Categories
Tea Mind & Body Nutrition

GABA Oolong Tea for Health

Originating in Japan and introduced in the late 1980s, GABA oolong is a type of oolong tea containing high levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)—an amino acid that naturally occurs in the human body and acts as a neurotransmitter. Typically, oolong and green teas tend to have higher levels of this amino acid compared to other teas.

Gamma-aminobutyric acid is naturally produced in the human brain and is also present in many foods containing glutamic acid, including seafood, beans, lentils, sprouted whole grains, and berries. To better synthesize GABA, one may need to increase consumption of foods containing vitamin B6 to further stimulate the production of GABA in the brain. The lack of this amino acid in humans has been shown to be responsible for many mood and sleep disorders.

Research has correlated the consumption of GABA tea with a decrease in high blood pressure. Due to its inhibitory function, it causes the muscles lining the blood vessels to relax, aiding normal blood flow.

Japanese researchers in the 1980s discovered a special tea-processing technique that results in an increase in this amino acid in tea, transforming it into a powerful health tea. By placing the unfinished tea leaves in a sealed chamber devoid of oxygen and pumping in nitrogen to displace any oxygenated air, they created a fermentation process that synthesized the glutamate in the tea leaves into GABA. They also discovered that shading the tea plants for up to two weeks before harvest causes increased levels of GABA.

Flavor and Caffeine Levels

The oxidation level of tea has a great influence on its flavor, and depends on the elevation at which it was grown; the higher the elevation, the lower the oxidation level. High-oxidized teas display darker, richer colors and deeper flavors, whereas lightly oxidized varieties have a more fragrant, smooth, and fruity flavor with a sweet aroma.

GABA oolong has a medium amount of caffeine.

Research on the Health Benefits of GABA Oolong

For the tea to be fully classified as GABA, it must contain a minimum of 150 milligrams of GABA in every 100 grams of dry leaf tea. Research has demonstrated that when brewed, regular oolong tea contains only 0.25 milligram of GABA per 200 milliliters of tea, while the level of GABA-enriched oolong is around 2 milligrams per 200 milliliters. Oolong tea has proven to be beneficial for health as it contains high levels of antioxidants. One study has even shown that, compared to many black, white, and even green teas, oolong tea displayed stronger levels of antioxidant capacity—suggesting it is a top beverage for health and well-being. GABA tea is reported to be a great natural alternative to some pharmaceutical drugs, as it has no addictive properties nor side effects when consumed in moderation.

Lowers Stress and Anxiety

An Australian study conducted in 2019 established the relationship between GABA-enriched tea consumption on stress and heart rate variability (the difference in time between each heartbeat). Stressed individuals typically display an increased level of heart rate variability. Chronically stressed people are more prone to developing cardiovascular illnesses; therefore, it is important for these individuals to minimize their stress levels. The study found that participants displayed a significant decrease in their immediate stress scores and a significant improvement in their heart rate variability levels upon drinking a cup of GABA oolong tea. The results highlight the complex interactions of the nervous system in mood regulation.

Improves Sleep and Mood Disorders

The notable health benefits of GABA oolong include improved sleep in individuals suffering from sleep-related disorders like insomnia. This is largely attributed to the calming effects of GABA, which acts as a natural sedative without any addictive properties. Humans naturally produce GABA in their brains, but it has been suggested that individuals with sleep, depression, and anxiety disorders may have lower levels of GABA, causing sleeplessness and mood-related problems. The amino acid GABA functions as an inhibitor in the brain and, when mixed with L-theanine (found in all tea), it helps to encourage relaxation and improve sleep quality.

Another reported health benefit is enhanced mental focus and concentration. Many Japanese children even drink GABA tea before school to stimulate mental alertness in class.

Drink in Moderation

Researchers recommend it is safe to drink 10 to 20 milligrams of GABA from tea, equivalent to four to eight cups of brewed GABA tea. This is best done in the evenings to help with sleep or mood disorders. The amino acids in the tea are highly soluble so steep time is usually very short—two minutes at most. As with anything, it is important to consume GABA tea in moderation as too much of it may cause nausea, digestive upset, and breathing difficulties.

Today, GABA tea can be found in most specialty tea stores, with Taiwan and Japan being the most common exporters of this tea.

Meditating and Keeping a Healthy Mind

Another way to naturally increase GABA levels in the brain is through practicing meditation and mindfulness. Just as consuming a healthy diet is important for the body, taking care of the mind is a powerful way to deter stress and anxiety.

 

Categories
Habits Mind & Body Nutrition

Comfort Food and Real Joy

The holidays can pack on the calories, and sometimes the resulting pounds stay with us the rest of the year. This season, give yourself and your loved ones the gift of improved health through empowering new habits. The value of this gift is immeasurable.

One of the ways to give this gift is through sharing the joy of walking, or some other form of mild exertion. Moderate exercise on a weekly basis can add four years or more to your life. There are endless ways to get this exercise, from shoveling snow to walking the dog. You can also build bits of micro-exercise into your day by parking at the far end of the lot when you go to the mall or taking the stairs at every opportunity. Share this habit with those around you and feel better each time you do.

Another way to give yourself this gift is to dial back on the refined carbohydrates. Sugar and refined grains spike your blood sugar and can take a toll on your mood and energy levels, all while adding inches to your waistline.

Your body is a dual fuel system. It can burn fat or sugar, including carbohydrates, and it’s good to switch it up. Most people run their body on sugar the vast majority of the time, thanks to the ingredients in processed foods, whether those are crackers or cheeseburgers. Even though these foods have plenty of fat as well, it’s the wrong kind of fat, and doesn’t get properly burned when all those sugars are present.

Changing from a sugar-burning metabolism to more of a fat-burning metabolism does what we want to do most when it comes to body composition: it burns off our fat. Reducing the carbohydrate load decreases the amount of the hormone, insulin, that you produce. Keeping insulin levels low also allows your metabolism to kick into a fat-burning state.

You’ll experience fewer food cravings as you reduce the amount of high glycemic carbohydrates and grains in your nutrition plan—and your mood and energy level will become healthier and more stable. Friends and family will appreciate the change—even better if they join you in this effort. Just tell them that “your energy will increase as you clean up the fuel you put in your tank.”

But make sure you eat healthy fats. And be aware that fat is calorie dense. The Mediterranean diet is considered to be one of the healthiest in the world, thanks to lean proteins, like fish, and healthy fat from olive oil.

This sugar-fat swap will also help you sleep better. Eating sugarplums is not recommended but dreaming about them is OK. Recent studies show that sleep plays an important role in our immune response and metabolic balance, as well as in such critical mental functions as attentiveness, learning, memory, and emotional equilibrium.

All these benefits, and more, are available to you with just a few simple changes. Let’s look closer at the most important healthcare decision we make every day—what’s at the end of our fork.

Is Food Your Comfort and Joy?

The best way to make healthy changes in what we eat is not to count calories or obsess over the scale: it’s to examine our relationship with food.

Does food make you feel good? Does it give you joy? If someone were to eliminate “guilty pleasure” foods, would you get angry? If any of these answers is “yes,” you may have an improper relationship with food. It’s one thing to enjoy your food; we all do that. It’s another to seek joy through food. If you do that, it’s called emotional eating, and this driver of disease runs rampant during the holidays.

Making healthy changes requires honesty about what we eat and why we eat it. If we don’t address the root causes of over-indulging, a continual cycle of failure, declining health, and weight gain will result. But there’s good news: being aware of why you eat makes it easier to make better choices. Making better choices, meanwhile, will help you and your family enjoy the holidays even more. Share this effort, and you can jump start the new year with a new approach to eating.

7 Ways to Enjoy Healthier Holidays

1. Eliminate SAD Foods

“SAD” stands for the Standard American Diet. Get rid of the boxed or otherwise packaged processed foods that cause weight gain and blood sugar chaos. Here is a list of foods you should eliminate from your fridge, pantry, and table.

  • Sweet beverages (designer coffees, energy drinks, flavored milks, sweetened teas, soft drinks, and “fruit” drinks)
  • Processed meat (breakfast sausage patties, frozen meals, bologna, ham, hot dogs, jerky, pepperoni, salami)
  • Processed foods (granola bars, potato chips, frozen meals, snack products, cheap salad dressings)
  • Sweets (candy, cake, chocolate syrup, cookies, donuts, ice cream, pie, and you know the rest)

A quick point on sweets: They have no nutritional benefit. They are nutrient void and cause an immense release of insulin. Insulin and vitamin C compete for the receptor sites on the immune cells. High insulin levels dampen the immune system.

2. Prepare Your Own Meals

When you eat out, you are usually eating processed food. Restaurants, especially chains and fast-food restaurants, use pre-prepared ingredients that include heavy processing and food additives. A far better option is to make your own food. Not only can you make delicious meals that support your health and immune system, preparing them with friends and family makes holiday memories. A free recipe guide is available at Sherwood.tv/holiday

3. Take Your Brain for a Walk

Exercise is good for the brain, body, and soul. We recommend a variety of exercises to our patients, but for the holidays, we have one simple prescription: Take a walk, twice daily, preferably after eating.

Exercise helps move glucose out of the blood and into the cells and reduces the “food coma” often experienced after a big meal. Vigorous movement also stimulates chemicals that help the brain function better.

You might not feel like getting outside, but once you get in the fresh air, the reward will be obvious. Pajamas are acceptable attire on holiday walks.

4. Water Yourself

Drink pure water, or drinks that are mostly water, like herbal tea, diluted fruit juice, or sparkling water with lemon, throughout the day. Your body is 60-65 percent water and being even a quart low will increase your fatigue. Rehydrate and resuscitate all the cells in your body. Water also fills your tummy and reduces the temptation to swipe a cookie.

Avoid, or greatly reduce, all foods and beverages that contain caffeine, because caffeine pulls nutrients out of your body, and can worsen anxiety. If you can’t completely cut out the caffeine, at least make sure you are getting something for your sacrifice. Green tea offers some nutritional recompense for the caffeine cost.

Also, reduce or avoid alcohol, because metabolizing alcohol requires essential nutrients that your body would prefer to use elsewhere. As the liver decreases its supply of vitamins and nutrients, the blood stream is called upon to replenish the supply. As a result, body cells are deprived of critical nutrients, and normal body functions suffer. Some people do not produce the enzyme required to break alcohol down, and it remains a toxic substance in their system.

5. Move in the Morning

Exercise first thing in the morning, before breakfast. This forces your body to burn stored fat for energy, rather than burning carbohydrates, which are readily available after eating. On feast days—and feast weeks—we can all use a little extra fat-burning.

6. Snack on Protein

Eat a small, protein-rich snack a couple of hours before the big meal. This will help take the edge off hunger and improve your odds of making healthy dinner choices. Raw almonds are a great choice.

7. OK, Have Some Pie

Let’s be realistic. You’re gonna have some dessert, and other favorite recipes, during the holidays. Instead of an all-or-nothing approach to these foods, simply be mindful of portions. Have a third of a piece of pie instead of a full slice and hold the whipped cream. Decreasing portion sizes or having only a bite or two of your favorite indulgences, will satisfy your cravings without expanding your waistline.

And while you’re at it, introduce some new foods to your body, and take them for at least two walks every day. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel.

Dr. Michele Sherwood, along with her husband, Dr. Mark Sherwood, are the founders of a successful medical practice, and help patients from around the world find the health they were created to enjoy, in every area of life. As bestselling authors, podcasters, movie producers, and media personalities, they founded Hope Dealers International to reach beyond their clinic. Download their free holiday recipes here: Sherwood.tv/holiday

Categories
Mind & Body Nutrition

Superfoods of the Longest-Living People

Do you want to live to be 110? You might be surprised by how many people are reluctant to answer that question with enthusiasm. Many fear their final decade will be full of pain. So a better angle would be to focus on one’s health span rather than life span. What if you could live to be 110 with vitality, purpose, and happiness? Why do some people thrive well past 100 years of age with mobility, mental clarity, and energy, while others have their light snuffed out too soon?

A supercentenarian is someone who has lived to their 110th birthday or beyond (Jeanne Calment of France still holds the record as having the longest confirmed human lifespan, of 122 years, 164 days). Remarkably, nearly all people who live this long are free of major age-related diseases like dementia, Type 2 diabetes, or autoimmune disease. When they finally pass away, they often go peacefully, during a nap for example. Is it luck? Genes? Or do they have habits that we can adopt that could lead us to this kind of graceful aging? As a holistic nutritionist and anti-inflammatory expert, I have spent my life seeking answers to this question, and the answer is a resounding yes.

Lifestyles of the Longest-Lived People

Contrary to gene theory, it is our lifestyle choices that make the greatest impact on longevity. Dan Buettner, a National Geographic explorer and author of “The Blue Zones,” has reported on distinct lifestyle practices that many people living over 100 with vitality have in common. The longest-living people reside in the following regions: Ikaria, Greece; Okinawa, Japan; Ogliastra Region, Sardinia; Loma Linda, California; and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. Before looking at their diet, let’s review a few of the lifestyle habits that are common among the longest living on earth:

Authentic Movement: All long-lived people get lots of exercise from physical work in gardens, farms, and around the house. Dog walking, bike riding, and gardening also contribute to the longevity “healthstyle.”

Purpose: Instead of retirement, many centenarians embrace jobs that they love, including managing community gardens or taking care of grandchildren.

Love: A cornerstone of longevity is expressing gratitude and sharing love with one’s tribe. The reduction of stress dramatically reduces inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory Food: Menus of the long-lived are packed with anti-aging nutrients that have the power to enhance and extend life. A focus on plants, fiber, and omega-3 is key, and every menu has flavorful fats that make meals taste great!

Foods for Centenarians

Let’s take a tour around the world to learn some of the powerful foods that are eaten in longevity zones.

Costa Rica

Coconut: This fruit has different parts and uses: The liquid water portion contains high levels of B vitamins, enzymes, amino acids, and vitamin C; the dried kernel (copra) is mainly fat and used for oil extraction. The fatty-acid profile of coconut makes it one of today’s most popular superfoods. Coconut oil is one of the richest sources of saturated fats called medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). These MCTs are absorbed and used quickly by the body as a source of energy, or are converted to ketone bodies beneficial for brain health. Coconuts and coconut oil also contain flavonoids and other polyphenols that act as antioxidants, protecting against free radicals, oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and cancer.

Cocoa: Not only is cocoa delightful to eat, but contains approximately 380 bioactive compounds such as polyphenols (catechins) and methylxanthines. In fact, cocoa has a higher level of phenols than green tea and red wine, making it a powerful antioxidant. Studies show that regular consumption of cocoa rich in polyphenols is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and cancer. The high polyphenol profile increases HDL, decreases LDL, and improves blood sugar and blood pressure.

Sardinia

Dandelion Greens: These rank high in overall nutritional value amongst leafy greens and are loaded with antioxidants such as polyphenols, plus vitamins A and C. Their antioxidant potential is of significance for longevity because it decreases oxidative stress (which underlies the disease process) and slows down the aging of cells. Dandelion greens are also wonderful for protecting the liver and supporting its role as the body’s main detoxification organ, clearing toxins that can both age us and increase our risk of diseases.

Fennel: In Indian and Greek mythology, fennel symbolizes longevity and immortality. Part of the parsley family, fennel is used both as a vegetable and a spice. It is well known as a natural remedy for digestive disorders and also acts as an anti-inflammatory food, reducing the risk of disease and increasing antioxidant activity in the body. It also affects cholesterol levels by increasing good cholesterol (HDL) and inhibiting the oxidation of bad cholesterol (LDL). Between that and its high potassium content, fennel can support the cardiovascular system.

Sardines: They may be small in size and environmental footprint, but sardines are high in omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients such as vitamin D, selenium, and vitamin B12. The health benefits of omega-3s come from their anti-inflammatory action, which helps to prevent medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease. In fact, omega-3 fatty acids can keep LDL cholesterol in check, while increasing HDL cholesterol levels and nourishing the cardiovascular system.

Japan

Seaweed: This multicellular marine algae contains many bioactive compounds and polysaccharides that are not found in any terrestrial plant. Studies comparing Japanese to Western diets have linked the consumption of seaweed to a decrease in chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Many seaweed species contain healthy fatty acids like long-chain omega-3s and polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) that are protective for the cardiovascular system. As well, seaweeds have anti-cancer properties as shown by studies linking seaweed to reduced cancer risk, especially breast cancer in premenopausal women via estrogen metabolism.

Ginger: Rich in phytonutrients, ginger is frequently used as a spice and condiment to add flavor to food. But flavor and aroma is not the only reason to use ginger; its medicinal properties help to decrease inflammation, cholesterol, and blood pressure. Regular consumption of this herb can also decrease the risk of various cancers such as colorectal, ovarian, liver, skin, breast, and prostate. Gingerols, shogaols, and paradols are this plant’s main constituents that work to promote health and alleviate many ailments, even slowing the aging process in cells.

Greece

Garlic: This is a truly wonderful herb with strong healing powers. It can kill microbes (bacteria, fungus, viruses), lower blood pressure and cholesterol, thin the blood to prevent blood clots, and even prevent cancer. What makes it so powerful is its high content of sulfur compounds, which are responsible for its flavor, odor, and medicinal benefits. Another important component is allicin, which is what makes garlic such a terrific natural antibiotic that can kill or inhibit the growth of harmful microorganisms including salmonella, E. coli, Staph aureus, and H. pylori, to name a few.

Olives: Olives and olive oil are staples in the diets of those who populate the countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. These people tend to have a lower incidence of cardiovascular disease and cancer, and enjoy increased longevity and life expectancy. Olives are high in oleic acid (a monounsaturated fatty acid) and phenols, which are both beneficial for normalizing cholesterol levels.

Olive oil contains more squalene (a plant-based fat) than other seasoning oils. This compound has chemoprotective attributes that help cancer patients weather the damaging effects of chemotherapy. It is also linked to lower incidence of cancers. Olive oil’s components are anti-inflammatory and play a role in decreasing the inflammation involved in bone resorption in postmenopausal women, decreasing the risk of osteoporosis.

California

Avocados: Avocados deliver significant vitamin K, E, potassium, and magnesium. Avocados are also high in B vitamins, choline, phytosterols, and healthy fats that support a wide range of health benefits. Eating avocados every day can help keep cholesterol levels and body weight healthy. Avocados contain vitamin C and E, as well as xanthophylls (a class of carotenoids), which all act as antioxidants to protect against DNA damage. Not only are avocados great at supporting longevity internally, but when applied topically, they also inhibit the aging of the skin, due to highly bioavailable lutein and zeaxanthin, both of which protect against UV damage.

Spirulina: This microalgae is rich in carotenoids and antioxidant compounds. Spirulina has been reported to decrease oxidative stress and reduce cholesterol levels. The exact compound in spirulina responsible for lowering cholesterol levels is still unknown but is suspected to be phycocyanin, a protein. Phycocyanin is also important for cancer prevention, along with beta-carotenoids, which can potentially help protect against cancer due to their antioxidant action and immune modulation characteristics. Spirulina is low in calories but high in nutrients, iodine, folate, and magnesium.

Nutritionist and TV personality Julie Daniluk is the award-winning and bestselling author of three books, including “Meals That Heal Inflammation” and “Hot Detox.” Her fourth book, “Becoming Sugar-Free,” will be released in September 2021 by Penguin/Random House. Julie is in her 11th season as the nutrition expert for “The Marilyn Denis Show.” For more information see JulieDaniluk.com, Facebook & Instagram @juliedaniluk.