It’s not good for you, don’t buy into the hype!

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Hello, my friends! Here’s what I’m feeling passionate about these days. Let me back up, last weekend Danielle was home and she was drinking a bottle of Minute Maid cranberry apple raspberry juice. It surprised me to see her drink that kind of thing because she and Jac are pretty well-trained in healthy eating from hanging out with me their entire lives. I commented that this particular drink was not a healthy choice for her. She looked at the label and was appalled to see how much sugar it contained. Let me show you the label so you will see for yourself.

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58 grams of sugar per serving! And there are two servings in a bottle! Now I don’t know about you but I could drink an entire bottle at one time if I was really thirsty. That’s 116 grams of sugar in the bottle. It’s not even that big a bottle.

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So when Danielle looked at the back of the bottle and realized how much sugar she was consuming in this “fruit juice” she said, “Mom, you need to write about this to help make people aware of the hidden sugar in fruit juice.” I thought that was a great idea so here I am today to talk to you about fruit juice, and to give you some healthy alternatives.

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Now you might say, “Why do I care about how much sugar I’m consuming?” That’s a great question and I’ll answer that for you. Because sugar leads to diabetes, heart disease and cancer. In short, it’s the worst thing you can eat (or drink). And it’s in EVERYTHING! The second ingredient in this “juice” is high fructose corn syrup, AKA sugar. AKA, the worst form of sugar you can consume. This is not a healthy drink folks, in fact, it’s just as bad if not worse than soda pop.

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“What about 100% fruit juice”, you might ask, “that surely can’t be bad for you.” Wellll…. it actually is and here’s why. The juice from a piece of fruit is the most sugary part of the fruit, granted a natural form of sugar, but still very sweet. Now say you are eating the whole piece of fruit, like an orange or an apple. You would only eat one of them, right? But the problem with fruit juice is that you can drink the equivalent of 4 or 5 pieces of fruit, which is a lot of sugar. And when you eat a piece of fruit you get all of the fiber from the pulp and skin, which is super good for you and helps absorb the sugar. If you drink the juice you get no pulp or fiber. In conclusion, it’s always better to eat a whole piece of fruit than to drink the juice of said fruit.

Now I know that most people don’t just drink water with lemon all the time like I do, you want to drink something with flavor (I hear that all the time). Here are my suggestions for drinks with FLAVOR.

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Juice your own– Use a blender instead of a juicer to get all of the pulp from the fruit. That will help you to get the fiber you need. Also, don’t drink more juice than if you were eating the whole fruit. For instance, an orange typically contains half a cup of juice, so your intake should be no more than a half cup of FRESHLY SQUEEZED orange juice at a time.

Use fruit to sweeten– Instead of drinking pure fruit juice, add fruit juice to sweeten vegetable juice. Unlike fruit, vegetables are excellent to drink in juice form because it allows for faster, better digestion of the veggies. Fruit juice can be added to vegetable juice which will add sweetness and more nutrients. That’s a win-win!

Bai drinks– I always advocate fresh and homemade in favor of store bought products, however, I do like Bai brand beverages if you must drink something store bought. Most of their drinks are flavored with a combination of erythritol and organic stevia extract, which are natural sweeteners that have no calories or effect on blood sugar, ie safe for diabetics to drink. The drinks contain only 5 calories and 1 gram of sugar. Bai drinks are made from coffeefruit, the fruit from which coffee is extracted. It is full of antioxidants and polyphenols- lots of good, healthy stuff. Because of the coffeefruit it contains caffeine, about as much as a cup of green tea, so it gives you a little lift without giving you a total caffeine buzz. Bai drinks are gluten free, have a low glycemic index, non-gmo, kosher, vegan and soy free. As far as a store bought product is concerned, it’s pretty fabulous!

I tried the bubbles product in the Peru pineapple flavor. I am extremely sensitive to sugar substitutes so I was interested to see how I felt after I drank this one. It is slightly sweeter tasting to me than a drink that contains sugar, which is due to the stevia. Stevia is not sweet, but it makes your taste buds think that what you’re consuming is actually sweet when it’s not, as such to me it is sweeter than real sugar is. I probably thought it was sweeter than normal because I only drink water during the day. I liked the flavor of the drink, I really like pineapple and thought it had a nice, delicate pineapple flavor. It was fizzy but not super carbonated so that was pleasant. It didn’t have a lingering artificial aftertaste like some beverages not sweetened with sugar. All in all, I liked it a lot and would definitely drink it again if I wanted something besides water.

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I still feel the best option is filtered water infused with lemon, orange, lime, etc, but I know a lot of you need to drink something with more pizazz than water, so I’ve given you some suggestions to help you drink healthier. Make your own juice using a blender to get all the pulp, add fruit juice to vegetable juice as a natural sweetener, or drink a healthy store bought beverage like Bai if you need a drink with more flavor than water. Any of these are healthier options than the “fruit drink” full of high fructose corn syrup that Danielle was innocently drinking, or 100% fruit juice or of course soda pop. What you drink really matters to your overall health, so please pay attention because it can make a big difference. Drinking healthy beverages like the ones I’ve suggested can help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 🙂

This Will Start Your Day The RIGHT Way!

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Hello friends! I just finished this awesome smoothie and I had to tell you about it because it’s life altering! Now you might think, “Why is she so excited about a smoothie?” Well, I’ll tell you why. It contains one of my favorite things- coffee. I love coffee more than most things in life. It’s one of my three favorite liquids- water, coffee and wine. Coffee’s reputation has been totally rejuvenated these days, as it used to be universally vilified and the supposed source of all kinds of health problems. I’m very happy though that now coffee is known to be GOOD for you and can help protect against many heinous diseases like Parkinson’s, liver cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. Coffee drinkers are also less likely to die than non coffee drinkers, like 8-15% less likely to die. That sounds good to me.

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Why is coffee so good for you, you ask? Good question! Here’s why, it contains chlorogenic acid, lignans, quinides, trigonelline, and magnesium which reduces inflammation and insulin resistance. It’s also the number 1 source of antioxidants in the American diet. Antioxidants are chemical compounds that fight the damage to your DNA caused by day to day life. Now most of the studies have been done on caffeinated coffee so researchers are not sure that the health benefits are the same for decaf coffee. And remember, we are not talking about the zillion calorie, full of sugar drinks from your favorite coffee shop, because we know that the damage caused by all that sugar far outweighs the benefits of the coffee. I’m talking about healthy coffee.  See my previous blog post, https://vitalvaldecap.com/2014/10/22/healthy-coffee-is-my-favorite-way-to-start-the-day/, for more information on how to have a healthy cup of coffee.

So that brings me back to my coffee smoothie- talk about healthy! I never really thought about coffee in a smoothie. I don’t drink smoothies very often because they are usually filled with things that aren’t very healthy, and they can really be quite calorie laden. I ran across this recipe on Prevention.com and what I liked about it is that it was lower in calories and sugar. It was also filled with ingredients I really enjoy so I thought, “What the heck, I’ll give it a try.” And I loved it so much that I wanted to share it with you today.

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Delicious Coffee Smoothie

  • 3/4 cup almond milk (or any milk of choice)
  • 1/2 cup cold coffee or coffee ice cubes
  • 1 frozen banana
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon peanut butter
  • Pinch of salt

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The first thing you have to do is put a peeled banana in the freezer a few hours before you plan to make this smoothie. I always put my overly ripe bananas, you know the ones that no one wants because they’re black and smooshy, into a freezer bag and store them in the freezer until I need them. The second step is to brew a cup of coffee and put it in the fridge to cool. I pull a shot of espresso the night before I’m going to make this smoothie and put it in the fridge. You can make coffee ice cubes too but I don’t have any ice cube trays so that’s out for me.

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Next you add the first four ingredients (almond milk, coffee, banana, and cocoa powder) into the blender and whirl.

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Last, add the final ingredients (peanut butter and salt) and give it a second whirl to combine.

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And there you have it! The smoothie is sweet, but not too sweet, chocolatey, and the hint of salt from the peanut butter and salt really brings out the wonderful flavors of the smoothie. It’s also healthy for you at only 240 calories per serving, 7 grams of protein, 7 grams of fiber, and 11 grams of fat, it’s a great meal substitute. You get your meal and your coffee all in one, what could be better than that?!! Drinking healthy coffee smoothies will help you live a life of vitality-with Valerie!

 

 

Do it now, part deux!

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(Tree is decorated, that’s about it!)

Is anyone less stressed this week? I hope you are, but I am honestly just as stressed this week as I was the last time I posted. I’m still buying some last minute gifts, nothing is wrapped, I haven’t baked anything, and many plans are still up in the air for the holidays. All of this makes me crazier than usual. Last post I wrote about some things you can do to relieve stress like taking a relaxing bath, listening to music, drinking a glass of wine and cuddling with a loved one. I’ve got a few more stress relievers for you, and I sincerely hope they help you (and me!) through this last push before Christmas.

  (Post walk exhaustion!) 

1. Take a walk- This sounds so obvious and I’ve discussed many times in past posts how good for you walking is, but more so when you’re stressed. Lately I haven’t had time to walk my dogs as regularly as I usually do, and we are all suffering for the absence of our outdoor time. The last few days I’ve forced our walk time back in and I feel better, and I’m sure my dogs do too. The walks have been shorter than they used to be, 15 minutes versus 30, but it’s better than nothing for all of us, and it makes me feel better mentally that I took the time to do it so that’s a double bonus! 

  
(Great, quick meditations in a booklet our church provides for us each Advent season. Perfect for a fast bit of morning prayer and reflection.)

2. Prayer time/meditation time/quiet time- whatever you call it, this is something really important to me, and unfortunately something that is so tempting to cut out when time gets tight. These last few days I’ve made sure I put my prayer time back on my morning agenda, and I’ve felt a lot better because of it. I won’t be excluding it in the future. 

  
3. Cry- this seems strange to be included and it’s not something I’m very good at, but there’s something so cathartic about a good cry. I don’t cry very often at all but when I do it makes me feel better. Here’s why, emotional tears, you know the kind you produce when sad (or happy), have ACTH in them which is known to be present in the body during times of increased stress. ACTH is present in our tears because our tears help wash away some of it, and that’s why we feel less stressed after we cry. Pretty cool, huh?!! I am going to work on crying more often than once a decade and see if it helps!

  
(Some of my favorite people to chat with, home for Christmas!)

4. Talking/venting- this one is very helpful for me. Everything starts to build up and sometime the only thing that makes me feel better is to talk/ vent (rant!) to a caring person in my life, usually my sister, my mom, my roommate from college or my daughters. I am BLESSED to have these loving ladies to listen and care about me. Having an emotional connection with someone is critical for our psychological wellbeing. In fact, studies have shown that people with close friends are less likely to commit suicide, more likely to survive cancer, have lower heart disease risk and actually live longer than people with few or no close friends. When women are stressed they produce oxytocin which causes us to “tend and befriend”, this actually encourages us to turn to our friends, and then the act of chatting causes us to produce even more oxytocin, which in turn calms us. Wow that’s complicated but I really like it!

So there you have it! Four more ways to reduce your stress, not just during the holiday season but at any stressful times in your life, which are numerous, aren’t they?!! I wish all of you a stress-less Christmas and worry free new year. Walking, praying, crying and venting will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie! 

The MOST important thing you can eat!

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Hello friends! As the summer has progressed I realized that I’ve slowly transformed the way I eat. As a result,  I have more energy and feel the best I ever have in my life. My skin is glowing and my body feels stronger- and I’m almost 50 years old! 

  
 Wow, this must be quite a radical change to my diet that involves eating gross foods, making weird complicated recipes, or buying expensive products, you might think. That is not the case at all, and I would bet you have the answer right in your own kitchens. It’s really quite simple, I EAT MORE VEGETABLES! Let me correct that, EAT MORE ORGANIC VEGETABLES- it is essential to eat organic whenever possible and vegetables are no exception. 

  
I sound like your mom used to, right, “eat your vegetables and you’ll grow big and strong!” But it is true, and there is compelling evidence for this way of eating. Now I’m not talking about becoming a vegan or vegetarian here. After all, I am a girl who LOVES her beef, pork, chicken-yum! I’m talking about changing the proportions of your plates at meal times. Let me take a moment to explain why vegetables are so good for you, and then I’ll talk about plate proportions. 

  
You might say, “this isn’t rocket science, Vital Val, I know vegetables are good for me.” Of course you do, but do you know just how critical they are for your continuing good health? According to the Centers for Disease Control, “Consuming a diet high in fruits and vegetables is associated with lower risks for numerous chronic diseases, including cancer and cardiovascular disease.”  Well here’s why that is true. Vegetables are good sources of vitamins and minerals, are low in calories, rich in dietary fiber, and contain substances found in plants that help prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer.

  
I just read about a study done recently that showed women who ate 7-8 servings of vegetables and fruits high in flavonoids had a 21% lower risk of ovarian cancer. Flavanoids are super antioxidants found in many fruits and vegetables that support cell formation and suppress poor cellular growth to have an anti-cancer effect. They also support heart health and combat atherosclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Here’s the cool thing, flavonoids complement vitamin C, which is an essential nutrient for the body, enhancing its effect. It’s like buy two get one free, a super deal! High flavonoid fruits and vegetables: red and orange bell peppers (raw is best for absorption of nutrients, I love to dip them in hummus), strawberries, citrus fruits, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, spinach, green tea and RED WINE- yay! 

  
And that’s just flavonoids, my friends. Vegetables contain many, many other vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to help support your body. Now, I know I’m not discussing fruit as much as vegetables, however I feel vegetables get a bad rap compared to fruits. Plus, fruits contain sugar, albeit in a natural form, and I try to limit my sugar intake. I usual eat fruit once a day only, and get my other 7 servings required with vegetables. 

BUT, don’t eat french fries and say that you’re eating vegetables. What I do is try to keep the vegetables as close to their original state as possible, and still make them tasty. Here’s an example from the other night’s dinner, which is typical of the way I eat these days. We had pork chops which I marinated in garlic, extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), salt, pepper and herbs from my garden, and my significant other grilled them to perfection. 

  
Jacqueline sliced tomatoes from my garden and added EVOO, basil, salt and pepper. 

  
I boiled 6 ears of corn from the farmer’s market, allowed it to cool and then cut it off the cob and added a little organic butter. Danielle had corn shucking duty that night- her favorite! 🙂

  
Earlier in the day I boiled beets that I bought at the farmer’s market for an hour, cooled them a bit and peeled the skin off which slides off easily in your hands after boiling them. Then I chopped them and added a small amount of butter, salt and pepper. They can be warmed right before dinner which is what I did. I hope you don’t say, “Ew, beets are gross”, because they’re not! Beets are delicious and so good for you- see my past post “And the Beet goes on!”, for more info.

  
I’m really into these tiny potatoes that I bought from Fresh Market because they cook quickly and they’re so tender. I took them, a bunch of asparagus, a whole onion, chopped them, added garlic, EVOO, red pepper flakes, herbs, salt and pepper, and roasted them on a big tray in the oven at 375 for 30 minutes. 

  
So, I had tomatoes, beets, corn, potatoes, asparagus, and onions in addition to my protein. I almost got my 7 veggies a day in ONE MEAL. And as you can see the vegetables dominate my plate which is as it should be for maximum health. Here’s the thing though, it was SO GOOD! The meal was full of flavor and all my eaters loved the meal. I felt full, but not too full, and SATISFIED. These are not dry, boring, tasteless vegetables, folks, but vibrant and delicious additions to your meal. 

Enjoy your vegetables because they’re full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. They’ll fill you up, keep you satisfied, and protect you from all kinds of heinous diseases. Plus they are tasty when prepared properly. When winter comes to the Midwest, I can’t utilize the farmers markets or my garden as the source for my veggies, but health food grocery stores have a great variety of organic fresh and frozen ones to choose from. So get your 7-8 servings of fruits and veggies my friends, but try to make sure most of those are vegetables. Eating vegetables will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

Four Reasons I’m Zealous about Zucchini!

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Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

Gorgeous, grilled zucchini!

My new love these days is zucchini. It’s a vegetable I haven’t been all that excited about in the past, but lately it’s been calling my name! I’ve been cooking with it and trying new recipes for my family. Now we are all loving zucchini. My favorite new zucchini dish that I’m sharing with you today is a recipe for lasagna made with zucchini instead of pasta noodles. The advantage is that with the zucchini replacing pasta, there are much fewer carbs in this dish. Remember that carbs turn into sugar in your body and cause weight gain and other illnesses like cancer, heart disease and a whole host of other awful things. Also, replacing the super carby pasta with a cool vegetable like zucchini means gaining lots of nutritional advantages which I will highlight for you next. Last, I will share my zucchini lasagna recipe with you.

1. Nutrition– Zucchini and all summer squash is 95% water, which is naturally low in calories (33 for a medium zucchini), a gram of protein and less than a gram of fat. It has 6 grams of carbohydrates but two of them are fiber, this makes it a low glycemic food which will not spike blood sugar, but will instead provide a steady source of glucose to your system.

2. Vitamins– Zucchini is a great source of two antioxidant vitamins which help boost immunity and supports healthy aging, 35 milligrams of vitamin C (between 39-46% RDA for adults) and 392 IU of vitamin A (13-27%).

3. Potassium– One of the main electrolytes in your body needed in proper balance (2 to 1) with sodium . The typical American diet tends to be very high in sodium which throws the balance off and leads to high blood pressure. A medium zucchini has 512 mg of potassium, or 11% of your daily needs.

4. Very versatile vegetable– Raw zucchini gives an extra crunch to salads, It can be cut into strips or rounds for dipping in hummus. It’s great in stir fries and soups. Also, who doesn’t love zucchini bread or muffins? I definitely do! In about a month, they will be abundant in backyard gardens, so you’ll have plenty of this veggie to work with soon.

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Delicious, nutritious zucchini lasagna!

Zucchini Lasagna

  • 1 LB ground beef
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 tbs chopped fresh basil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
Slice and salt your zucchini first!

Slice and salt your zucchini first!

The first thing you want to do is thinly slice your zucchini lengthwise with a mandolin. If you don’t have a mandolin (I don’t) slice it as best as you can. Lightly salt the zucchini and set aside for 15 minutes to get as much of the water out of it as you can. Then blot with paper towels.

Brown your ground beef!

Brown your ground beef!

In a large pot, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil, and then add the ground beef and brown. Add the tomatoes, basil, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, and pepper to taste. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25 minutes.

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

Gotta grate the cheese, please!

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, mozzarella and egg.

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Grill the zucchini and start the layering of the lasagna!

Now, preheat the oven to 375 degrees, spray your baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, grill the zucchini for 2 minutes each side to make it less soft, and start layering the lasagna. Spread 1/3 of the meat sauce, 1/3 of the zucchini, and 1/3 of the cheese mixture. Then, 1/3 zucchini, 1/3 cheese, 1/3 meat sauce and repeat one more time until the pan is full. Cover with foil.

Ready for the oven!

Ready for the oven!

Bake for 30 minutes, then remove the foil, and bake 20 more minutes uncovered. Add some more grated parmesan to the top and bake for 10 more minutes. Let stand 5-10 minutes and serve.

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Beautiful piece of lasagna!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me tell you that it was DELICIOUS! in fact, my family ate it in 1 sitting! They kept going back at it like savages until it was gone. According to my calculations one slice is 300 calories, compared to 400 calories for a slice of regular lasagna. And the health benefits are by far greater than the caloric savings as I mentioned above. It’s a win-win, my friends! Try it and let me know how you like it! Eating foods like this will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

SHAKE Your Way to a Life without Sugar!

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Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Angels anxiously awaiting their shake!

Did you eat sugary desserts during the holidays? I know I ate more of those kinds of foods than I usually do. Christmas cookies are delicious, especially when homemade by a talented baker, and it’s really hard to resist them, isn’t it?

But, the downside to this is that sugar is just not good for you, in fact, sugar is considered more toxic for your health than smoking! Besides the weight gain issue, the reality is that sugar is considered to be the number one culprit in causing cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and other deadly diseases. See my previous blog post, “Sugar- the new cigarette?!” , for more details about the dangers of consuming sugar. The problem is that sugar isn’t just in baked goods and sweets, sugar is in ALMOST EVERY PROCESSED FOOD we eat, so even though we as a nation are using less sugar from the sugar bowl, we are consuming more sugar through processed foods than ever before.

True!

True!

So what is the solution to this problem and how do we eliminate sugar from our diets? I believe the answer is to avoid as much processed food as possible by cooking almost every day, and then utilizing the leftovers on the days I don’t cook. Also, choosing organic and local foods whenever possible for the freshest meats, fruits, and vegetables helps create food with lots of flavor so I don’t have to used processed items to enhance the taste of my dishes. Another solution is to patronize restaurants that serve local, fresh and in house made food items, which ensures that the food you’re eating when going out for dinner doesn’t contain sugar.

I recently attended a conference and heard a speaker named JJ Virgin who was talking about the dangers of consuming sugar and how prevalent sugar is in many foods we eat. I really liked her as a speaker and felt her message mirrored many things I’ve posted about in my blog. She had a recipe for a shake she called “Sugar Impact Shake” that I have used as a model for my shake recipe, with a few modifications. I’ve been making this shake and I really like it, both as a healthy meal replacement, and as a way to detox from all the sugar. The shake contains no sugar or fruit, but it tastes really good. Here’s the recipe!

Sugar free Protein Shake

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

1. Start with 1 cup of almond, coconut or cashew milk, and pour it into your blender.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

2. Add one scoop of high quality protein supplement. Mine is from Guyer Institute and contains many vitamins and minerals in addition to the 10 grams of protein per scoop.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

3. Add one tablespoon of coconut oil.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

4. 1-2 tablespoons of NATURAL ground flax, chia, hemp or nut butter (not peanut). I used freshly ground almond butter.

5. Add 1 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

5. Add 1/2 teaspoon of a good quality probiotic. This one is from Guyer Institute and contains 600 billion healthy bacteria per serving.

6. Add as much ice as you'd like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

6. Add as much ice as you’d like and blend until smooth. Then pour and drink!

This shake tastes so nutty and fresh with the almond butter/milk, and coconut oil. I like a lot of ice so it’s super cold too because I think it’s even better that way. I don’t miss the sugar in this shake and I don’t think you will either. I drink it as a meal substitute and it’s very satisfying as such. It has only 405 CALORIES PER SHAKE TOO!! It also contains healthy fats from the almond butter and coconut oil, fiber from the almond butter, 17 grams of protein from the almond butter and protein powder, 180 mg protassium and 10% RDA for calcium from the almond milk, additional calcium, iron and vitamins from the Guyer Institute protein powder, and 600 billion friendly bacteria from the Guyer Institute Ecobiotics. Try this no sugar shake to help detoxify from all the sugar in your life, and try to avoid processed food as much as possible. Avoiding sugar and drinking this shake will help you live a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

A Healthy Start for the New Year! Drink Matcha Green Tea!

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Me and my Matcha green tea!

Me and my Matcha green tea! Drinking it as I write!

Hello Friends! I hope you had a wonderful Christmas! I did and I’m really revving up for a healthful and fabulous 2015! One of the ways I’m doing that is by drinking Matcha green tea. Now, I’ve always known that green tea is good for me, though I’ve never really been a tea drinker (see my previous post “HEALTHY coffee is my favorite way to start the day!”), as coffee has always been my morning drink of choice. Lately, I’ve been doing some research on green tea, Matcha specifically, and I was intrigued enough to try it. I have become a believer about the health benefits of Matcha green tea and I’d like to share my findings with you today.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Matcha green tea is an important part of the Japanese tea ceremony.

Here’s the thing, all tea (white, green, oolong, black, and pu-erh) comes from the same plant, camellia sinensis, which is a woody shrub native to southern China that is generally kept plucked to its picking height of 3-4 feet.  Now, Matcha is a high quality green tea that is covered before picking to accentuate the color, and then stone ground after being picked and before being sealed into small tins. In Japan, Matcha tea is a very important part of the tea ceremony. It has a somewhat grassy taste, but the type I drink enhances the green tea taste with other flavors like blood orange and peach. It’s definitely important to make sure you purchase high quality Matcha tea, as with all varieties, to ensure you are receiving the maximum benefits.

Isn't Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Isn’t Matcha a beautiful color?! Full of antioxidants too!

Matcha green tea is powdered which makes it easier to prepare. You just add hot water if you want to drink it warm, or cold water if you want it as a cold beverage, stir and you’re done! No steeping of tea leaves involved with Matcha tea. Next, I will discuss the health benefits of drinking it, and then I’ll let you know the type I’m currently drinking.

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1. Matcha tea is high in antioxidants– Remember that antioxidants are the nutrients and enzymes responsible for fighting against the negative effects of UV radiation, giving us younger looking skin, and fighting off a number of life-threatening illnesses. We know that fruits, vegetables, red wine, and chocolate have antioxidants, but Matcha green tea has FIVE TIMES THE ANTIOXIDANTS AS ANY OTHER FOOD IN JUST ONE SERVING! That makes it worth it for me to drink it!

2. Tons of Catechin, EGCg– Green tea has a specific set of organic compounds called catechins. Catechins are among the most potent and beneficial antioxidants out there. One specific catechin, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCg), makes up 60% of the catechins in Matcha green tea. Out of all antioxidants EGCg is the one most widely recognized for its cancer fighting properties. Matcha contains over 100 times more EGCg than any other tea on the market.

3. Enhances calm but increases energy (What the what?!!)- Here’s how that works, the amino acid L-Theanine in Matcha tea leaves promotes the production of alpha waves in the brain which induces relaxation without the drowsiness caused by other “calming products” out there. It also contains a combination of nutrients that gives increased endurance and more energy which can last UP TO SIX HOURS. It doesn’t have the usual side effects of stimulants, like nervousness and hypertension. Samurai warriors drank Matcha green tea before going into battle because of the tea’s energizing properties, and Zen Buddhist monks and Chinese Daoists drank it as a way to relax and meditate while remaining alert. So it calms you, AND give you energy- naturally! That’s a win win!

4. Boosts memory and concentration– Another side effect of L-Theanine is that it produces dopamine and serotonin which enhance mood, promote better concentration, and improve memory. I need that so that’s yet another benefit for me!

5. Burns calories and detoxifies the body, yet is very low in calories– Drinking Matcha green tea has been shown to increase metabolism and help the body burn fat about four times faster than average, but unlike diet aids on the market does not have any negative side effects like increased heart rate and high blood pressure. Yay for me! Also, the Matcha leaves are covered to deprive them of sunlight during the last three weeks before tea leaves are harvested, which causes a huge increase in chlorophyll production. This not only gives the tea its vibrant green color, but it is also a powerful detoxifier capable of naturally removing heavy metals and chemical toxins from the body. It is very low in calories too. The Matcha I drink has 20 calories per packet and it makes 12-16 ounces of liquid. That’s amazing!

6. Fortifies the immune system and improves cholesterol– The catechins in Matcha tea have been shown to have antibiotic properties, which promotes overall health. Also, one serving provides substantial quantities of Potassium, Vitamins A and C, Iron, Protein, and Calcium. In addition, the nutrients in Matcha may have the ability to inhibit the attacks of HIV on human T-cells. Another cool thing is that people who drink Matcha on a regular basis have lower levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good). Men in particular who drink Matcha tea are 11% less likely to develop heart disease than those who don’t drink it.

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

The Matcha green tea I am drinking- and I highly recommend it!

I am drinking Jade Monk Matcha green tea powder in the cranberry blood orange flavor right this instant and I’m loving it! It doesn’t have the bitter flavor that some teas do, and I don’t have to add any milk, or lemon, or sweeteners like sugar or honey to make it taste delicious. I’m drinking it cold right now, but I prefer it warm. And remember it’s low in calories- one packet contains 20 calories. It’s super easy to make too. If you prefer to drink it warm what I do is use a measuring cup and put 14 ounces of filtered drinking water into it, throw it into the microwave for three minutes and then add it to a drinking glass, pour in the packet, stir and drink. If you’d like it cold, you can add cold filtered water to a drinking glass, pour the packet in, and stir. It’s also really convenient if you’re running out the door to put a water bottle into the fridge to get it cold, pour the packet in, shake and you’re done!

Matcha's benefits in a nutshell!

Matcha’s benefits in a nutshell!

So that’s why I’m loving Matcha green tea right now. The health benefits are numerous, AND NATURAL! I can’t think of any negatives either, which is rare for any product on the market. I purchased the Jade Monk Matcha tea from Whole Foods, but you can purchase it online too. Try it, you’ll like it! It will help you lead a life of vitality- with Valerie!

 

Beyond the Orange; Better Sources of C!

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A Vitamin C cornucopia of colors and flavors here!

A Vitamin C cornucopia of colors and flavors here!

I have to say that I love Vitamin C, it makes me think about tropical climates, sunshine, vibrant colors and happiness! It also makes me think about oranges, as it does for most people I would imagine. Many people think oranges are the best way to get vitamin C, and they do have 69.7 mg for a medium sized orange, but did you know there are other far better ways to get vitamin C naturally? You didn’t know that? Well, I’m going to tell you about it today!

Vitamin C is such an important nutrient for us in many ways. Not only does it shorten the duration of colds/flu, but it also helps repair/regenerate tissues, aids in the absorption of iron, helps delay or prevent cataracts, supports healthy immune function, protects against heart disease, prevents scurvy, protects against a variety of cancers by fighting free radicals, and helps neutralize the effects of nitrites (preservatives found in some packaged foods that can contribute to certain kinds of cancers). That’s quite an impressive list!

So how much do we need and how do we get it? According to the National Institutes of Health, men need 90 mg per day, and women need 75 mg per day, however if you’re a smoker you need even more Vitamin C (250 mg!) because smoking disrupts the absorption of it by the body. Toddlers 1-3 years old need 15 mg per day,  children 4-8 years old need 25 mg, children 9-13 need 45 mg, male teens 14-18 need 75 mg, and females of that age need 65 mg. However, if you have a cold you will need much more to help fight the virus, 250 mg per day.

Now, you can take a supplement and I’ve referred to supplemental sources of Vitamin C in my previous post “Healing Cold Remedies”, but I always prefer to get my vitamins in food if possible. Know though, that if you have a cold/flu or are healing from an injury you probably will need to supplement your diet with other sources to get as much as you need to help your body heal. However, if you’re a healthy, happy human like I am right now, you can get your C naturally. And the great thing about Vitamin C is that there’s no such thing as getting too much C because our bodies will release it into our urine when we’ve had enough. So consume your C, guilt free! With that in mind, here’s a list of the fruits and vegetables with the most Vitamin C, so you can get the biggest bang for your nutritional buck.

The King (or Queen) of Vitamin C!

The King (or Queen) of Vitamin C!

1. Red Bell Peppers– They have the most Vitamin C with 190 mg per cup. They’re also a great source of Vitamin A which is good for your eyes. Add them to salads, dip them, add them to stir fries, soups, omelets, and crock pot meals. They are one of my favorite vegetables because I like their bright and mild flavor, and as such they’re extremely versatile.

The Prince, or Princess, of Vitamin C!

The Prince, or Princess, of Vitamin C!

2. Kiwi2 Kiwi fruit give you 137.2 mg of Vitamin C. They’re also a great source of potassium and copper too. I love to slice them into a fruit salad, or just grab a spoon and scoop them into my mouth. They’re so refreshing!

I heart broccoli!

I heart broccoli!

3. Broccoli- Broccoli has 132 mg per cup, it is also full of fiber, which is why they’re called colon’s broomsticks! At just 30 calories per serving you can’t beat this nutritional powerhouse. They’re also one of those superfoods thought to help prevent cancer. I love to add a bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, red pepper flakes, garlic, salt and pepper, and roast them in the oven on broil for 10 minutes. But watch them, or they could burn! Lots of yum!

Tropical tasting Mango!

Tropical tasting Mango!

4. Mango– Oh I love me some Mango! It has 122.3 mg of Vitamin C per cup, it’s also loaded with Vitamin A, which is great for the eyes. I love mango in a fruit salad or added to a salsa for a fruity twist.

Crunchy cauliflower!

Crunchy cauliflower!

5. Cauliflower- A small head of cauliflower has 127.7 mg of Vitamin C. It also has 5 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein too. I love it raw or steamed with a little butter, salt and pepper.

Green bell peppers, not as much C as the reds but they still have tons!

Green bell peppers, not as much C as the reds but they still have tons!

6. Green Bell Peppers- They have 120 mg of Vitamin C per cup, which is not as much as their red headed mates but they still have far more than the recommended daily requirement. They also have 200% of the RDA for fiber. I always put them in my chili, soups, stews, omelets, etc.

Chili peppers- Ole!

Chili peppers- Ole!

7. Chili Peppers– bring on the heat! Chili peppers come in next at 107.8 mg of Vitamin C per 1/2 cup. They’re also loaded with capsaicin which helps to relieve joint and muscle pain. I love chilies and I add them to many dishes because I like their heat, not too intense, but super flavorful.

Papaya- it's poppin'!

Papaya- it’s poppin’!

8. Papaya- A cup of papaya has 88.3 mg of Vitamin C. Papaya also has nutrients that brighten skin, strengthen bones, and clear sinuses. Love!

Yummy strawberries!

Yummy strawberries!

9. Strawberries– Love me some strawberries, especially with 84.7 mg Vitamin C per cup! They also have folate which is good for heart health. They’re a natural teeth whitener too. Strawberries are readily available and they’re sweet and delicious. They are my favorite fruit, and I think they are best enjoyed plain. Just clean them and pop them into your mouth. Amazing!

Kale- a superfood!

Kale- a superfood!

10. Kale- One cup of Kale has 80.4 mg of Vitamin C. It also contains twice the RDA for Vitamin A, 7 times the Vitamin K, numerous minerals and fatty acids. It really does it all! I love Kale chips and I also like it in salads and soups.

These are the top 10 fruits and vegetables containing Vitamin C, but remember lots of other ones do too, like Brussels sprouts (74.8 mg per cup), and pineapple (78.9 mg per cup) , they just don’t have as much as the top 10. However, it’s important to eat what you like, in addition to eating what’s good for you, so feel free to eat other fruits and veggies if you don’t like any on the list, because any Vitamin C is better than none. Also, I want to emphasize the need to purchase organic fruits and vegetables to ensure they’re responsibly grown and handled. An important point is that if you’ve taken Acetaminophen, antacids that contain aluminum, aspirin, or Warfarin, there could be adverse effects so keep that in mind. In addition, nicotine products, tetracycline’s, barbiturates, and oral contraceptives may decrease the effects of Vitamin C. Just writing this post makes me want to go eat some fruits and veggies that contain Vitamin C. How about you? Make sure to get your Vitamin C naturally. It will help you live a life of vitality- like Valerie!