Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Pass the wine, but hold the decaf

Wine lovers and coffee drinkers rejoice! Both are good for you, provided that you're drinking the right stuff. Here's the scoop:

Drinking red wine has some great health benefits. Moderate amounts have been shown to boost HDL ("good") cholesterol, thin the blood and potentially lower the risk of both cardiovascular disease and cognitive decline. Red wine is rich in resveratrol, which is a plant chemical that helps to prevent blood clotting. There is also some research that suggests that resveratrol may help prevent cancer and increase longevity.

As for regular coffee, it's full of antioxidants and may help ward off several diseases, especially type 2 diabetes. However, if your drink of choice is decaf coffee, you should know that the decaffeination process is poses several health problems. Two of the chemical solvents used to remove caffeine in most decaffeinated coffee brands are considered harmful; one is a suspected carcinogen. There is also research that shows that the "buzz" you get from regular coffee could be cleaner than the after effects of a decaf drink. Ever feel a little irritable after downing a decaf latte? Many people have a sensitivity to the chemicals used in decaffeinated beans.

So the bottom line is this: On alcohol, moderation is always key. Dr. Oz suggests one to two drinks a day, as a social ritual. I wholeheartedly agree with this prescription. And, if you want to avoid caffeine, certainly don't rely on decaf coffee. If you must have a decaffeinated coffee drink, look for brands made with safer decaffeination methods, such as the Swiss water process, and be prepared to spend a lot more. These beans are often labeled with a logo on the packaging but can generally only be found at high end grocery retailers. Sadly, Starbucks and Peet's have yet to jump onto the "clean decaf" band wagon.

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