The Many Benefits of L-Theanine

April 17th, 2014 by

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Moringa tea. Moringa tea is not your ordinary cup of tea; it has many health benefits, and contains a variety of essential amino acids, including L-Theanine. Studies have shown that L-Theanine may help your brain and body perform better.

So what are the benefits? In research studies, L-Theanine has been shown to:

  • balance your sleep and wake cycles
  • reduce anxiety
  • calm and rejuvenate
  • reduce mental and physical stress
  • improve cognition and mood in a synergistic manner with caffeine

L-Theanine (also known as just theanine) was discovered in green tea in 1949. It has now been found in multiple types of tea, including black and Moringa.

Theanine is responsible for slowing the “speedy” energizing effect that caffeine has. My day includes at least a cup or more of tea called “chai black.” For those of you who love chai lattes, it’s pretty much half of that, plus black tea. A U.S. Department of Agriculture study found that black tea reduces low-density lipo-proteins (LDLs), or the “bad cholesterol” in our bodies. So, with the amount of black tea I drink, I am pretty confident I have very few of these LDLs hanging out.

In another study published by Brigham and Women’s Hospital, researchers tested out the all-star benefits of theanine. Their experiment consisted of a four-week trial with 11 coffee drinkers and 10 tea drinkers, who consumed 600 mL of either coffee or black tea daily. The findings indicate that theanine may be helpful in increasing the immune response to infection by boosting the disease-fighting capacity of gamma delta T cells. The tea drinker’s blood analysis revealed the production of anti-bacterial proteins were up to 5 times higher in the tea drinkers. (View results of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital study or a summary.)

And according to a study by Johns Hopkins University, participants given 25mg of theanine each day showed an increase in theta brain waves within the hypothalamus, which could indicate improved cognition and memory.

Theanine works hand in hand with relaxation and other brain functions, too. In numerous studies with an EEG, or electroencephalography test, theanine has been shown to help induce alpha waves in our brain during deep relaxation, which may heighten the imagination, visualization, memory, learning, and concentration.

Highest Concentration of L-Theanine: Green Tea or Black Tea?

green tea on table

Green tea. Photo by craig Cloutier via Flickr

Studies have shown mixed results in regards to which tea has more theanine. Though, a number of studies have pointed in the direction of black tea containing the most, including a study by Mendeley in 2009 and Keenan et al in 2010.

Green tea has more antioxidants than black tea — polyphenols, catechins, and flavanoids that help reduce free radicals in the body, as well as fight infection and numerous health conditions, including cancer. Most of these antioxidants are absent in black tea.

Do not mistake me, for the health benefits of green tea are numerous. In addition to the list above, Moringa green tea is the newest, 5-star green tea in the history of green teas. Let me explain. Moringa not only has theanine, but also has all of the essential amino acids, as well as vitamin B12, which is needed for energy and stamina. It is used to curb snacking, and may improve overall cognition, attention, and alertness. In addition, it has been used all over the world to address malnutrition.

The secret to drinking Moringa is mixing it with cold water. Hot water can rid it of its amazing nutritional properties. And make sure it is organic (no harmful pesticides).

How do you know if your tea contains theanine?

matcha green tea powder on table

Matcha green tea powder. Photo by Mattie Hagedorn via Flickr

  • Standard green tea, such as sencha, has about 5mg per cup
  • Gyokuro and matcha tea have as much as 46mg per cup
  • Black tea has about 46mg per cup

If you are interested in purchasing any of these, I would suggest getting organic tea from a reputable source to ensure quality.

Side Effects: Be careful of taking L-Theanine as a supplement if you are taking medications. It may interfere or interact and with high blood pressure medication, lowering your blood pressure too much, since L-Theanine has relaxing properties.

The Home Stretch and the Summer Break

April 15th, 2014 by

World Campus Students, I hope this find you well — at least, as well as a person can be, when juggling the end-of-the-year school load and their normal life responsibilities all at once.

Summer is in sight! Just a few more weeks... Photo by alex de carvalho via Flickr.

Summer is in sight! Just a few more weeks.         Photo by alex de carvalho via Flickr.

We’re in the home stretch of this semester and I have to say, I can feel it in every part of my life. Weeks go by so quickly now, sleep is becoming a rarity, and I can barely keep track of what project is due when.

Now, don’t get me wrong, being a World Campus student is amazing. It really truly is. We’re afforded both the opportunity to get one of the best educations out there and maintain the lives we want to live. But that isn’t to say that the work load is any lighter, or that we don’t have to work just as hard as students who attend a traditional campus.

As the semester comes to a close, I’m not going to inundate you with tips about finishing the year strong, or give you advice about surviving overwhelming amounts of stress. Instead, I’m going to focus on summer — the light at the end of the tunnel — and what it’s going to mean for all of us who are taking the summer off. (And for those who are not, let this blog post offer you a few ideas about how to occupy any free time you do end up having.)

  1. Sunday nights are ours again — no more classwork due at 11:59 Eastern Time. We will once again be the master of our Sunday evenings. So throw that barbeque, take that long drive to somewhere you’re not entirely familiar with yet. Get out and smell the roses.
  2. We can indulge again! So stay out that extra hour (or three). For a few months, we will no longer have to worry about getting enough sleep to live both our normal lives (work, family, etc.) and our school lives (homework, groups). Take out the school responsibility, and prepare to be amazed at how much time you gain back.
  3. Sleep will once again be a common factor in our lives, and not just a happy accident. Your body, mind, and soul are going to love you when you take advantage of the fact that you can actually rest, and not feel guilty about it. Just a bit longer and rest will be restored!
  4. Most importantly, at least, I think, is that we are getting the chance to take a step back from school work and reassess what we’re doing. Summer is the time to relax, but it’s also the time to make sure that the path we’ve chosen is the one we really want.

Whatever we decide, autumn is already waiting for us. Until then, let us finish this year like our lives depend on it, and let’s remember how truly lucky we are to be so tired. After all, not just anyone has what it takes to be a Nittany Lion.

Have a wonderful summer, ladies and gentlemen. Make it count.

We Are!

 "The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn't know enough to take a vacation"; Clarence Day. Don't be an ant, and make the most of the long days and warm nights. Photo by broterham via Flickr.

“The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn’t know enough to take a vacation.”               -Clarence Day. Don’t be an ant, and make the most of the long days and warm nights.
Photo by broterham via Flickr.

Talk with Penn State Alumni Who Want to Connect With You

April 12th, 2014 by

You might have questions about a particular job industry, and you want to hear from someone “on the inside.” Or maybe you’re considering applying to a certain company and want to know about the climate and culture there. Maybe you just want to talk with someone who has graduated from Penn State to see what our alumni are doing.

Students: Join the Blue & White Society today to access a database of thousands of engaged alumni.

LionLink can help you do all of this

LionLink is a program that lets Penn State students and alumni search a database of thousands of Penn State alumni — who have already said they are eager to speak with Penn State students!

They are eager to share about where they work, what they do, and how they got there.

Network to learn about new jobs or new locations

LionLink is great for networking, and you can use it to your advantage in other ways, too. For instance, if you’re considering moving, connecting with someone through LionLink can shed light on what local school districts are like, and might help you find good places to live.

LionLink has a worldwide reach

Since so much of LionLink takes place online, the Alumni Association makes an effort to be available and include alumni from every campus, around the world, and in every industry. And, if you can’t find a person in a particular industry or geographic region in the LionLink database, the Alumni Association might be able to connect you with alumni who are not in the database.

Find alumni now

LionLink is available to members of the Penn State Alumni Association and the Blue & White Society.

The Ease and Value of Community Service

April 11th, 2014 by

Community service is a great thing, and a wonderful way to create positive change within your locale, wherever it may be. There are a huge variety of ways to get involved that require very little, if any, effort on your part to participate.

Volunteers packing gift bags for "Feed My Starving Children"

Fellow volunteers and I pack dehydrated meals for the nonprofit “Feed My Starving Children”

I currently volunteer at Feed My Starving Children, a nonprofit organization in Minnesota that packs dehydrated meals for developing countries (191 million meals in Fiscal Year 2013, in fact!). We have volunteer jobs at our permanent sites that are as simple as putting “best before” labels on the bags that will later house the packed meals. Of course, we have more involved jobs, like working in our warehouse and hauling around 30-50 pound boxes for a couple of hours, but we provide this variety of jobs specifically to cater to a range of volunteer interests, and many organizations are no different.

AnySoldier.com is an organization dedicated to sending care packages to troops overseas, and all you have to do to get involved is build a package to be sent — as a matter of fact, you get to search their lists to find which specific soldiers to whom you would like to send the package, and you get a customized list of items they need.

Cheerful Givers simply asks that you pick up a few items for less than $10 and drop them off at your local food shelf or shelter and ask that they be donated to a child as a birthday present. Then you register through their website, and bam – you’re a cheerful giver!

If none of those appeal to you, or because of time and financial constraints you need a way to volunteer from home, Oprah has assembled a list of 6 ways to make a difference — Goodsearch and A Kind Voice are my personal favorites.

Additionally, if you’re willing to make the time or financial sacrifice but just don’t know where to start, Volunteer Match will set you up with an organization tailored to your requests.

So why go through the trouble of volunteering? There are tangible benefits to volunteering your time, especially if you do so for a lengthy period.

If you’re extremely motivated to volunteer, there are very few résumé boosters better than the Peace Corps — this article from the Huffington Post notes that serving in the Peace Corps, at its very least, connects you with a network of over 200,000 other volunteers, and anyone with any interest in getting a job knows that networking is one of the most important parts of that process.

Additionally, Peace Corps volunteers have already demonstrated to potential employers an extreme willingness to go out of their comfort zones for the sake of their “job,” and that flexibility will look awfully good compared to other candidates who may have the degrees but no experience.

If you’re motivated to volunteer, but don’t want to devote two-and-a-half years of your life out of country to do it, consider finding a charity in your municipality that offers volunteer opportunities. While you do so, ask for documentation to record your hours; no one will look at you crossly for it, and doing so may make you eligible for the President’s Volunteer Service Award, another huge résumé booster.

All in all, volunteering can make a huge difference in your future, whether through the impact the volunteer work has on you on a personal level, or whether it enhances your professional options when looking for a job. In any case, get involved!

Fellow Penn Staters—how have you been getting involved in your local communities?

Eating Right During Final Exams

April 10th, 2014 by

During the crunch of finals, food might be one of the last things on your mind. But certain foods can actually help your brain work at optimal levels, and with a little bit of planning, your diet may help you do better on your finals.

Dr. Kris Clark

Dr. Kris Clark, director of Sports Nutrition at Penn State.

We recently chatted with Dr. Kris Clark, Penn State’s sports nutritionist, about what kinds of foods are best to eat during finals and ways to to make dinner time less stressful during this hectic week.

4 Foods that Improve Mental Function

1. Omega 3 Fatty Acids — eicosapentanoic acid (EPA) and docosanoic (DHA) 

These are most often found in fish and dark, leafy vegetables (broccoli, grape leaves, spinach, etc.). “These fatty acids, particularly DHA, are highly active in the brain, and when consumed on a regular basis, they may optimize brain function,” says Dr. Clark.

2. Antioxidants

“Diets that include 4-5 servings of fruits and vegetables on a regular, daily basis contribute multiple sources of antioxidants, such as beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin A, and a slew of health-promoting flavonoids. Antioxidants protect cell membranes from damaging chemicals known as free radicals. Studies have shown that people who eat more fruits and vegetables have better brain health and memory. This does not occur eating fruits and vegetables the night before exams, but may offer benefits if eaten regularly over months and years,” says Dr. Clark.

Eating fruits and vegetables regularly can improve brain function. Photo by Penn State Public Media.

Eating fruits and vegetables regularly can improve brain function. Photo: Penn State Public Relations.

3. Carbohydrates

“The brain can only function on glucose, which is principally derived from carbohydrate-rich foods. Eating small amounts throughout the day will keep blood sugar at an even level, supplying the brain with necessary fuel for studying. Healthy carbohydrate picks include whole grain bread or vegetable sticks with hummus, whole grain crackers with low fat cheese or cheese sticks, fresh fruit, low fat Greek yogurt with some walnuts and dried cranberries added,” says Dr. Clark.

4. Fluids

“Drinking water while studying prevents dehydration, one of the top causes of fatigue. Avoid high-calorie drinks such as soda and sport drinks. Extra calories that don’t contain quality nutrients are of no value late at night while studying,” says Dr. Clark.

What to Avoid When Studying

“High-fat, high-sugar foods give students a sense of ‘enjoyment’ while studying, but typically after binging on these foods, students wind up feeling terrible. Instead of nervously eating foods like chips, cookies, and ice cream before an exam, try to eat them after the test is over. Remember, you aren’t physically active when you’re studying, so excess calories should not be the goal while studying. In addition, avoid alcohol. As a depressant, alcohol will promote sleepiness and distract you from studying,” says Dr. Clark.

3 Ways to Make Dinners Less Stressful

1. Create a week-long menu

“This sets the stage for one grocery shopping trip,” says Dr. Clark. “It goes without saying that every dietitian is going to recommend fruits, vegetables, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish, beans, nuts, and whole grains. These are the foods you want to have on hand. Figure out what you need for five dinners, lunches, and breakfasts, as well as snacks.”

2. Set aside time to prepare and cook foods in advance

“Cut vegetables up and stick them in Tupperware in advance for snacks or steaming. Have grapes and apples available. With an organized food plan it’s easier to stay on track with good eating. Planning and cooking meals on Sunday, to freeze and use during the week, is a great way to save time for weekday dinners,” says Dr. Clark.

If you’re looking for a good tool to help with meal planning, Dr. Clark recommends chooseMyPlate.gov.

3. If time is an issue, consider buying pre-cut or frozen vegetables and other foods

“There’s no doubt about it, cleaning and cutting vegetables takes time. But the value of eating them is worth the time or the extra money spent on the convenience of pre-cut produce. You can also buy frozen vegetables that are cleaned, cut, and ready to be microwaved. These products are extremely nutritious since they were frozen directly upon harvesting to retain all their nutritional properties. Frozen fruits can be added to smoothies or thawed overnight to be ready for breakfast cereals. Take advantage of dried fruits, too. They require no preparation, and you can add them to salads or cereals (hot or cold), or grab them as a fast snack,” says Dr. Clark.

How Do You Plan Meals During Finals?

Do you have other recommendations for ways to eat right during finals? Post your recommendations below in the comments.

Spring Clean Your Financial Clutter

April 7th, 2014 by

Buy a shredder and a large pizza, and let’s talk clutter!

Dr. Daad Rizk

Dr. Daad Rizk

Spring season is here, and like many people you may have been anxiously waiting for the weather to warm up so you can clean your closets, sort through clutter, and have a garage sale. Maybe you want to free some room around your house and get back some of the money you now regret spending on items you did not really need. Don’t worry — your secret is safe with us, if you promise to take time to spring clean your financial clutter along with your closets.

Financial clutter comes in many shapes and forms. It could be an insurmountable pile of papers laying comfortably on your kitchen table or hiding away behind cabinets and in drawers.  It could also be numerous bank accounts that you opened over the years, costing you enormous fees but offering no practical benefit.

Clutter — financial and otherwise — can be a bigger and more expensive problem than we may realize, as Becoming Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker explains in his “Statistics of Clutter” post. For example, 23 percent of adults say they pay bills late (and incur fees) because they lose them, and on average we spend one year of our lives looking for lost items.

Is clutter causing you physical and emotional stress? Are you wasting hours searching for that warranty that could save you money? Are you frustrated about being a “pack rat” but don’t know what to do?

You might start with your financial clutter. Collect all financial papers in one bucket, buy a shredder and a large pizza, and do your best to shred or file each paper until you’ve gone through everything.

You can also learn other strategies, get tips for organizing financial information, and find out what you really should keep and what you can discard, at our upcoming “Spring Clean Financial Clutter” webinar. Join us as we sort, review, and decide whether to shred or to file each piece of your financial clutter.

Spring Clean Your Financial Clutter

Thursday, April 24, 8:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. ET

Register for the webinar.

Expand Your World (Campus)

April 4th, 2014 by

On any one day of class I may interact with someone from India or New York, from Kazakhstan to France. I may face time zone restrictions that push meetings to unconventional hours of the morning or night. I am more surprised to meet someone from my own state than I am to meet someone from halfway across the globe, and I get the perspective of culture as much as academics. I am a World Campus student. My halls are the roaming corridors of the internet and my classes are virtually boundless.

When I first started as a Penn State student, flush with the pride of acceptance and ready to tackle the rigors of distance learning, I did not know what to expect. I did not know how valuable an “internet degree,” as I heard more than one person call it, could be. If I am honest, I shared some of their skepticism.

OneWorld

Photo by Paul Downey via Flickr

The truth is that online education is sometimes a hard sell, but technology is catching up with necessity and the rigors of distance learning are on par with that of traditional education. There are so many tools to bring the experience in line with traditional education. And someday I fully believe that online education will surpass the traditional as the technology grows. In this day and age, geography should no longer be a deterrent to a great education. The fact is that a lot of us are too settled, with families and lives, to pick up and head toward the physical prestige of Penn State, so we are satisfied with the virtual prestige of it.

There are challenges to distance learning, to be sure. Motivating yourself. Digesting difficult material. The occasional issues of coordination and understanding among different cultures and experiences. But there are just too many obvious advantages to dismiss. I get to make my schedule week to week. I get the freedom and flexibility that fits my life. If I want to play Hot Wheels with my son, or spring out of the house for an hour run after work on a warm day long overdue, I can. What’s more, I always have the course materials on hand and access to the professor and to the wealth of learning tools that enhance the experience.

And then there are those advantages I could not foresee. One of the real unexpected joys of my World Campus education so far has been the diverse perspectives that I enjoy on a regular basis. It is as though my academic experience is being magnified by the lens of cultural reference. Not only do I get to share in the wealth of experience that my fellow students bring, but I get to hear the way that their experience is shaped and sharpened by where they are from in this world, and where they are going in it.

Being a World Campus student is more than getting an online degree from a distinguished university, it is about becoming an alum of the world. You share the honor and prize of your education with a community of students that stretches across boundaries we may never physically reach, but will do our best to virtually breach.

The World Campus education offers you the opportunity to learn, not only about those academic interests you are pursuing, but the people like yourself from different parts of the world that are also pursuing it. It is a chance at enrichment beyond the mere accumulation of facts. It is a chance to interact with the world!

Now, I am not going to say an online education is for everyone, but I know that I found a part of myself in the community of such disparate others and we share a goal and a computer screen we call class. You are welcome to join us anytime, but make sure you bring something to share. Everyone else has.

How to Not be Overwhelmed with Finals

April 3rd, 2014 by
flowers blooming in front of Old Main

Spring is here — which means finals are, too.

Now that spring is here, the weather is getting nicer. Golf courses are opening, and the beach may be calling your name. If you have children, you may have annual spring concerts, spring sports, and end-of-year field trips.

While all of this is going on, you have to study for your finals. Take a few minutes to read through these tips. By making a few adjustments in your study routine, you can maximize your study time and find some flexibility to enjoy spring.

Ways to Make Studying Less Stressful

  • Don’t wait to review your notes — instead, review them within one day of learning new information.
  • Review every day. Spending 15–20 minutes reading over your notes daily for each class will make a difference!
  • Ask instructors to clarify what you still don’t understand. This will show the instructor you are taking your studies seriously and want to know the correct information for the exam.
  • Ask a classmate to share notes. What did you get that he/she missed and vice versa? You will both benefit from this study technique.

When It’s Time to Study, Stay Focused on What You Can Control

  • You can control when and where you study. You have no control over the party at your neighbor’s house.
  • Take responsibility for yourself. Don’t stress over trying to schedule study times with friends who will not commit.
  • Be aware of the power of positive thinking and confidence. Tell yourself this: I am going to do well on my exam.

The Best Time to Study?

No time is “best” for everyone. You have to choose the time that works for you.

Study at the time you are most alert. Personally, I am a morning person, so I would study then, but some students prefer to study in the late evenings.

Set up a study schedule based on your exam schedule. Try not to study for several exams at once (if this is a possibility). Also, try to finish studying 24 hours prior to the exam.

Let Your Preferred Learning Style Guide How You Study

If you are not sure what type of learner you are, read up on the various styles. You might even choose to take the short assessment.

  • If you are an auditory learner:
    • Read aloud.
    • Record yourself reading your notes and listen to it when you can.
  • If you are a visual learner:
    • Color code your notes by topic or chapter.
    • Graphically organize your notes.
  • If you are a kinesthetic (hands-on) learner:
    • Teach someone else (a friend, your pet, etc.).
    • Rewrite your notes…neatly.

Studying for Math Exams

  • List all the formulas you need to know.
  • Complete practice problems that were not assigned in class.
  • If you have them, look over old tests and quizzes.
  • Redo problems you got wrong on homework assignments.
  • Ask a classmate to write up a short quiz for you. You do the same for him/her.

Cramming

This is not the best way for most people to study. It’s overwhelming and stressful, and can often lead to a poor outcome. If you find yourself having to cram:

  • Focus on keywords and phrases.
  • Skim chapters focusing on headings.
  • Read chapter summaries.

You can listen to our PawCast episode about study skills for more information on why cramming doesn’t work for most people:

On Exam Day

  • Arrive early to your proctor site or log in to the exam as early as possible.
  • Make sure all technology is working properly.
  • Make sure you have everything you need. Does your instructor allow books or notes?
  • Look over the entire test so you can plan your time wisely.
  • Read the directions carefully!
  • Do what you know first.
  • Take your time so you do not make careless mistakes.
H Jackson Brown Quote ("The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today") transposed on blurry road image

Photo by BK via Flickr.

Career Services Available to World Campus Students

March 28th, 2014 by

If you’re new to Penn State World Campus, you might not know about the many career resources available to you.  There are many ways that we can help you develop your career well before your last semester (so start early—even your first semester!).  As World Campus’s career counselor, I am dedicated to helping students develop professionally.

World Campus provides career-related resources such as career counseling, several career tests and assessments, a wealth of career resources (e.g., career libraries, employer directories), career webinars, and opportunities to interact with employers.

A career counselor can help you:

  • discover how your degree relates to occupations
  • find online career resources or employers related to your career
  • take a career assessment to identify your interests, values, skills, or personality related to work (e.g., for clarity on career direction, to help you make decisions, to fine tune career choices)
  • gather information about the jobs that people do (i.e., what people do for work, where they do it, how they got there, expected growth for occupations, income estimates, etc.)
  • create a plan to develop yourself professionally (e.g., identify occupations that interest you, advance in your company, plan and evaluate job search effectiveness, outline steps you need to take to apply to grad school, etc.)
  • feel prepared to attend online career fairs

Learn more about how we can help you further your career:

I look forward to helping you reach your career goals!

Late Dropping a Course: Important Considerations

March 28th, 2014 by

Late dropping a course can have financial and academic implications. With the late-drop deadline approaching, it’s important to be sure you understand how a late drop might affect you before making your decision.

The spring 2014 late-drop deadline for standard fifteen-week courses is April 11. Some courses may have different deadlines; check the Course Drop Dates page in eLion for your specific course drop dates.

If you’re thinking about late dropping a course, please keep the following considerations in mind:

  • You will be assessed a $6 processing fee for each course that you late drop.
  • Courses dropped during the late-drop period will appear on your student record.
  • You may be assessed a tuition penalty for courses that you late drop even before the late-drop deadline. For more information, see Penn State’s Tuition Adjustment Policy.
  • Late dropping could affect your eligibility for financial aid. If you have questions, you can contact our Student Aid Office at studentaid@outreach.psu.edu or 800-252-3592.
  • You are allotted a certain number of late-drop credits throughout your time at Penn State. Students in bachelor’s degree programs have 16 late-drop credits; students in associate degree programs — and nondegree students — have 10 late-drop credits. If you use all of your late-drop credits, you will not be able to late drop any more credit courses without completing a University Faculty Senate petition. Faculty senate petitions are for extenuating circumstances and are not automatically approved.

To late drop a course, send an email from your Penn State email account to coursedrops@outreach.psu.edu. Please be sure to include your Penn State ID number, the course number, and the semester.

Contact your instructor or your adviser to discuss whether you should late drop a course or consider other options.

To learn more about dropping courses and important considerations, review Penn State’s course drop periods.