Drink to your Health

I am not a big fan of juice, fresh squeezed or otherwise. In fact if you ask for my advice I most often tell people to avoid drinking juice and take your fruits whole.

When you eat a fruit versus “drink ” one you generally get more fiber and fewer calories. You also feel fuller, longer. Studies show that the action of chewing may reduce hunger. Remember that digestion starts in the mouth. Chewing stimulates your brain which cues the gut. When we eat fast and drink liquids we decrease the levels of oro-sensory signaling ( how do you like that term?) that trigger digestion and satiety.

As always there is a but. I have come across two beverages that I would support us all drinking. The first is a lovely Energizing Green Tonic from Fast Food Good Food by Dr. Andrew Weil. Dr. Weil, a Harvard trained physician, has been a proponent of food as medicine for a very long time. I like his balanced approach to health and medicine.

The selling advantage for this drink is the amount of fiber. A whole 5 gm of fiber in one serving, and you know how I feel about fiber, we could all use more in our diet. In addition, this tonic is a good source of calcium, which is fantastic for people avoiding milk, 180 mg/serving. One reason I caution people about fruit juice is the concentration of sugar is often very high, even in fresh squeezed juices. This tonic has about 18 gm carbohydrate per glass, that with the fiber makes it an acceptable drink for people watching there blood sugar levels.

Green Tonic
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
1 stalk celery, cut into chunks
1 green apple, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
1 cup loosely packed baby spinach
4 romaine lettuce leaves, torn into pieces
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon finely chopped peeled ginger
Pinch of sea salt
1. Put the ingredients and 2 cups of water into a blender and puree on high speed for 1 to 2 minutes, until smooth. Add more or less water for desired consistency. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and serve chilled or over ice.


My second drink vote goes to Tumeric Tea. Tumeric is definitely a super food. Tumeric, most often used in Indian style cooking, has powerful anti-oxidant properties and has been associated with reducing the risk for many of the chronic diseases that plague us, including dementia. I found this tea to be particularly soothing on a cold rainy day.

Tumeric Tea
2 cups of water
1 inch of fresh ginger,minced
2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon ( or two sticks)
pinch of sea salt
orange slices
1 teaspoon of coconut oil ( optional)
Simmer 10-15 minutes. Strain and enjoy!
Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!


Tea Time

Fingers crossed, fall has arrived in Shanghai. It never fails that just about October first we get a hint of cooler temps to come. I for one, welcome the change!

The thought of cooler weather brings up all kinds of ideas for warming teas and drinks. China is the center of the world for tea, if you haven’t figured that out already, and from the tea markets to the elegant ( and hokey) tea ceremonies there is no better place to enjoy this ancient health elixir.

If you are from the “western” world then your tea experience may be limited to black tea, which is the most common variety of tea drunk in the Americas, Europe and Australia. Fortunately for us in China we have the broader choice of Oolong, Green tea, and Pu’Er just to name the most popular.

The basic difference between these teas are the production, including when the leaf is harvested ( young leaves for green tea) and the fermentation time ( longest for Pu’er). Each of these teas have their own health claim to fame , generally thought to be due to the polyphenols, flavanols and other anti-oxidants found in the tea leaves. Oolong can even be used topically for itchy skin due to atopic dermatitis. Pu’er , of course aides digestion but it is green tea that science has studied the most and attributed the greater health benefits.

Green tea is most often studied for it’s seemingly anti-cancer properties, prostrate and breast cancer showing the most promise. Certainly there isn’t a downside to drinking lots of green tea.

Matcha powder,  a dried form  of green tea has become quite trendy lately, although it is has been used in China since ancient times ( here that could be a thousand years). Personally I have only had it once and found it to have an earthy but not unpleasant taste. Matcha green tea powder is a concentrated form of green tea , so reports put one cup of matcha equal to 10 cups of brewed tea for concentration of catechins and polyphenols, both are anti-oxidants.  You would expect that if the bolus of matcha tea has a higher concentration of anti-oxidants then it would also have 10x the amount of caffeine, yes? Matcha promoters will acknowledge that but apparently the caffeine attaches itself to the high levels of the catechins ( amino acids) which break down at a slow rate therefore providing the drinker with “longlasting” energy versus the caffeine burst and bust that coffee often supplies. I will have to do some more in vitro studies to see if that is the case!

There is one caution with matcha, unlike green tea where the brewed tea leaves are strained out of the brew, with matcha the leaves are ground and powdered so you are getting the whole product in your drink. Turns out because of soil contamination , and that is no secret here in China, there can be high levels of lead in tea leaves.  You see where this is going. Studies of brewed tea show almost no lead because you are foregoing the leaves. Generally speaking one shot of matcha a day will not cause any issues but experts do recommend that pregnant women and women who are breastfeeding avoid the magical green powder.

Not to worry, in China there are plenty of teas to experiment with and that doesn’t even include the herbal variety!

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun!

For all the Tea in China

In the past few weeks I have heard much talk about the nutritional and health  benefits of drinking Pu’er tea, a fermented,compressed tea grown in Yunnan province.  Apparently this tea has become the wonder elixir of the year. Good for everything from heart disease to digestion to weight-loss. And all without caffeine.  It sounded too good to be true, so  I just had to do a bit of investigating and taste tasting, of course.

What is true is Pu’er tea is a very smooth beverage that is robust enough to replace your morning coffee. Since it is real tea from tea leaves it does have caffeine but the amount is much less then other teas and coffee.

As for lowering your cholesterol and speeding weight-loss, that maybe true.  A limited number of studies  have shown positive results but most these studies have been  done on rats. So while you should not assume people are like rats, this fact should not keep you from drinking this tea.

In fact, since we are in China, the mecca of the tea world, you should make it a point to drink tea. All teas have health benefits due to their super anti-oxidant content. Green tea packing the most power in a cup. I highly recommend that you try any and all varieties of tea while you are here. Even if you are a committed coffee drinker , you will find pleasure in a well-brewed cup of tea.

You can pick up tea just about anywhere in Shanghai but for an entertaining  afternoon of tea sipping and shopping, try the Tianshan Tea Market at 520 Zhongshan Xi Lu (full address in the EWS Guidebook). Like most commodity markets in Shanghai , the tea market is a mixture of shops and stalls on several floors in two buildings. I have wandered there myself and fell upon some delicious blueberry tea that was as lovely to sniff as it was to drink, and full of antioxidants to boot.

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Upcoming events: You can find Eat Well Shanghai at the Shanghai Toy Club’s Spring Kids’ Bazaar on this coming Wednesday, March 2nd at O’Malley’s.

Spring e-flyer

If you can’t make the March 2nd bazaar, get your copy of Eat Well Shanghai Guide Book  at Nest in Taikang Lu or order one from Fields at www.fieldschina.com

Eat Well, Live Well, Have Fun !