By Nina Radcliff, MD
As a medical physician, I have learned and seen firsthand how important what we consume impacts our bodies, our good health and well-being. Some aspects of our health and vitality are governed by our genes and choices birthing mothers make during pregnancy — but a lion’s share of lifestyle factors, including fitness, nutrition and weight all impact on our ability to live a long and healthy life.
I have witnessed the costly ravages of poor choices with respect to our bodies and found that in many cases, the lack of understanding or knowledge of some folks is at the heart of the issue. In addition, I am asked repeatedly for ideas about healthier choices as patients, family and friends begin to make change.
I have been inspired to take note and share some of “My Favorite Things” that are healthy and delightful. Today, it will be on what we reach for to quench our thirst and help support our overall health.
Dr. Nina’s What You Need To Know: About Some Healthy Favorite Beverages
Savoring a morning cup of coffee…one of the world’s great treasures. In addition to satisfying our taste buds, many of us sip this drink because it perks us up. Coffee contains caffeine and this blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. As a result, caffeine makes way for other stimulating neurotransmitters to enhance our energy level, ability to think, concentration, and reaction time.
Recently, data has shown that 3-5 cups of coffee a day (up to 400 mg of caffeine/day) is not associated with increased long-term health risks. In fact, it may be good for us! Coffee consumption has been linked to a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, endometriosis, and cardiovascular disease.
But we must keep in mind that many of the additives—milk, cream, sugar—are laden with fat and calories. And, if we are struggling with insomnia, drinking coffee in the late afternoon may make it more difficult to get our ZZZ’s.
It makes up 60% of our body weight and is present in every organ, tissue, and cell. We are swimming in it, both literally and figuratively. Water is responsible for a number of bodily functions including circulation, digestion, and detoxification.
Additionally, H20 is:
A calorie comptroller. Along with being zero-calorie, it can fill up our tummy. Drinking just 2 cups of water before a meal, results in eating 75-90 fewer calories, on average, during the meal. By opting for a “fill-er-up” with water, we may curb our appetite for that second helping of fries.
Necessary for kidney function. Adequate hydration is crucial for these bean shaped organs to flush out toxins and waste products. Additionally, not drinking enough water is often the culprit behind those pesky (and very painful) kidney stones.
A mover and shaker. When dehydrated, our body will do everything it can to conserve water. This includes “pulling” or “absorbing” water from stool before it passes out of our digestive tract. The stool becomes hard and its transit time slows down, causing constipation.
Milk can do a body good. Because milk—cow, soy, almond—is a good source of calcium, vitamin D, protein, and a number of essential nutrients, it is considered a healthy food and one that is nutrient-rich. Some noteworthy benefits include:
Strong bones. Calcium is necessary for our children’s bones to grow. And as adults, it is necessary to keep them strong and prevent fractures and osteoporosis. Milk also helps fend off dental cavities.
Strong muscles. After working out, drinking a glass of milk can provide our muscles the protein needed to rebuild.
Slimming effect. The consumption of milk and dairy products is responsible for: decreases in fat absorption in our intestines; a preferential deposition of calories into muscle rather than fat; and decreases in a vitamin (1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3) that supports the growth of fat cells.
People have sipped and enjoyed its flavor—and health benefits—for centuries.
Tea leaves come from the Camellia sinensis plant, and depending on its preparation (dried, fermented, etc), its color, caffeine levels, and benefits differ.
Green tea. Is jam-packed with antioxidants, which protect our body from damage caused by free radicals (akin to nuclear waste) that are formed by normal bodily processes. Antioxidants can also defend against damage to our brains, and consumption of green tea has been associated with reduced Alzheimer’s dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and stroke.
Black tea. Has a high caffeine content that can aid with increased alertness, thinking, and reaction time. It may also decrease the damage to our lungs from cigarette smoke; our risk for stroke; and our bad cholesterol levels.
White tea. This color of tea is minimally processed and thereby its antioxidant levels are preserved. Warning: antioxidants may be harmful to cancer and aging.
Oolong tea. Studies have linked a decrease in bad cholesterol levels when this type of tea is consumed regularly. However, oolong is best known for claims that it can help us fit into our skinny jeans by boosting our metabolism. As of today, science has not proven or disproven this claim.
Above are just a few healthy choices we can make “favorites” — with many more with respect to drinks and foods. We will be looking at more “favorites” in the coming months – let the beat continue!!