“Great” Green Tea: What’s in it for You?

Green tea is probably the one beverage I can think of that can be deemed completely healthy and almost without any controversy!   A search on pub med today just yielded 4688 scientific/medical journal abstracts on green tea.  I am not aware of any studies that are critical of green tea regarding health, and scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of green tea for many decades. 

The compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is found primarily in green tea, and it is the compound that appears to confer the significant health benefits of green tea.  This compound is one of four prominent compounds which are strong anti-oxidants present in green tea.  Some of the health benefits of green tea include: interfering with cancer cells, lowering lipids, decreasing inflammation, decreasing the risk of blood clots and stroke, and fighting tooth decay. 

Many people assume green tea has a lot of caffeine and they opt for decaffeinated green tea.  A cup of regular brewed green tea has only 30 mg of caffeine while a cup of regular brewed coffee (not Starbucks) has about 95 mg.  So, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, go for the decaffeinated version, but if caffeine sensitivity is not an issue the regular green tea is still low in caffeine.  If you do want to drink only decaffeinated green tea, try to choose a brand which is decaffeinated by a carbon dioxide method as opposed to chemicals as the chemicals may actually destroy the anti-oxidants.

How to brew green tea:  Green tea can be brewed as loose leaves of tea or using a tea bag. Use one tsp. loose tea or one tea bag per serving.  Using bottled water rather than tap water for brewing may improve the taste of the tea.  Steep your tea in water which has just reached the boiling point of 160 degrees.  Turn the heat off and steep the tea for 2-4 minutes.  Limiting the steeping time to 2-4 minutes will allow for optimal anti-oxidants and decrease the bitterness and caffeine content.  Steeping tea for 4 minutes will actually increase the caffeine content to 40-100 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce serving.

What about flavored teas and tea products?  Flavored teas will be lower in anti-oxidants because the flavoring added to the teas displaces the actual tea content and anti-oxidants available in a serving of tea.  Nonetheless, flavored teas and already prepared tea products can still be a source of anti-oxidants.  You can also brew your own tea, and add your own flavorings such as mint, lemon, or ginseng.

With the summer heat wave sweeping the entire country, consider making your green tea into a pitcher of iced tea to reap both the health benefits of green tea along with hydration!

Do you have a favorite green tea brand or recipe to share on this blog?

Is There a Weight Loss Bullet?

Actually, there are three weight loss bullets-food documentation, limiting restaurant food, and regular eating.  Dietitians have been aware of this information for decades, and a new study out this month supports these tried and true tactics for successful weight loss. 

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

  • Food documentation:  Food documentation can happen on a smart phone with numerous apps, desktop computer, or iPad.  I have clients who also mix it up a bit and even revert back to an old-fashioned small notebook and pen which is easy to carry around.  It does not matter how you document, because the fact that you document your food means you are not shoving food into your mouth without paying attention. You cannot “run and hide” from your calorie consumption, and the sheer act of “facing” those calories gives you a winning edge on successful weight loss because pretending you did not eat those calories is accomplishing nothing!
  •  Limit Restaurant Food:  Chances are pretty good that the meal you ate out for lunch or dinner contained many more calories than had you eaten at home.  Making a conscious choice to dine at home rather than away from home will increase the likelihood you will succeed at weight loss. Those that think otherwise are either in denial about the calorie content of standard restaurant cuisine or uninformed.  Remember the greasy bun you did not expect to come with your overly large burger or the really large serving of fries you probably would not have eaten at home? And, the cocktail and desserts typically not available at home but that you consumed while dining out are not helping your waistline either.  Try as you may, it is an extreme challenge to constantly dine out and manage your weight.  It is the first lifestyle change I recommend with new weight loss clients!
  • Eat Regularly: Even a hungry dietitian can walk into the kitchen and want to eat everything in sight if she or he went too long without eating! Eating on a regular schedule keeps your blood sugar up and your hunger down.  Going for very long periods between meals and snacks paves the way for a binge.  Intentional stockpiling of calories to save for later in the day usually backfires as well.  You will, in all likelihood, be so ravenous your guard will be down and you will overdo those calories and do so in a hurry as soon as you can eat.

No one ever said losing weight was easy.  But facing your eating and lifestyle behavior are half the battle in this process.  Being accountable, calorie savvy, and nourishing yourself on a timely basis will help make the weight loss process happen. 

What tools do you use?

Bread Buying Basics: Shopping Tips for the Savvy Shopper

photo: courtesy J. Rose

A recent family conversation revealed to me the confusion produced by shopping for bread. It’s not just an issue of rye versus wheat or white versus whole grain. Grocery shoppers encounter a far more complex array of bread terms such as enriched, 100% whole grain, high fiber, and gluten-free. Knowing a few facts about what these terms mean is crucial for the savvy bread shopper. Here are some key points about packaged store bread:

  • Whole Grain Bread or 100% Grain-This means the entire grain kernel was used to make the bread, as opposed to just part of the kernel. More specifically, the bread was made from all parts of the grain kernel: the nutrient dense bran and germ of the grain, as well as the less nutrient dense middle endosperm. As a result, the fiber and nutrient content of the bread is generally higher. For the consumer, this translates to a healthy food choice.
  • Enriched White bread (refined flour)-Enriched white bread is made from the less nutrient rich endosperm. US government regulation also requires that some of the nutrients found in whole grain bread be added back into enriched white bread. These nutrients include some B-complex vitamins; however, fiber, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and chromium are not typically added in to the enriched product.
  • Wheat Bread, Brown Bread, Stone Ground-These breads are not necessarily made from a whole grain, and consequently are not guaranteed to be a nutritious option. You must check the label to determine whether the bread is made from a whole grain or an enriched flour.
  • Fiber- Most whole grain breads will yield more fiber than white enriched products. Fiber is an important element of a healthy diet, so look for a minimum of 2 grams of fiber per slice. Many whole grain breads may have as much as 5 grams of fiber.
  • Sodium- Bread can be a significant source of sodium. If this is an issue for you, check out the nutrition fact label for this information. Sliced packaged bread typically ranges from about 150 mg to several hundred mg of sodium per slice.
  • Calories-Calorie content per slice of bread varies widely. Many varieties of sliced bread range from 70-120 calories per slice. Check the nutrition information to ensure that the bread of your choice aligns with your caloric requirements.

Other label deciphering tricks-Look at the list of ingredients. The most prevalent ingredient is listed first, and the least prevalent ingredient is listed at the end. If you are looking for a healthy whole grain bread, you would most likely see “whole or 100% wheat” noted first on the list of ingredients. A less nutritionally desirable bread might list 100% whole wheat, followed by enriched wheat and other ingredients.
A word about gluten-Gluten is protein which some individuals are sensitive to, or must avoid due to celiac disease. It has become popular to avoid or decrease gluten, but it is not necessary for everyone to do so. When it comes to bread, avoid gluten if it is medically required.
A word about high fructose corn syrup-High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in food items, and it has been highly criticized in the past few years. Whatever the final scientific findings on high fructose corn syrup may be, there are many breads on the market free of this ingredient. Read your labels and find a bread that uses an alternate sweetener if this concerns you.

Do you have a healthy favorite store brand bread you can recommend?

Is Your Dietary Supplement Downright Dangerous? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself!

While many Americans naively pop vitamin and mineral supplements and guzzle various types of protein supplements and powders thinking they are helping with overall health and vitality, the reality is that many of these supplements can be downright dangerous!  In fact, according to last week’s Chicago Tribune headliner, the 28 billion dollar supplement industry has serious and widespread manufacturing flaws that have the potential to harm our health.  From quality control issues to formulary issues, the product you are ingesting may not be what you are thinking it is.  There may be much more or too little of a specific nutrient, or even contamination with lead, arsenic, or rodent feces. 

As a potential consumer, it needs to be understood that the supplement industry is a self-regulating industry.  That means the government does not directly oversee the quality control of a supplement. In fact, quality control issues are largely left to the company producing the supplement.  Under current laws, the FDA does not screen supplements for safety before they hit the consumer market. The FDA only takes action regarding supplements on the market once there is a documented issue with the supplement.  In fact, the FDA is also relying on manufacturers themselves as well as consumers to report those adverse effects.

So, without hiring a lab to test your own supplements, here are some proactive steps to take to protect yourself:

  • Buy name brand supplements.  Well-known brands may have better “in-house” quality control standards because the reputation of the company is at stake.  Steer clear of companies you have not heard of.
  • Look for the USP label.  This label means that the supplement has been at least evaluated for ingredients stated on the label and it will dissolve in your digestive tract rather than passing straight through your body.  The symbol does not guarantee any other health or safety advantages of the supplement.
  • Look at the Nutrition Fact Label on the supplement.  Note the percent daily value of the nutrients.  If you see values of many nutrients far exceeding 100%, don’t be duped into thinking this is a good thing. Consumers need to understand that too much of a nutrient can be very harmful.  We have upper limits of safety for many nutrients and we should avoid exceeding those upper limits of safety.
  • Consider using the Internet to investigate your supplement before taking it.  Consumer Labs is an independent testing lab that evaluates supplemental products and makes the test results available for a small subscription fee.  The analyses and data are extensive and informative.
  •  Consider having a dietitian evaluate your current diet.  A dietitian can evaluate nutrient shortcomings and make appropriate recommendations to meet those dietary deficits with the correct dosages of nutrients.  Or better yet, a dietitian can help you find the foods you like to eat to give you the nutrients you need!  Afterall, mother nature does the best nutrient packaging of all.

 Click video information on this topic!

Do you ever think about safety issues regarding supplement use?