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The 411: Coffee


I had my first sip of coffee when I was a little girl. My dad was (and still is) a coffee fanatic, and every time he ordered a cup of coffee, I asked if I could stir the coffee and sugar in for him. One day when my dad was at work, I saw my mom’s cup of coffee sitting on the dining table at breakfast. Gripped by my curiosity as to what that mysterious cup of dark liquid was, I took a little sip. I was absolutely repulsed. On that day, I swore that I would never enjoy coffee, much less drink it, even as an adult. My parents laughed at my childish oath, both insisting that my university experience and entering the workforce would not be complete without coffee, and would even necessitate it. And they were right. I first ventured into “coffee” in my second year of university with Starbuck’s caramel macchiato. It was pretty sweet and I couldn’t taste the coffee at all, a perfect (or not so perfect?) place to begin. I am proud to say that I have now moved onto drinking better coffee, and, as you can tell by my recent blog post on real deal pumpkin lattes, I am no longer a Starbucks drinker. To follow up that post, I decided to write another post exclusively on coffee’s potential health benefits and to debunk some myths surrounding the much-loved coffee bean.health benefits of coffee // gratitude and greens

When I hear people talking about their coffee consumption, I often hear people say they drink too much coffee and are trying to cut back. Although coffee is perceived as an unhealthy habit by many, a recent study undertaken by Harvard University shows that drinking up to six cups of coffee a day is not associated with increased mortality from cancer, cardiovascular disease, and other causes. Unless you suffer from tremors, sleep deprivation, or are feeling stressed all the time, there is no real reason to cut back on your coffee consumption. The summary of Harvard’s research on coffee suggests that while there may be potential health benefits to drinking coffee, more research still needs to be done.

health benefits of coffee // gratitude and greens

So, are there any health benefits to drinking coffee? Well, yes…

  • Coffee is filled with anti-oxidants and flavonoids.
  • Coffee drinkers have a reduced risk for diabetes. A study found that, compared to non-coffee drinkers, coffee drinkers experienced reduced levels of interleukin and isoprostane, two inflammatory markers related to diabetes. If you’re not a fan of caffeine, there is also evidence that suggests decaf coffee may have the same effect as regular coffee.
    • Those who drink more than 6 or 7 cups are 35% less likely to have and develop type 2 diabetes, while those who drink 4-6 cups are 28% less likely to.
  • According to the American Academy of Neurology, caffeine (not coffee itself) helps alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease. In a study conducted on patients of Pakinson’s Disease, those who consumed caffeine showed improvement in stiffness experienced and the speed of movement compared to those who did not consume caffeine.
  • Another Harvard study found that adults who drink 2-4 cups of caffeinated coffee a day were less likely to be depressed and at risk of suicide: “Caffeine not only stimulates the central nervous system but may act as a mild antidepressant by boosting production of certain neurotransmitters in the brain, including serotonin, dopamine, and noradrenaline.” The study warns, however, that depressed adults should not increase their caffeine intake, as this could result in side effects.
  • 112,897 men and women who drank coffee were observed over a 20 year period. What researchers discovered was that women who drank three or more cups a day were less at risk of developing skin cancer.
  • Contrary to the popular belief that coffee dehydrates, scientists at the University of Birmingham found that “coffee, when consumed in moderation by caffeine habituated males provides similar hydrating qualities to water.” (Sidenote: I find myself feeling thirsty and dehydrated if my cup of coffee isn’t followed by a glass of water, so just listen to your body! Know when to stop with the caffeine and make sure you are hydrated regardless of whether you are drinking coffee.)

And no…

With the above in mind, it seems that coffee does appear to be beneficial to our health. It is important, however, to remember that one cup of coffee is an 8 ounce serving with 100mg of caffeine. The addition of milk, sugar, cream, and other artificial additives and flavourings not only strip much of coffee’s health benefits, but also have further implications for your health. And, as with everything we eat and drink, moderation is key.

So, what do you think? Are you a coffee addict? How does coffee make you feel? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy coffee drinking,
Gen.

Sources: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5]

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Kale, Zucchini, and Heirloom Tomatoes with Wild Rice

Here’s the thing about long distance relationships: everyone who tells you it’s ‘not that bad’ is lying. It is possible and it is worth it, but it most certainly is not easy. You realize just how much your other half is a part of your life when you don’t have your usual Masterchef couch and dinner session with them, your bed feels a little emptier, and you finally realize just how many shoes you have because none of the shoes lying around the house belong to them. Or when you’re at home and you hope they will pick some coconut water up for you on the way home, only to remember they’re in a completely different place and that you have to drag your lazy bum off the couch to get it yourself if you really, really want it. Big, on-demand bear hugs are pretty great, too. I especially miss the conversations we’d have brainstorming on what to make for dinner. This happened whenever and wherever: in the library when we were tired of working, when we went for walks, or when one of us had a sudden craving for a certain flavour or dish.

We took turns making dinner, but what I miss, above all, are the nights when both of us were able to cook together. I will admit that we sometimes butt heads in the kitchen (“Gen, I love quinoa and kale, but… can we eat something other than quinoa and kale?”), but there is something so satisfying about sitting down to a meal you’ve made with someone else, especially if that someone else happens to be your other half. Being able to cook with someone else is exactly like being in a romantic relationship: there’s a lot of team work involved, you have to be patient and honest with one another, you have to be willing to take risks, and most of all, you have to have fun.

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At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how far apart you are. Sure, there’s no cuddling involved, but I take pleasure in sending off care packages (chocolate from my favourite chocolate maker in Toronto, cookies from Momofuku + handwritten letters), and it’s nice to know that someone, somewhere in the world, is missing me just as much. I also finally get to flood him with pictures of microbrewed kombucha, my meals, and my favourite moments and places during the day via Snapchat. And I am always excited to talk via messaging or Skype. I made this wild rice dish while Skyping (oh, the beauty of the Internet), since Lewis had told me on multiple occasions how wonderful wild rice was, and I was finally using it for the first time. It almost felt as if he was in the kitchen with me, except no one was constantly trying to taste the food. With summer in full swing, I decided to use ingredients with bright, vibrant colours: yellow zucchinis and beautiful red and yellow heirloom tomatoes. I roasted some garlic and tossed basil in for some additional flavour, and added black kale, because dishes without greens are, to me, incomplete.

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IMG_9463As someone who maintains a plant-based diet, I often get asked if I consume enough protein. Wild rice is actually not a bad source of protein: one cup of cooked wild rice provides the body with 6.5 grams of protein, not to mention 3 grams of fibre and only a mere .55 grams of fat. Wild rice is also rich in essential vitamins and minerals, such as manganese, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, magnesium, niacin, and iron. To top it off, wild rice is home to all of the essential amino acids, making it a complete protein.

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Photo credit: The Kitchn.

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Kale, Zucchini, and Heirloom Tomatoes with Wild Rice
*yields 4 servings
5 cups black kale
4-5 heirloom tomatoes
3 yellow zucchini
1 cup wild rice
1/2 cup basil
4 large cloves of garlic
coconut oil or rapeseed oil for roasting
extra virgin olive oil, to drizzle
sea salt and pepper, to taste
lemon juice or aged balsamic vinegar, optional

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1. Preheat the oven to 175 degrees celsius.

2. Place the cup of rice with four cups of water in a pot and bring the water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat and allow it to simmer for 45 minutes.

3. While the rice is cooking, cut the tomatoes into wedges, and the zucchini into slices.

4. Place the tomatoes and the zucchini into baking trays with your cooking oil of choice, and roast until they begin to blister, around 25-30 minutes.

5. In a separate tray, roast the whole cloves of unpeeled garlic for 45-50 minutes or until soft.

6. While the vegetables are in the oven, roughly chop the kale. I chose to steam the kale, but it can be eaten either raw or cooked. If you’d like to eat the kale raw, massage the kale with some olive oil in a large mixing bowl until it begins to soften.

7. Chop the basil, and add to the kale.

8. Once the rice is done, drain any remaining liquid. Place the rice in the bowl with the kale and basil.

9. Add the roast vegetables and the garlic (peeled) to the bowl. Toss with extra virgin olive and lemon juice or aged balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper.

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Enjoy : )

Wishing you much love and happy kitchen adventures,
Gen.

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Sources: [1] [2]