You are what you drink #bebetter52


IMG_9169You are what you drink! #bebetter52

An 'extra step" by Nicole Carnese

This weeks "Be soda-less" is right up my alley. With the exception of a couple of organic sodas here and there (I can probably count on one hand in the past three years), I've been soda-less for quite a while now, and I haven't missed it once!

Mind you, this is coming from someone who was raised on soda, or "pop" as we called it here in Oregon. We always had grape pop and root beer, and I consumed it on a daily basis growing up. I shudder to think of it, but if I can kick the habit and have had so much success in reversing illness and health problems, so can you!

The blog post earlier this week covered the negative effects of soda fairly well. I think we can all agree that soda is just an empty-calorie, sugary drink with zero health benefits and a lot of negative health effects associated with drinking it. I would just add that diet soda, although touted as a healthier alternative to regular soda, is just as bad, if not worse, than regular soda. It doesn't matter if you get pure cane sugar soda, high fructose corn syrup or aspartame, they all impact our health!

Refined sugar spikes insulin and is associated with weight gain, obesity and diabetes. It instantly lowers your immune system and causes sugar crashes, headaches, and intestinal and digestive issues such as celiac and irritable bowel syndrome. It also feeds cancer cells. Refined sugar is, in my book, one of the most harmful things people can put in their body, and a can of soda has multiple times the FDA recommended daily amount. Since quitting sugar, I feel more energized, have a healthier immune system and fewer cravings for processed foods. Conversely, every time I make exceptions for a few weeks and consume sugar, I get sick without fail and start having digestive issues.

High fructose corn syrup has all the negative effects of sugar, but it's even harder for your body to break down. It is linked to increased obesity.

Aspartame accounts for over 75 percent of adverse reactions to food additives reported to the FDA. Many of these reactions are serious, including seizures and death. A few of the 90 different documented symptoms listed in the report as part of aspartame dangers are:

Headaches/ migraines Dizziness Seizures Nausea Numbness
Muscle spasms Weight gain Rashes Depression Fatigue
Irritability Tachycardia Insomnia Vision problems Hearing loss
Heart palpitations Breathing difficulties Anxiety attacks Slurred speech Loss of taste
Tinnitus Vertigo Memory loss Joint pain

According to researchers and physicians studying the adverse effects of aspartame, the following chronic illnesses can be triggered or worsened by ingesting aspartame:

Brain tumors Multiple sclerosis Epilepsy Chronic fatigue syndrome Parkinson's disease
Alzheimer's Mental retardation Lymphoma Birth defects Fibromyalgia

Aspartame is made up of three chemicals: aspartic acid, phenylalanine and methanol. The book Prescription for Nutritional Healing by James and Phyllis Balch lists aspartame under the category of "chemical poison."

And here is what happens when you give up soda: (click link to read more detail)

1. Your heart health almost immediately improves.
2. Risk of chronic disease decreases.
3. Reproductive health improves.
4. Your kidneys will be in better shape.
5. You’ll grow stronger bones.
6. You’ll get fewer bladder infections.
7. You’ll have a brighter, whiter smile.
8. Last but not least, your brain will be able to do its job better.

This weeks "extra step" is to give up soda for the entire month! (And then, I hope, never look back) and replace that soda habit with the following healthy soda alternatives. Two of the alternatives are carbonated, and the third can be if you make it that way. Plus, they are all linked to many positive health benefits! 


Soda alternatives:


Refreshing and hydrating mineral "Sprite" (non-caffeinated)

Sparkling mineral water

  • 1-2 teaspoons lime (or 2-4 drops essential oil; I use doterra)
  • 1-2 teaspoons lemon (or 2-4 drops essential oil)
  • 1-2 packets xylitol, stevia or raw honey
  • Mix in mineral bottle water and save for later, or pour over ice in a mason jar and enjoy immediately – preferably in the sunshine, poolside

(Tip: stir and allow at least 5-10 minutes for the xylitol to dissolve, or allow to sit overnight in fridge)

Mineral water is full of – well, minerals, which are good for your teeth, your bones, and can even help detox your body. Lemon and lime are alkalizing in your body, and most diseases cannot survive in an alkaline environment. They both help flush out toxins and help with weight loss. Xylitol is a sugar alcohol and does not spike blood sugar levels. It is also antibacterial/antiviral and protects teeth from cavities (it's in toothpaste and some brands of gum). It can upset your stomach if consumed in large quantities, so I use it sparingly (as should be the case with any refined sugar). Also, all xylitol is not created equal. Be sure to buy the kind made from tree bark.

Kombucha: the original soda

Raw kombucha is a live, naturally fizzy, bubbly probiotic drink filled with all kinds of healthy nutrients that leave you feeling like a new woman (or man). Kombucha is an ancient fermented tea made by putting a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) into a sugary tea in a jar. It is alcohol free (unless you ferment it too long). It has billions of probiotics, essential for intestinal health. When our digestion is working properly, we can get more nutrients out of our food, leading to even more health benefits.

This drink has become a household favorite, even for my 8-year-old brother and 10-year-old sister. We can drink it like it’s water, but unfortunately it’s not inexpensive ($2.50-$4.00, depending on where you buy it) Our local Costco carries a 6-pack of G.T Kombucha's gingerade (our favorite brand – it is the strongest kombucha out there and has the most "kick"). It comes out to about $2.33 a bottle, by far the best deal around. But in a big family this can add up, especially as much as we drink. Really! A 6-pack won't last more than a day in our house, and good luck trying to hide one in the back of the fridge. (We've all tried that one, and they're snatched the minute you turn your back.) So last week we decided to brew our own kombucha, which is really cheap. We went with the continuous brew method, as it is the easiest method, and our scoby is growing big and strong! The kids love to check on it each day!

Kombucha is good for cleansing, rejuvenating, digestion (drink some after eating too much, or when you next have indigestion or heartburn. Trust me!) I really feel like I've been reborn when I drink it. A concern is the sugar content. Most of the sugar is eaten during the fermentation process, but different brands and flavors will have differing amounts of sugar left in their brew. I try to find ones with lower levels of sugar, but at most you'll find 11 grams, which is significantly less than a can of soda. And because it's balanced in a whole, live, raw food, your body will process it much better.

My body does not handle sugar well, but I've never experienced an adverse reaction even when drinking kombucha with a higher sugar content. My favorite flavors are lavender, ginger, blueberry, hibiscus, rose, trilogy . . . Heck, who am I kidding? I love them all! Live brand even carries your favorite soda flavors: Dr. Pepper, cola, root beer. Talk about a great way to kick the soda habit!

Try one today, though it may take a few tries to grow on you. It's an acquired taste, but you'll soon find your body yearning for it as it recognizes how rejuvenated it feels. If I'm feeling run down I reach for a kombucha, or if I need a refreshing bubbly drink, I reach for a kombucha.

My mom felt "heavy" the first few times she had it. She could only drink a quarter bottle and didn't even like it. Now she loves it and feels amazing! If your body loves it as much as ours do, think about brewing it yourself. You can get creative with the flavors, and your checking account will thank you.

Yerba Mate

For those days when you just really need a caffeine pick-me-up, yerba mate has become my best friend. Yerba mate is a holly tree native to the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina.  Mate has all kinds of health benefits, and it doesn't give you the jitters! That's because there’s more to yerba mate than just caffeine/mateine. Take theobromine, for example. Theobromine, best known for being the primary alkaloid in cacao, exerts a smoother, longer-lasting stimulatory effect.

Whereas caffeine is a vasoconstrictor, theobromine is an effective vasodilator, relaxing the smooth muscle in blood vessels and allowing better blood flow. It’s present in varying amounts in each variety of yerba mate, some with caffeine/theobromine ratios of 10:1 and others with ratios of 2:1. It can lower blood pressure in hypertensive individuals.

Pure caffeine has the tendency to increase blood pressure. It’s plausible, then, that various ratios of theobromine and caffeine have different effects paired together than either does alone.

It is important to note that yerba mate provides a wealth of nutrition in the form of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and antioxidants, all of which may contribute to the "good" energy most people associate with yerba mate.

The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific society in 1964 did a thorough study of yerba mate’s properties. The investigators concluded, "It is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value" and that yerba mate contains "practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life."

In addition, results from a study done by researchers at the University of Madrid assert a high content of mineral elements in mate, especially K, Mg, and Mn. They considered those findings “to be of great relevance” to the nutritional value of mate infusions. Yerba mate is even more nutritious than green tea. Of the six commonly used stimulants in the world – yerba mate, coffee, tea, kola nut, cocoa and guarana – yerba mate triumphs as the most balanced, delivering both energy and nutrition.

Yerba mate contains:

  • Vitamins:A, C, E, B1, B2, niacin (B3), B5, B complex
  • Minerals: calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus,zinc
  • Additional Compounds: carotene, fatty acids, chlorophyll, flavonols, polyphenols, inositol, trace minerals, antioxidants, tannins, pantothenic acid and 15 amino acids.
  • Theophylline, theobromine, and caffeine

Yerba mate has significant antioxidants. In a study published in 1995 by Biochemicaland Molecular Biology International, researchers concluded that water extracts of yerba mate “were more potent antioxidants than either ascorbic acid (vitamin C) or butylated hydroxytoluene.”

A few years later, a group of researchers investigated the antioxidant properties of yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis) infusions. Those findings were published in March of 2000 in the journal Biochemical and Biophysica Research Communications.

Their results suggest “that ingestion of extracts of Ilex paraguariensis could contribute to increase the antioxidant defense of an organism against free radicals attack.” In a more recent study, published in the November 2001 issue of Fitoterapia, researchers took a look at seven different plant species in South America. They found that yerba mate “contained a higher content of flavonoids and caffeoyl derivatives than any other assayed species.”

In other words: It's got lots of free radical-protecting antioxidants plus minerals and vitamins. So drink up!

My favorite way to brew it is in a chai blend. Oregon Chai makes the best mate chai blend (trust me, I've tried them all), and each packet has about the equivalent of a cup of coffee. But to get the most nutrients, brewing loose leaf is the way to go. Be sure to look for unsmoked mate, as it may be carcinogenic when smoked.

Guayaki is my favorite brand, and it embodies a similar "self-improvement for global improvement" as Be Better. Recognizing the transformative power of mate, the company made it a mission to steward and restore 200,000 acres of rainforest and create over 1,000 living-wage jobs by 2020. Every time you sip Guayaki mate, you are helping to restore the rainforest!

You can pour it over ice and even mix it in sparking water with your favorite juice for a carbonated soda alternate. Gyuaki sells a sparking grapefruit ginger mate that's to die for! However, these store-bought, premixed drinks contain sugar and come in aluminum, which is best to avoid. Still, on the days when you're running into the store for a drink or need quick to-go options, pre-bottled mate is definitely a healthier alternative to soda, especially because it is organic!

You can even find it in glass bottles and a plain sugar-free in a gourd, unsweetened (which is not only healthier, but the traditional way to drink it). When buying mate, look for organic, unsmoked, fair-trade brands, and be sure to follow the instructions. You don't want to use boiling water, as it can lead to a bitter taste! Have fun experimenting with different flavors and knowing you're giving your body a big dose of vitamins and antioxidants!

So to recap: Instead of reaching for those sugary, artificially flavored sodas, opt for flavored, sparkling mineral waters, kombucha or yerba mate. Try it for the next month; they say it takes 21 days to kick a habit, and 21 days to make a new one. Feel the difference in your body, your energy, and your mental and emotional health as you opt for soda alternatives. Most of these options can even be found at gas stations now, so even if you fail to plan ahead and find yourself craving a soda, there is no excuse! Your body will thank you.