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!

A Farmers Market: The Ultimate Organic Pharmacy

When I think about farmers markets, I envision the bustling, happy experience I had when I was in small-town Washington.

Flowers from farmer's markets are among the best...just look at these peonies!

Flowers from farmers markets are among the best… just look at these peonies!

Orange leaves were scattered across the semipaved dirt ground as families went from table to table buying anything from arugula to artwork. Boy, was it a surreal experience.

I relive this pleasant experience every time I’m at farmers markets around the downtown Phoenix area.

I see the same vision, only with slight modifications. I see the vibrant downtown community composed of ASU students, young professionals and families engrossed in the urban lifestyle, all intermingling in the name of consumerism — but there’s something different about this consumerism.

Investing in items from farmers markets is very different from investing in items from your average grocery store. Not only do you buy veggies and other organic products that are naturally grown without the perils of preservatives, you also nurture your community and your neighbors by supporting them financially.

In the downtown Phoenix area, the Phoenix Public Market provides the most accessible farmers market for students and has quite a few key items that could enhance your health greatly.

Here’s a list of healthy items you can find at the Phoenix Public Market farmers market:

  1.  Free-Range Eggs: Eggs produced from chickens that are allowed to roam have less fat and cholesterol than the average egg and also provide extra vitamin A, vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids.
  2. Local Honey: Honey produced from bees in your local area contains pollen specific to your area of residence, providing increased defense against seasonal allergens that could hijack your winter experience. Downtown Devil’s HERBan Explorer even did a feature on local honey you can find at the Public Market farmers market.
  3. Organic Produce: Studies have shown that organic fruits and vegetables contain more vitamin C, trace minerals and antioxidants than the average spread of produce. Also, less pesticides are used on these vegetables.
  4. Organic Dairy: Organic dairy is known to contain higher levels of vitamin E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants and beneficial fats.

While investing in items from the farmers market can be slightly more expensive at times, it’s definitely worth it when it comes to the health benefits they provide. The most profound benefit you can reap from products produced and grown locally is the significant lack of extra chemicals and preservatives masking the produce in the grocery stores.

So get out there! Go to the local farmers markets around the Phoenix area. The Phoenix Public Market is a great place to start due to vicinity. But, definitely branch out! There’s much to be experienced at farmers markets, and they truly are an organic alternative to some of your pharmaceutical needs.

Fall is Here!

All over the country, leaves are turning from green to orange, temperatures are dropping, boots are rocking the runway, the flu shot is available everywhere and the holiday season is upon us. Fall is here!

If you think morning runs are limited to open skies, you're wrong. Run next to skyscrapers and get on a whole new level.

If you think morning runs are limited to open skies, you’re wrong. Run next to skyscrapers and get on a whole new level.

What are you doing to gear up for fall? The activities you can do downtown now that it isn’t a scorching 105 degrees outside are infinite. Go outside! Explore your options!

Here are some ideas of ways to stay active and explore this fall:

  • Healthy Picnic in Civic Space Park: Here’s an idea — actually go to Civic Space Park with your gym buddies, and chow down on some healthy sandwiches and fresh veggies after that morning workout. I mean, what’s there to lose?
  • Morning Run Around Downtown: Instead of painstakingly forcing yourself out of bed and onto an elliptical somewhere, put on those running shoes and trek around downtown Phoenix before 8 a.m. You won’t regret it.
  • Phoenix Public Market: Walk to get your groceries! Go to the Phoenix Public Market instead of driving to your local grocery store. The walk to and from the market will do you good, and you’ll have locally grown, healthy food in your pantry.
  • First Fridays: No longer does makeup have to run on the first Friday of the month. It’s officially fall, and the sweat glands that ruin your makeup job are inactive upon stepping outside of air conditioning! Take advantage of the exercise you can get from all the walking around while you’re not collapsing onto the sidewalk from the heat.
  • Shopping: When I go to the mall, the two places I spend the most time at are Urban Outfitters and Charming Charlie. So if you’re like me, don’t drive to some crowded mall! Walk to CityScape, shop ‘till you drop, and walk back to your abode. You’ll get cute clothes and you’ll feel even cuter in them with the added bit of exercise. Also, use those walking shoes to explore a few local shops downtown, like some of the vintage stores recently featured in Downtown Devil’s A Tailored Place.

Seriously though, now that it has cooled off, you have no excuse! Staying active and healthy is so much easier. Going to an indoor gym is no longer your only way to work out. Switch it up. Go for a long bike ride, walk to breakfast with a friend or do my favorite and go for that early morning run with the skyscrapers towering over you. Take advantage of this cool weather before the heat is upon us again!

Power Salads: a punch of energy and nutrition

During this last month of school, stress levels begin to rise, I feel the hours of the day slip through my fingers, and the cries from my stomach go unanswered. Many days I just feel like I don’t have enough time. Other days because I’m just too lazy to make myself a healthy lunch so I eat out … again. With work, school, homework, projects and a million other things we students have going on, it’s hard to find the time and energy to eat something healthy.

I’ve been looking for an answer to this eternal lunch/snack problem. I think I finally found my answer, and hopefully yours — power salads. They are easy-to-make fast snacks, and are perfect for on-the-go days.

Image via wholeliving.com

Thanks to Pinterest I was introduced to power salads. These salads are no new concept. They have been around and will always be. However, finding a couple of these recipes has been a lifesaver.

Usually when people say they’re having a salad for lunch, everyone assumes it’s a healthy choice, but with the amount dressing or the choice of vegetables (or lack thereof) salads can be a sneaky unhealthy dish. So first, the basics. How is a power salad different from a regular salad?

Power salads include one to two cups of leaves (lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, etc.), plenty, plenty of different vegetables (think big splashes of color) and a good source of lean protein like chicken, ham, turkey, fish or beans. You can also include a small source of starch like croutons, pasta or even potatoes. For dressing, keep it on the lighter side using lime juice or olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Salads are easy to make, can be prepared in advanced and easy to take with you on the go! I’m seriously in love with these awesome recipes.

Here are a few recipes I particularly love from WholeLiving.com. I’ve changed and adapted some of these recipes to fit my budget and preferences.

1. Caesar Salad
Not your typical Caesar salad! Instead of anchovies, I add canned tuna.

2. Egg and Nut Salad
I choose to take out the firsee (a type of leaf) from this recipe.

Image via WholeLiving.com

Image via WholeLiving.com

3. Waldorf Revisited
I just swap out the ranch dressing for something lighter, like a splash of lime juice.

4. Chicken and Grape Salad
A delicious salad with grapes, almonds and avocados. I love the different flavors, the sweetness and the crunch. You have to try this!

5. The New Nicoise Salad
I know the name sounds flashy but this recipe is great, lean and delicious! I swap out the arugula for romaine lettuce and take out the olives.

Like I said, these salads have been a lifesaver. I prepare them the night before or early in the morning. Most, if not all, of the ingredients are conveniently easy to find and even easier to make.

These power salads offer a great solution during these last weeks of school when the workload picks up and the days seem to get shorter.

Eat up and stay healthy, Devils!

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?