good medicine everyday

Good Medicine Everyday: Green Tea by emily penn

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I never really got into green tea until I quit drinking coffee. I decided to quit coffee because I was drinking a lot of it, and even though I wasn’t experiencing any negative health effects I knew all that caffeine was a strain on my nervous system and adrenals. So I quit preventatively.

As a die-hard lifelong coffee lover, never ever did I think I would get SO into tea. But here we are. Honestly - loose leaf tea is a game changer. If you’re not impressed with tea and you’ve just been using bagged teas - try loose leaf.

Now I can’t get enough of the flavor of green tea! It’s earthy, grassy and totally delightful. There’s lots of different kinds. Jasmine and Genmaicha are my two absolute favorite. Jasmine has a slightly floral quality to it that is so lovely. Genmaicha has toasted rice in it, which gives it a nice toasty depth. That’s another cool thing - there are so many varieties of green tea - you’re sure to find something that you love!

So the idea of green tea being good for you is pretty widespread, even in conventional media sources. A lot of people associate it with boosting the metabolism. But green tea offers so much more than that. Let’s take a look (1):

  • The main health promoting quality of green tea is that it contains lots of polyphenols (beneficial plant compounds), including a catechin (an antioxidant) called EGCG. These compounds fight inflammation, prevent aging and protect cells from damage.

  • The caffeine content in green tea is enough to give your brain a boost by improving the firing of neurons, but not so much as to give you the jitters that can come with coffee. Additionally, green tea contains a compound known as L-theanine, an amino acid that has anti-anxiety effects, increases dopamine (feel-good neurotransmitter), and increase alpha brain waves. Together, L-theanine and caffeine improve brain function, increase concentration and give you a calm yet alert feeling.

  • The catechins protect your brain, making green tea protective against Alzheimers and Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases.

  • Green tea can improve insulin sensitivity and reduce blood sugar levels, making it protective against Type 2 Diabetes.

  • Supports longevity through reducing risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer.

  • Green tea kills bacteria, which makes it great for dental health. It can also help protect against viruses like the flu, so add it to your immunity regimen.

  • And yes, it does give you a metabolic boost and increases fat burning, meaning it can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.

Pretty impressive for a little green leaf, right?! And there are so many different varieties to be enjoyed, I’m sure you can find one that you love. You may have heard of matcha, which is ground up whole tea leaves. You dissolve the powder in warm water and sip on its own, but many like to add some type of milk to make a matcha latte. Because you’re consuming the whole tea leaf (vs. just steeping the tea leaf) you’re actually getting a much higher concentration of all those antioxidants and therefore, all the health benefits.

Good Medicine Everyday: Connection + Community by emily penn

Feeling supported is a huge part of connection! My brother and I picking apples, 2011.

Feeling supported is a huge part of connection! My brother and I picking apples, 2011.

In honor of this week’s controversial holiday, I want to highlight one of the things that Valentine’s Day gets right - celebrating the love and connection in our life.

One of the most overlooked aspects of health is the concept of community. Dan Buettner is the man who studied and identified the Blue Zones - five areas of the world where people live the longest and the healthiest lives: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California. These areas all share some common themes that are purported to support their longevity. One of the main tenets is this idea of connection + community - they frequently share meals with friends, are part of groups (usually faith-based), and they put family first, keeping aging parents close, committing to a life partner and investing their time and love into their kids.

Having a strong social and support network has been shown to help with everything from lowering rates of depression, reducing stress, improving immunity, and supporting longevity. Having family and friends that you can count on and spend time with is huge. If you don’t have a lot of family or friends then volunteering or belonging to a community group or club can provide the same benefits.

As an introvert and someone who not only needs, but strongly prefers time alone, prioritizing the time to spend with people I love can seem like a big effort. I’ve also never been one to have a huge group of friends - I have several close friends from various stages of my life (middle school/high school, college and early twenties). I’m close to my family, talking to my mom and brother on the phone at least once a week, with lots of texting in-between.

Best friends since we were 12.

Best friends since we were 12.

Sometimes meeting up with a friend can feel like a thing I’m forcing myself to do, but I’ve learned at this point that I always feel better afterwards. Connecting and bonding with a friend makes me feel less alone, more understood and improves my mood. It’s also really satisfying to nurture friendships and watch them grow as each person goes through different stages of life. Focusing on this end result gets me out of the house every time.

I do better in small groups and especially prefer one-on-one hangouts with my friends, so I try to do that as much as I possibly can. Large groups stress me out and I often end up feeling disconnected from those around me, not to mention energetically drained. I’ll be there for the big things (birthday parties, bachelorette parties, weddings, etc.) but if it’s just a night out with a bunch of people, I’ll probably pass and chose to spend quality time with you on another day.

This week I encourage you to put a little extra effort into your relationships - whether that’s with a romantic partner, friends, family or even co-workers. Let the people in your life know that you appreciate them. Spend time with them if you can. You’ll feel better immediately and the long-term payoff is undeniable.

Good Medicine Everyday: Cranberries by emily penn

When you think of cranberries you probably think of two things - Thanksgiving and Urinary Tract Infections. But cranberries deserve so much MORE credit than that!

Cranberries contain one of the HIGHEST levels of antioxidants of any fruit! This means they’re stellar at fighting inflammation and boosting immunity. Here’s a few other things cranberries are awesome at (1):

  • Preventing and treating UTIs. It’s true - cranberries have earned their reputation for a reason. They contain a specific compound that prevents bacteria from attaching to the inner surface of the urinary tract and bladder.

  • They fight cancer. Human and animal studies show that cranberries may help slow tumor progression and block the growth of cancer cells.

  • Cranberries contain high levels of polyphenols, vitamin C and combined with their ability to fight bacteria, they make a great ally during cold and flu season.

  • They support your GI tract. Cranberries help optimize the balance of bacteria in the digestive tract while also having anti-diarrhea, anti-septic, and diuretic properties.

My favorite way to incorporate cranberries into my life is with unsweetened cranberry juice (Trader Joe’s makes a great, inexpensive one). I add 1-2 oz of cranberry juice to a regular glass of water or to plain kombucha. Avoid those cranberry juices that are heavily sweetened. Sometimes I’ll buy frozen cranberries to throw into smoothies - only a small handful is necessary.