Beneficial beverages

On the other side of the coin, coffee can contribute to heartburn, nausea, decreased absorption of some vitamins and minerals including iron, decreased bone mass density, glaucoma, anxiety, tremors, insomnia and increased heart rate and irregular heartbeats. Coffee contributes to miscarriage, low birth weight and some birth defects in pregnant women, and coffee plants are one of the crops most heavily sprayed for pesticides. Caffeine is very addictive, and coffee drinkers are more likely to smoke than abstainers.

A new coffee-leaf tea is touted as being better than either coffee or tea, with less caffeine than either, fighting cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

Tea has a pretty wholesome image and has gotten lots of press in recent years as a health tonic. Not all “tea” is tea, however. It’s legit only if it comes from the plant Camellia sinensis. Herbal teas are made of other plants and don’t have the same benefits, although some, like chamomile, may be beneficial.

Types of true tea include black, green, white, oolong and pu-erh, all processed in different ways. All have less caffeine than coffee and contain helpful compounds called flavonoids, similar to the phytochemicals in vegetables and fruits. Some of them can combat the free radicals that can cause heart problems and cancer. Tea is touted as helping with mental acuity, high blood pressure, stroke, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s, and said to have antimicrobial qualities. Green tea is highest in antioxidants and may help your cholesterol count, reduce the risk of stroke as well as lung, stomach, pancreatic, bladder, ovarian, prostate and colorectal cancers. Its catechins and caffeine may help with weight loss. Black tea is said to protect lungs from damage as well as lower stroke risk, and possibly ovarian cancer.

As with coffee, it’s not all good. Teas that have the following ingredients should be avoided, per the FDA: aloe, buckthorn, chaparral, comfrey, ephedra, germander, lobelia, senna and willow bark. Tea may also be sprayed heavily with chemicals like DDT (illegal here but not in India and China), a reason organic versions are worth seeking out. Besides caffeine, tannins and fluorides are in there, too. Tannins can affect iron and calcium absorption in the body. Fluoride has been reported to lead to brain damage, poor bone density and thyroid function, when consumed in excess. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends against tea — because of the effect of the caffeine on your neurotransmitters — for those with anxiety, or stomach, kidney or heart problems.

Wine lovers of the world were happy a few years ago when they learned that not only was their favorite beverage delicious, meal-enhancing and relaxing, but it was healthy, too. The resveratrol in red wine was widely reported to up your good cholesterol, diminish blood clotting and be generally good for your heart. Other claims are better cell function, more energy and lower liver fat and blood sugar levels, both major risk factors for Type 2 diabetes. Cornell University Researchers found that highest concentrations of resveratrol are in pinot noir or darker reds like Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah/Shiraz.

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