A cold beer (or 4) on a Saturday afternoon, a warm chai tea on a Winter night, or a mouthful of fresh water scooped up from a rapid-flowing northern NSW creek, all elicit different sensations, emotions and memories.
On a more physical level, they can also be significant contributors to our overall nutritional state, especially if they are a regular part of our diet.
Soft drink - a "sometimes" drink
I’m sometimes asked, “What drinks in particular should I avoid at all costs? What’s the worst possible thing I could drink, and what’s the healthiest?” When we eat intuitively, remember that whatever the beverage, the only authority is your own body.
And there are no inherently good or bad foods - or drinks! However as your body will tell you if you tune in enough, there are "everyday" drinks, and there are "sometimes" drinks.
Enjoy exploring the flavours and effects of a whole range of drinks, but keep in mind that besides rainwater, truly "healthy" drinks are not easily available in our day and age, or need to be made at home i.e. they take time.
If I had to say one drink that we should minimise as much as we humanly can, it wouldn’t be beer, coffee or even hard liquor – it’s soft drink. Why? The high refined sugar content, questionable colourings & flavourings, and mechanised carbonation process create a highly synthetic drink that I personally can’t handle more than a few sips of.
Ironically, modern soft drink is made in imitation of traditional beverages like root beers and ginger ales, which were not necessarily alcoholic. These were fermented from natural sugars and herbs and were very healthy beverages, chock-full of enzymes, vitamins, “good” micro-organisms, and electrolytes.
So, a stubby a day…?
I’m not suggesting you start a drinking x amount of VB a day for your health! (Or Coopers, or Cascade.) Modern beer uses hops, a fairly potent medicinal herb, which is a sedative and sexual depressant that many people don’t handle all that well. Traditionally, dozens of different herbs were used in beer aside from hops, all with different tonic, flavouring, healing or psychotropic properties.
Home-brewed beer is probably better than store-bought, as it’s likely to have higher levels of the good bacteria and all the other goodies that stimulate digestion. The appreciation and exploration of the ways of fermentation is both an art and a yoga. Bottoms up!
Water – the primary thirst quencher?
Many traditional cultures rarely drank water. In China, even to this day, you never see water served with meals – the beverages are soup, tea, or a fermented drink such as beer.
Warm beverages are said to be much gentler on the digestion than cold ones, while some soups and fermented beverages actually aid digestion. Unfortunately, most of these super-healthy drinks have disappeared from the Australian culinary scene.
Good Gut Grubs
By eating a standard western diet we are missing out on a lot of the foods and drinks that traditionally long-living cultures thrived off. The most prominently missing foods in my opinion, are probiotics.
Over the past ten years we’ve all heard that Lactobacillus bacteria form a significant part of the natural intestinal flora. Large populations of this and other lactic acid-producing bacteria regulate the levels of friendly or “good” bacteria and reduce the levels of toxic pathogens.
The potential benefits of having more fermented probiotic foods in our diet include better digestion (leading to better energy), reduced bloating and reduced personal contributions to the greenhouse effect. Who doesn’t want that?
Although you can make fermented grain drinks at home, for the average 9-5 worker this can be overwhelming, at least at first. If you’d like to get more of this bacteria into your diet immediately, I recommend trying a ready-made probiotic liquid, fermented naturally using organic and/or biodynamic ingredients.
Examples include: Kombucha, kefir (water or coconut-based), organic ginger beer, and home-brewed beer.
A number of Australian and international compaines make these kinds of drinks, which are surprisingly affordable. You can dilute them with water, freshly squeezed juices, add to recipes, use in smoothies, juices and salad dressings or just drink neat.