What’s on your plate special edition: what’s in your cup?

It’s just past 9:00pm, and C’s sat across from me enjoying a cup of herbal tea (or an infusion, as the British and French more correctly call it) something that’s been an evening ritual of ours for some time now.  Except I’m not indulging.  This is not, as you may suspect, because C is mean and didn’t make me one.  It is instead because I get a bizarre case of heartburn if I drink anything hot at night, even those herbs specifically known for their antacid properties.

Drinking is such an important aspect of wellbeing.  I could go on for days about this one…how drinking what’s good for me has helped so much, while how drinking too much of what’s not has hurt me and those I love.  Yes, I do refer to alcohol here, but also caffeine and sugar.  While they don’t intoxicate, they do contribute either to our health or our lack of it, and I’m a huge proponent of all three chemicals!  In moderation, mind…

But let’s start this exploration of all things drinkable with the most obvious and the most important: water.  If you only drink one thing this week, let it be water. hehe. I’ve heard theories that even a minute lack of water can be the culprit of everything from lethargy to depression, from poor digestion to aching joints.  From personal experience, I can say hands-down that drinking enough water, or conversely, not drinking enough, is one of the most sure-fire ways for me to ensure I feel well, or I don’t.  How much is enough?  I’ve seen measurements based on weight and gender, but the general rule of thumb is roughly 8 glasses, or 2 liters.  That sounds like a lot, but if you keep water with you all day, and if you take into consideration that other beverages work into that equation, particularly teas, infusions, and (yes, even) coffee, it starts to look less daunting.  But a lot of coffee means more trips to wee, and that means you need a bit more water.  If you live in a hot, dry climate, you need more water.  If you’ve had alcohol, you need more water.  I try to make sure I get at least 4 pints a day, but you’ll know you’re short on fluid when your wee’s not pale and clear – dark and/or cloudy means you need more agua…and maybe a trip to the doctor.

What about coffee, then?  In my humble opinion, this gorgeous, delicious, wonderful bean has been unfairly maligned in the past.  Drink up, my friends, because caffeine is a natural stimulant that has been proven to ward off depression.  Also, there are antioxydants in coffee just as there are in tea.  I would, however, say that a line must be drawn, because too much caffeine is not a good thing.  I’ve gone through the terrible pain that is caffeine withdrawl (2 day-long pounding headache, extreme fatigue, and a general all-over unpleasantness…ech), and I think that just goes to show that we need to try to keep all chemicals coursing through our veins or digestive tracks in check.

And that includes tea, even though there appears to be no end to the online advice to drink green tea until the whites of your eyes go green to lose weight, cure cancer, and live forever.  Green tea is definitely good for you, but so is black tea – it also has antioxydants – and they both have caffeine (more correctly called theine in French), though green generally has slightly less.  But if you find green tea isn’t your bag (pun intended), bear in mind there are about a gazillion types, and you might just need to keep looking.  There is also oolong (my fave), which is a smoky, fermented tea somewhere between black and green, and then there’s yellow – not fermented but also on that spectrum of not a green, not yet a black tea.  White tea allegedly has the least caffeine and the most antioxydants, though I suspect that depends on what kind of white/green/yellow/oolong/black teas we’re talking about.  It’s really tasty, though, and almost definitely won’t give you caffeine jitters.  All these teas require different brewing times and temperatures, so check labels and check online…there are some serious tea fanatics out there.

Avoiding caffeine all together but still fancy a hot drink?  Enter the infusion (or herbal tea, mis Americanos).  Chamomile, rooibos, peppermint, lemon balm (though C thinks it’s gross), lemon verbena (or verveine as it’s known here)…this list is potentially endless…I shan’t go on.  However, do note that almost all these varieties have some pretty powerful medicinal properties as well…

There are no exceptions or differences whether hot or iced, but I will add this:  consider ditching the sugar and sugar substitutes.  When I stopped putting sugar in my coffee at work, it came to about 6-10 teaspoons of sugar a day I wasn’t consuming anymore.  That’s a lot of sugar!  But sugar substitutes are also awful.  I know this debate goes back and forth, but here’s Harvard telling you they’re not so good, way back in 2012.  There are some old studies claiming stevia might be bad for you, but I think it’s probably the least worrisome of the lot.  The thing is, once you stop drinking your drinks sweet, you stop missing the sweetness in them.  It takes a little while, but it does work.

I will pick that up, however, with something I think you should all stop drinking immediately:  bottled juice.  I know – what the whatIsn’t juice supposed to be healthy?  Yes and no, but if you’re trying to lose weight, I say ban this beverage tout de suite.  Seriously.  Juice is PACKED with sugar and lacks all the fiber that makes fruit so wonderful in the first place.  Listen:  Eat your juice.  Unless you’re juicing, which means you’re potentially still getting a lot of the fiber.  So keep doing that.

Another no-no in my world:  soda.  Or pop.  Or soda-popThis is a regional thing.  Let me clarify:  carbonated beverages like Coke, Sprite, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper (yes, even you, my sweet, sweet doctor…how I’ve missed you all these years!)…you get the picture.  A splash of coke in your cuba libre, okay, but otherwise, keep these drinks – and their sugar-free counterparts – off your list of to-drinks.  Because they are healthy-you sabotage.  If you’re really hooked, it’ll take a while to come off of them, but it will happen.  And if you’re desperate for that carbonation, crack open a Perrier or a San Pellegrino and squeeze in some lime, lemon, or orange juice for flavor.

Booze is not bad…in moderation.  So basically like everything else in life.  In fact, plenty of studies have shown that people who drink in moderation are the healthiest bunch of all, even healthier than those who abstain completely.  But too much is easy to do, particularly in terms of calories, not to mention the energy-sapping effects a boozy night can have on the day to follow, or the lack of sleep from the sugar keeping you tossing and turning all night.  1-2 small glasses of wine, a couple of beers or a light highball won’t hurt you, but if you’re really trying to lose weight, I would limit drinking to parties and special occasions, because it’s just not worth the wasted calories.

A note on how we drink…When I’m in the US, I’m continually baffled by how much liquid people can put back during a meal.  Oh – don’t get me wrong – I certainly did this as well when I lived there.  But it’s really, really not good for you.  Digestion is a very involved process, and your gut needs some space to deal with the food you’re sending its way.  As a friend in Manila once said, “All that water creates a storm in the stomach!”  A very un-scientific sidenote:  I found that pounding great quantities of liquid somehow helped me to ingest more food…while I don’t think this is the case for me now, and maybe it isn’t that way for everyone, I think it can be for some.  Let meal times be mostly for eating, with a few sips here and there, and let the rest of the day be spent hydrating – so many wonderful things to be drunk!

And them’s my thoughts on beverages and weight loss…What are yours?

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