Useful Herbs and Their Effects

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By Bernice Kwan

When scanning the produce section of the grocery store, most people are aware that fruits and veggies provide a good dose of nutrients; but did you ever consider herbs? Herbs typically refer to the leafy green or flowering part of plants that are used in food, flavoring, medicine, and fragrances.

Though herbs tend to be put under the radar, they have a very rich history and prominent presence in many cultures and societies. They are traditionally used to make teas, ointments and rubs, aromas, and are incorporated in nearly every recipe to add flavor. Some people also believe that herbs offer potent healing properties.

Seeing as they are so widely and diversely used around the world, here is a breakdown of a few herbs and what they have to offer:

Sage

Sage is one of the most praised herbs for its expansive usability. Studies show that sage has antibacterial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, free radical scavenging, and antitumor activities. For these reasons, it has been used in medicinal teas for centuries. It has been linked to improved diabetic conditions, memory and cognition, and even elevated mood among a whole list of other health benefits. Time to pick up some sage tea!

Ginkgo

Ginkgo leaves are best known for its effects on blood and memory. It contains an active ingredient that promotes blood flow and for this reason, researchers believe that the increase blood flow to the brain improves memory. Consider brewing some ginkgo tea if you feel the need for a memory boost but do not take any ginkgo supplements before asking your doctor!

Basil

Basil is commonly used in recipes to add a flavorful punch or to give a soothing aroma. It contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Fresh basil is also packed with Vitamin K which is commonly found in spinach, cauliflower, kale, and cabbage. Not to mention, it adds a nice flavor to many foods!

Rosemary

There is much to praise about rosemary, from it’s irreplaceable aroma, to its ease of use, it seems as if we just can’t get enough. You may be happy to hear that rosemary is a great source of Vitamin A, Thiamin and Magnesium, Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Folate, Calcium, and Iron. Also, similar to ginkgo, it promotes blood flow. Next time you take a walk around Davis, keep an eye out for some rosemary and use it in your home cooked meals (but make sure you wash anything that you pick up walking through the neighborhood)

This list of beneficial herbs go on and there is so much to learn about each one of them! Use herbs mindfully and incorporate them into your cooking as a way to cut down on salt, and always ask your doctor before taking any supplements!

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4003706/

http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/ginkgo-biloba

http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0301/p1239.html

https://nccih.nih.gov/health/kava

http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/beautiful-basil

http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-154-rosemary.aspx?activeingredientid=154&

 

Grab and Go Breakfast Ideas!

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By Annika Altura

In the face of 8 AMs, pure, utter, laziness, and the lack of any culinary skills, skipping the first meal of the day, and drowning yourself in some food truck rice bowl once the hunger rolls around a few hours later is completely understandable. Even I find myself guilty of throwing on clothes, grabbing my keys and biking to class with a grumbling stomach.

You’ve heard it a bunch of times: “breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” Personally, what’s in the back of my mind is Spongebob chanting ~“breakfast is the most important meal of the day, serving it up, Gary’s way!”~ In high school I remember running out the door with three hours of sleep behind me, making sure I could get out as fast as possible to make the bus.

Going back into eating breakfast every morning was a little bit of a struggle at first, because it forced me to get up a little bit earlier and sacrifice my beloved sleep, but I realized that having something in my stomach spiked my metabolism and replenished my glucose levels, overall making me more energized for the rest of the day. Here’s a few ways that you can get your food fix without having to spend too much time making it in the morning:

  • Granola Bars

Granola bars are honestly one of my pantry staples in college. They’re light, easy to take around, and they taste amazing too. Kids health states that these snacks are a great way to satisfy hunger and get all the vitamins that your body needs without overfilling you for later. There are so many out there that you can choose from, and they aren’t too expensive if you buy them in bulk. My personal favorites are CLIF’s Nut Butter Filled Bars, and KIND’s Dark Chocolate and Sea Salt Bars. The slight sweetness of the bars, and the high protein content from the nuts will keep everyone going until their next meal. Pair with a piece of fruit to balance this on-the-go meal.

  • Yogurt parfait

Try this: Greek yogurt, honey, nuts, any fruit that you want, and even chia seeds if you’d like to be a little bit fancy. This breakfast is refreshing and filling without having to be heavy, and according to the Dairy Council of California, Greek yogurt both has probiotics and high protein content, as well as both calcium and potassium, making it a great combination to start your day.

  • Overnight oats

This might require a little bit of prep. Take ½ a cup of oatmeal, ½ a cup of milk, and mix it together in some kind of mason jar or any container. From there, you can add whatever you want to it! My favorite combinations are chocolate, peanut butter, or mango and coconut. Once you’re done, refrigerate it overnight, and stick it in your backpack in the morning. Don’t forget a spoon too! The whole grains council states that oatmeal is great for breakfast since it’s high in fiber and helps prevent heart disease.

  • Frittata

Everyone loves eggs in the morning, not everyone has the time to make them. Luckily, frittatas can be made ahead, and are good not only for breakfast, but for any time of day. Once you make the frittata, cut it into wedges and refrigerate. Heat it up in the morning however you like, and you’ll be on your way. Here’s a link to a great, simple and easy frittata recipe as well: http://spoonuniversity.com/recipe/fontina-frittata

Breakfast doesn’t have to be a chore. Plan ahead! You don’t want to skimp on nutrients. Your brain will thank you later when you’re trying to use it to memorize all those formulas.

Resources:

http://spoonuniversity.com/recipe/fontina-frittata

http://www.livestrong.com/article/404122-the-importance-of-eating-a-healthy-breakfast

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/brain-food-breakfast-6820.html

http://kidshealth.org/en/teens/healthy-snacks.html

http://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/easy-ways-enjoy-whole-grains/grain-month-calendar/oats-–-january-grain-month

http://www.healthyeating.org/Milk-Dairy/Nutrients-in-Milk-Cheese-Yogurt/Yogurt-Nutrition.aspx

 

 

3 Easy (and Healthy) Dorm Room Desserts

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By Bree Weeden

These sweet treats are easy as pie – and much healthier!

Banana Chia Pudding:

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • ¾ cup non-fat milk
  • 2 tbsp chia seeds
  • Optional: 1 tsp vanilla and/or cinnamon

In a bowl (or mason jar if you’re feeling special) smash the banana with a fork, then add milk and chia seeds and mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight (at least 8 hours).

Peanut Butter Rice Cereal Bars

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 cups puffed rice cereal
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Combine peanut butter and honey in a bowl and microwave for 1 minute. Stir in cereal until thoroughly mixed, then transfer to a glass dish and cool in the fridge for half an hour. Top with melted chocolate chips.

Microwave Baked Apples

Ingredients:

  • 1 apple
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Core the apple to create a makeshift bowl. Fill hole with brown sugar and cinnamon, then place in a deep dish and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, or until the apple is soft and your dorm smells like warm apple pie.

Keeping a few of these key ingredients in your dorm cupboard will allow all sorts of creative desserts that are much healthier than other alternatives—let your inner chef explore and whip up some of these snacks for studying! If you create any of these dorm desserts, tag us at @ucdhealthyaggies on Instagram or Healthy Aggies at UC Davis on Facebook!

Four Benefits of Sleep

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By Wilson Ho

As a college student, our schedules are often filled with exams, papers, and assignments, all of which can take a toll on the amount of sleep we get. However, it is important for us to remember there are many benefits of sleep, and we should try to get more sleep consistently.

Here are a few important reasons about why you should sleep more:

1. To Increase Memorization Abilities
Sleep directly helps with studying by increasing our ability to memorize information. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, our brains prepare for the next day and form new pathways to improve memory, all while we sleep. So, the next time you are debating between studying for an extra hour and getting an extra hour of sleep remember that it is actually beneficial to sleep. This is because that extra hour of sleep helps your brain rest and prep for the next day. And you will retain more information and most likely do better on your exam.

2. To Improve Physical Performance
Exercise is an important step for staying healthy, but have you ever considered how your sleeping habits affect your physical performance? If you want to perform your best during a workout or during a game, the key is to get enough sleep the night before. According to the Better Sleep Council, after several consecutive nights of good sleep, you will see an improvement in your physical performance. Therefore, it is definitely worthwhile to get a good night of sleep for the best results during a work out or game.

3. To Develop a Stronger Immunity System
Getting enough sleep can help boost your immunity. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy by defending your body from foreign and harmful substances. With regular sleep, immunity can be built up against various diseases. So keeping a consistent sleep schedule is highly recommended. A consistent amount of sleep also helps with preventing common colds. A recent study by National Center for Biotechnology concluded that those who got at least eight hours of sleep had a lower chance of catching the cold than those who got less than eight hours of sleep.

4. To Foster Creativity
Getting an adequate amount of sleep every night also helps with creativity. And this is important for college students because it comes in handy for writing papers, planning club events, or even problem solving. For instance, Rapid Eye Movement is a phase in your sleep cycle where your eyes move quickly in different directions. A researcher at the University of California San Diego’s School of Medicine found that the Rapid Eye Movement phase actually enhances creative problem solving abilities. So with adequate amounts of rest, your body can experience the Rapid Eye Movement phase while you sleep, and your creativity will be enhanced.

There are various benefits to getting a good night of sleep. Maintaining a regular schedule for sleeping is the best way to enhance these benefits of sleep. Regardless of your busy college schedule, getting a good eight hours of sleep every night is time well spent!

 

Sources

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

http://www.hhs.gov/blog/2014/12/29/why-sleep-important.html

https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19139325

http://ucsdnews.ucsd.edu/archive/newsrel/health/06-09Mednick.asp

http://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/healthy-sleep/physical-performance-sleep#1

Prebiotics and Probiotics: What’s the difference?

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Probiotics are widely known as “good” bacterial cultures that occur naturally in our gut to help us maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. However, the lesser known term, “prebiotics”, play an equally important role. Do you know the difference between prebiotics and probiotics?

Probiotics can be found in our bodies and outside in foods, and behave as regulators of our GI tract. On the other hand, prebiotics serve as food fuel in order for probiotics to do their job. As a more concrete definition, prebiotics are relatively indigestible carbohydrates that work in partner with probiotics. While we can obtain probiotics from foods such as yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut, prebiotics are predominately found in fibrous vegetables and grains. Wheats, oats, onions, and garlic are examples of prebiotic-containing foods.

When prebiotics and probiotics work together, they form what’s called a symbiotic relationship to fight back against potentially harmful microorganisms that might be inhibiting our immune and digestive systems. For many people, they specifically aid in the regulation of irritable bowel syndrome, lactose intolerance, and cold symptoms.

The effects seen from prebiotics and probiotics depend on how much of them you have. As noted before, while probiotics live in our gastrointestinal tract, we mainly obtain prebiotics through our food. By eating prebiotic rich foods, we are essentially supplementing and helping our bodies’ probiotics flourish. However, we still eat foods rich in probiotics; fermented foods like sauerkraut are a great example.

Not all probiotics and prebiotics serve the same purposes or to the same degree. For example, in the case of probiotics and yogurt, some brands may have certain live Lactobacillus cultures and not others, meaning you’re getting different probiotics depending on the type of culture used to create the yogurt.

Now that you understand the differences between probiotics and prebiotics, go out and enjoy a variety of foods in order experience the benefits that they yield. The key to achieving a well-regulated GI system is through a balanced diet.

Sources of information:

http://www.eatright.org/resource/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-the-dynamic-duo
http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/probiotics/faq-20058065
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705355/
https://nccih.nih.gov/health/probiotics/introduction.htm
http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/live-cultures/what-are-prebiotics/probiotics-and-prebiotics

Why College Students Need Yoga?

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By Anran Shao

Today, there are a variety of exercises for people to relax and keep healthy. Yoga is just one of them. Compared to exercises that are intended to build muscles and physical strength, yoga works in a different fashion that harmonizes the body, breath and mind. This kind of exercise is necessary for college students who sit in desks for a long time and feel stress as part of school life. Yoga is beneficial for many different reasons:

  1. Improve your flexibility

Improving your flexibility may be the most obvious benefit of yoga. Students may experience tight hamstrings or back pain as a result of sitting in desk chairs for so long. Stretching is an important weapon to combat this type of discomfort. In the first yoga course you enroll in, it maybe hard to do some postures at the beginning. However, the more you practice, the more you’ll notice a gradual loosening and seemingly impossible postures become possible. Improved flexibility benefits your entire workout regime through limber muscles and a stronger core!

  1. Alleviate stress

As college students, we have to endure lots of pressure from study, friends and society. Yoga is a fantastic way to reduce the stress by practicing poses and medicating regularly. As opposed to cardio exercises that increase your heart rate, yoga works to lower your stress levels by reducing your heart rate and easing your respiration when you are doing postures on the mats. Having the opportunity to just take things slow amongst your busy day can allow you a moment of inner peace and relaxation. Consistent yoga practice can reduce depression as well as anxiety and improve mood.

  1. Make us better students

Yoga can greatly improve concentration. Improved concentration is immensely important for our success in college—it allows us to have the ability to make the most of our education! For some poses, you must engage with the meaning of the pose and concentrate in order to hold balance. We can take those skills from  the mat and apply them to our attention in the lecture hall. Additionally, the breathing technique is also particularly helpful for aiding concentrating.

  1. Practice meditation

Some yoga practitioners used to meditate after doing yoga. Before meditating, you need to get the stress out of your physical body before you begin to work on your mind. Then, after the body is relaxed, you are more easily to sit still and relax your mind. Meditation takes only a few minutes. When you are busy and feel stressed or anxious for school life, you will be grateful to pause and enjoy refreshing few minutes of meditation each day after a stress-relieving yoga sesh.

The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body. The above points are only a few of yoga’s benefits; you are bound to find even more benefits when you try it out for yourself!

Source of information

http://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/yoga-for-anxiety-and depression

http://www.yogicwayoflife.com/yoga-asanas-are-not-mere-exercises/

http://www.osteopathic.org/osteopathic-health/about-your-health/health-conditions-library/general-health/Pages/yoga.aspx

 

Healthful Tips for the Holidays

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By Victoria Cojan

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … and do you know what that means? Lots of home-cooked holiday food! All those family gatherings and all the feasts that come along with them tend to make most people eat more than they want and leave them feeling stuffed, not satisfied. The holidays are meant for spending quality time with our loved ones, not for worrying about gaining weight. It can be extremely hard to eat healthy and not to over-indulge around the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid over-indulgence during the holidays:

  1. Don’t arrive on an empty stomach: It can be really tempting to skip meals so you can have more room for the feast, but that doesn’t help. Skipping meals or going on an empty stomach can cause you to overeat more than if you came with a slightly satisfied tummy. Coming slightly satisfied can help reduce that urge to eat a lot. Therefore, before arriving at the party have a snack or something light, such as fresh fruits, veggies, or a salad.
  2. Portion Control: There are two main ways to control your portions, the first is using a smaller plate and the second is getting smaller amounts of food on a regular sized plate. Having a small plate can give you the impression that you ate more than you actually did and makes your brain think you had enough. However, this may not be a realistic way to control your portion at a family dinner table. Generally, the hosts set the table in a showy and extravagant way so the plate you get will most likely be pretty big. In this case the better alternative would be to get a smaller portion of food. This allows you to control your intake while still enjoying all the different types of food available at the table. In addition, if you start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad first, it can help you eat fewer calories overall.
  3. Bring your own healthy dish to the gathering: If you know that there won’t be many healthy options that you enjoy, bring something from home. This will provide you with a good menu option, and will also make the host happier for the extra help.
  4. Eat slowly: Take your time and enjoy every bite you take. It takes a few minutes for your brain to realize that you are full so by eating at a slower pace, you will be less likely to eat more than needed. An easy way to naturally slow down your eating is to be involved in the conversation. If you are using your mouth to talk instead of to eat, then you will eat at a slower pace without even realizing.
  5. Leave the table when you are done eating: By staying at the table after you are done eating, you may be tempted to consume more even if you are no longer hungry. Therefore, staying long enough to enjoy the meal, but leaving the table right after can help remove more of the temptations to over-indulge. If you are worried that it would be rude to leave the table, you can try to offer to help clean up the table or do the dishes. This way you can still stick around with your loved ones in the kitchen, and even help remove the temptation from the others at the table to eat more food.

The holidays are a time for celebration and joy, they are about much more than just the big feasts. These tips can help you prevent over-indulgence. However, don’t forget to enjoy the holidays, and not to stop yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday foods. In the long run, it will be worth it. Plus, these special times only come once a year so enjoy them. Happy Holidays!