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Q: Does cranberry juice help prevent bladder infections?
A: Maybe. Cranberries contain two compounds that seem to prevent bacteria from sticking to cells in the kidney, bladder, and other parts of the urinary tract. The effect of cranberries on the acidity of urine may also reduce the rate of infections. Although we need more studies for clear answers, most experts say that cranberry juice may help prevent recurrent urinary tract infections in women who are prone to them. Cranberries seem ineffective, however, against infections that already exist.
Q: Is it true that alcohol can affect blood pressure?
A: Yes. Health experts recommend drinking no more than one standard drink a day for women and no more than two standard drinks per day for men. A standard drink is 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. You should follow these same recommendations to lower your risk of cancer. However, the most important lifestyle influences affecting blood pressure are weight control, regular exercise, limiting sodium consumption, and getting enough potassium. If your blood pressure is still affected by drinking alcohol within these limits, talk to your physician.
Q: Are the many juice, tea and water drinks with herbs and other natural supplements smart choices?
A: No. First, a drink could contain so little of the added ingredients that no effect is possible. Second, if you have any chronic medical conditions or take medications, let your doctor know if you decide to use these supplements. Products with significant amounts of added ingredients—even if they are natural—can interact with drugs or affect medical conditions. Third, it’s usually less expensive to choose regular foods and buy herbs or nutritional supplements separately than to pay for products to which they’ve been added. Fourth, a balanced, plant-based diet offers a vast abundance of different vitamins, minerals and natural phytochemicals which no herb or supplement can replace. For better health and lower cancer risk, it is far better to spend your money on vegetables, fruits, whole grains and beans.
Q: How much difference does it make whether I drink regular or light beer?
A: A 12-ounce serving of regular beer runs about 140 to 150 calories, whereas light beers contain from 95 to 110 calories. Dark beers and ales range from 150 to 170 calories, while nonalcoholic beers run about 45 to 75 calories for the same 12-ounce portion. It’s the calorie content that matters for weight control. Beer’s impact on your overall health, however, relates largely to the alcohol content, which is barely influenced by a lower-calorie content. The alcohol content of light beer is only slightly less than regular beers. To lower your risk of cancer and safeguard your health, women should have no more than 12 ounces of beer a day and men no more than 24 ounces—whether the beer is regular or light.
Of course, the healthiest drink for you isn't anything fancy. It's water! Read "Water is a Secret Ingredient" to find out why.