Category Archives: Health Tips

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

I thought I’d share something today that’ll warm you right up during this cold winter weather!
Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Loose Leaf Teas.
I fell in love with loose leaf teas a few years ago. They taste so much better than bagged teas and have healing properties as well.
I wanted to share my love of these teas with you by introducing you to my loose leaf tea source.

I met Lauren Heller, a friend of a friend, who owns her own loose leaf tea business called Our SpecialTEA. She is a wealth of knowledge on the subject and that’s why today I’m sharing an interview I did with Lauren on Loose Leaf Teas.
So, if you love tea, have never liked tea in the past, are interested in what loose leaf tea is, or interested in the healing properties keep reading. You can check out Lauren’s Loose Leaf Teas at: www.ourspecialtea.com/

Q: Lauren, how is loose leaf tea different than tea I could buy at the grocery in tea bags?
A: Lauren: “The tea bags that are available today are much different than the ones from even 3 years ago.  The newest trend are tea pyramids and larger type filter bags for larger leaves.  These types of tea “bags” are much better than your traditional tea bag.  Tea bags are typically made from the “dust” of the picked tea crop.  Company’s such as ours receive the top of the picking which are full, bright, fresh leaves and tea bags are made from the dust and broken pieces that fall to the bottom.  The tea bags will also brew a much more heavy and harsher tea taste.”

Q: What are the different types of teas?
A: Lauren: “You can go greatly in depth with this question but the basics that the United States are familiar with are: Green, White, Black, Herbal (Tisane), Oolong and Rooibos.  The difference is based upon processing techniques; wilting, firing, drying, etc.”

Q: What are the health benefits of loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “Where to begin???  If you go to our site www.ourspecialtea.com/Loose_leaf_teas.html you will find a lengthy section that pertains to the limited explanation of health benefits.”

Q: I know you have young children and use the loose leaf teas to treat a lot of ailments. What are some ailments that you treat with loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “A big treatment in our house is for cold or fever.  I use a lot of peppermint leaf for fevers because it naturally cools the body.  It also is wonderful for opening up the lungs and air passages.  Some of my other favorites are our Chamomile Anthem (blend of Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile), Citrus Splash Wellness (all herbal mix with lots of citrus fruits, full of vitamins) and White teas…they are full of antioxidants.”

Q: What’s your personal favorite of all the teas?
A: Lauren: “My personal favorite category is Oolong.  I love that an Oolong brews such a beautiful amber-like color.  It’s taste is subtle yet holds its own.  It is a nice balance between a Black tea and white/green tea.  They offer such incredible health benefits as well.”

Q: If someone says they generally don’t drink tea, what is one loose leaf tea you think they may like?
A: Lauren: “I first ask people what they have tried.  If it was grandma’s sun tea or tea from a restaurant, I like to suggest that they try something that doesn’t have such a harsh, “tea” taste from the tannins in the tea being steeped improperly.  I would suggest an herbal or Rooibos.  But if you have a good source of loose tea, and it is brewed properly, all the teas taste wonderful.  Even to the pickiest of pallets.”

Q: What’s you favorite sweetener to add to tea?
A: Lauren: “I typically don’t add sweetener to my tea because I like to get the full flavor of the tea in its “naked” form but if I do, I make sure it is natural.  So I choose either an organic sugar, raw sugar, honey or agave nectar.  I do enjoy a good strong black tea and add just a touch of organic soy creamer.  Tastes amazing!”

A special thanks to Lauren Heller for sharing her wealth of knowledge with us!

I wanted to share that I generally brew my loose leaf tea in a tea strainer like the one shown above. My personal favorite of all the teas are the Rooibos Teas. I find they really relieve my allergy and asthma symptoms even on days when allergy medicine doesn’t seem to work (and trust me the bagged Rooibos Tea just does not work the same).

You can find out more information about Loose Leaf Teas and purchase the teas and accessories from Our SpecialTEA online.
They really make great gifts! Drink up!

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts


Do you remember as a child sitting at the dinner table after everyone else had finished dinner, teary-eyed because your mother said you couldn’t leave the table until you’d eaten your brussel sprouts? You just couldn’t down those awful little things and you’ve hated them ever since. Well let’s be honest, a  lot of time has gone by and your palette is different than it used to be and maybe your mother cooked them so thoroughly they were reduced to mush.

Today I’m saying give them another shot! That’s right…Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Brussel Sprouts.

These little guys have a bad rap, but I’ve grown to love them over the last few years. My theory is you might too, you just have to know how to cook them.

Why eat ‘em?
These little guys are full of folate (folic acid), which helps prevents birth defects if consumed during pregnancy. Brussel sprouts are packed with vitamins C and K that contributes to beautiful skin and increases immune function. They’re a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber that is important to keep weight in check and keeps your colon healthy. Eating brussel sprouts actually helps to prevent cancer because they increase your cells’ ability to detoxify and regenerate healthy cells.

How to select the best brussel sprouts?
Look for the smallest brussel sprouts. The smaller, the sweeter they are. They should be firm, not squishy and the layers on them should be tightly compacted.

How to cook ‘em so they’re tasty?
1. Peel the outer layers off and cut off the excess stem portion.
2. Cut each of them in half length wise.
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil and add brussel sprouts.
4. Stir frequently. Add about a tablespoon of butter to the skillet (butter makes everything better), a little salt and pepper, and more olive oil if they begin to stick or burn. Cooking about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Add approximately 1/3 cup water to the skillet, cooking an additional 2 minutes.
6. Squeeze half a lemon over the brussel sprouts, stir and serve.

I hope you’ll give these little guys with a bad rap another chance. I’ve come to love them and I hope you will as well!

Sources: www.thatsfit.com/2007/04/10/you-are-what-you-eat-but-why-would-you-eat-brussels-sprouts/

www.ifitandhealthy.com/top-10-reasons-to-eat-brussels-sprouts-they-are-so-phat/

Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Here’s another product to add to your GF food index.
For those of us with restricted diets, the simple things in life like animal cookies that fit our restricted diets can be seriously exciting! This one is especially for those who have kids that have to be GF. Every kid should get to partake in the simple joys of being a kid, like eating animal cookies. Here’s good news for all the GF kids and those of us who are GF and young at heart.

I love the brand Nature’s Path because they provide great tasting GF options. Their line, Envirokidz, gives GF kids food options that specifically appeal to them. Their GF Organic Animal Cookies (Vanilla) are a tasty snack for those of us young and old.

You can pick up these animal cookies from your local health food store. I’ve also found them at my local grocery store that has a GF section and even at Walmart nearby that has a GF section.

Hope this opens up your GF food options!

How to Replace Eggs

How to Replace Eggs

Not only can I not eat gluten, but I also can’t eat eggs. Many gluten free breads, pastries, cakes, and muffins that are pre-made have eggs or egg whites in them. And most gluten free baking mixes call for eggs.

So, how can I eat these baked goods? My secret is Ener-G Egg Replacer.
Its a GF product, that is a powder. You simply mix 1 1/2 teaspoons of the powder with 2 tablespoons water, which equals 1 egg.

How does it taste?
If I didn’t tell you I used this substitute in a normal recipe instead of eggs, you’d never know. I use this egg replacer in recipes where eggs are used to leaven.

Where can you buy it?
Most local health food stores carry it. You’ll most likely pay anywhere from $5 to $10 for it, but it lasts a long time because you only use such a small portion at a time.

What is it made of?
Its made of potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening (calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, citirc acid), sodium carboxymethylcellulose, methylcellulose. Calcium lactate is not dairy dervived. It does not contain lactose.

This product does NOT contain: Any ingredients produced using biotechnology, gluten, wheat, nuts, preservatives, artificial flavorings, sugar, cholesterol, dairy, or any eggs or animal protein.

Hope this helps some of you enjoy foods you otherwise couldn’t eat!

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry, Tip 3

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry, Tip 3

Tip 3: Know your GF substitutes!

So, you find out you have to go GF and you think I’ll never eat pasta, pizza, bread, cakes, cookies, or pastries again!
Thanks to the huge rise in the availability of GF products you can eat all of these things, just with substitute products.

What is a GF substitute/ product?
GF substitutes and products are processed in factories apart from where they can be contaminated by gluten.
GF substitutes replace the wheat, rye, and barley flour in a product with alternate flours. The alternate flours generally include rice, bean, tapioca, corn, and potato flours. The trick is that generally these flours must be used in combination to achieve the proper texture.

  • You can buy the flours individually and blend your own as specified in a GF cookbook to use in recipes
  • Buy a GF All Purpose Flour to use as a replacement for wheat flour in a recipe
  • Or buy a pre-package GF mix for whatever you want to make

I use all 3 of these methods, but the easiest is to just buy a GF mix for brownies, corn muffins, bread, cookies, oatmeal, etc. My favorite brand of GF mixes and flours is Bob’s Red Mill, but there are a lot of brands making GF products now.

GF pasta is generally made from brown rice and is available at grocery stores that have a health food/ GF aisle. Don’t over cook it and cook with the lid off.

GF cereals, oats, and pancake/ waffle mixes are great options for breakfast.

Hope these GF options help add more great food to your diet!

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry, Tip 2

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry, Tip 2

Tip 2: Add new foods into your diet.

I’m a firm believer that whenever you cut foods out of your diet you have to add new foods into your diet.
Constantly thinking about all the foods you can’t eat can be seriously depressing on any sort of restricted diet.
So, instead of thinking about what you can’t eat, think about the foods that you can eat.
If the staples of your diet were pizza, spaghetti, sandwiches, muffins, bagels, and chicken fingers and you have to go GF, you’re going to have to introduce yourself to new foods.

First, I suggest trying dishes from other countries.
Maybe you’re the all American meat and potatoes eater, but there is a whole world full of food out there. I’ve always enjoyed ethnic cuisine, but when I found out about all my food restrictions I started paying more attention to what was in various ethnic dishes.
I’ve found that with my restricted diet authentic Thai food, Mexican food, Nicaraguan Food, Indian food, and Japanese food has a lot to offer me. Thai food uses a lot of coconut milk rather than cow’s milk and uses a lot of meat, veggies and rice. Mexican food uses a lot of corn rather than wheat…and on and on. I can’t eat every dish from these countries, but more than many others have to offer.
So, if you’re GF and tired of eating salads why not look up recipes and make dishes from one of these countries, or find an authentic ethnic restaurant in your area. You never know what you could love!

Second, I suggest trying unusually fruits or veggies that seem foreign to you.
I like shopping at groceries that have a huge selections of fresh produce. Every couple weeks I generally like to buy a fruit or veggie that I’ve never had before. Most of the time ‘ll look up how to cook it, peal it, eat it online. If I dislike it, I’m generally out less than $1. But, if I like it then I’ve found a whole new food to add to my diet.

Third, I suggest trying fruits and veggies you disliked as a kid.
Find recipes to make with these foods that enhance the flavor of the food. If you hated green beans as a kid, but your mom only made green beans from a can or cooked fresh ones until they were mush, try them again.
Try fresh green beans sauteed with salt, pepper, garlic, and lemon juice.

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry!

Gluten Free: How to Go GF and Not Go Hungry!

Many people get really upset when they find out the extensive list of foods they have to cut out when going GF.
They think no more bread, pasta, pastries, pizza, cookies, cakes…There’s no way I can do that! I’ll be hungry all the time!

I’m here to tell you that you can go GF, eat great food, and not go hungry!
Here are some tips to show you how. Here’s Tip #1…Stay tuned for more tips to come.

Tip 1: Change the way you think about food.
In the past when deciding what to eat your qualifications may have been as follows; It has to taste good.
Think about this mindset though…Eating food just because of taste, only satisfies one part of your body: the taste buds.
But your taste buds are only such a small part of your body.
If that food only satisfies your taste buds, but doesn’t provide your body with anything else that’s kind of a silly reason to eat it and yet many people’s diets are focused solely on what tastes good.

I agree that you should enjoy the taste of the food you eat, but you also have to look at why we need to really eat.
The main reason we have to eat is to fuel our bodies.

Going GF or going on a diet to lose weight often means cutting out many of the foods that you love because they taste good, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll never eat tasty food again.
You just have more qualifications for your food now. Your food must:

  • Fuel your body to its highest functioning potential (meaning GF)
  • Not cause inflammation or an autoimmune response in your body (meaning GF)
  • Taste good

Stay tuned for more tips to come!

Gluten Free: Where’s the Gluten?

Gluten Free: Where’s the Gluten?

Do you notice that your face or stomach area is swollen or looks puffy?
Do you have eczema or skin rashes that never seem to go away?

If you said yes to one of these questions and nothing has seemed to help then you may benefit from a Gluten Free diet!

If you’ve decided to go GF you may be confused as to what foods have gluten in them. So, here’s an extensive break down list.
Please DO NOT let this list scare you! I’ll be following this post in the days and weeks to come with foods, products, and recipes to add into your diet because there are so many things out there you’ll just have to become aware of.

I suggest printing the list and putting it on a note card and carrying it with you at all times in your wallet or purse.

Obvious Sources of Gluten:
Bagels                                            Barley
Biscuits                                          Bran
Bread                                             Cake
Cookies                                          Crackers
Croutons                                       Cupcakes
Doughnuts                                    Flour
Graham Crackers                        Gluten
Muffins                                          Noodles
Pancakes                                       Pasta
Pastries                                         Pie
Pretzels                                         Rye
Tortillas                                        Waffles
Wheat flour, germ, starch

Less Obvious Sources of Gluten:
Unless otherwise noted on the packaging these do or may contain gluten
Alcohol                                         Graham Flour
Couscous                                     Durum
Kamut                                          Malt syrup, extract
Malt Vinegar                              Matzo Meal
Muesli                                          Oats, Oatmeal, Oat Bran
Semolina                                     Spelt
Triticale                                       BBQ Sauce
Groats                                          Beer
Ice Cream                                    Ketchup
Lunch Meats                               Brewer’s Yeast
Mustard                                       Caramel Coloring
Cereal Binding                           Pharmaceuticals
Cheese                                          Chewing Gum
Rice Milks or Syrups                 Sauces
Chocolate                                    Sausages
Couscous                                     Sherbet
Shortening                                  Einkorn
Soup                                             Farina
Soy Milk or sauce                      Vitamins
French Fries                               Whole Meal Flour
Gliadin                                         Yogurt (also frozen)
Soy Milk or Sauce                      Farro

Common Additives that May be Hidden Gluten Sources:
Bouillon                                       Maltose
Caramel  Coloring                     Modified Food Starch
Coloring                                      Mono and diglycerides
Dextrin                                        MSG
Emulsifiers                                 Natural Flavorings
Fillers                                          Seasoning Blends
Flavor Extracts                          Soy Sauce or shoyu
Hydrolyzed plant                      Stabilizers
or vegetable protein                 Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
Maltodextrin

Gluten Free

Gluten Free

Most likely everyone has heard someone they know say they are “Going Gluten Free.” Unless you’ve been following a gluten free (GF) diet for a while or care for someone who follows a GF diet you may be curious as to what this GF thing really is.

In this new segment, Gluten Free, I’ll be demystifying this topic, telling my personal experience with going GF, as well as providing resources, product ideas, and recipes for those following GF diets.

So, first things first…Let’s demystify this GF thing!

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that’s found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s not a grain itself, but is a component of these grains. Gluten is an elastic protein that causes baked goods to bind and makes them light and fluffy.

Why are so many people avoiding gluten?
Gluten itself is not inherently bad for you, but for people who have Celiac or simply have an intolerance to gluten its bad for them. Gluten intolerance and Celiac used to be very hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be synonymous with so many other ailments and diseases. Awareness of these issues has grown tremendously in the last few years and many people are now discovering that they simply “Feel Better” when following a GF diet.

What is Celiac and how is it different that having a gluten intolerance?
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness describes Celiac Disease as such: “Celiac disease is an autoimmune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. What does this mean? Essentially the body is attacking itself every time a person with celiac consumes gluten.”
www.celiaccentral.org/Celiac-Disease/21/

Celiac is determined genetically, meaning that if you have a family member that has it, you’re more likely to have it. Your doctor can see the first signs through a blood test.

Some people may not be able to digest gluten well, but do not necessarily have Celiac. These people are considered gluten intolerant. Gluten tends to be a very inflammatory food, which is one reason that many people feel better when they avoid it.

What are some of the symptoms of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance?
There are a wide variety of ways that gluten can affect your body. Some of the symptoms of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance include digestive issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, intestinal pain), fatigue, joint pain, poor weight gain, delayed growth, infertility, depression, thyroid disease, skin rash (eczema). For a Celaic Disease Symptom Checker visit www.celiaccentral.org/disease-symptoms-checklist/

Do you think you or someone you know may benefit from a gluten-free diet?
Do you know you’d benefit from a GF diet but think its too hard?
Don’t stress…I’ll point you in the right direction and give you great resources, recipes, and tips.
Hope you’ll keep following for more info to come in the weeks to follow!

Stay Healthy this Winter Part 6

Stay Healthy this Winter Part 6

Here’s Your Final Tip #6: Stress Less, Sleep More

Let’s address the first issue: Stress. People who don’t manage stress in their lives well can get physically ill from it. Various studies have shown that chronic, unmanaged stress runs down the immune system by reducing the number of your body’s fighting cells. Stress can manifest itself physically in the form of a common cold, acne, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, etc. So, build your immune system by finding healthy ways to manage your stress. Check out this great list of 10 Healthy Ways to Manage Stress from Reader’s Digest: www.rd.com/living-healthy/10-ways-to-manage-stress/article12557.html

Other sources about stress related to illness:
www.stressaffect.com/stress-illness.html

www.webmd.com/balance/stress-management/stress-management-effects-of-stress

How does sleeping more affect your body? A recent study shows that people who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are three times more likely to catch a common cold than people who sleep at least 8 hours a night. Being sleep deprived causes your body’s fighting cells to drop in numbers, allowing it to be more susceptible to infection. This same study shows that its not just about the quantity of sleep but the quality as well. So, turn off the TV early tonight and catch some extra zzzzs!

Sources about sleep related to illness:
www.scientificamerican.com/blog/post.cfm?id=can-a-good-nights-sleep-prevent-a-c-2009-01-12

www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/news/20090112/good-nights-sleep-puts-colds-to-bed