Healthy hacks can make a difference


Matcha tea can be a healthy alternative to coffee

By Shannon Cobb, Staff Writer

Final exams or not,  we probably should be taking better care of ourselves. Here is a short list of easy health and wellness hacks, that work for even the busiest of college students.

Let’s start with something that is an essential part of any busy person’s routine — coffee. Coffee may be working for you, which is fine. But if you are looking for a healthy alternative, look no further. From coffee to vitamins, here are different health and wellness hacks for your brain and body.

Matcha tea isn’t just a drink that they offer at Starbucks — and the real thing offers many benefits. Need your caffeine but hate the crash? Matcha offers the same amount of caffeine as a cup of joe, but also contains something called L-theanine. This alters the effects of caffeine,  still providing alertness but helping you avoid the crash that you typically experience when consuming caffeine alone. Studies have shown that it may be beneficial for boosting brain function, preventing cancer, promoting heart health. L-theanine is very high in antioxidants and can even help aid in weight loss. Matcha can be made with water or milk and consumed hot or with ice. Chai tea is another great alternative that can be bought in liquid latte form or extracted from tea bags, and has equal amounts of caffeine compared to coffee.

We have heard it many times before but a healthy breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Here are some ideas for quick, and easy ways to make sure that your body is ready to get the most out of your day. If you are a fan of yogurt, try opting for Greek yogurt. You can get creative with topping it with easy ingredients. Start with dried or fresh fruit like berries, bananas, pineapple, a diced apple — or even pomegranate seeds (or mix in your favorite jam). Then add a handful of granola to keep you going (you can also use a crunched-up granola bar or your favorite cereal). If you like nuts,  almonds, cashews, pistachios, and walnuts are a great choice. Adding seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, chia, flax, or hemp can be a healthy option and also keep your energy levels steady. You can add some sweetness with honey, agave, maple syrup or even caramel/chocolate syrup. From there,  you can add coconut flakes, dark chocolate chips, graham crackers, a sprinkle of cinnamon, or even a glob of peanut butter.

If you are not a yogurt fan, another quick and healthy idea to try is toast. You heard me right. When is the last time you tried spicing up your toast a little different? There are many different types of bread out there. I would recommend giving multigrain bread a try. Besides the usual butter or jam, try another healthy alternative. Peanut butter is great to help you sustain your energy throughout the day, but there are also other options. Almond butter is surprisingly tasty and usually comes in flavors like vanilla or chocolate. Cashew butter, Nutella, also are good to add something to keep your energy up and your stomach full. Spread avocados onto your toast (can top with an egg)  as they contain even more potassium than bananas and have loads of fiber and other healthy benefits. Better yet —  if you sprinkle on different seeds like flaxseeds or hemp, it will give you an added boost of nutrition. Quickly slice up some bananas, and you can top it all off with a little squeeze of honey or a sprinkle of cinnamon, grab an orange or your favorite fruit and you are ready to go. You can feel the difference of starting your day with a healthy breakfast.

Healthy breakfast is not the only thing that you are going to need to preform at your best. Water is key to so many things in our body, and we hardly consume as much of it as we should. It makes it easier if you buy a reusable water bottle that you drink and refill throughout the day. At night, it can be a good idea to slice up some cucumbers, or mint leaves,  put them into your water bottle and refrigerate for the morning. It can enhance your water experience and is also healthy. You can add limes, oranges, strawberries — again it’s all up to what would motivate you to keep filling up that water bottle throughout the day.

Vitamins. We all know they are good for us but are you really taking advantage of them? Check with your doctor before starting anything, so it does not interact with any medications that you might already be taking. Some people do not like swallowing pills and that is where gummies come in. Start with a good multivitamin, especially if you are not already getting enough nutrients from your diet. Probiotics keep your body working healthy by fighting off bad bacteria in the gut. B-12 helps transform the food you eat into energy throughout the day. A lesser known, but very helpful supplement is called Ashwagandha. Ashwagandha is an ancient herb, that is thought to reduce mental and physical fatigue.  In some studies it has  shown improvements in measures of stress and anxiety. Melatonin is a naturally occurring chemical in the body that you can take at night, to truly help get a more restful sleep. Routine is key  and it’s a good idea to evaluate your sleep hygiene and to see if there is any room for improvements. It may be tempting to stay up late and finish what is needed but is it worth a decrease in productivity for the following morning?

Make sure that you are taking breaks throughout the day. Set a timer to take a break during your study time, especially if you have a hard time stepping away from your work. Exercising of course, is really good but if you tell yourself that you are not the type to exercise, you could be cutting yourself short. Try to keep a simple resistance band, or some light dumbbells near your bed. When your watching TV and find yourself in a commercial break, that is the perfect time to simply get a few reps in. Stretch. Do not feel so pressured by the time left in the day.

Everyone has been told to meditate, and many people have simply tried and wrote it off as not for them. Meditation is beneficial to not only your mind but also your body and productivity. You do not have to do it any certain way — just try setting a timer for just 5 minutes in the morning. Maybe put on some peaceful music, or nature sounds. Get comfortable and just be present. Let your mind wander and see where it takes you. You are not wasting time — in a way, you are enhancing your time by finding the peace of mind to sort out what you need to do or accomplish for the day. Studies show that meditation reduces stress, controls anxiety, promotes emotional health, enhances self-awareness, lengthens your attention span, helps with memory, improves sleep, decreases blood pressure, and helps control chronic pain. Give it a shot —  and then once more — as there are so many different types of meditation out there. Headspace is a good place to start for beginners. Another habit with surprisingly interesting and beneficial habits is journaling. For students, journaling presents the unique benefits of enhancing the brains intake, processing, retaining, and retrieving of information. By meditating on your day and reflecting in a journal for a few minutes at night you can increase your understanding of complex material, unfamiliar concepts, as well as problem solving skills that can be really helpful in your life.

Try something new. Do something good for yourself! It may seem small initially, but you could really find yourself noticing a huge difference and it could just be something that might just become a part of your daily routine. Even one or two changes can really make a big difference in your daily life.