Dixie and I are trying to adopt a healthier, more balanced diet (Dixie does most of the work, the whole family reaps the benefits!) Initially I was just planning on reducing my portions and my sugar intake in order to lose some weight but after Dixie read Pamela M. Smith, R.D.’s Eat Well ? Live Well we’re both quite excited about adjusting our entire diet . I’m not interested in Atkins or whatever ? they all tend to say the opposite of the others, anyway ? eat carbs and don’t eat carbs (incidentally, number ten in her “Ten Commandments of Great Nutrition” is Thou shalt never, never go on a fad diet!); I just want to eat healthy, because I want to lose weight (but not instantly) and feel better. For instance, there was noticable improvement after just a week of using a natural sweetner in my tea instead of sugar.
One of the areas of my diet I’m hesitant to touch, however, is my favourite drink: tea (and also, to a lesser extent, coffee and beer). Caffeine is uhealthy. I drink my maximum allowable amount of tea (3 mugs, according to Smith) everyday as well as two or three cups of coffee at work. I don’t drink enough beer or wine for it to be a health issue. But here’s my question: we’ve been drinking tea and alcohol for thousands of years, why quit now, all of a sudden? And do the negative effects of caffeine outweigh the positive effects of the antioxidants in tea? I’m all for healthy, natural eating (as opposed to unhealthy, chemically modified/created eating), but why do away with ancient and natural products such as tea, coffee, beer and wine? Of course, I’m not a registered dietician, so who am I to say?
Anyway, we were talking about tea/coffee/caffeine intake this morning at breakfast, and Dixie pointed me to the section on caffeine in the book. One particular fact really jumped out at me. But first this:
Because [caffeine] is a central nervous system stimulant, even small amounts of it can cause side effects such as restlessness and disturbed sleep, heart palpitations, stomach irritation, fibrocystic breast disease and diarrhea. It can promote irritability, anxiety and mood disturbances. Caffeine can also aggravate premenstrual syndrome symptoms in women (p. 41).
Caffeine is a drug and has side-effects, even in small doses; so far no real surprises, except that I wasn’t aware of some of the more serious ones. But here’s the kick in the head:
Generally the cola beverages have the highest levels of caffeine (36 to 50 milligrams per serving), but look at all soda labels, as some of the fruit-flavored sodas contain caffeine. Some, such as Mountain Dew and Dr. Pepper, contain almost as much caffeine as coffee and tea [I’m not sure that this is the case in Canada, as I’ve heard there are federal regulations on caffeine content in “clear” sodas, such as Sprite and Mountain Dew. These regulations might cover all sodas]. This is a matter of great concern for our children. In the body of a 60-pound child, two or more such beverages are equivalent to the caffeine in eight cups of coffee for a 175-pound man (p. 41, italicized notes mine)
Wow! I know what a cup or two less than eight cups of coffee does to me (I get jittery and restless) ? who knows what it would do to my 30-pound daughter! [You know what this means, BIL-1!] Kids drink HUGE amounts of pop these days ? I used to as well ? and I can’t help but wonder if this has some kind of behavioral effect that we aren’t aware of. Is there a connection between increasing violence among youth and the amount of pop that is consumed? Are video games and parenting the only thing to blame? Parenting affects hours of video-game playing and pop consumption, but I think you catch my drift.
I. Thou shalt never skip breakfast. [Never have, never would. Best meal of the day.]
II. Thou shalt eat every three to four hours and have your healthy snack handy. [Note to self: replace cookies with apple.]
III. Thou shalt always eat a carbohydrate with a protein. [Not sure exactly what this means ? something to do with eating something with my cheese.]
IV. Thou shalt double your fibre.
V. Thou shalt trim the fat from your diet.
VI. Thous shalt believe your mother was right: Eat your fruits and vegetables.
VII. Thou shalt get your vitamins and minerals from food, not pills.
VIII. Thou shalt drink at least eight glasses of water a day. [I read an article somewhere which said that studies show that you can get some of your daily water requirement from other things without drinking a total of eight glasses of water everyday ? some fruits and vegetables have high water content; you can even get it from bread or other drinks. It makes sense, since our bodies break food down and take what they want, but I’m not sure if this is generally accepted.]
IX. Thou shalt consume a minimum of sugar, salt, caffeine and alcohol. [Grammatically speaking, she could be saying that I should consume at least the minimum amount of these items, but I know what she means.]
X. Thou shalt never, never go on a fad diet! (Eat Well ? Live Well, p. 10, italicized notes mine)