By Dr. Mercola
One of the most dramatic game changers in improving your health is incredibly simple, and it's free. In fact, it may be the most crucial step you can take to make several phenomenal health improvements. What is it?
Simply put, it's calling a halt to all sodas, because virtually all of them are loaded with toxic amounts of sugar or artificial sweeteners. The carbonated sugar water you've been clinging to is more toxic to your health than you ever imagined.
The problem many people have with giving up soda is that they feel they have to give up flavor. Some people accustomed to drinking soda or large amounts of juice complain that drinking water is "boring." While it's true that water is the healthiest beverage, you can still enjoy a tasty beverage that's good for you, too.
If you're serious about developing a healthier lifestyle, you may find hibiscus tea a refreshing alternative.
The Perfect Alternative to Water Resistance: Hibiscus Tea
Grown predominantly in warmer climates such as the Southeastern U.S., hibiscus or Hibiscus sabdariffa, from the Malvaceae botanical family, is also known as Roselle. That's fitting as many of its large, exotic flowers are vibrant red with a tinge of pink.
The calyx part of the flower is what is dried to make a lovely ruby-colored tea with more than 200 varieties. Especially in hot, dry climates, it's desirable for its cooling, soothing qualities. Also known as "sour tea," it has a pleasingly sharp flavor, similar to the tartness of cranberry.
Hibiscus tea was a beverage of choice for Egyptian pharaohs in ancient Egypt. In fact, many cultures, including those in the Caribbean, Mexico, China, Africa and Europe, cultivated and used hibiscus tea, not just for its flavor but for its medicinal properties.
Hibiscus tea isn't typically on most grocery shelves or even easy to find in alternative health stores. However, you can find 100 percent certified USDA organic hibiscus tea, whether you want iced or hot tea, online. Be sure to choose a variety that comes from a reputable source.
Teabags are certainly the traditional method of preparation, but modern technology has made hibiscus extracts available via an airless pump technology, which protects the liquid from oxidation from exposure to the air.
Just a few pumps in your glass or cup are all you need for a refreshing substitute to a plain glass of water, and this healthy beverage is a far cry from the toxic substances ingested when you consume a soda.
Traditional and Modern Health Benefits of Hibiscus Tea
High in vitamin C, minerals and antioxidants, hibiscus tea has been recognized in both early tradition and modern science as a remedy to calm nervous disorders, treat insomnia, moderate heart problems, decrease inflammation and speed up your metabolism. Pulp from the leaves has been used to make poultices for wounds.
Recently, Nigerian scientists deemed hibiscus better than a leading pharmaceutical at lowering blood pressure. In the study,1 75 participants with mild to moderate hypertension were randomly placed in three groups, each receiving a daily dose of hydrochlorothiazide (a prescription medication), hibiscus (HS) or a placebo.
"Hibiscus sabdariffa was a more effective antihypertensive agent than HCTZ in mild to moderate hypertensive Nigerians and did not cause electrolyte imbalance. HS showed longer duration of action compared to HCTZ and reduction in serum Na+ (sodium) may be another antihypertensive mechanism of action of (hibiscus)."2
Used in some commercial tea blends even in the U.S., hibiscus can lower blood pressure without side effects, and further, to have residual benefits. Using hibiscus tea to affect "even small changes in blood pressure ... when maintained over time, will reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack."3
One study recognized hibiscus for its antioxidant and liver-protective anthocyanins. Tested on human cancer cells, this compound was found to cause apoptosis, or cell death in leukemia cells.4
Still, another review linked hibiscus extracts with protecting the liver and preventing obesity and fatty liver disease.5 Along the same lines:
"Statistical findings showed an 11.2 percent lowering of the systolic blood pressure and a 10.7 percent decrease of diastolic pressure in the experimental group 12 days after beginning the treatment (hibiscus tea), as compared with the first day.
The difference between the systolic blood pressures of the two groups was significant, as was the difference of the diastolic pressures of the two groups."6
What's the Problem with Soda?
If you're a soda drinker, there are several reasons why you should be looking for an alternative, particularly if you're not yet sold on sticking to plain water for refreshment.
The average American drinks an average of 57 gallons of soda every year,7 which is a major health mistake. Sugar and artificial sweeteners are called "toxic" because they're linked to rising rates of obesity and chronic disease.
One article8 listed other health problems caused by soda consumption. Drinking soda:
✓ Contributes zero nutrition
✓ Raises heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes risk
✓ Turns sugar to fat in the liver
✓ Drastically increases belly fat
✓ Causes insulin resistance
✓ Is linked to an increased risk of dementia
Even worse than regular soda, diet soda, even if it's "calorie-free," has also been linked to weight gain. In fact, if you look for a clinical study for evidence that diet drinks or foods help you lose weight, you won't easily find it. That's because diet soda causes weight gain more than if people drank plain old soda!
Research shows that drinking diet drinks may increase heart disease, heart attack and stroke risk in otherwise healthy postmenopausal women, a University of Iowa study revealed. Those who consume more than one a day are 30 percent more likely to have a cardiovascular event and 50 percent more likely to die from related disease.9
Some beverage companies are changing up ingredients in their beverages, such as aspartame, because people are beginning to understand how damaging it is, as it's linked to problems like depression, headaches and mood disorders.
What's the Problem With Fructose?
If you're wondering why it's so important to replace soda in your diet with a healthier choice like hibiscus tea or water, fully 50 percent of regular sugar is fructose, one of the most insidious, health-destructive substances you can consume. It's an extremely powerful pro-inflammatory agent that accelerates aging, and that's just one of the problems.
How else does fructose destroy your health? Fructose acts as a trigger, activating a metabolic "fat switch," which can be thanked for contributing to the obesity epidemic that's so pervasive in America and throughout the world. Fructose is a major contributor to many diseases including:
- Heart disease
- Alzheimer's disease
Are You Ready to Achieve Optimal Health? There's One More Pesky Problem
When it comes to the health of the people you love, encouraging them to drink pure water and give up soda and juice is one of the best things you can do. This is sound advice for your own health as well.
You read that right. Juice is another pesky culprit in the struggle for good health. The reason juice has become a problem is that most people view fruit and juice to be as healthy as drinking water. In moderate quantities, whole fruit can be healthy for some people, but fruit juice is best avoided.
Fruit juice typically contains very high concentrations of fructose, which will cause your insulin to spike and may counter the benefits of the antioxidants it contains. Previous studies have already demonstrated that drinking large amounts of juice dramatically increases your risk of obesity.
When buying commercial fruit juice, you need to check the label, as many fruit juices contain high-fructose corn syrup and artificial flavors in addition to concentrated fruit juice. But even freshly squeezed fruit juice can contain about eight full teaspoons of fructose per 8-ounce glass and is best avoided.
What Makes Juice Products Unhealthy
One of the first problems you might encounter buying juice at the supermarket is that it might not even contain 100 percent fruit.
Real juice contains pectin, which binds to naturally occurring methanol present in the fruit. When you eat fresh fruit, the pectin grabs the methanol and prevents you from absorbing it. However, when you eat or drink processed fruit or fruit juice that has been commercially bottled, the pectin and the methanol dissociate.
When pectin in natural fruit and fruit juice binds itself to methanol, a wood alcohol known to be poison to your metabolic system, the methanol leaves your body. But fruit juice at its worst not only contains dangerous amounts of methanol the longer it sets on the shelf, but also causes the methanol to dissolve into the juice as the dissociation process continues.
One of the most notable references to methanol is in relation to alcoholics who use it as a cheap substitute when they can't afford the real thing, which destroys their systems in numerous ways. That's why NutraSweet, aka aspartame, is so toxic to your system: It contains methanol.
Hibiscus Tea: A Natural Healer
For a much healthier option to soda and fruit juice, studies show drinking hibiscus tea is a good choice. It may even be more beneficial than black tea. Besides being naturally "decaf," it also helps support memory and concentration, and may help keep kidney stones from developing. As a wise Chinese sage once said, "Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary."
5 Additional Benefits of Hibiscus Extract
Polyphenols are plant compounds recognized for their disease prevention, antioxidant and anti-aging properties, and hibiscus extract is a potent source. Research has shown that hibiscus extract has been used "commonly and effectively … in native medicines" against high blood pressure, diabetes, and liver disorders.10 To date, the variety of studies showing health benefits of hibiscus extract are impressive and include:
- Potential anti-cancer effects: Research has shown that polyphenol-rich extracts of hibiscus induced cell death in human gastric carcinoma cells.11 Hibiscus extract has also induced cell death in human leukemia cells.12
- Antioxidant benefits: Research revealed that consumption of hibiscus extract enhanced systemic antioxidant potential and reduced oxidative stress in study participants.13 The study also found a "high biotransformation" of the ingested HSE polyphenols, which suggests the compounds are in a highly bioavailable form.
- Kidney stones and liver protection: One study found that hibiscus extract has anti-urolithiatic activity, which means it may help reduce the formation of kidney stones.14 It's also been shown to help protect the liver against chemically induced damage in fish.15
- Diabetes: Hibiscus extract has shown promise for improving both blood pressure16 and blood lipid profiles in people with diabetes.17
- Metabolic syndrome: Hibiscus extract has even shown promise for preventing and treating metabolic syndrome, with one study finding a daily dose of hibiscus extract for just one month lead to improvements in glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels as well as improvements in insulin resistance in people with metabolic syndrome.18