Coffee: Healthy or Harmful?

Starbucks. Jobot. Cartel Coffee Lab. Lux. Fair Trade Cafe. One Coffee Co. They’re all downtown coffee shops that a sizable amount of the community frequents regularly. But are we really drinking to our health?

Choose your coffee wisely!

Choose your coffee wisely!

I’m sure you’ve heard arguments that promote and demote the regular consumption of coffee. The question is, which argument is most convincing?

As a regular coffee drinker downtown, I think it’s essential to really understand how to drink coffee in a healthy way — if that’s even possible. Don’t worry, you’ll know by the end of this post.

According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking coffee can help reduce the risk of many illnesses, including but not limited to Parkinson’s disease, liver disease, Type 2 diabetes, liver cancer and even depression.

Harvard’s School of Public Health reports that coffee really doesn’t have any detrimental effects on health, and for people who don’t have high blood pressure or high blood sugar, coffee could actually be a healthy drink option.

But hold on! One thing you must keep in mind when reading the statistics behind how coffee is healthy for you is that when the researcher mentions “coffee,” oftentimes it’s black coffee with no milk and no sugar. Let’s be honest, now, how many of us really drink our daily coffee like this?

Probably not the majority of us.

On the flip side, the Mayo Clinic also reports that drinking high volumes of “unfiltered” coffee (boiled or espresso) can increase unhealthy levels of cholesterol and ultimately induce heart disease.

After referring to the Harvard School of Public Health’s analysis on coffee, it’s apparent that whether your coffee intake is healthy is highly dependent on the individual. Some people can drink six cups of coffee and be just fine. Others might do the same and begin to feel jittery or uneasy. It’s a highly variable substance, because everyone reacts differently to caffeine based on their medical history.

So as you can see, in order to drink coffee the “healthy” way, you have to walk a thin line. But don’t worry — this line isn’t as thin as you think.

Honestly, the most unhealthy way you can drink coffee is to get a drink filled with tons of syrup and fattening milk. Yes, once in a while, splurge! But on your daily grind, try to order a house coffee blend with nonfat milk and a moderate amount of sugar.

Not only will you be doing your heart and liver a favor, you’ll be doing your waistline a favor too.

Read more about what the Mayo Clinic has to say about coffee consumption here.

Read more about what Harvard’s School of Public Health has to say here.

Stay healthy, my friends! Cheers to healthy coffee consumption!

How to Stay Moderately Healthy this Thanksgivukkah

A week from today, we will experience something extremely rare — the intersection of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah!

Budget your calorie intake this Thanksgiving!

Budget your calorie intake this Thanksgiving!

So how are you celebrating this holiday anomaly?

Whether you’re having a romantic, candlelit Thanksgiving for two or you’re enjoying the company of your jubilant extended family, one thing’s for sure — this Thanksgiving has to be celebrated on epic proportions.

And no, I don’t mean pig out. This Thanksgiving, I challenge you to control your portions and eat smartly.

This doesn’t mean miss out on your holiday favorites! It just means that you’ll make a few adjustments that shouldn’t affect your overall Thanksgivukkah experience.

Follow these eight steps for a healthier Thanksgivukkah celebration:

  1. Practice portion control: Even though Thanksgiving only comes around once a year, and you might have this raging urge to just eat and eat and eat some more, don’t. Take a little bit of everything at the Thanksgiving buffet, and eat with moderation.
  2. Use low-calorie substitutes: If you’re making any sort of sweet delight this Thanksgiving, cut back on a lot of calories by using a sugar substitute or honey! Any way you can cut back is beneficial to your health, even if it’s as simple as a sugar substitute.
  3. Eat a meal early: Most people think that if they starve themselves all day and “save” up for the big Thanksgiving meal, they will somehow be budgeting calories in an efficient way. This couldn’t be more false! Make sure to eat a meal before the huge feast. That way, you won’t binge later. High-fiber meals in the morning are highly recommended.
  4. Avoid eating seconds: Yes, I know this one may be hard, but try your hardest! Even though everything is going to taste so good, you don’t need more than one serving in one sitting.
  5. Go for the veggie options: Be sure to eat your veggies! Whether they’re boiled, steamed, baked or fresh, eating veggies as part of your Thanksgiving meal will only make your diet that much more balanced.
  6. Try to stick to water as your primary drink: Thanksgiving is one of the many holidays with delicious drinks everywhere, and whether it’s an aged wine or a nice glass of sparkling apple cider, be careful not to drink too many calorie-filled drinks. In fact, if you can stick to water as your main drink, you will be even healthier in the long run. Think of this as calorie budgeting.
  7. Savor your food: Really take your time when chewing. Research has shown that when you chew slower, your digestive processes work better. So be sure to slow down and really enjoy what you’re eating.
  8. Stay away from turkey skin: Turkey skin is a huge no-no! While it may taste delicious to some, it is extremely high in fat. Instead, you should eat the white meat of the turkey.

Ultimately, it’s about sacrificing a little in order to be your healthiest this Thanksgiving. Making a few of these small changes will benefit you immensely! So try them. Give them a shot and notice how much better you’ll feel.

Well folks, now you know how to have a healthy, happy Thanksgivukkah! Follow these eight steps and you won’t feel bad when you’re trying on that new pair of jeans on Black Friday!

Happy Thanksgivukkah – make the most of this special time!

Healthy Ways to Snack When You’re Always on the Run

When life is a whirlwind of academics, jobs, relationships, gym memberships and other commitments reaching top speeds and giving you few to no breaks, it can become very difficult to make healthy choices.

Avoid these at all costs!

Avoid these at all costs!

Oftentimes, this is where bad eating habits develop, simply because with everything else going on in your life, eating just isn’t a priority. It becomes more of a chore, especially on weekdays when going out with your friends might not be an option.

This is where many of us fall victim to unhealthy but oh-so-enticing snacking. We get so caught up in our daily routine that a bag of Cheetos or quick soda is simply a means to an end.

But it has to stop. Our bodies deserve better fueling, and it’s up to us to make that happen! So, instead of grabbing a few Oreos on the way out, grab a granola bar!

Invest in your health by choosing snacks off the following list. They’re quick, satisfying and healthy.

Granola bars: Full of fiber and with a little kick of sugar, granola bars can keep you going for hours. I highly recommend Fiber One bars – they make a great in-between snack or quick breakfast.

Carrots: You’d be surprised how full you can get by eating carrots with any sort of dip or just plain. They are a great on-the-go snack! Just pack a few in a baggie and you’ll be good until your next meal.

Almonds: Almonds are fantastic. They help keep you filled up and they are also a very good filler between meals. They also have a lot of folic acid in them and help promote digestion.

Grapefruit: Grapefruit is known to help you manage appetite and lower insulin levels, making it an ideal diet snack. Sprinkle a little brown sugar on your grapefruit and enjoy!

Avocado: Also known as a “super food,” avocado benefits your health in countless ways. Whether you make a quick dip or just eat it plain, avocado is one of the best veggies you can eat when you’re in a bind.

Yogurt: Full of probiotics and fiber, yogurt is a very good on-the-go snack. Top your yogurt with granola or fresh fruit and you should be full for a couple hours at least.

Kale chips: We all get urges to eat junk food. Outsmart your urge to munch on something crunchy by eating kale chips! Top them with a little sea salt, and you will satisfy your chip craving and maintain your health.

Hard-boiled eggs: With only 70 calories, hard-boiled eggs are a great option. They are protein-rich and promote eye health.

Milk: Believe it or not, milk fills you up. It’s a good source of protein and Vitamin D. It can also be a really good post-workout drink.

Whole-wheat cereal: Cereal is one of the best snacks you can eat between meals, as long as it’s whole-wheat and low in sugar content.

Smoothies: Sometimes, all you need is a properly blended smoothie to hold you over until your next meal. Blend up some kale, blueberries and almond milk on your way out!

The list goes on and on; these are just a few healthy options that can change the way you snack forever.

But you have to make the first step. Don’t be lazy and grab the first packaged thing that comes within your reach!

Putting an extra five minutes into making a nutritious snack is definitely worth it in the long run. Do yourself a favor and put more time and thought into your daily snacking.

Stay healthy, my friends!

How to Combat Allergy Symptoms without Medication

Allergies are never a convenient addition to your daily activities. Especially not now, when school and work are picking up right before the holiday season arrives! Severe allergies sometimes force us to resort to various drugs and steroids to suppress annoying sniffles, coughs, sneezes and more.

Go natural!

Go natural!

However, it doesn’t always have to be like this.

There are other ways to treat your allergy symptoms without getting loaded up on prescription drugs. And no — these aren’t just old wives’ tales! They are legitimate ways to treat your allergy symptoms without the harsh chemicals found in prescription drugs.

  1. Probiotics: The probiotics found in yogurt and other dairy products are beneficial to your body in more than one way. Not only do they strengthen your immune system against foreign invaders, they also help regulate digestive processes.
  2. Cardamom: Despite its bitter taste, it’s a keeper! Cardamom has been used over the centuries to clear sinuses, and boy, does it work. Grinding up some cardamom and tossing it on top of your tea is sure to clear up a stuffy nose and prevent future congestion.
  3. Honey: Buy local honey! Local honey arms your immune system with the tools it needs to combat allergens that are around you. It’s one of the few ways to prevent allergies as a whole. It’s definitely worth buying!
  4. Herbal teas: Nothing soothes a throat sore from coughing and nasal drip quite like a hot, steamy cup of herbal tea. Green tea, black tea, red tea — you name it! Herbal teas are full of antioxidants and will calm your allergy symptoms within seconds upon consumption.
  5. Cherry juice: Quirky, I know! But it’s true. Cherry juice has actually been shown to decrease allergy symptoms because it is so tart. Much like cardamom, cherry juice opens sinuses and clears your throat, making breathing much easier.
  6. Assorted nuts: A mixture of a variety of nuts has shown to strengthen the body’s reaction to allergens. Aside from being filled with lots of beneficial proteins and fiber, nuts can really help prevent certain allergy symptoms.

Well, there you have it! Avoid going to the pharmacy this winter unless you’ve tried these six options. Unless you’re at risk for pneumonia or bronchitis because of worsening allergy symptoms, these home remedies should help you through the rough patches you may experience this winter!

Make sure you’re ready for the holiday season by frequenting the six options above! Even if you don’t have allergy symptoms, these six options will fortify your immune system and prevent any pathogen from ruining your plans!

Stay healthy, my friends!

10 Ways to Stay Healthy this Halloween

It’s almost Halloween! Have you thought about how you’re going to keep those candy corn calories off?

Make moderation key this Halloween.

Make moderation key this Halloween.

If not, you need to follow these 10 steps so you can successfully stay healthy this Halloween!

Every Halloween, thousands upon thousands of people fall prey to synthetic fillers and high-fructose corn syrup as they enjoy their Halloween candy. They fail to realize how much damage certain Halloween candies can do!

Don’t let Halloween hijack your fitness progress or make future fitness goals even harder to achieve. Follow these 10 steps, and you’ll be golden.

10 Ways to Stay Healthy this Halloween:

  1. Eat three distinct meals. Eating distinct meals, especially dinner before trick-or-treating or attending a party, will help you refrain from binge-eating items that have less nutritional value than a balanced meal.
  2. Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated will not only help you stay alert this Halloween, but it will also fill you up to an extent.
  3. Provide healthier treats if distributing snacks to the trick-or-treaters. They say it takes a village to raise a child — they’re not lying! It starts with you.
  4. If you’re throwing a party, have a few veggie trays as snacking options. You’ll be surprised how far munching on veggies instead of chips or other salt-filled munchies  will take you.
  5. Serve low-calorie drinks at Halloween parties. Everyone knows there will be drinks at a Halloween party. Do yourself a favor and indulge in lower-calorie options — and drink with moderation.
  6. If you’re going to eat a chocolate Halloween treat, eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate.  Dark chocolate is actually full of antioxidants, unlike its lighter counterpart.
  7. Buy Halloween candy at the last minute. That way, you aren’t tempted to eat it before distributing it that night. It’s also cheaper when bought closer to Halloween.
  8. If you’re trick-or-treating, take the long route around the neighborhood to get in a few extra strides and ultimately more exercise for a healthy heart and fit body.
  9. Set boundaries as to how many candies you or your loved ones can eat a day. Fun-size candy is always a good option!
  10. Never, ever fill up a whole pillowcase with candy. That’s just asking for trouble.

With these 10 steps in mind, you’re sure to have an amazing Halloween your body won’t regret partaking in!

Get out there, be active, make good choices and have a great Halloween!

Kale Nutrition: Fact or Fiction?

Kale, anyone?

So what’s the big deal about kale? You’ve probably heard about the numerous diets that incorporate kale as a main contender in the realm of “healthy” vegetables. But what, exactly, makes kale healthy?

Let your immune system indulge.

Let your immune system indulge.

The truth is, kale has too many benefits to list. Kale is probably one of the best vegetables you can eat, despite its indistinct taste.

Firstly, kale has a lot of nutrition benefits for your daily health!

For one thing, one cup of kale contains about 20 percent of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber. In this way, it’s an ideal diet component. So, if you’re trying to shed a few pounds, throw some kale into a smoothie – it takes on almost any flavor!

One cup of kale also provides 1,327 percent of the RDA of vitamin K, making it one of the best options for bone health and nervous-system maintenance. It also provides 192 percent RDA of vitamin A and 88 percent of vitamin C. Vitamin A is vital to reproductive organs, and vitamin C protects against eye disease.

And secondly, kale also has long-term preventative health effects!

Kale is considered to have one of the highest amounts of carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants amongst vegetables, making it a star defender against cancer. These antioxidants fortify your cells against free radicals that upset the balance in your body.

It’s also known to work with your liver bile to lower cholesterol. So, if cardiovascular disease is in your family history, regularly eating kale can help prevent against heart attacks.

So now that you know kale is, indeed, quite nutritious, you’re probably wondering where you can get kale if you live downtown and how exactly to incorporate it into your diet.

Phoenix Public Market’s featured open-air market is a great option for downtown residents looking to buy kale. They generally have a wide variety of vegetables that come straight from local farms at an affordable price! Other options at a comparable price to the farmer’s market are any of the other main grocery stores around central Phoenix.

But how can you eat kale? Here are some cool recipes:

The Coconut Twist Smoothie – Combine kale with coconut milk, chopped pineapple and a banana. It’s divine.

The Minty Blue Smoothie – Combine kale with blueberries, cashews, pitted dates and mint. Reach new heights.

Kale salad – Slice kale, red pepper, onion and cranberries with a raspberry dressing. If you’re feeling adventurous, toss on some feta cheese! It makes for an interesting addition.

Kale chips – Chop kale into pieces, sprinkle olive oil a touch of sea salt on top and throw this masterpiece into the oven. It does the trick every time.

As you can see, kale is quite the vegetable. Not only does it promote the health of some of the most important body functions, including the cardiovascular, reproductive and vascular systems, it also boosts your metabolism and protects against cancer! It really is the one-stop shop vegetable. While I’m not a big vegetable person myself, I make it a point to drink that kale smoothie or munch on those kale chips. It’s an investment in my health and, ultimately, my future! I urge all downtown Phoenix residents to do the same.

Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen

It’s that time of year again. Students from all over the country are starting one of the most exciting, transformative and memorable times of their lives — college!

To drink? Or not, to drink? With so many delectable options- the decision is a tough one.

To drink? Or not to drink? With so many delectable options, the decision is a tough one.

By the end of their high school senior year, most people are ready for the dramatic change that awaits them in the fall. But are they really, truly prepared for it?

The truth is, most people aren’t. Most people underestimate how much of a lifestyle adjustment they have to make to successfully get used to college life.

So what are these changes that are so vital to consider when starting college? While academic and social changes are important to consider, health needs just as much attention, if not more.

What sort of image is painted in your mind when you hear the dreaded words “freshman fifteen”?

Do you see the prom queen slowly descending from her glory days after each subsequent shot taken at a party, the mixture of tequila, salt and lime slowly contributing to the muffin top she’ll have in December?

Do you see the valedictorian chugging coffee and scarfing down a lemon loaf while feverishly studying for that first chemistry exam, food calories being of the least importance when compared to memorizing how many calories are required to raise the temperature of 25 grams of water from zero degrees Celsius to 100?

The point is, we picture different things when it comes to the freshman fifteen, and we should, because there are an infinite amount of scenarios that can result in the freshman fifteen.

So booze? A major source of the freshman fifteen is alcohol abuse, and rightfully so, because most people are so enamored by the elusive “college party” experience. If you are going to drink, do yourself a favor and drink with moderation! You and your midsection will thank me later.

Free and unlimited food! There is free food everywhere. With the enticing free food at college events and a meal plan that satisfies your every need (unless you’re at Taylor Place … shhh), you’re bound to pack on few pounds if you don’t control yourself.

Sleep? Huh? If one thing is guaranteed to change in college, it’s your sleeping habits. College is literally a year-long slumber party with academics conveniently built in. While this may seem amazing (and it is), it’s a huge detriment to your metabolism. With less sleep, the metabolic breakdown processes in your body are affected and could sharply increase the number you read on the scale.

Shoot, I can’t eat like I used to! There comes a point somewhere in our late adolescence that marks the horrid change in our metabolisms. As we mature, metabolisms slow, even if food intake doesn’t change. So, essentially, if you don’t monitor the changes in your metabolism and adjust eating habits accordingly, the freshman fifteen could be heading your way.

With all the changes you will encounter your freshman year, it’s vital to remember this key piece of information: if you don’t work out and/or eat moderately healthily, you will gain weight. It might not be 15 pounds, but some weight gain will happen.

So, make good choices! But really — work out, control your drinking habits and eat a salad rather than a burger when you use your next meal plan.

Spring Break Slump

Spring Break is the Wednesday of the second semester. Our tans (and sunburns) from Cabo and Vegas are still shining brightly and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. For some it’s the beacon of graduation; for others it’s the end of the first year of being thrust into the new college life. For everyone though, there are still a lot of classes to attend, homework to be accomplished and hopefully workouts before we get there.

Photo via collegelifestyles.org

Don’t fall into the Spring Break Slump. Remember what you’re working toward: the start of summer and a body you’re proud to show off. Now is the time to try something new: Take a new class at the Y, try out a new gym and see how far you can push your body to achieve something great. Set three main goals and focus on your exercise and eating habits. To see any kind of result in weight loss or toning, both must be a part of your plan.

Here are my top three goals to accomplish for the remainder of the semester:

1. Try out a new form of exercise — I have decided to try cross fit at Core Crossfit. I’m a sucker for attempting anything that has a little hype around it, and I love to put myself out of my comfort zone to see what happens. Also, I miss the aspect of having a coach like I did in my high school sports, so it’ll be interesting to see how that will go over. I’m hoping to gain strength, power and speed that will translate into my running.

Photo via crossfitrecoil.blogspot.com

2. Make Sunday a meal-prep day — As a senior, I don’t even want to think about the amount of macaroni and cheese packages I have gone through during my entire college career. Truth be told, I have tried almost every brand and type out there and I’m well aware of the lack of nutrients each cheesy, delicious box contains. I need to break my lazy habit of popping a little cup into the microwave and actually create a well balanced meal I can take on the go. Now that I’ve gathered enough inspiration on Pinterest, I just need to get my eating habits back into shape.

Photo via Pinterest.com

3. Cut back on Happy Hour — Now I’m sure that not everyone is of age to drink, but for those who are, this is a key health goal to focus on. My dear friend Jillian Michaels has a strict “Two drinks per week rule” and I’m going to adhere to it. Alcohol is packed with sugar and unnecessary calories, and neither is something I need more of. I think everyone can use a little cut back from time to time, especially after a full week of Spring Break. Therefore, I’m substituting happy hour drinks with a happy hour workout.

Photo via theluxuryspot.com

Now it’s time for you to come up with three ways to break out of the Spring Break Slump. What are your top health goals, Devils?