Tag Archives: Cholesterol

Myth Busting: Is Green Tea as Good as We’ve Heard?

2 Dec

Please Note: This site has moved to it’s own home at: http://www.theheartyheart.com/

You can find this article in it’s new home here

Beginning Old Post: Since becoming a Nutritionist, I’ve vowed not to believe hearsay and research health claims for myself before accepting their validity. As I had often heard time and again how good green tea is for our health, I decided to research it for myself. However…the more I dug around for what I thought would be studies of overwhelming support, the more conflicting information I found, and less sure I became. Is the famed health drink a fallacy?

 

Survey Says:

Studies have (so far) not been able to prove a link between regular green tea consumption and a decreased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), and high blood pressure. While some studies have recorded as much as a 40-50% decrease in markers for CVD, others have produced no correlation to green tea and a reduced risk. **See footnotes for references.

What we do know however…

From it’s chemical make up, we know green tea is chock full of flavonoids. Flavonoids have been witnessed to scavenge the body for free radicals. Free radicals are the nasty unstable molecules that de-stabilize other cells in your body in order to stabilize themselves. Selfish! This is why free radicals are often associated with premature aging. Polyphenols (the parent category to flavonoids), can also help promote the death of irregular cells and inhibit the growth of mutated cells (hence the benefits to cancer prevention).

In lab studies, when the flavonoids found in green tea were added directly to LDL cholesterol, they helped to prevent oxidation (the destabilization produced by free radicals). While LDL cholesterol is known to be the “bad” cholesterol, it’s not “bad” until it’s been oxidized. Therefore, we need to work on keeping the oxidation process, and free radical formation low in order to help prevent the development of cardiovascular risk factors. For more information on this process please visit the following article by Dr. Stephen Stiteler: http://www.my-health-and-wellness-coach.com/cholesterol-levels.html

Wait a minute!

This suggests the potential for green tea to dramatically impact the health of our cells. So why have so many studies not been able to prove the positive connection? The common thread in the research suggests that there have been too many variables to accurately assess if green tea alone is the magic elixir. Variables such as tea quality, strength, and variety; and lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking and exercise have all been associated with affecting the results (favorably or not). This suggests we need to look at green tea in combination with other factors that could create some of the benefits we’ve believed in for so long.

Drinking Green Tea as part of a Hearty Lifestyle:

  • Often habitual tea drinkers will not be as dependent on coffee for stimulation, and may therefore have reduced stress on their adrenal glands. Stress of any kind produces excess of the hormone cortisol in the body, which promotes inflammation. Try: Swapping a few of your habitual coffee’s each week for a green tea (or even start with a green tea latte!). You can add a splash of 100% apple juice to lightly sweeten it.
  • Green tea is anti microbial and anti viral and can help to improve your immunity and your intestinal flora balance, which benefits your nutrient absorption. Try: Incorporating green tea into your day as you would a multi vitamin!
  • Green tea is the least processed tea leaf, being steamed rather than oxidized (as black tea is). Try: Making the swap if black tea is your stand by favorite, or bring green tea into rotation. Green tea also has the highest flavonoid content of all the teas (at 25-30%).
  • Of the popular caffeinated beverages available, green tea is the least caffeinated. Green tea will therefore help hydrate you as opposed to use more water in its assimilation. Being hydrated improves your body’s natural inflammation response, boosts immunity and helps balance blood pressure. Try: counting a cup of green tea as part of your daily water intake and see if you end up drinking more water than usual in a day!
  • Japanese culture uses traditional tea ceremonies as a means of practicing spiritual release, serenity, harmony and peace. There are even whole sections of homes, and yards devoted to serving tea, specifically to be able to use it as a form of meditation and unwind. It’s also traditionally used as a means to honor and respect guests. Try: Unwinding after a stressful with a green tea rather than a sweet treat. Share it with those you care about as a way to slow down and enjoy each others company.

 

This Holiday Season:

Let’s take a note from traditional societies and incorporate such a symbolic and vitality promoting ingredient into our own celebrations. Give the gift of tea; unwind with friends and family over tea; have a tea party to celebrate the holidays instead of a cocktail party (why not?!); or use it in your holiday baking as a means to create some festive colors and get people talking about this dynamic ingredient….

Coming later this month: Creative ways to incorporate green tea into your diet…

Footnotes:

http://qjmed.oxfordjournals.org/content/94/5/277.full

http://www.cellinteractive.com/ucla/natural_remedies/flavonoids.html

http://www.thenutritionreporter.com/flavonoids.html

An “All You Can Eat” to be proud of…

21 Oct

Please Note: This site has moved to it’s own home at: http://www.theheartyheart.com/

You can find this article in it’s new home here

Beginning Old Post: Last weekend, at a Staff Appreciation Party here in Tokyo, much to my delight there was an “all you can eat” menu item to make a Nutritionist proud! It was this month’s feature food: Edamame.

Being full of fiber, edamame is beneficial in flushing excess cholesterol from the body. It is also capable of amping up key antioxidants that promote the repair of damaged arteries. Edamame contains 16% of your daily vitamin C, a great antioxidant and also 11% of your daily zinc intake, a great detoxifying mineral.

Edamame is also high in folate (vitamin B9), crucial for regulating homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid of which high levels have been implicated in cardiovascular disease and stroke. Edamame contains 91% of your daily folate needs. Click here for expanded nutritional information.

During the party a colleague of mine let me in on her favorite way to prepare edamame and it sounds delicious, (“Oishi”). She recommends tossing your steamed (in-pod) edamame in a bit of oil as a base, some crushed or chopped garlic, a bit of dried red chili peppers, and perhaps a light sprinkle of sea salt. I can see licking my fingers clean after that!

 

A note on the ingredients above, and those listed in the recipe links to follow:

  • Using sea salt (lightly) has amazing nourishing properties. My friend and fellow runner Christy, introduced me to Himilayan Sea Salt, it’s a front runner (excuse the pun) in my cabinet. Salt is a crucial electrolyte for transmitting nerve impulses (like a heart beat) properly. It works in synergy with potassium. (http://www.naturalnews.com/028724_Himalayan_salt_sea.html)
  • Garlic is a fantastic immune boosting herb, is anti fungal, anti bacterial and a great detoxifier.
  • Spicy/hot peppers, even in moderation, are great for boosting circulation.
  • Any oils you consume should preferably be unrefined. Sesame oil would be a traditional variety, great for edamame. When choosing oils in general, always favor oils stored in dark, glass bottles to avoid rancidity.

I thought of a few more combinations for this simple toss and serve preparation. Let me know if you try out any other winners!

  • Maple syrup and cinnamon
  • Ground sesame seeds and nutritional yeast flakes
  • Ginger with lemon or lime juice
  • Tamari soy sauce (wheat free) and umeboshi plum paste

Thanks to some reader requests, and with the addition of a few of my favorites too, I’ve included below a few more creative ways to incorporate edamame into your diet:

Edamame Hummus:

C/O: http://whatscookingamerica.net/Appetizers/EdamameHummus.htm

*Remember to use unrefined oil, sea salt (instead of table salt) and I would nix the microwave and opt for the stovetop preparation of the edamame beans.

 

Black Bean and Edamame Salad:

C/O: http://www.wellfedheart.com/2010/black-bean-and-edamame-salad/

*I personally would trade the sugar for a whole food sweetener like maple syrup or honey. Don’t forget to use unrefined oils and sea salt instead too. I love that they recommended rinsing all the canned beans in the recipe too. There’s a lot of excess sodium in canned products, I always rinse mine. This website is another great resource for heart health advocates to bookmark.

 

Edamame & Pesto Pasta:

C/O: http://www.thekitchn.com/thekitchn/main-dish/quick-supper-chewy-farro-pasta-with-edamame-pesto-114591

*To make this recipe even more Japanese, you could use soba or udon noodles. I like soba, as it based from buckwheat flour (a whole grain). Alternatively a whole grain/whole wheat pasta noodle of your choice would be great!

 

Edamame Veggie Burger:

C/O: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchens/edamame-veggie-burger-recipe/index.html

*The ingredients may not be those you tend to have on hand, but some high quality additions to your pantry if you do source them out. An Asian supermarket would have most of these (i.e. mirin, sea salt etc…), if not your local natural food store.

 

If you’re just joining “The Hearty Heart” and you missed the original juice on why edamame is a “Hearty Food”, have a look at the first post for the background flavor…Click here.

Feature Food: Edamame-The “Twig Bean”

14 Oct

Please Note: This site has moved to it’s own home at: http://www.theheartyheart.com/

You can find this article in it’s new home here

Beginning Old Post: As my first feature food of the month, I thought it appropriate to feature my favorite snack from the country I am currently calling home: Japan! A staple in Japanese bento lunch boxes, edamame translates into “twig bean”. By harvesting it with a small portion of stem at the end of the pod, it’s that much easier to hold when popping the beans out into your mouth.

Edamame comes with a satisfaction guarantee thanks to the whopping 6 grams of fiber per cup of edamame bean (hulled). Fiber is crucial to maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system as it helps flush excess cholesterol from the body. Cholesterol is a component of plaque, the “nasty” that likes to stick to the walls of damaged arteries, causing narrowing and constriction.

As a plant-based protein it is a great alternative to animal protein, helping reduce your overall saturated fat intake. 1 cup of (hulled) edamame contains 12g of protein which ranks well against other popular plant based proteins (chickpeas: 6 grams, black beans: 15 grams, and lentils 12 grams, per cup serving).

I am not a huge advocator of processed soy, so it’s important to make the distinction and recognize that edamame is the whole food, the unprocessed soybean. Buying organic edamame will also help to ensure the cultivation of the bean contains no added toxins (in the form of fertilizers and herbicides), and is not genetically modified. Soy is one of the most commonly genetically modified foods available today. Minimizing toxins in the diet helps to minimize the potential for arterial damage.

Happy tasting, and check out “The Hearty Heart” again soon, or subscribe via email for a few sample recipes involving edamame to come through out the month. To get your taste buds going, I’ll leave you with these teasers: edamame hummus; edamame & artichoke dip; edamame-feta-pesto and soba noodle pasta; edamame salsa; edamame spinach & egg scramble…I can’t post them all, so let me know if there’s one you really want to learn!

For edamame novices: It’s found in the frozen section of most chain grocers, Asian supermarkets, or natural food stores, you can buy it shelled or unshelled. Super simple preparation involves adding the desired serving size to gently boiling water, and continuing to simmer for a max of 5 min’s. The bean will be tender when ready, or the pod will begin to soften. Rinse, and try seasoning with a really light pinch of sea salt and/or pepper, or I like to dip mine in Tamari Soy Sauce. If you’ve never eaten it in the pod before, place the whole pod in your mouth-holding it by the “twig” or stem-and gently release the beans with your teeth.

Nutritional Information:

For a breakdown of all nutrients available from edamame, please visit the following link:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=edamame+nutrition+information
Credits:
Images:
http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1010/1413935906_5e4c4e944a.jpg
http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/uimages/kitchen/2010_04_21-edamamepesto.jpg
http://lh6.ggpht.com/_yUf2kzulTbo/STa7S29U3TI/AAAAAAAABbI/etktk-FcLKI/s800/DSC03950a.jpg
Research:
http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=56288 
http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=edamame+nutrition+information