College O'Natural

My life as an earth-wise health-conscious college student. DIY, budgets, and the occasional rant!


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Tea! What you should know!

Hey!

As we all know, allergy season is well on its way. If you’re on the East Coast like me it has come and gone more than once; making life difficult for the allergy prone, like me!

Being someone who has had allergies all my life, I’ve become intimately acquainted with the plethora of allergy medicines that are offered. They’re great sometimes, but I hate relying on any medicine; so I stopped.

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Now, I control all my allergies and sicknesses with food.

Tea is always my first step when I feel like I am getting sick, because it’s AMAZING!

But why does it work so well? I’ll tell you ūüôā

According to WebMD, some teas:

  • can help with cancer, diabetes, and heart disease
  • encourage weight loss
  • lower cholesterol
  • bring about mental awareness
  • are antimicrobial

Purists consider only green tea, black tea, white tea, oolong tea, and pu-erh tea the real thing. However, no matter the type (with the exception of herbal tea) they all come from the same plant; the tea plant or camellia sinensis.

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The tea plant is full of flavonoids and tannins, which have significant anti-inflammatory properties as well as high antioxidant power. ¬†The most powerful of these antioxidants is ECGC which can help against free radicals. These free radicals contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. The more processed tea leaves are, means the have less of the flavonoids and tannins. An example would be Black and Oolong teas which are oxidized and fermented. This doesn’t mean they are bad for you, in fact they still have high anti oxidizing powers. Also, if you have any sensitivities to tannins, these may be the tea types you want to try.

Here is WebMD’s info on Tea

  • Green tea: Made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and has been widely studied. Green tea‚Äôs antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer‚Äôs and Parkinson‚Äôs diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
  • Black tea: Made with fermented tea leaves, black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
  • White tea: Uncured and unfermented. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
  • Oolong tea: In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn‚Äôt backed the claims.
  • Pu-erh tea: Made from fermented and aged leaves. Considered a black tea, its leaves are pressed into cakes. One animal study showed that animals given pu-erh had less weight gain and reduced LDL cholesterol.

WebMD info on Herbal teas-

  • Chamomile tea: Its antioxidants may help prevent complications from diabetes, like loss of vision and nerve and kidney damage, and stunt the growth of cancer cells.
  • Echinacea: Often touted as a way to fight the common cold, the research on echinacea has been inconclusive.
  • Hibiscus: A small study found that drinking three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered blood pressure in people with modestly elevated levels.
  • Rooibos (red tea): A South African herb that is fermented. Although it has flavonoids with cancer-fighting properties, medical studies have been limited

It is important to note that there is a lack of concrete research on many¬†herbal¬†remedies. However, this is not because they don’t work. Most of the time,¬†pharmaceutical companies are the ones who fund research, and they¬†won’t want to fund¬†something they can’t sell.

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Now, not everyone has a tea plant in the backyard so we have to buy our teas. This seems simple enough right?

Wrong.

This is where the consumer faces problems. Unfortunately due to the large demand of tea, more tea crops are needed. And how do they keep the tea plants from being eaten? Pesticides. These pesticides find their way into our tea, sometimes at levels that far exceed the regulations. Food Babe did an article not too long ago that investigated what exactly was in our tea and which brands to buy. These were her results:

Numi, Rishi, and Traditional Medicinals are the best brands to buy.

 To see the full chart and the worst offenders click here.

So what are the different types of tea packaging?

Loose leaf tea

Loose leaf tea is just like it sounds, loose. No bag or anything. There are multiple steeping methods.

Click on the photo below to go to a review of the best steeping methods for loose leaf tea.

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Silk Bags

TOXIC!

In Food Babe’s article, she also refers to an article in The Atlantic¬†that covers the toxicity of silk bags and how when steeped, the plastic in the bags in being broken down by the high temperature. So while these bags may seem cool or pretty, they’re also poisonous.

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Paper Bag

This is the most commonly used and well known form of steeping tea. I have yet to find any problems with this form of tea and it is the form I use. However, always read the labels and do your homework! Never assume anything.

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So now you know!

Brew and Enjoy!


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Do you know your meat?

Know-Your-Farmer

Facing the Facts

So let’s be honest, meat is expensive; but, unless you’re vegetarian or vegan, it is also a must. Meat is a very important part of our diets, all ¬†essential vitamins can be obtained through eating a colorful fruit and vegetable diet except for Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is essential for proper cognitive function and chemical reactions in the body that produce hormones, proteins, lipids, and red blood cells, all¬†very important.

Now, this does not mean you should go out and eat a ton of meat or even that you need meat everyday.  In fact, Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver which can store several years worth of it.  Being deficient is rare because of this and most commonly occurs in the elderly due to a lack of stomach acid which is responsible for absorption. However, being deficient is possible and not a good thing; it can lead to anemia, depression, fatigue, and dementia.

Basically what I am saying is, you need meat (or a B12 supplement, although it is often fortified into foods). Whether in large or small quantities, you will eventually have to purchase it.

My Chicken Story

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I am a college student, a busy one at that. In a typical week, monday through thursday, I do not get home until around 6:30 from class, volunteering, and club activities. Once I get home I have oodles of homework to do, club organization stuff, and a social life to tend to. ¬†Often times I leave again later that night to go to the gym or library. ¬†All in all, I don’t have time to bargain shop.

When I first started college life I would buy bags of frozen chicken for meat. However, I ran into some problems. ¬†One, I would never remember to pull the chicken out ahead of time to thaw and would then have to microwave thaw it. ¬†This sucks because it makes the chicken tougher than it already is. Two, it’s not very tasty and the pieces always seem super small.

My next decision was to buy the raw chicken breasts packaged at Harris teeter. I would buy the split breasts with all the skin still attached for around four dollars for three big ones.  Its only the two of us, so one breast that size is enough for one dinner, especially since I try to not eat as much meat.  This worked great for awhile, we would buy multiple packets and when I got home I would cut off the fat, put them in portion bags, and freeze them. At times it seemed like a lot of work having to fix the chicken right after I got home, but it was so worth it.

However, then I got to thinking… Why is that chicken so inexpensive? What exactly is Harris Teeter brand chicken? Where does it come from? Am I poisoning myself?

Knowing What You’re Paying For

After some major reflection, I decided the best course of action would be to start at the sources.  I went to the websites of all the grocery stores in Wilmington in search of information about their meat. This is what I found:

Whole Foods definitely gave the most information.
Tidal Creek ¬†was a hard one to judge but if you read their “buying policies” section and go into the store to look at the meat available it’s not bad.
Trader Joes has a letter to the customers admitting that they have antibiotic free and non antibiotic free options of which they label.  Nothing was stated about animal welfare though.
Harris Teeter¬†states that “some” of their meat is higher welfare but what does that really mean? How much is some?
Lowes Foods¬†didn’t give hardly information concerning their meat and was extremely unhelpful.

Why Animal Welfare is Important?

I know this seems like a common sense answer, and it is as far as morals are concerned. A life, no matter how insignificant it may seem, is important. Of course, we all know this, or at least I hope.

Nonetheless, animal welfare is important for more than just morals. It also affects meat quality and toughness. ¬†I have attached two articles outline the effects of stress on meat quality. The first is from a guidelines for humane handling and the second is a study from the Elsevier journal. ¬†I encourage you to read at least the abstract. If not I’ll summarize below.

Effects of stress and injury on meat and by-product quality

affects of stress on meat

Stress on the animals and inhumane treatment and abuse toughens the meat. Sometimes it does it to a point of making the meat nearly inedible. Pokes and prods leave marks on the meat where the glycogen in the muscle has been depleted, again making the meat tougher.

If you think about it, it’s not that hard to believe. What does stress do to humans bodies? It’s all the same.

Okay, so where should we buy our meat?

(I’m only talking about the grocery brand not the other brands they sell)

Where I buy my meat honestly depends on how much money I have to spend. ¬†If you have a farmer’s market with a local butcher, price and quality will always be best there. You can’t beat local food.

If money is not a major issue, Whole Foods is always a great place to shop. ¬†Another plus for them is their animal welfare rating system. They have stickers on their meat with different levels or “steps” of animal welfare outlined below.

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If money is an issue, Trader Joe’s is a good option if you’re careful about which meat you choose.

Tidal Creek as far as money goes really depends. Because they are a co-op and buy their food from local and small farms, the meat prices fluctuate.  However, I always try to buy there if it has a local label.

Harris Teeter and Lowes are no-nos for me. Especially Lowes.

So is your meat Lady Gaga quality?

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Feast Down East

Hey!!

Me again, updating you on my volunteering adventures!

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Today I volunteered at the 4th Annual Feast Down East Conference which is a conference held every year to inform the community of ways to help our farms and food sustainability grow. ¬†Feast Down East is a great organization that I volunteered with numerous times in the past. They provide numerous resources to the community allowing them access to local sustainable foods. This includes things like garden building projects to delivering produce boxes to people’s door step.

The main event that I volunteered in today was the Food Simulation. Below is a basic overview of what happened.

“This simulation focuses on access to nutritious, affordable food in our community. Participants will be given the profile of a hypothetical resident in the tri-county area, and will simulate spending one month (equal to one hour; each week is fifteen minutes) as that resident, paying bills and attempting to make healthy food choices for their family. At the end of the simulation, participants will reflect on the choices their budget forced them to make and determine whether they were able to successfully provide themselves and their families with a sufficiently nutritious diet while paying their bills & maintaining their careers.”

All in all it was like a gigantic game of Life and a great experience. Although, next time I wish they would host it for students because the financial and nutritional aspects are extremely important for college kids.

By participating in this simulation, we were able to experience the immense difficulties of providing a well rounded healthy diet.¬†And the best part is that Feast Down East isn’t just informing people, they’re doing something about it!!¬†

Every Saturday morning they hold a fresh farmer’s market in one of the local lower income communities and offer great local food for an affordable price!! It’s really awesome. Feast Down East is also responsible for the four other farmer’s markets held in the New Hanover County area.

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Check out their website below! They always need volunteers!

Feast Down East