Burning off holiday treats, Best sources of magnesium, and Pekoe tea

Q: How long would I have to walk to burn off the calories in holiday treats?
Q: I’ve heard that many people don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. What foods are the best sources?
Q: I’ve heard that green tea and black tea are very healthy, but what about pekoe and orange pekoe tea?


Karen Collins, MS, RD, CDN
American Institute for Cancer Research

Q: How long would I have to walk to burn off the calories in holiday treats?
A: The answer, of course, depends on how intensely you walk and exactly what you’ve indulged in. Most people find that it takes more time to burn off holiday goodies than they realize. Holiday cookies, for example, often contain from 60 to 120 calories each. Sweet desserts, like apple pie, may contain from 200 to 400 calories or more. At a moderate three miles per hour, someone weighing 180 pounds might walk almost 20 minutes to burn the calories in just one cookie and at least 40 minutes to well over an hour for other energy-dense desserts. Because it takes less energy to move a lighter body than a heavier one, someone who weighs 150 pounds would need to walk longer to burn the same calories, about 23 minutes per cookie or 50 to 100 minutes for a typical dessert. Picking up the pace and walking at a brisk four miles an hour could reduce the time needed to burn those calories by 25 percent. In most cases, adding extra exercise to offset overeating doesn’t work as a long-term solution.

Q: I’ve heard that many people don’t get enough magnesium in their diets. What foods are the best sources?
A: Magnesium is an essential mineral that plays a role in energy release, nerve and muscle function, bone health, blood pressure control and, research now suggests, insulin function. We don’t need huge amounts of magnesium to lower our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and possibly even colon cancer. Studies generally show the greatest benefit is gained simply by meeting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 320 milligrams (mg) for most women and 420 mg for most men. Unfortunately, as our diets now include more refined, processed foods, we’re filling up on foods low in magnesium and eating fewer of this mineral’s major sources: dark green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and dried beans. In fact, the average American gets about 100 mg below recommended amounts – a problem that is easily remedied with a few dietary adjustments. To ensure you are getting adequate magnesium, aim for three servings of whole grains per day, include a dark green vegetable most, if not every day and add dried beans, seeds or nuts to your favorite salads, stews and snacks. You’re also wise to include plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day.

Q: I’ve heard that green tea and black tea are very healthy, but what about pekoe and orange pekoe tea?
A: Tea varieties are differentiated by both their time of harvest (mature leaves vs. immature leaves) and by the level of oxidation or processing the leaves undergo. Except for herbal teas (which are actually herbal infusions of flowers, leaves, roots or seeds), all tea comes from the same plant. Steaming tea leaves shortly after harvest retains their green color and mild flavor. On the other hand, exposing tea leaves to air promotes a natural fermentation process and produces richly-flavored black tea (actually deep red-brown in color). Oolong tea, often served in Chinese restaurants, is halfway between green and black tea in processing and flavor. Pekoe and orange pekoe tea are actually forms of black tea. Their names refer to variations in the grade and size of the tea leaves. While green tea is highest in EGCG, the phytochemical that is frequently cited for its disease-fighting potential, all teas are rich in flavonoids with antioxidant properties. Researchers continue to explore the potential benefits of all tea varieties for cardiovascular health and cancer prevention.

Reprinted with permission from the American Institute for Cancer Research

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