Throughout the day, beverages can add a substantial chunk of calories to the American diet.
Drinks high in calories, fat or sugar can contribute to obesity, tooth decay and a variety of other health problems.
The USDA’s 2005 dietary guidelines encourage consumers to choose beverages and foods to moderate their intake of sugar. Janet King, chairwoman of the guideline committee, told food journalists to be on the lookout for a new set of beverage guidelines that have been submitted to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
King spoke at the Association of Food Journalists’ annual conference in San Francisco.
Never miss a local story.
Choosing beverages wisely can make the difference between a balanced diet and one that is out of whack. A 12-ounce can of regular soda adds 120 to 140 calories and zero nutrients to the diet. Although 100-percent fruit juices are a more healthful choice , they can also tally up calories quickly. For instance, one cup of cranberry juice cocktail with sugar contains 147 calories, although lighter juice versions with artificial sweeteners are available.
In search of a zero-calorie refresher, many Americans have learned to guzzle unsweetened iced tea on a regular basis. In fact, 40 billion of the 50 billion cups of tea consumed each year in this country are served over ice, according to the Tea Council.
If you’re looking for zero calories and possible health benefits, green tea trumps iced tea. Not only is it rarely served with milk or sugar, it contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols, which may help prevent some types of cancer.
The idea is that these polyphenols scavenge for free radicals before they have time to cause injury to the cells. Green tea has roughly 30 percent to 40 percent polyphenols, while black tea contains just 3 percent to 10 percent polyphenols. The average cup of green tea contains 50 to 150 milligrams of polyphenols, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (www.umm.edu).
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, which focuses on the link between diet and health, studies on lab animals have found these polyphenols can reduce the number and size of tumors. However, human studies have yet to reproduce the same results, leading the FDA to refuse health claims for green tea.
So should Americans try to adopt the green tea habit?
“Drinking massive amounts of green tea will never be able to save us from the ill effects of overeating a poorly balanced diet and living a sedentary lifestyle. ... However, for those of us who would like to do a little more to reduce the risk of cancer, replacing three or four cups of coffee or soda per day with green tea is a reasonable step that may bring health benefits, “ writes Karen Collins, a nutrition expert writing a column appearing on the AICR’s website (www.aicr.org).
A centuries-old folk remedy, green tea is traditionally served hot in Asia. Since Americans have developed a taste for iced teas, we decided to put a modern twist on this ancient beverage. The Star’s Raspberry Green Tea Cooler is a tasty blend that combines the tart taste of cranberries with cool green tea for a low-calorie, antioxidant-packed end-of-summer cooler.
Cooking tip: For testing, we used Celestial Seasonings raspberry-flavored green tea and Ocean Spray light cranberry juice cocktail, which has 40 calories per 1 cup serving.
Pump it up: Cranberries have been shown to protect against urinary tract infections.
Raspberry Green Tea Cooler
Makes 4 servings (1 1/4 cups each)
2 raspberry green tea bags
1 cup light cranberry juice cocktail
2 cups 0 calorie raspberry sparkling water
Fresh raspberries, for garnish
Slice of lime, for garnish
Heat 1 cup water to a boil. Add tea bags and allow to steep 3 to 5 minutes. Pour into a pitcher and add 1 additional cup of water. Add cranberry juice and raspberry sparkling water. Serve with ice and if desired, float a few fresh raspberries in glass as a garnish. Serve with a wedge of lime if desired.
Per serving: 18 calories (none from fat), no fat, no cholesterol, 4 grams carbohydrates, trace protein, 5 milligrams sodium, no dietary fiber
Recipes developed for The Star by professional home economists Kathryn Moore and Roxanne Wyss.