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 Diet & Nutrition

May 2010
The Green Diet
Karen Campos Bhatia
I’m not a coffee addict, but I do enjoy an occasional cup of coffee. The next time I grab a cup of this brew, I want to know if it’s a friend or a foe. There are so many varied and contradictory views on drinking coffee that I find myself trapped amongst them.
Green tea is made from the leaves of a plant called Camellia Sinesis. It gets its name ‘green’ from the fact that the leaves are processed very little, unlike black tea that is subjected to fermentation and oxidation. Green tea is suddenly being noticed again. We hear of so many diseases and health problems, more than ever, and we find that modern medicine is very advanced. However, it has its side effects. Allopathic cures are known to be effective and quick, but are still not very adept in preventive medication. All ancient cultures relied heavily on their surroundings and chanced upon herbs, which they learnt to value and make the most of in whatever way possible. Tea was one such leaf that was discovered to taste nice when brewed, helped keep people alert and was a great custom that was developed as a way to socialise and interact with people.

The known benefits that green tea has are preventive in nature and not curative as far as heart disease, cancer, toxaemia, renal diseases, increased blood sugar, etc. are concerned. Yet studies have shown that drinking four cups of green tea a day can reduce the risk of developing stomach and lung cancer as well as heart disease. Green tea also aids in natural weight loss by being able to break down and dissolve grease residues of food. It also benefits in improving eyesight, aid in digestion, improve renal function, thereby detoxifying the body.

Weight loss is largely associated with lifestyle correction; however we can always use any help we can get. Green tea is known to improve the metabolism by four percent; a small figure but like I say, any help you can get is always welcome. Green tea also inhibits fat absorption and helps to regulate glucose. By slowing the rise in blood sugar after a meal, it prevents insulin spikes, which helps because lots of storage of insulin causes fat storage as well.

I hear and counter many theories about weight loss, digestive disorders, current fads with food and exercise. The one thing I always tell everyone is that every fad or theory has some basis to it, however the problems start when we randomly apply them to our lives without understanding how they work. I came across someone who was on a prescribed diet for weight loss and this person was asked to consume five to six cups of green tea a day, especially after meals. The benefit of green tea get completely negated when you drink it immediately after. You should give a gap of half hour before you start drinking any fluids. Fluid dilutes gastric juices thereby weakening their ability to break down the consumed foods. Definitely add green tea to your daily routine as that is a wonderful source of hydration, and helps to dissolve grease residue along the digestive tract and speed up the metabolism marginally. But always remember it is an aid to weight loss, not something to rely on wholly as a means to lose weight.

Dos of Green Tea
  • Drink at least four cups a day to get the real benefit of green tea.
  • Do substitute your tea/coffee with green tea. It’s not a stimulant but it does help to increase mental prowess and make you more alert.
  • Do drink it as hot as you can tolerate, and as fast as you can drink it, so that it works faster in releasing the grease along the digestive tract. Don’t drink it piping hot... You will burn yourself.
  • Drink green tea to fight cancer; prevention is wise.
  • Do learn to enjoy your green tea. It also has deep roots as a beverage served to socialise and has tremendous cultural significance.

Don’ts of Green Tea
  • Don’t drink green tea as a source of nourishment. It cannot substitute food.
  • Don’t drink green tea as a substitute for water.
  • Don’t drink more than one cup at a time. Don’t eat or drink anything else for a half hour following that, so it can do its job properly.
  • Don’t compromise on the quality of your green tea.
  • Don’t add sugar or honey to your green tea; have it pure and unadulterated.
  • Remember, the key to losing weight is moderation and lifestyle correction.
Eat moderately, drink moderately, exercise moderately and in the same vein drink your green tea in moderation. Over drinking it does not increase its benefits. Respect your body, love yourself! B

Magical Bean
In the light of a friend there are so many benefits of this magical bean. Ladies and gentlemen let me introduce to you ‘Java’ - the good ol’ coffee bean which has been bashed and pounded by food critics and dieticians to a mere addictive power and stood up for itself as a miracle drug which has more to offer than the aroma and mental stimulation. Here are some of its benefits:
  • Laboratory studies suggest that the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant compounds in coffee could help reduce risk of some cancers.
  • Coffee also has a tendency to speed the passage of waste through the digestive tract. Potentially, this may lessen the time that cancer-causing compounds spend in contact with the intestinal tract, which could reduce the risk of colon cancer.
  • Coffee has large amounts of antioxidants such as chlorogenic acid and tocopherols, and minerals such as magnesium. All these components have been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism and so coffee is known to reduce the risk of diabetes.
  • The Iowa Women’s Health Study noted that four to five cups of coffee a day were linked with a 19 percent lower risk of heart-related death. However an individual must follow a doctor’s advice.
  • Coffee is said to be able to also lower your risk of Parkinson's disease. In fact, new age Parkinson's drugs are now being developed containing a derivative of caffeine.
  • It is also a commonly known fact that coffee lifts your mood and cures headaches.
  • Caffeine also enhances athletic endurance and performance. It’s so powerful that until recently caffeine in coffee or other forms was deemed a "controlled" substance by the Olympic Games Committee, meaning that it could be consumed only in small, designated amounts by competing athletes.
  • Coffee, as you probably know, makes you more alert, which can boost concentration. But claims that children who drink coffee will improve their academic performance, is exaggerated.
Although the above points show that coffee may offer a variety of health benefits, lets not put this bean on a high pedestal, as it is not all goody two shoes.

Before you drink a whole pot...
Although for the most part coffee is a friend, some medical conditions require the patient to limit or stop drinking coffee entirely.
  • Coffee relaxes the muscle that keeps stomach acids from raising into the throat, so those with heartburn or reflux disease (GERD) are encouraged to avoid or strictly limit coffee.
  • People with trouble sleeping should limit or avoid caffeinated coffee.
  • Its legendary jolt in excess doses -that is, more than whatever your individual body can tolerate - can increase nervousness, hand trembling, and cause rapid heartbeat.
  • Coffee may also raise cholesterol levels in some people and may contribute to artery clogging.
So the bottom line is, that the next time you brew yourself a cup of coffee, don’t feel guilty - unless you are suffering from a health condition. In which case, consult your doctor for personalised advice. Remember that caffeine is addictive, so be wise and limit yourself to three cups of coffee a day- this goes for all of you. If you fancy a change from the home made coffee, treat yourself to anyone from the array of choice a place like Barista gives you. So like the Americans say - Enjoy your cuppa Joe.
Karen Anne Campos Bhatia is Nutritionist, Exercise Physiologist and Lifestyle Consultant

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