Beverages

Beverages are those fluid substances that we drink for the primary reasons of satisfying thirst and maintaining our body’s 65 percent water content. There are also further reasons for consuming different liquids, including body detoxification, energy stimulation, relaxation, nourishment, and merriment and celebration.


Favorite Beverages of Various Countries



United States?coffee, beer, sodas, milk, mineral water Great Britain?tea, beer China?tea Japan?tea, wine (sake) Germany? schnapps France?wine, coffee, mineral water Russia?vodka Italy?wine, coffee, mineral water Australia?beer, milk


Different people and cultures have their favorite beverages. Many of the substances we drink have the potential for addiction and may produce certain problems when consumed in excess. Alcohol and caffeine, in our culture mainly as coffee, are two commonly abused ones. Milk use can create difficulties for many adults and children because of its calorie and fat levels, lactose intolerance, or allergy. Sugared soda pops, many of them containing caffeine, have become a common addictive problem in our culture, especially in young people.


We all need to consume liquids to maintain life. It is best for as much as possible of our liquid intake to be water and for the other beverages to be used only as special treats. In this way, along with a diet containing our essential nutrients, we will more easily provide our body and cells with what they need rather than make it harder for our digestive and other systems to obtain the replenishment they require.











Beverages

Water Teas
Fruit juices Coffee
Vegetable juices Sodas
Milk Alcohol





Water

Water has been discussed rather thoroughly in the beginning of this book. Ideally, we should consume about six to eight glasses of water daily with average activity and a fairly balanced diet, consuming a fair portion of water-content fruits and vegetables. If we are more active and sweat, or if we con-sume a higher portion of richer or fattier foods, we usually need more water.


The water that I believe is best for us is not city-processed tap water but well water, spring water, or home-purified water. Any water can be checked for basic minerals, toxic minerals, or chemical contamination. This is suggested when there is any concern about the water that we use for regular consumption.


Solid-carbon-block water filtration, reverse osmosis, and distillation are the predominant water purification processes. Each has its advantages and disadvantages, but all are effective and helpful systems for home water use.


All living things need water to thrive and survive. Animals, both domestic and wild, the plants of nature, our garden, trees, and the grass on our front lawns?all require water to stay alive and grow. All of the other substances discussed here are basically water with some other nutrients or chemicals added, for which the water is the vehicle that carries them to the appropriate areas of our body.


Fruit Juices

The extracted liquids from fruits are particularly high in fructose, or fruit sugar, so they provide calories and energy. They also contain some vitamins and minerals, most commonly vitamin C and potassium. Other B vitamins, some vitamin A, and other minerals, such as calcium and magnesium, may be found in various fruit juices.


Orange juice and apple juice are the most consumed of the fruit juices. Grape juice, grapefruit juice, and prune juice are also used, most often as breakfast drinks. The nectars of pears, peaches, or apricots may be special treats as well. Some juices are used therapeutically, such as papaya or pineapple for digestion or cranberry juice for soothing urinary tract irritations.


Children may drink a lot of fruit juice, more than adults, who are more given to coffee, tea, or alcoholic beverages, though soda pops have replaced some of the more natural fruit juices in young people as well. Fruit juices are still useful, nourishing, and often a good way to obtain the concentrated juice of several pieces of fruit at one sitting.


Vegetables Juices

These are similar to fruit juices except that they are, of course, the extracted liquids of various vegetables. These are also liquids with concentrated nourishment, even more than the fruit juices. Vitamins A and C may be high, with some B vitamins also. The mineral content is usually fairly rich in potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.


Tomato juice is the most commonly consumed vegetable juice, though other juices from carrots, beets, celery, and greens are also used. Fresh vegetable juices are available in health food stores more frequently now. Making vegetable juices at home requires rather complex equipment, though there are some simple, relatively inexpensive juicers to accomplish this.


More and more people are going back to juice fasting or cleansing for brief or extended periods of time as part of their yearly dietary program. Juice or liquid fasting is a traditional part of many cultures, both human and animal, and may be a very beneficial process to clear the body of maladies and revitalize the life force.


Milk

Milk is really more a food than a beverage. Its high fat, protein, calorie, and vitamin and mineral content, in fact, makes it a very nourishing food. And at mealtime, it should be considered a food and not something to be drunk along with meals.


Even though it is such a nourishing food, milk can pose problems. As discussed more thoroughly in Dairy, a previous section, milk can provide excessive fat and lead to cardiovascular problems in those who consume it in excess. And many people are allergic to milk or lactose intolerant, not possessing the enzyme lactase to metabolize the milk sugar.


Teas

Teas are classified as the basic commercial tea, or black tea, and the herbal teas. Tea is essentially a drink, usually hot, made from soaking various plants in boiling water. Teas, like coffee, really should be considered more as drugs or medicinals than just as liquid beverages. The commercial teas contain theobromine, a central nervous system stimulant like caffeine, and tannin, or tannic acid, which can be an irritant to the intestinal mucous linings and kidneys. Other than fairly high amounts of fluoride, common tea provides little nutrition. It is used commonly in our culture, the Orient, and the British nations as a social beverage. “Tea time” is an afternoon relaxation period, often concluding in caffeine restimulation.


Herbal teas are better overall than the caffeine-tannic acid teas and are becoming more popular. The berries, barks, flowers, leaves, stems, and roots of all kinds of plants have specific therapeutic actions when consumed in sufficient dosages. The knowledge of these medicinal properties has been passed down through the ages and can be found in a variety of texts. The science of the use of herbs is termed “herbology.”


Coffee

Coffee is probably the most commonly used and abused drug (caffeine) in our society?and in many other cultures, for that matter. The caffeine-containing coffee bean is roasted and ground and then “brewed” by passing boiling water through the coffee grounds.


Caffeine has a number of metabolic effects as a central nervous system stimulant. It increases the heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, gastrointestinal activity, stomach acid output, kidney function, and mental activity. Some people use it to relieve fatigue, though many develop a taste and love for the unusual, slightly bitter flavor. Coffee abuse is very common, with regular drinking of it throughout the Day , especially in the 9-to-5 work force. This may create cardiac sensitivity, with abnormal heartbeats, anxiety and irritability, stomach and intestinal irritation, insomnia, and withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue or headaches. Coffee can also interfere with the absorption of many vitamins and minerals, such as calcium and iron.


Caffeine addiction can be a problem, though usually not a major one, and withdrawal from coffee may be very difficult. Many coffee substitutes are available, and decaffeinated coffee is used much more commonly by those who like the flavor and social scene of coffee drinking but do not like the caffeine stimulation. There are some concerns over the chemicals used to decaffeinate coffee and about coffee in general. It is wise to reduce and minimize the regular intake of coffee.


Sodas
Sodas are carbonated (with carbon dioxide gas) beverages whose use has increased greatly in the last 25 years. I believe that these “beverages” have a fairly destructive nutritional pattern and are greatly abused. They have no nutritional value, contain high amounts of phosphates, which can influence calcium and bone metabolism, and often contain tremendous amounts of white sugar or chemicals that may rot the teeth?and the body, too, for that matter. The cola drinks often contain high amounts of caffeine as well, which prepare the children who often drink them for later coffee abuse. I have seen people completely addicted to colas, drinking 10-12 bottles or cans a Day . These drinks can deplete the body of nutrients as well as overstimulate. Most of the noncola drinks are also high in sugar or chemicals. If these beverages are used regularly or in excess, it is wise to replace them with good, clean water or other more nutritious drinks, and use these “soda pops” only as an occasional treat. Though the huge industry that promotes the use of these drinks and their availability in all stores and restaurants make this more difficult, as with other tantalizing treats of our society, our will power and discipline to avoid or replace these sugars or drugs that can hurt us with more healthful habits or substances is one of our challenges of life.


Alcohol

This is another commonly used and abused “drug,” and even more so by our younger population in recent years. Alcoholic beverages come in many varieties, such as beer, wine, and more alcohol-concentrated liquors. These are produced by means of fermentation (usually by yeasts) and/or distillation. They have little nutritive value but a fair amount of calories. The gut or “beer belly” is characteristic of the regular beer drinker who must consume higher amounts of liquid and calories to obtain the drug effect of alcohol.


Alcohol is different from caffeine; it is a central nervous system depressant, or sedative. Even though it seems to “loosen people up,” it does so by sedating the usual inhibitory mechanisms. Alcohol slows the brain actions and affects physical coordination and reaction time. It is also irritating to the gastro-intestinal tract and liver, which handles the detoxification of this drug. Furthermore, the chemicals used in alcohol beverage production are a big concern. Often grapes and grains are heavily sprayed with pesticides, and sulfites and heavy metals may also be contaminants.


Many people drink too much and too often; some become addicted to alcohol and are then known as “alcoholics.” This disease can be devastating to them and their families. Usually, there is an underlying emotional problem (possibly a genetic predisposition as well) or inability to make contact with and express the emotions. Drinking alcohol in excess is greatly influenced by social and peer pressure as well.


In general, alcohol is not something that is particularly beneficial to health. Though some medical articles suggest that moderate alcohol consumption (one or two drinks a Day ) may be helpful to cardiovascular health, this is most likely through its action as a mild stress reducer. Other forms of stress management, such as exercise and a variety of relaxation techniques, are much better, though they may take more work. Occasional drinking as a social sharing or for celebration may be beneficial in some ways. However, if we are drinking daily or in regular excess, it is wise to reduce or even eliminate this potentially addicting drug. If it is not possible by oneself, it is wise then to seek help.

Elson M. Haas MD Written by Elson M. Haas MD

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