Tea has been enjoyed around the world for thousands of years, and its origins are said to be in China, where it was enjoyed for its medicinal purposes. With such a long history as a popular drink around the world, it shouldn't be surprising that tea's effects on health have been well studied. Here are some of the research-driven health benefits of green tea:
Research by Harvard and other institutions revealed that people who drink green tea frequently are more likely to have better heart health than others. It's uncertain why this is true, but it might be due to the evidence that green tea lowers total cholesterol and ups good cholesterol levels.
Other studies indicate that green tea might play a part in improving bone health and reducing one's risk of having fragile bones. This could be for various reasons, including that the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties of tea stop or reduce the breakdown of bone that often happens when people age. Additionally, some researchers think that green tea can stimulate bone-building activities in cells.
It's not certain, but some evidence suggests that tea – especially green tea, due to its high rates of catechins – can stimulate weight loss by raising the metabolic weight through thermogenesis. Of course, if proven true, green tea wouldn't be a magic bullet for weight loss but just a potential tool to use.
Why green tea?
The reason green tea is so good for overall health is its high concentration of flavonoids - antioxidants from plants. One main group are catechins, which prevent cell damage from various environmental sources. In fact, green tea contains six different catechins. Other things in green tea are alkaloids, which includes caffeine, theophylline and theobromine, all of which give it stimulant effects. Finally, a component called L-Theanine calms the nervous system.
Two beloved winter activities of all snow-dwellers and even people from warm locales are skiing and snowboarding. In fact, for many people, hitting the slopes is the one bright spot of a very long winter. Whether you’re an avid boarder or a beginning skier, here’s what to know about each winter sport as it pertains to burning calories, working the muscles and being prepared:
Different muscles are used during skiing and snowboarding. For example, while snowboarding, you use your quadriceps and hamstrings to get the board moving, and your calves, hamstrings and quadriceps are all used to make turns and guide the board. However, balance is also a huge part of snowboarding, so you engage your core muscles and those in the feet and ankles to stay upright and maintain the often delicate balance required.
Skiing also engages the core muscles for balance and stability, as well as those in the ankles, feet and calves for eversion – or turning the sole of your foot outward to put your skis on their edges. Additionally, the hamstrings and quadriceps are engaged while bending your knees, which helps stabilize the knee joints to prevent ACL tears. But skiing also uses the gluteal complex muscles – in fact, they’re vital for skiing. The stabilize other muscles, assist in flexion and help external leg rotation, which is important for steering your skis. Finally, skiing also engages arm muscles, especially when using poles to drag yourself along on flat surfaces at the bottom of the runs.
In general, even just one hour of downhill skiing or boarding burns an enormous amount of calories. However, there are many variables determining just how many calories one burns, including the intensity of the slopes, the quality of snow, one’s weight and height, the level of effort exerted and the speed you reach.
On average, an adult that weights between 110 and 200 pounds will burn between 250 and 630 calories per hour while snowboarding or skiing, depending on all of the above factors.
Pre-snow sport workout
If you don’t stretch and work the muscles you use for these downhill sports, you’re likely to feel quite sore for at least a few days after. At least a week before heading out on a ski or boarding trip, here are some things you should know, consider and do to be at your peak fitness level for winter sports:
Strong muscles will make it easier to last longer on the slopes. Skiing can quickly tire the quadriceps, and the same is true of the calves for snowboarding. You can do weight training for hamstrings, thighs and arm muscles as well as core conditioning exercises. It’s also good to bike to prepare the leg muscles.
Having flexible joints will help reduce your chance of injury. If you don’t feel particularly flexible, start stretching a few weeks in advance of your trip so as not to damage a tendon or a ligament.
Skiing and boarding are very aerobically demanding, specially for people who live at lower altitude levels but travel up into the mountains to ski. Before going on your trip, do cardio like swimming, stair training, step aerobics or running – all aerobic activities that will help you deal with the lower oxygen levels.
Exercising and stretching
Here are some good stretches and exercises to help you get prepared for your day in the snow:
- Side-to-side jumps to help your hip, lower leg and thigh muscles
- Forward lunges with weights for thighs and core
- Squats for thighs and core
- Single weight exercises with weights to hone your balance
If you're exercising for weight loss and paying attention to the calories you take in and how many you burn during each workout, you should know that making small changes in your routine can lead to increased weight loss success. For example, did you know that we even burn calories while we sleep? Here are some changes you can make in everyday things to increase the number of calories you burn:
Ditch the dry cleaner
If you have wrinkly shirts, rather than dropping them off at the dry cleaner, save money and get a workout by rounding up the wrinkly clothes and ironing them. Just 30 minutes of ironing burns more than 75 calories! Plus, you're standing the whole time, which is good for circulation and overall health. Also, folding laundry for 30 minutes burns about 70 calories.
Take the stairs
Sometimes the elevator just feels like a lazy option. Plus, you're not exerting much effort just pressing a few buttons and standing there. Take the stairs instead, or if you take an escalator, walk up it rather than just standing on it.
Do the cleaning yourself
For people who can afford it, hiring someone to clean the house can seem like a luxury that's hard to live without. But if you have the time, do the cleaning yourself. Just 30 minutes of vacuuming can burn 120 calories, and cleaning in general for 30 minutes burns about 100. So, put on some music and get cleaning!
Put on your chef hat
Rather than ordering carryout, hone your cooking skills by making a delicious, healthy dinner that is absent of the fat, sodium and other unhealthy ingredients often found in takeout. You'll burn 150 calories in one hour of meal prep. Wash the dishes afterward for bonus calorie-burning!
Maybe you're an avid runner or biker but you live in a snowy region that makes these activities very difficult or impossible to do for several months out of the year. Or perhaps you're looking for a new outdoor activity that is both enjoyable and a great workout. If so, now is the time to try your hand – or foot, rather – at snowshoeing!
Why snowshoeing rocks
Snowshoeing actually started thousands of years ago among people who lived in and near the mountains as a way to get around more easily without sinking into the snow. Today, snowshoes aren't a necessity, but people enjoy using them for recreation. Here's why:
- Snowshoeing is easy – if you can walk, you're good to go. It doesn't involve too much balance or complicated technique as do skiing or snowboarding, though there are some tips that could help you get the hang of it even more quickly.
- It offers an awesome workout! Depending on the terrain and how quickly you move, you can burn between 400 and 1,000 calories in just one hour of snowshoeing. Here's a calculator to help you determine how many calories were burned during your workout.
- It's low-impact. This wintry sport doesn't put too much stress on your knees, hips and other joints, but it still is a great form of cardio exercise.
- It's a versatile sport. People of all ages and abilities can enjoy it, and you can traverse terrain that you wouldn't be able to on skis due to low-snow and closely spaced trees.
- It extends your running or hiking season. Many runners turn to snowshoeing because it can maintain their high level of aerobic activity and build strength. The unstable, snowy surface plus "weights" on your feet – snowshoes – give you a heavy-duty workout.
- Unlike beginning many other new sports, it's inexpensive. All you need is snowshoes, poles (if you want them) and, of course, the proper clothing, like water-proof, insulated boots, coats and thick socks, though it's likely if you're an avid outdoorsperson that you already have many of these items.
The snowshoes: There are three types of snowshoes, depending on the terrain you will be traveling:
- Aerobic or running: These are good for families and beginners and are meant to be used on flat terrain.
- Recreational: Recreational snowshoes are larger and a bit heavier. You can use them on moderate walks on rolling hills, or on terrain that is a bit rougher.
- Mountaineering shoes: These are meant for very serious hill-climbing, long-distance travel on rough terrains, including for those who want to walk on steep, icy and backcountry areas.
There will definitely be days where it's too cold to run outside or you just don't feel like hopping in the car, trekking to the gym and fighting for a parking spot. But that doesn't mean you can't get a work out if you really want one!
Household chores can definitely burn calories and function as a good source of cardio – think of how sweaty and tired you feel after doing some heavy duty deep cleaning, like a good bathtub scrubbing or washing the floor by hand. So rather than looking at your household chores as, well, chores, try to look at them as an alternative but excellent form of exercise.
Calories burned per chore
Here are some common chores as well as how many calories you might burn doing each one:
- Washing the dishes: If you want to get a great work out washing dishes, it will be the one time you ever think "The bigger dirty heap of pots and pans, the better!" Doing some heavy duty scrubbing will burn about 80 calories in just 15 minutes of continuous dishwashing.
- Mopping: Mopping is a great upper and lower body workout. Additionally, in just 30 minutes of mopping, you will burn around 120 calories.
- Painting: Have you been thinking of giving your bedroom a touch-up coat of paint for awhile?Talk about a good reason to stay home from the gym. Painting can be an excellent workout, burning up to 300 calories per hour and building lean muscle mass in your arms and core.
- Cleaning the gutters: This might be one of the best calorie-burning household activities you can do. It turns out that cleaning the gutters requires shoulder, upper back, arm and leg muscles – not to mention the core muscles are engaged to help you balance on the ladder. You can burn 320 calories in one hour of gutter cleaning – just be careful not to fall.
- Vacuuming: Depending on how difficult it is to lug your vacuum around the house, you'll likely banish at least 80 calories per 30 minutes of vacuuming.
- Window washing: Give those streaky windows a good cleaning, inside and out, and exercise your arms and back at the cost of 200 calories per hour.
- Scrubbing floors: If mopping just isn't clean enough for you, get on your hands and knees instead and give the floors a good scrubbing. You'll burn a whopping 175 calories in just 30 minutes!
If you've ever been downhill skiing, you know that it can be quite good exercise. You work up a sweat and use muscles in both your legs and core that aren't always exercised. Here are some of the specific ways that downhill skiing is good for your health:
Building muscle strength
The knees-bent, squatted posture of skiing is similar to a lunge, albeit a lunge you don't notice because you're too busy having fun. Anyway, this posture and the movements necessary for downhill skiing help to tone the glutes, thighs and other lower body muscles. The core muscles are also activated to help the body maintain balance, and even your arms get a work out through using poles to push yourself. If you want to prepare your muscles so they aren't aching after a day out on the slopes, do squats regularly for a few days beforehand.
Skiing can aid in flexibility of the lower body, but it's also important to first stretch before going out on the slopes so that you avoid a sprain or muscle strain. Do the superman stretch to prepare. Lay on your stomach with arms and legs stretch straight out. Raise your arms up as far as possible, lift your head and look up and raise your feet up at the same time. Hold the position for 10 seconds – you'll feel the stretch in your lower back, upper thighs and core.
Getting a cardio workout
You might notice that skiing can make you quite out of breath after awhile. The physical energy required to walk and carry your ski equipment, pull yourself along flatter slopes, moving to maintain your balance and skiing itself is enough to elevate the heart rate, providing a great cardio workout.
Aside from cardio, muscle strength and flexibility, downhill skiing is good for your health because – as a sport – it provides you with adequate exercise. Skiing can also elevate the mood through the release of adrenaline and endorphins into the bloodstream, which is good for emotional health.
Fast food restaurants have been stepping it up lately by offering healthier fare like salads and fruit, reducing the fat in their meals and providing nutritional information so consumers can make informed decisions. However, is fast food really a healthy option? Since many of us talk about it guiltily each time we consume fast food, anybody's guess is that the majority of people would say no – there's always a healthier alternative. Though it can be convenient, there's even more evidence that fast food is both bad for our health and, increasingly, our pocketbooks.
Fast food follies
So, what's wrong with fast food? For starters, it is often laden with trans fats and very high levels of sodium – two things that are detrimental to heart health. Additionally, many of the foods are made with chemicals and more ingredients than should be in a single food item. For example, fries at most fast food chains typically contain more than just potatoes and oil; rather, they include preservatives, chemicals to maintain color and unhealthy hydrogenated oils. Meats are often mixed with other materials you wouldn't expect to find in your burger or chicken sandwich, not to mention that healthy whole grains are seldom used in fast food.
In fact, you'd be hard-pressed to find any "real" foods - those that were produced, raised and grown in sustainable, organic and humane ways - at a fast food restaurant.
Eating fast food on the regular is definitely detrimental to your health. It's always better to know what you're consuming and exactly where it comes from. If you're craving fast food, find ways to make similar items at home in a healthier way. For example, if you're longing for fries, consider slicing and roasting your own potatoes. You can season them with olive oil, rosemary and a light dusting of sea salt for a healthier option.
Healthier fast food choices
If you do eat fast food, you can do your best to make the healthiest choices possible. Eating fast food as a special treat once a month – or even better: once every two months – isn't all that bad if you just can't break your cravings entirely.
Here are some tips for choosing a meal, whether you're in a fast food joint or any other restaurant:
- Avoid any foods labeled battered, deep-fried, pan-fried, breaded, crispy, creamy Alfredo, au gratin or batter-dipped, since this typically means the foods and their sauces are full of sodium, unhealthy fats and calories.
- Don't get anything that is super-sized. It's always much more food than a single person should eat in one sitting.
- Don't add salt to your food. A study by the NYC Health Department found that, of 6,580 fast food meals, around 57 percent exceeded the recommended daily intake of 1,500 milligrams of sodium – and that was for just one meal!
- Drink water rather than soda. Sodas have hidden calories – not to mention too much sugar – that our bodies just don't need.
- Order salad dressing on the side. That way, you can use only as much as you need and avoid the unnecessary fat and calories.
- Forego high-calorie, high-fat cheeses, spreads, mayonnaise and dressings in favor of bare items or lower calories options like mustard.
- Eat slowly and savor your food – you'll eat less this way.
But if you think you can do it, consider eliminating fast food entirely. Educate yourself on what exactly you're putting into your body each time you eat fast food, and chances are you'll never look back!
Colostrum – specifically bovine colostrum - is the first milk that a mother provides to her newborn calf. In fact, all female mammals produce colostrum, but that of the bovine variety is often taken as a supplement by athletes and others because of its immune-boosting properties. However, it's important that the product comes from only the first milkings as this milk contains a host of beneficial immune factors called proline-rich polypeptides, which include:
- Cytokines for stimulating an under-active immune system
- Immunoglobulin, which helps repair muscles
- Lactoferrin – an iron-binding protein that helps release iron into the red blood cells and also deprives bacteria of the iron it needs to reproduce
- Many others
Colostrum also contains insulin-like growth factors which restore muscles and build immune support, as well as a host of nutritional components like vitamins, minerals, essential oils and amino acids.
If you're looking for a bovine colostrum supplement to boost your immune system and regulate your intestinal health, check out Proline-Rich Polypeptides with Colostrum PLUS, which comes in capsule form. Or, consider mixing the flavorless Symbiotics Colostrum Plus Powder into your protein shake for a healthy immune boost.
Aspartame and similar sweeteners were developed to provide people with a low-calorie substitute for sugar to improve chances for weight loss. There has been a lot of talk for many years concerning whether or not aspartame is bad for the health. However, according to the FDA and more than 100 clinical and toxicological trials of aspartame's effects, it is decidedly safe for human consumption at – and in fact, far above – suggested servings.
However, anything in excess can be bad for your health. In general, Americans eat far too much sugar – some research shows that we eat our body weight in sugar each year! Too much of the sweet stuff can cause various health problems, including:
- Weight gain – sugar means calories. However, some research shows that the prolonged eating of too much sugar can lessen the body's ability to know when it is full, causing people to eat more.
- Elevated blood sugar levels.
- Decreased brain function. Too much sugar consumption can impair memory and learning.
However, our bodies do need sugar to function, but we typically get enough sugar for energy from natural sources in our diets, including:
- whole grain products
Many people crave sugary drinks like soda or juice, as well as candy. But you can do a lot to reduce your sugar intake by ditching these products. Rather than reaching for soda or juice, add some lemon and mint to your water for a refreshing taste. Also, instead of candy, eat unsweetened dried fruit or fresh fruit to satisfy your craving.
Also, beware of hidden sugars. Many products like pasta sauces, yogurt and bread have added sugar that really isn't necessary. Be vigilant about your food choices to protect your health.
There are a lot of questions around whether or not children can or should take supplements. The answers often depend on a particular child's dietary needs and his or her current state of health.
According to Mayo Clinic consultant Dr. Jay Hoecker, most children who are growing normally don't need multivitamins. Even if your child is a picky eater, it does not necessarily mean that he or she is not getting sufficient nutrients. This is because many foods today are fortified with vitamins and nutrients. So, even if your child's palate hasn't yet evolved to enjoy a variety of fruits and vegetables, it's likely that his or her milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals – among other things – are fortified with nutrients like vitamin D, the B vitamins, iron and calcium.
In fact, multivitamins might offer more minerals and vitamins than your child needs or interact with his or her medications, so it's always best to talk to your child's pediatrician before you give him or her any supplements. In general, children who might need a multivitamin are those who:
- Have a restrictive diet such as veganism.
- Have food allergies or an illness that restricts what they can eat.
- Have failure to thrive – a condition where it is not always certain why an infant or child does not develop or gain weight in line with its peers.
Other supplements that your child might benefit from are immune boosters, which both regulate and balance the intestinal flora and give a lift to an immune system, especially in a time of stress such as around the holidays. One option is Symbiotics Colostrum Plus Chewables for children, which come in three flavors: orange creme, pineapple and cherry. Colostrum's dual action – in the bloodstream and in the GI tract – helps maintain a robust intestinal lining and promotes healthy intestinal flora in a normal GI tract.
If your pediatrician does recommend a supplement for your child for any reason, here are some tips:
- Supplements are not an excuse to forgo healthy eating.
- Give the supplement only in recommended doses.
- Remind your kids that supplements are not candy.