Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Helpful Herbs: Green Tea

I can't start my day without my organic green tea. And it's a good thing because green tea is one of the best things you can drink! Let's take a look at some of the benefits:

Cancer Prevention
Green tea extract found to protect against oral cancers:

Bone-protective and breast cancer protective effects in animal studies:

Protection of liver cancer and damage in animal studies:

This study found green tea extracts to slow the growth of lung cancer cells:

Green tea may protect from breast cancer:

Healthy Weight
Green tea may help control blood glucose levels, helping to reduce weight gain:

Green tea may help prevent metabolic syndrome:

Healthy Skin
Green tea extract is being studied for its possible role in reversing oxidation of skin cells:

Brain Health
Green tea, along with a blend of vitamins and other natural substances, may help the symptoms of Alzheimer's:

Compounds found in green tea may have neuroprotective effects:

These are just a few of the
studies on green tea. So drink up!  Dr. Mercola advises that the best green tea:

  • Is Organic
  • Comes from Japan, not China because tea can absorb lead. Tea grown in China is likely to be exposed to more environmental pollution. 
  • Is loose-leaf
He also provides tips on brewing. From (source)

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Loose-Leaf Tea

  • Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as this can release harmful chemicals when heated)
  • Preheat your teapot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea up that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water
  • Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea
  • Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:
    • White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185°F or 76-85°C). Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
    • Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210°F or 85-98°C
    • Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs: Full rolling boil (212°F or 100°C)
  • Cover the pot with a cozy or towel and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:
    • Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
    • Black teas: 3-5 minutes
    • Green teas: 2-3 minutes
  • Once the desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If you're using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain the heat)
Of course green tea without any added sugar is best, and brewing at home will typically give you more antioxidants than bottled tea.  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Do You Really Need a Multivitamin?

We've all been there before. You're living a stressful life and not eating as well as you could be. Perhaps you're feeling generally run down and could use a boost.  So, you might thing taking a multivitamin would be a good idea, just to cover your bases.

But taking a multivitamin may not be the answer. 

Recently I had some bloodwork done. One thing they checked were my hemoglobin (iron) levels. They came back showing that my blood was really rich in hemoglobin (iron.) To the point that it was slightly above normal. Had I been taking a multivitamin with iron, I could have pushed my iron levels to an unhealthy level and became seriously ill. 

They also took my vitamin D levels, which were on the low side of normal. To really get the benefit of D and raise my levels, my doctor wanted me to take 5000 IUs of vitamin D daily.  In a multivitamin you'll get maybe 400 IUs--not enough to raise your levels or really see any benefit from it. Most of us are D deficient and can benefit from at least 5000 IUs a day. Some people may not need that much. Others may need way more. Without testing, it's a shot in the dark when it comes to a dose, so it's always best to find out first what's going on with your levels before supplementing. (You can get tested at your doctor's office or try a test kit like this.)

Well, what about just eating whole, nutritious foods?

Eating whole, fresh, nutrient-dense foods is always a great idea and what we should all strive to do. But even with eating the best foods, there may be things that your body still needs. Especially when it comes to B vitamins. B12 is especially difficult to get from your diet because it's only present in a handful of foods (salmon, calf liver, grass fed beef, lamb, eggs).  The cards are stacked against me when it comes to B12 because not only do I not eat much of the food sources, I found out through my blood testing that I actually have a gene mutation that makes it difficult for my body to absorb and utilize B vitamins. (Called a MTHFR mutation) So, I have to take care to supplement with the active forms of B12 (methylcobalamin), and folic acid (l-methyl folate) (and niacin to help absorb their by-products once the body has broken them down.). Sometimes diet and even the whole food supplements just aren't enough and you need to get pure standardized forms of these vitamins. 

When it comes to supplementation, it's all very individual. It's about what your body actually needs. When you take a multi, no matter how "clean" it may be, you're putting yourself at risk for either getting too much of something or not enough of what you need. If you're experiencing sluggishness, brain fog, and general malaise, you may be deficient in one or more vitamins or nutrients and getting a blood test can help you figure out the missing pieces of your nutrition puzzle.  There may be instances where taking a multivitamin is a good idea, but it's really dependent on what your body needs.