Saturday, November 10, 2012

Healthier Ice Cubes

One of the keys to improving your diet is looking for practical ways to increase your intake of health promoting nutrients and phytochemicals. Ice cubes may seem like an unlikely way to further this cause, but that all depends on what you use to make ice cubes. By using coconut water or ginger and hibiscus tea, you can transform conventional ice cubes into flavorful and healthful additions to common beverages such as lemonade and mineral water.
     According to a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, upwards of 12% of children and 24% of adults regularly consume low or no-calorie drinks. This emerging trend may be helping to lower the overall intake of sugar sweetened beverages. However, the long term implications of drinking more artificially sweetened drinks and sodas is uncertain at best. What is clear is that this current shift in refined beverage options doesn’t add any antioxidant or nutrient density to the average diet.
A delicious, inexpensive and nutritious alternative to diet drinks and sodas is the use of naturally flavored ice cubes. Typically, ice cubes are obviously made of water. Having said that, in our household, we frequently make ice cubes from coconut water, ginger tea and hibiscus tea. Apart from the taste component, coconut water is an excellent source of potassium – an essential electrolyte which is commonly deficient in modern diets. Ginger tea is a potent, medicinal ingredient that combats inflammation and has recently been shown to improve arthritic symptoms, lung function and menopausal complaints. Last, but not least, is hibiscus tea. This brilliant, redish tea is a valuable source of antioxidants that addresses primary risk factors for metabolic syndrome, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol.
     When making ice cubes, it’s advisable to use filtered water, organic herbal teas and pure (unsweetened) coconut water. In addition, I suggest ice cube trays which are certified BPA-free. In our home, we add these and other flavored ice cubes to iced tea, homemade lemonade and sparkling mineral water. If more sweetness is desired, try adding some liquid monk fruit or stevia extract to the tea before filling the ice cube tray. Enjoy!

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