Ah, a cold night, a warm fire, and a hot cup of coffee or tea: the definition of coziness. But, how do you choose what to drink? Taste? Price? Health? Research is beginning to document that coffee, tea and even cocoa have health benefits, although there is some conflicting information due to the newness of the research. That said, let's explore some of the upsides and downsides of each choice, so you can settle by the fire with the perfect cup for you.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, green tea is classified as a leading health giving substance. Active ingredients include catechin and L-theanine. Catechin acts as an antioxidant molecule that scavenges and destroys free radicals, illness-producing molecules in the blood and brain. This essential process helps explain how green tea can function in so many ways in our body, i.e. fight cancer, decrease high blood pressure, and diminish inflammatory bowel disease, diabetes, liver disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimers and Parkinson's. All of these health conditions arc caused, in part, by excessive freeradical production in the body.
The amino acid L~theanine, found almost exclusively in the tea plant, actively alters the attention networks of the brain, According to results of human trials announced in September 2007, John Foxe, Ph.D., professor of neuroscience, biology' and psychology at City College of the City University of New York, found that theanine Ls absorbed by the small intestine, enters the blood stream and crosses the blood-brain barrier where it affects the brain's neurotransmitters and increases alpha brain-wave activity. The result is a calmer, yet more alert, state of mind.
All tea leaves contain fluoride, and more mature leaves contain as much as 10-20 times the levels of fluoride as in the young leaves of the same plant. According to the Canadian organization Parents of Fluoride Poisoned Children, the fluoride content in mature green tea leaves is much higher than the maximum contaminant level allowed.
According to Dr. Andrew Weil, the most clear-cut findings about the benefits of coffee come from a 20- year study that followed approximately 84.000 women and 44,000 men. Published in die May 2, 2006. issue of Circulation, the study concluded that drinking coffee isn't harmful to cardiovascular health and may even be somewhat beneficial. Dr. James Coughlin, a toxicology and safety consultant, says that some scientific evidence suggests that one cup of coffee can decrease the risk of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases, kidney stones, gallstones, depression and even suicide by SO percent. This may result from the antioxidant properties of the polyphenols, although firm, repeatable research has not yet borne that out.
It s also reported that coffee may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. This finding is based on a review of nine studies published in the July 6, 2005, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, but it conflicts with earlier evidence suggesting that coffee can reduce insulin sensitivity, which would increase the risk of diabetes. To confuse matters further, a study published in the February, 2006, issue of Diabetes Care found that decaf lowers the risk of diabetes, suggesting that something other than caffeine may be responsible for any protection coffee provides.
Certainly there is a downside to drinking coffee: well-documented side effects include increased anxiety, insomnia, tremor and irregular heartbeat, Coffee can also irritate the digestive system, bladder and prostate.
In my work as a nutritionist. I've heard quite a few older women tell me they only had hot Hashes on days when they drank coffee. One client couldn't believe me when I suggested that connection. Several months later, I met her downtown, where she came up to me and confirmed that her hot flashes disappeared when she stopped drinking coffee.
Whether you decide to drink coffee or green tea, cocoa or herbal teas, drink the best quality, preferably organically harvested and Fair Trade Certified, you can afford. By purchasing quality beverages, we can improve the health of our bodies, our soil, our water, our air, and our future. An;d, tune in lo your own body. You know your body better than anyone else. The way coffee or tea affects you is your best guide to whether or not you should be drinking it and, if so, how much. After you're tuned in, when you curl up by the fire with a warm cup of whatever, you can truly enjoy the the warmth, closeness and the coziness of it all!