Saturday, September 14, 2013

Healthy alternatives to soda and soft drinks

English: 3 cans of Crush drink, from left to r...
 
You must be surprised that I am back with more on soda drinks. I have written five articles (What About Soda and Energy Drinks? May 2013) about the harmful effects of colas, energy, and soft drinks on health. Unfortunately attracted by their sugary taste, many children over-consume them at very young ages, which leave brain and body damages early enough to impact their future health. 
 
The main side effect of cola and sweetened drinks is obesity, a metabolic syndrome that leads to diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disorders, heart problems, strokes, limb amputations, vision loss, Alzheimer’s disease, and even cancer. Their high sugar content (10 to 12 teaspoons) elevates insulin, which stresses the body and turns sugar to abdominal fat. Because excess fat around the belly secretes inflammatory substances, inflammation silently brews internally, triggering devastating diseases. 

Most canned beverages also contain high caffeine along with artificial additives (sweeteners, flavorings, colorings and preservatives). Sugar, caffeine and phosphoric acid leach the bones of calcium and deposit it in soft tissues (joints, kidneys, arteries). The first two are addictive, making the consumer go for seconds and more, over-stimulating the nervous system and causing insomnia and stress. Caffeine is especially high in some energy drinks (Red Bull). Scientists warn against its consumption as it increases risk of fatal blood clots and heart disease. Due to their dangerous effects, they are banned in certain European countries.

When studies showed the relationship between soda drinks and obesity, the industry came up with sugar substitutes (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Unwittingly, consumers turned to sugar-free colas, not realizing that the artificial sweeteners were found to have carcinogenic effects. Moreover, research at the University of Texas found them to stimulate the brain to crave sugar, leading to overconsumption and obesity.

HFCS also comes with its harmful baggage, especially to the liver. Due to sweetened sodas and fast food, obesity has recently skyrocketed to over 50 percent in the Gulf countries, placing them in the lead in terms of obesity figures, followed by the USA.  Cola, soft beverages and fast food are recent manmade concoctions, promoted by the giant American beverage and food industries. This unhealthy culture became part and parcel of our daily lifestyles, substituting nutritious food and drinks. 

Unfortunately, their consumption is so high in children and young people, office and hospital employees and especially field workers that they have replaced water, which is a necessity for our cells, blood, organs, and systems for nourishment and detoxification. That is why, today, I decided to point out healthier alternatives to such beverages. I will start with water.

Water is an essential life-sustaining element to the body, brain, cells, blood, organs, and systems (digestive, glandular, respiratory, urinary, vascular…). It keeps the blood fluid in order to enhance its flow, prevents platelet aggregation and blood clots, and helps the elimination and detoxification processes. Your body and brain are over 70 percent water. All the systems depend on water; therefore we cannot live without it. 

Nothing quenches the body like pure water. A slice of lemon, lime, ginger, lemongrass, or mint leaves can be added to it. Tap water is not reliable in our country; it could be contaminated (heavy metals pesticides, antibiotics, or other pollutants). It is best to use a high quality carbon-based filter on your tap. In certain European countries, tap water is very pure, refreshing, and crystal clear. It is even preferred to bottled mineral water. 

The Chinese drink water, hot or warm, with their meals to aid digestion. Warm water is recommended before breakfast to stimulate the bowel movement and elimination. No juice or drink can substitute for water. Dr. Mao (Toa of Wellness) disapproves of soda and sweetened beverages and recommends unsweetened water, herbal infusions, tea, and little coffee instead. Here are some options. 

Tea is refreshing, health-promoting, and high in polyphenols (protective antioxidants) that detoxify the cells, blood, systems, and body from free radicals; bolsters immunity; reduces inflammation; and helps protect the body against diseases. It comes in multiple varieties (black, green, white, pu-her, oolong, sencha, bancha...). All are refreshing and energizing, good for the heart and brain. Tea contains caffeine; too much of the brew is not recommended, especially at night. White tea contains the least caffeine, 5 percent only. It is made of unfermented young tealeaves. 

One cup of coffee a day can be beneficial. Minimize sugar, opt for coconut sweetener instead, stevia leaves, or xylitol, they do not seem to be harm at the moment. Like sodas, caffeine is a diuretic, eliminating water; thus it is negative water. Herbal teas are caffeine-free and offer a wealth of phytocompounds. Herbs come in many varieties like mint, peppermint, holy basil, lemongrass, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano, verbena, rooibos, chamomile, hibiscus, chrysanthemum flowers, and more. Each one offers different properties that lift energy and immunity, calm the nerves, or induce sleep. Some are calming (passion flower), digestive (verbena), relaxing (mint, chamomile) and curative (thyme, holy basil); others are refreshing (hibiscus) and detoxifying (rooibos, lemongrass), memory boosting (sage, rosemary), and energizing. 

Rich in antioxidants and phytochemicals, roots, spices, and aromatic seeds (anize, fennel, cumin, caraway…) like ginger (a warming energizer), cinnamon (a sweetener), cardamom, cloves (detoxifier), turmeric (anti-inflammatory), and saffron are recommended to add flavor to herbal drinks, salads, baked goods, soups, and meat and vegetable dishes. All types of herbal infusions or fruit teas can be mixed with roots, spices, and aromatic seeds to give diversified flavors and increase energy and antioxidants without harming health unless consumption is exaggerated. They make refreshing cold, iced, or warming hot drinks with meals and replace colas and soft beverages. Tea tastes good with mint, peppermint or lemon grass. Chamomile and verbena do well with ginger and lemon grass, rosemary or mint leaves. You can make your own blend. Ginger and cinnamon taste good with freshly squeezed fruit juices (carrot, orange, apple).

Cinnamon mimics insulin in the body, controlling its sudden spike in response to sugar. Cardamom, ginger, and cloves mix well with both tea and coffee to give warmth and vitality. Spices are very high in health-promoting, detoxifying, anti-aging antioxidants. Most hot or cold drinks can be sweetened with a drop of honey, cinnamon, maple, agave, coconut sweetener, stevia leaf, or xylitol. Avoid HFCS; it acts differently in the body, damaging the liver. Do not let the industry fool you into thinking otherwise. 

Though the whole fruit is superior for its precious fiber, freshly juiced organic fruits offer the same benefits, definitely preferable to soft drinks. Diluting fresh juices with water reduces their calories.  You can make your own fresh juices and blends of smoothies or buy them from specialized fresh juice bars. You can add frozen berry pulp to citrus juice. Berries are low in sugar and offer many phytochemicals. You can dilute fruit concentrate with sparkling or still water, without sweeteners. 

Fresh non-starchy vegetables also make healthy detoxifying juices. Carrots or tomatoes make a good base for leafy greens, cabbage, squash, or any well-washed veggie of your choice. Ginger, salt, pepper, and lemon give the juice zest. A drop of olive oil enhances nutrient absorption.  You can add low fat yogurt or soymilk to make shakes or smoothies. Sprinkle salt and pepper to beaten yogurt and dilute it with water to make a nice refreshing summer drink.
 
Mint leaves give it a nice twist.

Processed meats, denatured, nutrient-empty, manufactured foods, additives, artificial colorings, flavors, and sweeteners, taste-enhancers (monosodium glutamate, MSG), hydrogenated fats, refined sugar, carbohydrates, colas, sodas, energy and soft drinks are processed and manmade, hence foreign to the human body and also injurious to health.
Aren’t you what you eat? 

Go back to basics without altering the nature of foods; you will enjoy the natural flavor of fresh, organic, and locally grown fruits, veggies, and herbs. Why should we replace nutritious natural foods with denatured processed comestibles and artificial flavors and colorings? Let us become SMART eaters to remain healthy and live well! 

References:

• Articles by Will Carrol
• Reuters, Coke and Pepsi change recipe to avoid cancer warning
• Internet articles
• What soft drinks are doing to your body, article by Dr. Mao
• One soft drink a day raises “heart attack danger” by 20% according to US study, and Red Bull…increased risk of Heart Disease, says Scientists by Fiona Macrae
• Natural News, Obama agency rules Pepsi’s use of aborted fetal cells in soft drinks constitutes ‘ordinary business operations,’ by Ethan A. Huff
• Men’s Health. Are energy drink dangerous to your health, by David Zinzenko with Matt Goulding
 
N.B.: Individuals with medical conditions or on medication should consult their physicians when they decide to introduce anything new in their diet even if it is natural.
 
The previous Health Solutions articles are located at www.arabnews.com
 
(Mariam A. Alireza is a holistic science specialist. Send comments to mariam.alireza@gmail.com
 
 
 
Enhanced by Zemanta