that be Regular or Decaf?
Having recently acquired a love for flavored
coffee, I decided to check out the latest health
virtues of this world-famous bean. While coffee
has been cleared of most former health charges,
many still ask whether decaf is healthier. Others
wonder whether the decaffeination process poses
its own set of health risks. And still others
are convinced that antioxidant-rich teas are
the way to start the day.
Over the years, coffee has been blamed for causing
serious ailments like heart disease and cancer,
but the latest research has pronounced coffee
"not guilty." Some researchers still
question whether coffee may promote hypertension,
even though most studies have found no such
link. Despite previous views, drinking filtered
coffee - as most North Americans do - does not
appear to raise blood cholesterol levels.
is some evidence that coffee may be beneficial
against gallstones, dental cavities, Type 2
diabetes, and perhaps even Parkinson's disease.
Caffeine helps relieve pain, which is why it
is an ingredient in many pain-relieving medications.
the other hand, some people are sensitive to
the effects of coffee, as it can aggravate heartburn,
stomach ulcers, and bowel disorders. Caffeine
stimulates the nervous system and can briefly
boost blood pressure - particularly among in
those who don't drink it regularly.
minimize possible side effects, health experts
recommend limiting caffeine intake to less than
450 mg per day, whether from coffee, tea or
colas. That works out to about 2 (8 ounce) cups
of gourmet coffee or 5 (8-ounce) cups of regular
or green tea, or 2 ½ "big gulp"
To be labeled decaffeinated, coffee must have
97% of the caffeine removed. There are 3 basic
methods to extract caffeine:
1) Coffee beans are soaked in an organic chemical
solvent like methylene chloride, where caffeine
is evaporated off;
2) Coffee beans are soaked in hot water and
caffeine is removed with a charcoal filter,
known as the "swiss water process";
3) Coffee beans are treated with carbon dioxide
under extreme heat and pressure to absorb and
Both the FDA and Health Canada deem all decaffeination
processes safe. Companies use different methods
based on consumer taste preferences. Coffee
plants are now being engineered to have 70%
less caffeine. It will take another 5 years
to produce those beans and it's not known whether
coffee from these beans will taste better or
worse than today's decaf.
So for all of you who prefer coffee with a kick,
you can enjoy it knowing that to date, there
are not serious health concerns for moderate
coffee consumption. But if you think you may
be sensitive to the effects of coffee, please
discuss it with your physician.
News for Tea Lovers
is the world's most popular prepared beverage.
Chinese Emperor Shen Nung discovered it in 2737
B.C. when a leaf accidentally fell into his
bowl of hot water. Canadians joined the craze
in 1716 when the first shipment of tea was imported
here by the Hudson's Bay Company.
is a pleasant, soothing, inexpensive drink.
Two decades of research support its antioxidant
protection against several cancers, heart disease
and stroke. Tea is a rich source of flavonoids,
an antioxidant that helps rid the body of disease-causing
free radicals. Tea also contains fluoride, an
important mineral that helps build bone and
prevent tooth decay. Green tea has twice as
much fluoride per cup as black tea.
all teas have health benefits, they are not
created equal. All teas are brewed from the
leaves of the plant "camellia sinensis,"
and are processed in different ways to produce
3 different types. Fresh tea leaves that are
steamed, rolled and dried produce a delicate
tasting, green tea. Fresh leaves that are partly
fermented produce a fragrant oolong tea. Fresh
leaves that are fully fermented produce a deep,
rich-flavoured black tea. It is the fermentation
process that distinguishes black teas from green.
to what many believe, both green and black teas
contain similar amounts of caffeine. Caffeine
content of green and black tea increases the
longer it is brewed. Health Canada recommends
a moderate daily intake of 400 mg caffeine,
which works out to 5-10 cups of tea a day. Herbal
teas are not included within this recommendation
as they are not really teas at all. Herbal "infusions"
do not come from the camellia sinensis plant,
but are brewed from a single ingredient or blend
of flowers, herbs, spices, fruits and berries.
Herbal infusions are all caffeine-free.
is not currently known whether decaffeinated
tea is as healthful as regular tea. Decaf tea
may contain less protective flavonoids than
regular, but may still offer other anti-cancer
benefits. It's hard to offer recommendations
for decaf tea at this time, since most studies
have looked at people who drink a lot of regular
tea, not decaf.
tea is a safe beverage for most, strict vegetarians
and those with low blood iron need to consume
it with caution. When taken with meals containing
only plant-based foods, tea can reduce iron
absorption in the gut. To prevent iron loss
from food, the trick is to add lemon or milk
to tea during meals. Another option is to enjoy
tea in between meals.
no magic bullet exists for preventing disease,
moderate coffee or tea consumption combined
with smart nutrition, daily exercise and plenty
of humor, can certainly enhance quality living.
Anita Burton is a Community Nutritionist
with Fraser Health Authority. She can be reached
at the Abbotsford Health Unit at 604-864-3400.