In Part 1, I wrote about why many of the drinks waiting on store shelves really aren’t good for you because of the sugar in them. I didn’t really touch on the chemicals in them that we might be concerned about, but let’s just say most drinks you can buy aren’t good for you. It’s that simple. Even water can be a concern because of the leaching of chemicals from the plastic- in many cases, we don’t know if they are bad but we also can’t say they are good because it simply hasn’t been studied long-term. So what to drink? Many patients fear that giving up sweet drinks means a life of drinking only water. Never fear, there is hope! Welcome to the wonderful world of teas and tisanes.
Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol, and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.
“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”
There is significant literature on the health benefits of tea that I won’t repeat here, but the short version is for most people teas and tisanes are a healthy beverage choice with many varieties and flavors to choose from.
Let’s start with tisanes since most of you are already familiar with teas. Tisanes have no caffeine and depending on the ingredients you choose can have a wide variety of health benefits. The challenge is finding the ingredients locally because many haven’t made their way mainstream yet. Some Asian or international markets will have some. We carry some of these harder to find tisane ingredients for sale in loose form for our communities. They can be brewed and enjoyed hot or cold. In addition to many varieties made from herbs and fruits, a popular tisane is a rooibos. Rooibos teas are a naturally sweet and sometimes nutty herbal tea made from the South African Red Bush. The rooibos tea processing method involves harvesting the red bush leaves, followed by grinding and bruising of the leaves.
Most grocery stores have a wide selection of tisanes (or herbal teas). I recommend reading the labels and selecting those that are organic and without synthetic ingredients. You can even make your own at home from dried or fresh mint, organic citrus peels, fresh ginger, cinnamon...the options are endless.
Teas come in so many varieties- there is a whole world of flavors to explore. Here’s a quick summary of types, all are made from the Camellia sinensis plant:
Black tea made by a process of withering then rolling the tea leaves followed by a long period of fermentation. Then the black tea leaves are fired resulting in a loose leaf black tea with a complex yet recognizable smell and full-bodied, strong flavor.
Need some inspiration for your own teas or tisanes? Here are some of my favorites:
If you need help selecting a tisane specifically designed to support your health needs let us know during your next appointment! Do you regularly drink teas or tisanes? What is your favorite?
Tea: A drink made by steeping the leaves of a type of Camellia sinensis in hot water.
Tisane: An infusion of leaves or flowers used as a beverage, e.g. an herbal tea.
What do you reach for when you are thirsty? Is it a cold soda? An energy drink to get you through the afternoon? Or as many people do around here in Kentucky, a nice tall cup of sweet tea? Did you ever stop to think about what’s in your drink? Are those artificial colors and flavors, the amount of caffeine and the sugar (most often as high fructose corn syrup) really good for you? When you look at the numbers on the label is it really all that bad? What’s wrong with a little sugar in your drink?
This post gives a great summary of what happens when that 20oz of soda hits your body. That 20oz of soda has about the equivalent of ⅓ of a cup of sugar. Would you ever just sit down and eat ⅓ of a cup of sugar? And sometimes the drinks that look the healthiest may have the most sugar. Many fruit smoothies have more sugar than 10 glazed doughnuts!
Now I imagine my diet soda drinking readers are feeling good about their no sugar choice but not so fast! It’s well documented that drinking diet soda is correlated with increased risks of metabolic syndromes and cardiovascular disease.
So how about a nice glass of wholesome juice? It’s natural and can have good nutrients in it if you get the kind without added sugars, so it must be good, right? The key is how much. All fruit is high in fructose but when you eat the whole fruit you get the fiber with it which modulates its effect. Fruit juice is a straight shot of fructose and unlike glucose which can be used by every cell in the body, fructose can only be processed in the liver. Fructose is taken straight to the liver where it is metabolized into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Turns out those little juice glasses used by your grandparents and great-grandparents were about the right size for a healthy serving of juice and more is not better.
So what’s with all these sugars and why do we care? When fructose combines with glucose, it makes sucrose. Sucrose is abundant in sugar cane, sugar beets, corn, and other plants. When extracted and refined, sucrose makes table sugar. “In the 1800s and early 1900s, the average American took in about 15 grams of fructose (about half an ounce), mostly from eating fruits and vegetables. Today we average 55 grams per day (73 grams for adolescents). The increase in fructose intake is worrisome, says Lustig, because it suspiciously parallels increases in obesity, diabetes, and a new condition called the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that now affects up to one-third of Americans.”
And it turns out for many people there are two main sources of fructose and glucose in our diets: processed foods (even those that aren’t sweet like canned soup) and drinks. This means options for a healthy drink when eating out are often limited to water or unsweetened iced tea. So what to drink? Time to explore the wonderful world of teas and tisanes - which will be in our next article!