Friday, March 19, 2010

Yummy alert: Kombucha tea

Whole Foods is the Holy Grail of grocery stores. From the best Indian curry to freshly ground peanut butter and organic anything, it's no surprise the chain is taking over the health foods market. Naturally it follows that they'd be the first to debut the latest trend in tea - Kombucha.

Kombucha is a tea brewed with active yeasts and cultures similar to the probiotic strands in new digestive yogurts (like Activa). The cultivation stems from Chinese medicinal methods and was advertised as a "fountain of youth elixer." The included probiotic strands are incredibly beneficial in smooth digestion and many claim their abilities to combat a crazy number of ailments from balding to cancer. Kombucha comes in a variety of brewing flavors and styles, including a new juice-like tea that I'm 100% obsessed with!

The funny thing about Kombucha, however, is the fact that it is fermented to produce more of this beneficial yeast. Sound familiar? That's because beer is brewed the same way! This leaves your Kombucha like a pseudo-wine with the slightest bit of alcohol. It's like getting the healthy benefits of wine without having to watch how many glasses you've had, haha!

Check out the fabulous tea at your local health food store or brew it yourself if you're ready for an adventure! Yay, tea!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Know your farmer, know your food

Today, the university was visited by Dr. Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary of Agriculture for the USDA. Woah, what a woman! Aside from her years-long list of achievements in food and environmental policy, the lady rocks a Bachelors from MIT and is spearheading several initiatives through personal visits across the nation.
Perhaps the most pertinent of all that she brought, however, was her message -- "know your farmer, know your food." Essentially, Dr. Merrigan is working towards changes in policy that embrace local and sustainable agriculture, particularly in supporting farmers in the struggling economy. Several initiatives have been either passed or pondered within the higher parts of government, and Dr. Merrigan spoke about creating a national dialogue to attract more success stories in their efforts.

So why do farmers matter? It's simple - without farmers, we have no food. Think about it: as Merrigan stated, "Every time you buy a loaf of bread...every time you shop at a farmers' market...every time you dine at a restaurant, whether white tablecloth or Applebee's, you are connecting to the land." And it's true! Each piece of your meal had to begin from the ground up (literally) in order to make it to your tummy.

Farmers are the key to a sustainable and healthy society. A critical issue discussed in the lecture involved that of food deserts, or areas that are lacking in food providers and grocery stores. Don't think this is limited to rural areas, either; there are food deserts right here in Chicago. If we're lacking food in Chicago, a prominent and densely-populated city, what does the rest of the nation look like?! (Check out the recently-debuted US Food Atlas here.)

But supporting farmers can change this. Encouraging farming outreach allows farmers the resources to become more mobile and touch more areas, more people, and more individuals. By encouraging the embrace of agriculture, school districts and food service providers are more apt to take up salad bars and fresh produce in schools as opposed to the universal appliance known as the fryer. The possibilities are endless.

Take a look at the facts and figures at Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food and check out the benefits of supporting US agricultural efforts. Remember, "every family needs a farmer"!

Thursday, March 4, 2010


In celebration of March coming in like a lion, take the chance to check out this yummy fruits and veggies while they're in season!

Artichokes - now in season!
Romaine lettuce
Bell peppers
Pears - last month until August!
Pineapples - now in season!
Button mushrooms - last month until September!

Stop by your local farmers' market and stock up - if you're in the Chicagoland area, check out Green City Market in Lincoln Park. Eat your root vegetables like leeks now, it's almost time for spring crops to come in!

Weight training: cardio's best friend

It's not uncommon to hear that women are against the weight. You know, the whole "I don't want to look like Arnold" kind of excuse. Believe it or not, without some sort of weight training incorporated into your exercise routine, you're only going halfway!

Women are, first and foremost, not equipped with the same type of bulking ability as men (without juicing, anyway). This is the same reason for those SlimQuick commercials, where the couple makes the same change to their diet, but the man is the only one to see any results -- men got the muscle! While weighing more because of its higher density than fat, muscle burns more calories more often, leaving you with a sleek, toned (not shiny!) body. This also means that you should be wary of the numbers on the scale; this higher density also means more weight, so pay more attention to the way your skinny jeans fit than how many pounds you've seem to have "loaded" on. Keep in mind that weight training burns more calories than cardio not only during your workout, but that burn keeps working post-workout, too!

The best way to start pumping iron is to begin with low reps (10-12) three times a week. Choose a weight that is just heavy enough that your last rep also causes you to sacrifice your form. Women's Health cites that this can help you lose 3% body fat in ten weeks...and this is without changing your diet!

Give it a shot! Try integrating some hand weights into your usual yoga sesh or hold onto a weighted exercise ball during your morning 8-Minute Abs (the products from Savasa's line come in pretty feminine colors, too...and for cheap!). The free weights at your gym are always up for grabs, too! No need to feel intimidated, I'm pretty sure there's no sign around calling the weights "for men only." Maybe the boys' club will even lend you a few tips. ;)