Soy Mocha please

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The first time I really had coffee was in my first year at University. Ughh, disgusting

However, for the sake of socialising, I needed to impress my new friends at the time and wanted to show I could be just as classy. I saw it as a way to break the ice when forming a new relationship with someone. Like you see on the movies “Oh I had coffee with so and so the other day”- officially coffee buddies.

Now, coming from South Auckland, pie dates were much more popular than coffee ones. We did not have coffee shops down the street, only a bunch of dairies on every corner, so this coffee business was new to me.

I followed my friends lead as she ordered a soy mocha for herself, and from that day on, I have always ordered soy mocha. It allowed me to indulge in a bit of chocolate love whilst sophisticating my way around the bitterness of the caffeine. 6 years experience, I think I am  an expert at drinking coffee.

So, is coffee an acquired taste? What do we get from it? Besides bad breath and maybe some good chat (hopefully not dependent on the coffee).

I feel its almost a tool we use to distract from the awkward silences one has during conversations. It also acts as a secondary topic of conversation Wow, this coffee could do with a little more milk Until something new comes to mind. Fortunately, I haven’t had many of those awkward encounters, as I like to believe I choose great coffee buddies (so cheers to all my coffee dates out there).

So, why would anyone like to indulge in this bitter concoction. Is it an acquired taste? Well from personal experience, once I had a few coffees throughout my first year, I began to enjoy it a little more, but again it could be that the context in which I had the coffee was enjoyable. However, I still agree with the acquired taste theory.

It is widely known that coffee is a great source of energy, especially at 8.30am and 3.30pm. I think people rely on it so much to get them through their days. I know of people who work in demanding jobs who need to have the caffeine fix every single day, and I’m sure many of you can relate to this. I had my 3.30pm fix today, and yes the same old soy mochaccino.

What do us coffee drinkers get out of it?

Well bad breath for sure, it is essential you carry mints or breath fresheners with you to eliminate the taste and smell that lingers on your tongue. A nice wee article I found online (see 1 below) spoke about the benefits of coffee, and a major one looked at the relationship between coffee and Type II diabetes, apparently studies have shown a strong correlation between the two. That coffee drinkers compared to non-coffee drinkers are less-likely to have Type II diabetes. The article even went to the extreme to say it reduced the likelihood of developing Parkinsons Disease and Dementia- but I haven’t checked out the evidence to support this- so I’m not too sure how strong this statement is.

It’s interesting for people to believe they become more productive after a cup of coffee. Their brains work better, they work more efficient. Again, as a self-proclaimed neuroscientist, I wanted to look into this a bit more.

So when you wake up in the morning, your neurons in your hard working brain are firing away electrical signals as they do. As a result of this, they produce adenosine and this is sensed by your nervous system via Adenosine receptors. Adenosine has been associated with inducing sleep, and this ladies and gentlemen is probably why you find it hard to wake up in the morning. Whenever, someone tells me they are a morning person, I look to them and say “You lie! You had coffee this morning”- No such thing as a morning person.

So back to your morning routine, you decide to make yourself a cup of coffee to wake up a little. When the caffeine enters your system, it acts as an Adenosine-impersonator as this website likes to call it (2). What this means is that caffeine competes with the adenosine for the same receptor and blocks it from making you “fall asleep”. So it has the opposite effect on your brain and induces activeness and awakeness.

I like to see it as Caffeine and Adenosine are twin brothers and are competing for the same girl (receptor) at a party (morning). Adenosine is a little boring and the girl falls asleep, the party dies BUT when Caffeine enters the room, the girl is interested and she wants to get to know Adenosine’s brother. They hit it off because Caffeine probably plays rugby or is quarter back if we want to go American (intentional stereotype) and the girl is having the time of her life, while the party picks up and everyone is having a good time.

So when caffeine binds to these adenosine receptors in your brain, they induce dopamine activity (this is probably why it has been associated with Parkinson’s Disease), thus you become more awake and in a way brain activity increases! but hey I’m pretty sure you already knew that!

When you take caffeine hits on a regular basis, your body and mind build up this tolerance, and I’m sure many of you again could relate to this, however, no one really knows how exactly you build this tolerance for caffeine, and you probably notice you could have more caffeine than the first time you had it get the same effects.

I am over the bitter taste of coffee, probably because I drown the stuff in sugar and it works wonders for me in the morning. However, I could do with a pie date now and then. Mince pie, steak and cheese, chick cranberry and brie Mmmm. Don’t get me started

Happy socialising everyone!

(1) http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/coffee-new-health-food

(2) http://lifehacker.com/5585217/what-caffeine-actually-does-to-your-brain

“Marmageddon”

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Here is one most of us Kiwi kids can relate to- Marmite!

I’m not really the biggest fan of marmite. Now if you don’t know what marmite taste like, I will try my best at describing it for you. A bitter, tangy smooth sticky spread that looks like dried up oil on the Gulf of Mexico (or Tauranga Harbour- if you wanna get local).

It was absolutely ridiculous it even made New Zealand headlines that the production of marmite had ceased due to damage caused by the earthquake in Christchurch. Even the Prime Minister made a television appearance to calm the nation. Ah, first world problems.

Nearly 6 months after production stopped,New Zealanders were rushing to supermarket shelves to buy the very last stock of marmite. Taking photos of their marmited-toast and the famous marmite & chip sandwiches, then posting them on social media networks (I hate food photos- I did take one in my life and I apologise to all my friends who had to see the amazing roast I cooked, but it was important). Seriously, it made me wonder if people even liked it or they were only enjoying the fact they had one of the last marmite supplies in NZ.

I wanted to know why people were going crazy all of a sudden over the loss of marmite. Is it something to do with the fact its a NZ product? Is it a childhood attachment?

Or is it there something so good about marmite, we can’t resist?

“Scientists” label marmite as a “superfood”.

I dove into the depths of my knowledge system which I like to call google, and found that marmite is really made up of left over yeast by-products discarded from breweries (gross). So really in beer factories, all the left over mushy yeast stuff is transferred over to the marmite factory- Mmm sounds appealing.

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They make a paste from the left over liquid by adding a lot of salt and more processing to get that smooth, shiny texture we are familiar with, which still reminds me of oil.  It is claimed that marmite is rich in a lot of vitamins, especially Vitamin B, however, during its processing more vitamins and so-called “minerals” are added to it- apparently this is why the Danish government wanted it banned.

The good thing about marmite (obviously not so much the taste), is its NIACIN-rich properties- a vitamin that is lacked from normal human diets- which a deficiency can lead to a tonne of issues for your body, including scurvy. Including niacin in your diet can help boost the body’s defences against staphylococcus bacteria. Really it is great for your immune system!

It also contains folic acid, now if you have been in hibernation for the past decade, there was the big debate about putting folic acid into all our breads to prevent unborn-babies from developing neural tube defects, marmite apparently can provide you with the essential amount of folic acid to also prevent this from happening. So if you’re trying for a baby (this can only work for females-sorry lads), maybe a bit of marmite in your diet could help with your baby’s neural development.

As the saying goes, you either “love it or hate it”- I am not crazy about it, in fact I found a container of marmite only half-eaten, I actually don’t remember purchasing it, so I’m assuming a flatmate of mine purchased it 2 years ago- Safe? Yes. Other marmite studies say it takes over so many years for the marmite to decompose. So I will wait for the next shut down of the marmite factory and sell this black gold to some sucker muahaha!

When I do have marmite (as a last resort), I like mine to not dominate my toast or bread, and include a little more marge to dilute the strong taste of the over-powering marmite.

Now that production has commenced I’m expecting some great artistic photos from my friends of their marmite on toast. Ah thanks guys!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/foodanddrink/9504293/Marmite-the-latest-superfood.html

Going Nuts for Almonds

My sister is always giving me great tips on eating better foods. My favourite one is snacking on some trusty unsalted almonds to stop me from over-eating. I like snacking throughout the day because I do a lot of brain work (bloggin’ and writing can be exhausting) and these are great to snack on!

Not only do they reduce the large portions I can eat at dinner time, they also contain some really good stuff for my body.

According to online sources almonds are rich in mono-unsaturated fats (which mean tImagehat they are easily digested and absorbed) and they are also full of protein. Almonds are also a great source of Vitamin E (an antioxidant) and are known to help reduce BAD cholesterol in your arteries (1). 

Like any fat that you are familiar with, almonds have the ability to fill you up (but even better that these are the good fats), which helps you to eat smaller portions in your meals.

If you eat a lot of real crappy foods like processed foods (burgers, chips etc…), the bad saturated fat enters your blood circulation and will eventually result in plaque build-up in the arteries, which decreases the normal flow of blood to your heart. BAD.

That’s why you should be replacing all this really bad fat with the really good fat that you can find in nuts like almonds! 

It’s not too late to unclog those arteries either! Studies (2) have shown that eating almonds can help reduce the cholesterol plaque build-up in your arteries to increase the flow of blood to your heart.

Your liver can function intelligently, if you look after it. It eventually removes the excess cholesterol in your arteries and turns it into bile (which is used to break down food in your stomach), your body then rids off these bad fats through faeces. Ta da! Healthy body!

Almonds have also been linked to prevention cancer as they are low in saturated fats and contain calcium and magnesium (more than spinach) for strong bones and compounds called phytochemicals which help with the protection against cardiovascular disease and some forms of cancer (but I assume this is all with the help of a healthy lifestyle as well).

Apparently, 20 almonds contain as much calcium as 1/4 cup of milk, which is awesome if you’re lactose in tolerant  but want an easy source of calcium. To find out more about how awesome almonds are- refer to link number 4 (below). 

This is why I am nuts for almonds!

For such small things, almonds are really good for your body in so many ways!

(1) http://www.healthaliciousness.com/blog/How-much-do-almonds-lower-cholesterol.php

(2) http://www.nutraingredients.com/Research/Almonds-lower-cholesterol-despite-fat-content

(3) http://www.nutsforalmonds.com/nutrition.htm

(4) http://www.nutsforalmonds.com/nutrition.htm

A spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down

Mary Poppins convinced me as a child that a little bit of sweetness makes everything better.  but what I wanted to know if it really helps to take a spoonful of sugar to make that awful medicine go down?

A top paediatrician in Britain, Dr. Heaton claimed that a small amount of the sweet goodness of sugar can help ease the pain of infants when receiving injections. Apparently, this small amount of sugar on the tongue acts as an analgesia which is commonly known for its painkilling ways.

When you place a little sucrose (sugar) solution on your tongue, it sends nerve signals to your brain telling it to perceive this signal as ‘sweet’. The brain then responds by releasing endorphins which people know as ‘pain relievers’.

Dr Heaton goes on to say that ‘pain’ is not a natural feeling or sensation for babies as their nervous system is still developing. So, if they were to experience pain at an early age, this may well set up their nervous system to be more aware of pain stimulus and become more sensitive, which means pain may last for longer periods of time. Minimising pain at this age is a good thing for the child’s neural development.

That’s why you see some doctors giving lollipops to children before they receive any injections.

It is also the most effective form of medicine, sweetening a little antibiotic in liquid form.  So a little bit of sugar goes a long way as a child.

This treatment goes on way before Mary Poppin’s time. Ancient literature reported that Jews use to give honey to their babies before they were circumcised- Ahh wow.

Maybe Mary Poppin’s really should have sung

“Just a drop of sucrose solution minimises the pain of an injection”- but it probably won’t be as catchy as the original.

As an adult, it doesn’t really matter as we can understand the importance of medicines, injections and so forth, pain is temporary, but if my doctor offered me a sweet before an injection I definitely won’t refuse.

This may be why some of us (mainly females) use chocolate to feel a little better. Some studies have linked chocolate to the release of endorphins in the body, particularly in females, it gives you a feeling of comfort and goodness.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-1058406/A-spoonful-sugar-really-DOES-help-medicine-say-scientists.html