevent heart disease. A Harvard Health study found that those who drank the most green tea had a 28% lower risk of coronary artery disease.  The antioxidants in green tea help lower Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and boost High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol.

Green tea improves exercise endurance. Since the catechins in green tea boost the body’s ability to use fat as fuel, this helps improve your body’s muscular endurance. The antioxidants in green tea also help the body’s muscles recover more quickly.

Green tea helps prevent diabetes. Green tea can help regulate glucose levels by slowing the rise of blood sugar after eating a meal, in turn preventing insulin spikes.

Green tea reduces the risk of cancer. The antioxidants are thought to fight free radicals that may cause cancer.

Green tea reduces acne. Green tea’s catechins have also been found to fight the bacteria that grow in the skin’s pores and cause acne. 

Green tea helps fight wrinkles and the signs of aging. Due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, green tea reduces sun damage to the skin when applied topically.

Nutrition Highlights

  • 0 calories
  • 0g fat
  • 0mg sodium
  • 0g carbohydrates


As with most things in life, moderation is key. According to a Harvard Health study, the catechins found in green tea have been reported to raise liver enzymes in animals. Green tea is also a source of oxalates which can cause kidney stones. If you have a history of kidney stones, it would probably be a good idea to stick with less than five cups of green tea per day.

Drink up

I enjoy hot, decaffeinated green tea in the evening with some honey, but it’s also delicious cold.  To make iced green tea, simply brew your tea as usual, then refrigerate  for 30 minutes (make sure to remove the tea bag before refrigerating, as the bitter qualities increase with time). After refrigerating, add some ice cubes, a straw, and a drizzle of honey (if  desired).

ReferencesThe Green Tea Revolution on Random HistoryThe Miracle of Green Tea on About.comBenefit of drinking green tea.. on Harvard Health PublicationGreen tea may lower heart disease risk on Harvard Health Publication13 Reasons Tea is Good for You on Time Health & Family

Originally posted 2013-10-07 15:37:14.

How 'bout cayenne pepper?

Cayenne peppersCayenne pepper is an extremely hot, yet tasty and versatile spice.  The bite comes from the active ingredient capsaicin.  With a beautiful crimson color and high heat, it is sure to add flare to any dish you are planning to cook.  But cayenne pepper is more than just a heat maker.  This spice has a plethora of uses that not even your orthodox medical practitioner can argue with.   

History of Cayenne Pepper            

Cayenne pepper has been used in Mexico, South America, and the West Indies for thousands of years.  Capsicum annuum is its botanical name.  When the pepper was discovered by the Spanish, it was eventually introduced into Africa, Asian, Indian, and European cuisines.  It has now become one of the most popular spices in the world.  It can grow in most any climate, but most loves the nutrient-rich soils of moist climates.  It has been used for its flavor, its medicinal purposes, and as decoration.

Considerations for Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is actually quite spicy.  It has a 7 out of 10 rating for spiciness, which means it is 30,000 – 50,000 Scoville Units.  To give you an idea of what that means, jalapeno, chipotle, and poblano peppers are only about 2,500 – 5,000 Scoville Units, serrano peppers are about 5,000 – 15,000 Scoville Units, and habanera peppers are roughly 100,000 – 350,000 Scoville Units.  That means cayenne peppers can really pack a punch.  The nice thing about cayenne pepper is that it usually comes in powdered form, providing the flexibility to make any dish as mild or as spicy as you want!

Home Remedies and Health Benefits of Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne Pepper has been used for thousands of years as not just a spice but a medicine. 

~Stomach ailments~

The ancient peoples of Peru and Guatemala used cayenne pepper as a cure for many types of stomach ailments.   You would think because cayenne pepper is so spicy that it would cause heartburn.  For most people, however, cayenne pepper has the opposite effect. Modern research suggests that cayenne pepper not only reduces heartburn, but can help people who have ulcers.  I suppose the Mayans were on to something!

~Cardiovascular Health~

Capsaicin is a vasodilator, which means that it enlarges the space (the lumen) in the blood vessels so that blood can flow more easily.  Vasodilation promotes several physiological effects, including relief from headaches and pain, as well as improvement in overall vascular health.

~Cayenne Pepper for Pain and Inflammation~

Capsaicin, when applied topically, has shown very promising results in patients with neurological pain, such as phantom limb and HIV neuropathy.  The Capsaicin found in cayenne peppers also has strong anti-inflammatory effects.

~Cayenne Pepper for Weight Loss~

While eating cayenne pepper won’t magically turn you into a model, the heat it produces in your body does mean you are burning a few extra calories.

~Cayenne Pepper for Cough Suppressant~

Cough keeping you up all night?  Mix a dash of cayenne pepper with a tablespoon of honey and melt that in with your favorite tea or a glass of warm water.  Sip on that for a while and your cough should subside enough to help you get to sleep.  I tried this last January when I had a really bad cold accompanied by a horrible cough.  Sure enough, it worked!

~Cayenne Pepper as an All-Natural Pet Repellent~

Cat chewing on your house plants?  Dog getting in your garden?  Well, a little bit of cayenne pepper sprinkled in these areas is a great way to ensure your pet will not try again (unless, of course, you have a very stubborn animal).  Cayenne Pepper is non-toxic to both your pet and your plants.  Our cat used to chew on a piece of fraying carpet in our old apartment.  My husband put a little cayenne pepper in the area and, after a few sneezes, he never chew again!  Just be careful not to put tons of the spice in a very concentrated area because it could burn your pet’s paws of nose.  The trick is to just make it uncomfortable for them when they enter the restricted area.

Precautions when using Cayenne Pepper

While cayenne pepper has many fine qualities, you have to be careful with a few things.  First off, you want to be careful when handling this pepper, even in its powder form.  If you’re sprinkling it out of a bottle,  you have less to worry about, just don’t handle large amounts of it for an extended period of time without wearing some hand protection. Like most hot peppers, cayenne pepper can burn your skin.  You also have to be very careful not to rub cayenne pepper in your eyes after handling it.  While you won’t go blind you will be in a lot of pain, and there is little you can do about it (cayenne pepper is what they use to make pepper spray with).  Make sure you wash your hands (and under your fingernails) after handling it.  Also, you want to keep cayenne pepper away from intense, direct heat.  Heating peppers brings out more flavor, but heating them too much can create fumes that will make you cough uncontrollably.  Truth me, it’s really bad.  My husband and I learned the hard way.  Being aware of the fumes is especially important if you have asthma or other lung problems.  Lastly, what goes in spicy will come out spicy.  You have been warned!

Cayenne Pepper Nutrition Highlights (%DV = percent of daily value)

In 1 tbsp:

  • Calories 17
  • Vitamin A 44% DV
  • Vitamin C 6% DV
  • Iron 2% DV
  • Vitamin B-6 5%  DV
  • Magnesium 2% DV           

Cayenne Pepper In the Kitchen

  • Use these spicy peppers on sweet potato cubes sautéed in grass-fed butter.  The sweet and spicy combination gives way to a very savory dish.
  • A pinch of cayenne pepper on deviled eggs will certainly spice up any party.
  • Use cayenne pepper instead of black pepper to add variety to you usual cusine.
  • Add cayenne pepper to chili of soup to make it even hotter.
  • Mix in cayenne pepper with your chicken, tuna, or egg salad.
  • And, don’t forget to experiment! 

REFERENCES: Home cooking with Hot ChilisRed Pepper Encyclopedia; David M. Simpson, MD,  Stephen Brown, MD, Jeffrey Tobias, MD; Controlled trial of high-concentration capsaicin patch for treatment of painful HIV neuropath; Neurology June 10, 2008 vol. 70 no. 24 2305-2313; USDA

Originally posted 2013-09-24 12:30:45.

Boost Your Metabolism with NEAT Fitness

Have you ever found yourself circling the parking lot to find the “best” spot…at the gym?? Did you ever stop to think that since you are there for a workout anyways, you might as well get in a few extra steps? Chances are you thought about it, but decided you didn’t have the time.

These days we are all about efficiency: efficient offices (sitting all day), efficient communication (e-mail), efficient appliances (that do all the work for us), and efficient commutes (driving everywhere). I drive most places even though I have a Target less than a mile away. We also have an elevator in our apartment building, and I have to talk myself out of taking it.

With the modernization of household and work-related tasks, we aren’t required to move as much throughout the day as our ancestors did. Instead we sit all day and tell ourselves we need to hit the gym HARD to make up for our lifestyle, but can working out for an hour a day even make up for the relative physical inactivity many of us have chosen during the remaining 23 hours of the day?

What if there was a different way? What if we could incorporate movement into our days little by little?  

NEAT or Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis is one way our body burns calories and in turn, boosts our metabolism.

Exercise is by definition planned, structured and repetitive physical activity aimed to improve or maintain one or more components of physical fitness. NEAT fitness is simply daily activities that require bodily movement. Studies have shown that lean individuals tend to have more NEAT in their day than overweight or obese individuals. These little movements add up over let’s take a cue from our lean friends!

It’s not tough to incorporate these types of movement into your day. Try adding some of these activities or increasing their frequency in the following week to help boost your metabolism:

  • Taking the stairs
  • Doing the dishes
  • Vacuuming
  • Parking further away and walking
  • Walking the dog
  • Getting up from your desk once an hour to walk around
  • Window shopping with friends
  • Taking out the trash or recycling
  • Rearranging your furniture
  • Cleaning out your closet
  • Scrubbing the toilet
  • Folding clothes
  • Yardwork
  • Chasing your kids around (or the neighbor’s kids…preferably with their permission)
  • Walking instead of using the moving ramp at the airport
  • Cooking or baking from scratch
  • Fidgeting (who’d have thought my annoying leg jiggling habit was actually doing me some good?)

The funny thing about this list is that these might be things you are avoiding but need to get done. Attempting to do physical work around the house or enjoying some fun with your loved ones can actually benefit your health and boost your metabolism!

So the next time your honey asks you to take out the trash, you will jump up and do it with a smile, right?

How can you incorporate NEAT into your life?
Do you make an effort to get up once an hour if you sit all day?

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Sources: Essentials of Life Cycle Nutrition by Judith Sharlin et al, Lifetime Physical Fitness & Wellness by Werner W. K. Hoeger et al

Originally posted 2013-08-14 09:00:47.