Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


Top 10 Probiotic Foods to Add to Your Diet

By Dr. Edward F. Group     Guest Writer for Wake Up World

Probiotics are beneficial forms of gut bacteria that help stimulate the natural digestive juices and enzymes that keep our digestive organs functioning properly. In addition to taking a probiotic supplement, you can also support your probiotic intake through eating foods that are hosts to these live bacterium.

We all know of the great health benefits of probiotics, however, not all of us know how to take advantage of these health benefits. Below is a list I put together to outline the best probiotic foods for you to add to your diet. I would also recommend buying the organic version of all these probiotic foods.

1. Yogurt

One of the best probiotic foods is live-cultured yogurt, especially handmade. Look for brands made from goat milk that has been infused with extra forms of probiotics like lactobacillus or acidophilus. Goat’s milk and cheese are particularly high in probiotics like thermophillus, bifudus, bulgaricus and acidophilus. Be sure to read the ingredients list, as not all yogurts are made equally. Many popular brands are filled with High Fructose Corn Syrup, artificial sweeteners and artifical flavors.

2. Kefir

Similar to yogurt, this fermented dairy product is a unique combination of goat milk and fermented kefir grains. High in lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria, kefir is also rich in antioxidants. Look for a good, organic version at your local health food shop.

3. Sauerkraut

Made from fermented cabbage (as well as other vegetables), sauerkraut is not only extremely rich in healthy live cultures, but also aids in reducing allergy symptoms. Sauerkraut is also rich in vitamins B, A, E and C.

4. Dark Chocolate

Probiotics can be added to high-quality dark chocolate, up to four times the amount of probiotics as many forms of dairy. This is only one of the health benefits of chocolate.

dark chocolate

5. Microalgae

This refers to super-food ocean-based plants such as spirulina, chorella, and blue-green algae. These probiotic foods have been shown to increase the amount of both Lactobacillus and bifidobacteria in the digestive tract. They also offer the most amount of energetic return, per ounce, for the human system.

6. Miso Soup

Miso is one the main-stays of Japanese traditional medicine, and is commonly used in macrobiotic cooking as a digestive regulator. Made from fermented rye, beans, rice or barley, adding a tablespoon of miso to some hot water makes an excellent, quick, probiotic-rich soup, full of lactobacilli and bifidus bacteria.

Beyond its important live cultures, miso is extremely nutrient-dense and is believed to help neutralize the effects of environmental pollution, alkalinize the body and stop the effects of carcinogens in the system.

7. Pickles

Believe it or not, the common green pickle is an excellent food source of probiotics. Try making your own home-made pickles in the sun. Here’s a great set of instructions for making your own probiotic-rich dill pickles.

8. Tempeh

A great substitute for meat or tofu, tempeh is a fermented, probiotic-rich grain made from soy beans. A great source of vitamin B12, this vegetarian food can be sautéed, baked or eaten crumbled on salads. If prepared correctly, tempeh is also very low in salt, which makes it an ideal choice for those on a low-sodium diet.

9. Kimchi

An Asian form of pickled sauerkraut, kimchi is an extremely spicy and sour fermented cabbage, typically served alongside most meals in Korea. Besides from beneficial bacteria, Kimchi is also a great source of beta-carotene, calcium, iron and vitamins A, C, B1 & B2. Kimchi is one of the best probiotic foods you can add to your diet, assuming you can handle the spice, of course.

10. Kombucha Tea

This is a form of fermented tea high in healthy gut bacteria. This probiotic drink has been used for centuries and is believed to help increase your energy, enhance your wellbeing and maybe even help you lose weight. However, kombucha tea may not be the best fit for everyone, especially those that already have a problem with candida.

Other Sources of Probiotics

Besides from the list of probiotic foods above, you can also get plenty of beneficial bacteria by taking a probiotic supplement.


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Cinnamon’s Dirty Little Secret

By Daily Health Post     March 13, 2015

Cinnamon is one of those spices that go well in just about every type of food!

It’s added to your desserts, your main dishes, and even your drinks, thanks to its tangy flavor and its ability to enhance the taste of every food it’s added to.

But are you cooking with Ceylon or cassia cinnamon?

Most people have no idea what the difference between Ceylon and cassia cinnamon is, but the distinction MUST be made. Both cinnamon and cassia come from the same plant family, but not the same plant.

Ceylon Vs. Cassia

Cinnamon–the real deal–comes from the plant Cinnamomum zeylanicum, also known as the Cinnamomum verum plant. If you looked at the name of this plant, you’ll see that it means “true cinnamon”. This is the Ceylon cinnamon that everyone knows as “cinnamon”.

Cassia, on the other hand, comes from a cinnamon plant known as the Cinnamomum cassia or the Cinnamomum burmannii. The former produces “Chinese” or “Saigon cinnamon”, while the latter produces “Padang cassia” or “Java cinnamon”. None of these types of cinnamon are “true” cinnamon, and only the stuff that comes from the Cinnamomum verum is considered the real deal.

The two plants share many of the same characteristics, and they offer many of the same health benefits as well. For example, cinnamon is known to regulate blood sugar levels, and cassia offers the same control over blood glucose. Both cinnamon and cassia are potent antibacterials.


The Main Difference – Coumarin Content

Both cinnamon and cassia contain a plant compound called coumarin. When consumed in large quantities, coumarin can be toxic, affecting the nervous system and the liver. Cassia contains higher traces of this compound (around 4%), while the amount of coumarin in ceylon cinnamon is only around 0.04%.

Consuming large quantities of cassia could lead to a wide range of health problems, while consuming ceylon is fairly safe.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) established a tolerable daily intake (TDI) of 0.1 mg/kg body weight according to this University of Mississippi study of April 2013. The chart below shows an extract of these findings.

Type of Cinnamon Coumarin Content
Ceylon Cinnamon, True Cinnamon. Mexican Cinnamon 0.017 g/kg
Indonesian Cinnamon, Korintje Cinnamon, Padang Cassia 2.15 g/kg
Saigon cinnamon, Vietnamese cassia. Vietnamese cinnamon 6.97 g/kg
Cassia Cinnamon or Chinese Cinnamon 0.31 g/kg

But How Can You Tell Them Apart?

The sad truth is that ground cinnamon could be either Ceylon or cassia cinnamon. The differences between Ceylon and cassia cinnamon are not visible when they are ground into powder. Both types of cinnamon look exactly the same, so that powdered cinnamon you’re sprinkling into your food could very well contain cassia. Unless you buy from a company that specifically only sells Ceylon cinnamon.

If you want to be certain you’re actually getting Ceylon cinnamon and not cassia, it’s best to buy the cinnamon sticks instead of ground cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon sticks look like one solid layer of bark, while Ceylon cinnamon sticks will have multiple layers of bark visible. That’s the best way to tell the two apart, so it’s smart to check your cinnamon sticks before you buy them. Once you know that you’ve actually purchased cinnamon and not cassia, you can grind up the sticks yourself to make cinnamon powder–the real deal that is safe!

The good news is that using both cinnamon and cassia should be fairly safe if you are adding them into your food in normal amounts. Cassia cinnamon shouldn’t cause any problems if you are just sprinkling it into your porridge, using it to make tea, or spicing up your dishes. If, however, you consume large quantities of cinnamon (as so many in Asia do), you would do well to find Ceylon cinnamon instead of cassia. It’s much safer, and the risk of health problems is much lower. True cinnamon has the same flavor as cassia, but it’s much lower in coumarin and thus much less likely to be toxic!

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Diet, Exercise and Brain Training May Help Keep the Mind ‘Sharp’

Thursday March 12 2015

This is one of the first studies in which a combination of interventions has been studied

“Dancing, doing Sudoku and eating fish and fruit may be the way to stave off … mental decline,” The Guardian reports. A Finnish study suggests a combination of a healthy diet, exercise and brain training may help stave off mental decline in the elderly.

The study looked at whether a combined programme of guidance on healthy eating, exercise, brain training and the management of risk factors such as high blood pressure (associated with vascular dementia) could have an effect on dementia risk and cognitive function.

Half of the 1,260 people in this two-year study were randomly allocated to receive this programme, while the other half acted as a control group, receiving only regular health advice. All participants were given standard tests to measure their brain function at the start, and at 12 and 24 months.

Researchers found that overall, scores measuring brain function in the group who received the programme were 25% higher than in the control group. For a part of the test called “executive functioning” (the brain’s ability to organise and regulate thought processes), scores in the intervention group were 83% higher.

While the results of this well-conducted study are certainly encouraging, it’s worth pointing out that the study does not look at whether people developed dementia in the longer term.

Most experts agree that a healthy diet, exercise and an active social life with plenty of interests may help reduce the risk of dementia.

Where did the story come from?

The study was carried out by researchers from several institutes in Scandinavia, including the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare, and the University of Eastern Finland.

It was funded by a number of different academic centres, including the Academy of Finland, La Carita Foundation, Alzheimer Association, Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, Juho Vainio Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation, Finnish Social Insurance Institution, Ministry of Education and Culture, Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, and Axa Research Fund, EVO grants, Swedish Research Council, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life, and Welfare and af Jochnick Foundation.

The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal The Lancet.

The study was widely covered in the UK media. Most coverage was fair, although many papers reported that the study showed how lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of dementia. This was incorrect – the study looked only at cognitive performance in people at risk of dementia.

A study with a much longer follow-up would be required to see if the interventions used in the study were effective in preventing dementia.

Reports also tended to only concentrate on the lifestyle interventions in the study and not the medical management. One of the interventions involved doctors and nurses monitoring risk factors for dementia, such as blood pressure and body mass index (BMI), with advice where needed for people to get medication from their GP.

It is possible some people found to be at risk – because, for example, they had high blood pressure – were prescribed medication by a physician and it was this that led to the improvement in cognitive function.

What kind of research was this?

This was a double blind randomised controlled trial (RCT) looking at whether a comprehensive programme of healthy eating, exercise, brain training and management of risk factors could have an effect on mental function in older people at risk of dementia. An RCT is the best kind of study to find out whether an intervention is effective.

The researchers say previous observational studies have suggested a link between cognitive function in older people and factors such as diet, fitness and heart health.

They say their study is the first large RCT looking at an intensive programme addressing whether a combination of interventions might help prevent cognitive decline in elderly people at risk of dementia.

What did the research involve?

Older adults at risk of dementia were randomised to receive either an intervention that addressed their diet, exercise, cognitive training and cardiovascular risk monitoring, or general health advice. After two years, the participants were compared using a range of cognitive assessments.

Researchers recruited 1,260 people aged 60 to 77. To be eligible, participants had to have a dementia risk score of six points or higher. This is a validated score based on age, sex, education, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), total blood cholesterol levels, and physical activity. The score ranges from 0 to15 points.

Participants also had to have average cognitive function of slightly lower than expected for their age. This was established by cognitive screening using validated tests.

What’s good for the heart tends to also be good for the brain

Anyone with previously diagnosed or suspected dementia was excluded. People with other major disorders, such as major depression, cancer, or severe loss of vision or hearing, were also excluded.

Participants were randomly assigned either into the intervention group or to a control group.

All participants had their blood pressure, weight, BMI, and hip and waist circumference measured at the start of the study, and again at 6, 12 and 24 months.

All participants (control and intervention group) met the study physician at screening and at 24 months for a detailed medical history and physical examination.

At baseline, the study nurse gave all participants oral and written information and advice on healthy diet and physical, cognitive, and social activities beneficial for the management of cardiovascular risk factors and disability prevention.

Blood samples were collected four times during the study: at baseline and at 6, 12, and 24 months. Laboratory test results were mailed to all participants, together with general written information about the clinical significance of the measurements and advice to contact primary health care if needed.

The control group received regular health advice.

The intervention group additionally received an intensive programme comprising four interventions.


The diet advice was based on Finnish nutritional recommendations. This was tailored to individual participants, but generally included high consumption of fruit and vegetables, consumption of wholegrain cereals and low-fat milk and meat products, limiting sugar intake to less than 50g a day, use of vegetable margarine and rapeseed oil instead of butter, and at least two portions of fish a week.


The physical exercise programme followed international guidelines. It consisted of individually tailored programmes for progressive muscle strength (one to three times a week) and aerobic exercise (two to five times a week), using activities preferred by each participant. Aerobic group exercise was also provided.

Cognitive training

There were group and individual sessions, which included advice on age-related cognitive changes, memory and reasoning strategies, and individual computer-based cognitive training, conducted in two periods of six months each.

Medical management

Management of metabolic and cardiovascular risk factors for dementia was based on national guidelines. This included regular meetings with the study nurse or doctor for measurements of blood pressure, weight and BMI, hip and waist circumference, physical examinations, and recommendations for lifestyle management. Study doctors did not prescribe medication, but recommended participants contact their own doctor if needed.

Participants underwent a cognitive assessment using standard neuropsychological tests called the neurological test battery (NTB) at baseline and at 12 and 24 months. The test measures factors such as executive functioning, processing speed and memory.

Researchers looked at any changes in people’s cognitive performance over the course of the study, as measured by an NTB total score, with higher scores suggesting better performance.

They also looked at various scores on individual tests. They assessed participation in the intervention group with self reports at 12 and 24 months and recorded their attendance throughout the trial.

What were the basic results?

In total, 153 people (12%) dropped out of the trial.

People in the intervention group had 25% higher overall NTB scores after 24 months compared with the control group.

Improvement in other areas, such as executive function, was 83% higher in the intervention group, and 150% higher in processing speed. However, the intervention appeared to have no effect on people’s memory.

Forty-six participants in the intervention group and six in the control group suffered side effects; the most common adverse event was musculoskeletal pain (32 individuals in the intervention versus none in the control group).

Self-reported adherence to the programme was high.

How did the researchers interpret the results?

The researchers say their findings support the effectiveness of a “multi-domain” approach for elderly people at risk of dementia. They will be investigating possible mechanisms whereby the intervention might affect brain function.


This RCT suggests a combination of advice on lifestyle, group activities, individual sessions and monitoring of risk factors appear to improve mental ability in elderly people at risk of dementia.

Whether it will have an effect on the development of dementia in such a population is uncertain, but the participants will be followed for at least seven years to determine whether the improved mental scores seen here are followed by reduced levels of dementia.

The trial was done in Finland and its results may not be applicable elsewhere, although the interventions included, such as diet and exercise, are similar to other countries’ recommendations.

This study shows that a combined approach is beneficial. What is not clear is how active the clinical management of cardiovascular risk factors was in each group. Both groups were given health advice, but the intervention group were monitored more regularly for risk factors such as high blood pressure.

Though the study physicians did not prescribe medication, the participants were informed of results so they could seek advice from their GP. We do not know how many people in each group sought treatment for high blood pressure or cholesterol, and this could have affected the results.

All in all, it seems this study provides further evidence of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle.

A good rule is that what is good for the heart, such as regular exercise and a healthy diet, is also good for the brain. It may also be useful to regard your brain as a type of muscle. If you don’t exercise it regularly, it may well weaken.

Not all cases of dementia are preventable, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risk.

source: www.nhs.uk

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8 Truths To Accept Before You Can Be Happy


Many of my coaching clients first come to me looking for the epiphany: that instant moment when you have it figured out, and all of the emotional pain is wiped away with clarity. Sometimes it happens for them. They return with excited emotions and they say, “I had my aha moment!”

It’s great to have an epiphany, but what you do with that new clarity is what matters most.

Most of our habits are so ingrained in our lives that changing behaviors causes regression. Most epiphanies force us to see situations and ourselves in a new light. The next step is courage. And taking that step to live out your epiphany is when real transformation happens.

In my own life I’ve had some powerful moments. But the ones that have impacted my life the most are the ones I’ve put into practice.

Below are eight epiphanies everyone should have. They have certainly changed my life for the better, and maybe they can help you.

1. You aren’t what people say you are.

What matters most is what you say and feel about yourself. You get to choose; you can let others define you and tell you who you are, or you can show them who you are. Be you. The world needs you as you are.

2. Plan B is often better than Plan A.

The most freeing moment in your life is when you let go of what you think is best for you and allow the universe to show you what you really need. Stop holding on to what is no longer working: that job, that relationship, that dream. If it feels like hard work and is causing you more pain than gain, it is time to release it. Instead, follow your heart.


3. You are not the number on the scale.

At the end of your life the weight struggles, the food wars, or the obsession with new diets and trying to look a certain way will have no relevance. The only thing that matters is what is in your heart. How you make people feel and how you make YOU feel is more important than how you look.

4. The journey is more important than the goal.

Yes reaching goals are important, but the actual process of becoming, growing, learning, and morphing into who we need to become is the real sweet stuff that makes a wonderful life. Enjoy the journey as much as the reward.

5. Being alone doesn’t mean you’ll be lonely.

The fear of being alone strikes the heart and makes many people settle. But when you learn to love your own company, you will see that you are never really lonely.

6. It will never be all done.

The to-do lists, the chores, the things we race around to get done, will never be done. It is called life. Situations, chores, to do lists will always unfold. Instead of focusing on the end result, be in the process and celebrate what you have accomplished.

7. Emotional pain shows up to show us what we need to change.

Sadness, depression, and heartache are gentle reminders to probe deeper into our life. Look at what is not working and be open to living your life in new ways. You will see that one day it will all make sense.

8. You don’t have to find your purpose; it will find you.

The transition period between you were and where you are going can be painful, but on your journey of finding purpose. Recognize that there is purpose in the pain. Each step you take is helping you carve out more of how you really are. Instead of regretting or resisting, try turning inward and embrace the journey into joy.

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11 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Einstein

When most people think of Einstein, they think of the theory of relativity and “the world’s most famous equation,” E=MC². However, we can learn a lot more from Einstein than just scientific formulas and theories.  Albert Einstein also offered renowned knowledge in how to become your best self and enjoy life to the fullest.

Even if you have no interest in science, you can still apply these valuable lessons to your life today.

11 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Einstein

1. Value Your Imagination

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” -Einstein
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” -Einstein
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” -Einstein
“Imagination is the highest form of research.” –Einstein

2. Never Stop Being Curious

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” ? Einstein
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” -Einstein
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” -Einstein

3. Be Willing to Learn New Things

“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.” – Einstein
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” -Einstein
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” -Einstein

4. Realize that Growth Comes Out of Failure

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” – Albert Einstein
“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.” – Albert Einstein
“You never fail until you stop trying.” -Albert Einstein
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. – Albert Einstein
“Only the one who does not question is safe from making a mistake.” —Albert Einstein


5. Dare to be Different and Take Initiative

“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” – Albert Einstein
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. – Albert Einstein
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” – Albert Einstein

6. Live in the Moment and Realize that Beauty Exists Everywhere

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
“I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough.” —Albert Einstein
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.” Albert Einstein

7. Live Selflessly and Value Others

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
“Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”
“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”
“We know from daily life that we exist for other people first of all, for whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”
“Enjoying the joys of others and suffering with them—these are the best guides for man.” – Albert Einstein

8. Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

“I admit that thoughts influence the body.”
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

9. Unleash Your Greatness

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein

10. Be Kind to All Living Beings On Earth

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

11. Trust Your Inner Voice

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.”
“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein


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How To Find Love Without Looking


Have you been looking for true love, and have yet to succeed, but still hang on to the belief that he or she is out there? Most likely you’ve been looking in all of the wrong places — at work, online, church, your yoga studio, or the grocery store.

It’s not that he or she doesn’t exist or that you’ll never find your soul mate. Intellectually you probably know that you’ve got to love yourself first to give and receive love. But it’s so much easier to look to others to give you what you aren’t giving yourself — love.

If you looked in the mirror, deep within your eyes, would you be able to say aloud, “I love you, I really love you [insert your name].” Could you look at yourself long enough without being critical? (Could you even look in the mirror comfortably?)

If these questions, or if the idea of staring at yourself in the mirror makes you slightly uncomfortable, I get it! But the point of this exercise is that when you love yourself, you create a strong foundation for you best relationships.

How we feel about ourselves is always going to be reflected back to us. So if we’re not feeling the self-love and we’re not talking or treating ourselves lovingly, it’s guaranteed that someone is going to remind you to love yourself via challenging relationships or seemingly difficult people or toxic situations.

No doubt they are going to peeve you and it’s very easy to blame, judge and criticize the other person. But they’re not only teaching you to love yourself, they are also teaching you to be kind to yourself and to respect yourself.

When you can align your thoughts with your beliefs and act accordingly, your relationships are going to reflect a healthy relationship with SELF.

This can be challenging, especially if we’ve grown up in a dysfunctional environment where we learned that if we wanted to “get” love we had to sacrifice our needs, wants and desires. Instead of feeling loved, we find ourselves in patterns where we feel unappreciated and emotionally depleted.

But it’s time to stop looking “out there” and look within because love begins with SELF. Like anything new and unfamiliar it will take some time and patience to love and accept yourself despite your mistakes, flaws and the messes you create. Here are some baby steps to get you there:


1. Set healthy boundaries.

Say no with tact, grace and dignity instead of saying yes to please others. We’ve been taught to be nice, but for many of us, our niceness has cost us our energy, time and our wellbeing.

We also need to speak up and tell the other person, “You know when you said…. I felt….”

Setting healthy boundaries takes practice and belief that you deserve to be respected.

2. Express yourself.

Do something you love — paint, draw, write, garden, cook, exercise, walk in nature or whatever it is that keeps you in the present moment. Schedule at least 30 minutes daily. By expressing yourself you connect with the most important person: you!

3. Monitor your words and your thoughts.

Talk to yourself as if you were talking to a friend. If you’re talking negatively or berating yourself, ask yourself: would you accept that from someone else? Probably not! A more positive way of talking to yourself matters because you matter! Not only will it be more uplifting, it will raise your self-esteem.

4. Listen to your body.

When your body needs rest, rest. When your body needs to be nourished, eat. And when your body needs to move, exercise. It’s simple, but it’s not easy! We tend to get busy, do things on the run, and give to others first.

By listening to your body, you’ll feel more alert and energized to say yes to you. This will give you more time to do what you love, and be more mindful of your words and thoughts. You’ll be less dependent upon other people for love because you’ll be giving it to yourself.

So the next time you look in the mirror, embrace yourself without judgment and show yourself some love. Your best relationships begin with this.

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Plastic and Cancerous Compounds in Tea Bags – A Surprising Source of Potential Toxins

April 24, 2013    By Dr. Mercola

I’ve long advocated drinking tea in lieu of coffee, but the downside of modern food technology is again rearing its ugly head and causing brand new health concerns over this otherwise healthful brew.

A recent article in The Atlantic1 raises questions about the safety of plastic tea bags, some of which have fancy pyramid shapes, designed to allow the tea leaves to unfurl during infusion.

Chances are you’ve never even given the tea bag a second thought. But indeed, some of the newer tea bags are made with a variety of plastics; some are nylon, some are made of viscose rayon, and others are made of thermoplastic, PVC or polypropylene.

Anyone aware of the dangers of plastic chemicals leaching out of plastic containers and bottles is likely to be concerned about drinking tea steeped through heated plastic.

The other bad news is that paper tea bags may be just as bad, or worse, than the plastic ones because many of them are treated with epichlorohydrin, a compound mainly used in the production of epoxy resins.

Considered a potential carcinogen by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health2 (NIOSH), epichlorohydrin is also used as a pesticide. Besides making its way into tea bags, it can also be found in coffee filters, water filters, and sausage casings.

When epichlorohydrin comes in contact with water, it hydrolyzes to 3-MCPD, which has been shown to cause cancer in animals. It’s also been implicated in infertility (it has a spermatoxic effect in male rats3) and suppressed immune function4.

This chemical is already a well-known “process contaminant” associated with modern food production. According to the American Oil Chemicals Society5 (AOCS), 3-MCPD can also be found in variable levels in refined vegetable oils, which is yet another reason to avoid such cooking oils and replace them with organic coconut oil.

Do Plastic Tea Bags Pose a Health Concern?

As you probably know, chemicals in plastic containers and bottles have been found to leach into food and drink, thereby posing a number of health hazards. Examples include bisphenol-A (BPA), bisphenol-S (BPS), and phthalates, all of which mimic hormones and act as potent endocrine disruptors.

Unfortunately, according to the featured article, neither the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice nor the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have any information on the toxicity of plastic tea bags or the levels of plastic chemicals that might migrate into the tea when steeped in hot water. Hard to believe, but true, the US federal agencies are not supervising this potential toxic exposure.

According to the featured article:

“Could plastic tea bags also be bad for our health? They are most commonly made from food grade nylon or polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which are two of the safest plastics on the scale of harmful leaching potential.
Both have very high melting points, which offer some assurance to consumers, as one would think the melting point of plastic is the temperature at which one would need to worry about accidentally eating it.
There is another temperature point for plastics, though, that we may need to worry about, called the ‘glass transition’ temperature (Tg). That is the temperature at which the molecule in certain materials such as polymers begin to break down. As a rule, the Tg of a material is always lower than the melting point.“

Water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). In the case of PET the glass transition point (Tg) is about 169 degrees, and the breakdown point of nylon is even lower than PET.

“If the question is, ‘As the polymer goes through that transition state, is it easier for something to leach out?’ ‘the answer is yes,’ said Dr. Ray Fernando, professor and director of polymers and coatings at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo,”  The Atlantic states.

So while these plastics are generally considered among the safest in terms of leaching potential, the molecules in these plastic tea bags may still in fact break down and leach out when steeped in boiling water—which is the recommended way to brew a good cup of tea, especially when you’re using higher quality whole tea leaves, which these newer tea bags are designed for…


Paper Tea Bags May Be Just as Bad, or Worse…

The now defunct Dexter Corporation was the initial owner on the patent6 of a method for treating both tea bags and coffee filters with latex (plastic), to aid in preventing tears that allow the tea leaves/coffee grounds to leak. This invention “saturates and completely impregnates” the entire web material. Therein lies one of the problems with paper tea bags as they are frequently treated with epichlorohydrin, which hydrolyzes to the carcinogen 3-MCPD when contact with water occurs.

Dow Chemical Co is one of the largest producers of epichlorohydrin. According to safety literature7 from Dow, it’s a very dangerous chemical that requires using extra precautions when handling. Granted, that doesn’t automatically render it dangerous in the final product, but it can still be a cause for concern, particularly as it can turn into a carcinogen when water is added. There are many unanswered questions with respect to the potential hazards of using this chemical in products specifically designed to be used with boiling water…

A good way to protect yourself and your family in this area is to purchase your tea from manufacturers who can certify that their tea bags do not contain this compound. Organic India, for example, has sent me a confirmation that the paper used for their tea bags does not contain epichlorohydrin. In a 2009 article, Kristie Leong, MD also claims to have done her own inquiries and that Bigelow Tea Company does not use the chemical in their bags8. Many plastic tea bags are advertised as “silky” or “mesh bags,” or they’ll have fancy shapes or oversized bags. I’d suggest avoiding those as well if you want to be on the safe side.

Your best option would be to opt for loose tea. This does take longer, but it can be well worth the wait. One of my favorite teas is Royal Matcha Green Tea, which has one of the highest levels of the potent antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). Unlike other teas which you steep and strain, matcha tea is a powder made from ground green tea leaves. You add the powder right into the water. You are consuming the whole leaf, which makes matcha one of the healthiest green teas available. Another excellent option is loose Tulsi tea leaves. This well-known Ayurvedic herb is also full of antioxidants that fight free radicals in your body and prevent oxidation damage.

How to Brew the Perfect Cup of Tea

There is an art to brewing tea using loose tea leaves, but once you find your “sweet spot” you may never go back to bagged tea again. Here are a few simple guidelines for making the “perfect” cup of tea:

1) Bring water to a boil in a tea kettle (avoid using a non-stick pot, as they too can release harmful chemicals when heated)

2) Preheat your tea pot or cup to prevent the water from cooling too quickly when transferred. Simply add a small amount of boiling water to the pot or tea cup that you’re going to steep the tea in. Ceramic and porcelain retain heat well. Then cover the pot or cup with a lid. Add a tea cozy if you have one, or drape with a towel. Let stand until warm, then pour out the water

3) Put the tea into an infuser, strainer, or add loose into the tea pot. Steeping without an infuser or strainer will produce a more flavorful tea. Start with one heaped teaspoon per cup of tea, or follow the instructions on the tea package. The robustness of the flavor can be tweaked by using more or less tea

4) Add boiling water. Use the correct amount for the amount of tea you added (i.e. for four teaspoons of tea, add four cups of water). The ideal water temperature varies based on the type of tea being steeped:

a) White or green teas (full leaf): Well below boiling (170-185 F or 76-85 C).
Once the water has been brought to a boil, remove from heat and let the water cool
for about 30 seconds for white tea and 60 seconds for green tea before pouring it over the leaves
b) Oolongs (full leaf): 185-210 F or 85-98 C
c) Black teas (full leaf) and Pu-erhs: Full rolling boil (212 F or 100 C)

5) Cover the pot with a cozy and let steep. Follow steeping instructions on the package. If there are none, here are some general steeping guidelines. Taste frequently as you want it to be flavorful but not bitter:

a) Oolong teas: 4-7 minutes
b) Black teas: 3-5 minutes
c) Green teas: 2-3 minutes

6) Once desired flavor has been achieved you need to remove the strainer or infuser. If using loose leaves, pour the tea through a strainer into your cup and any leftover into another vessel (cover with a cozy to retain heat)

After Water, Tea is One of Your Healthiest Beverage Choices

While some tea bags—whether plastic or paper processed with epichlorohydrin—may pose a potential hazard, please don’t let that deter you from drinking tea altogether. Although I still believe pure water should make up the majority of your daily fluid intake, high-quality tea has numerous health benefits to offer. Among them is growing evidence that the polyphenols in tea, which include EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) and many others, can be protective against cancer. For example, the polyphenols in green tea appear to be even more effective at fighting the progression of cancer than the antioxidants found in red wine and grapes. Beyond this, the beneficial properties in tea have been known to:

  • Neutralize the effects to your body of harmful fats and oils
  • Inhibit bacteria and viruses
  • Improve digestion
  • Protect against oxidation in your brain and liver
  • Help promote healthy gums

Drinking tea has also been linked to:

  • Improved mental alertness and slowing of brain-cell degeneration
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Protection again type 2 diabetes
  • Lower blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Lower risk of breast, colon, lung, ovarian and prostate cancers
  • Reduced risk of heart attack and stroke

Of course, there are some general ground rules to follow when selecting tea of any kind, and those are that it should preferably be:

  • Organic (otherwise tea may be heavily sprayed with pesticides)
  • Grown in a pristine environment (tea is known to accumulate fluoride, heavy metals and other toxins from soil and water, so a clean growing environment is essential to producing a pure, high-quality tea)

So keep these tips in mind, and go ahead and enjoy a cup or two of your favorite variety. I personally prefer Matcha tea, a vibrant bright green tea made of tea leaves ground into a powder, and Tulsi tea, which is a powerful adaptogenic herb that provides important therapeutic benefits.