The health of our habits

By on September 4, 2018

Wanting to be healthy and actually living healthy are two different things– especially on a college budget. Here a few things to keep in mind regarding some of college students’ favorite things. – Matthew Fortin

Seltzer:

With a larger than life selection for consumers, the seltzer market has seen a sharp increase in variety and popularity. From bubbly water to sparkling cider and rose, seltzer based drinks certainly are all the rage.

Seltzer water is generally a healthier alternative to soda. The problem is, a lot of consumers assume this is always the case, but it certainly is not 100 percent of the time. Some carbonated water brands inject all kinds of unnatural and unhealthy ingredients, such as sodium, artificial flavors and sugar. If that’s the case, it’s just as bad as downing a Coca-Cola.

Another downside to seltzer water: a study included in the Obesity Research and Clinical Practice (Volume 11, Issue 5) revealed that consumption among men increased the presence of the hormone ghrelin – AKA the hunger hormone.

And more ghrelin essentially leads to an increased appetite, which often leads to weight gain. More research is necessary to further prove this finding, and to determine whether or not the same phenomenon applies to women as well.

And in others with a sensitive digestive track, seltzer can lead to stomach irritation and discomfort. But this is the case with all carbonated beverages, and not the fault of any seltzer-specific ingredients.

All things considered, popping open a La Croix is not a bad health choice. Just be sure to review the ingredients of your favorite sparkling beverage, and try to go for the ones with only carbonated water and/or natural flavors.

JUULs:

The JUUL has emerged as the most popular choice among e-cigarettes, particularly among high school and college students. It’s ability to be easily recharged, it’s portability and internal temperature control (no explosions!) have made it a household name.

Vaping, which was initially designed for former smokers trying to quit, has become so widespread among the student population, that health officials are becoming alarmed.

And although the research on e-cigarettes is still fairly limited, there are a few findings that users should know about.

The vapors that users breathe out contain several dangerous chemicals, like lead, chromium and manganese, according to a study performed by the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health on e-cigarettes (JUULs specifically were not used.)

The nicotine present in JUUL pods may also present a problem to users’ health, with several studies revealing the stimulant’s effect on the heart. A study by the American Society for Cell Biology conjects that nicotine directly impacts heart cells and can cause the development of plaque in arteries.

Nicotine is also known to increase adrenaline, which over time can lead to a strain on the heart.

Experts generally agree that JUULs, and vaping in general, is in fact a safer alternative than smoking traditional cigarettes. It’s important to remember, though, that these devices were designed for smokers trying to quit – not for college students to get raging nicotine addictions.

Coffee:

While not everyone enjoys the nicotine induced buzz from a JUUL, or the fizziness of seltzer water, finding someone on a college campus un-caffeinated may prove to be a challenge.

That’s okay, though. Unlike many other popular beverages, coffee actually has a host of health benefits.

Coffee has been proven to decrease the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, uterine and liver cancer, cirrhosis and gout according to Harvard professor Robert Shmerling.

And as if that isn’t good enough already, a November 2015 study concluded that an increased consumption in coffee equated to an all around decreased chance of mortality. Not bad!

These findings are particularly striking, because until November of 2017, coffee was on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) list of possibly carcinogenic foods.

That now antiquated label was a result of outdated and faulty research that claimed coffee increased the risk of developing bladder and pancreatic cancer, along with cardiovascular disease. The WHO maintains that drinking coffee in excess of 149 degrees can lead to an increased risk of esophageal cancer, but the same would be true of any other beverage.

So, in other words, go for that venti cold-brew.

 

Smart Solutions:

Seltzer

Different brands of seltzers present different health consequences for consumers. Try to avoid brands that include sodium and sweeteners like San Pellegrino, Sparkling Ice and Polar Frost; each contain varying amounts of additives. Instead, go for La Croix, VOSS or Poland Spring Sparkling; they’re all natural and include minimum ingredients.

 

JUULs

A good way to start cutting down on the JUULing may be to set certain hours of the day where you allow yourself to carry it.

Putting a JUUL to the mouth can also be habitual. Healthier habits could be used to take its place. Chewing gum has long been a go-to for former smokers, and even drinking a simple glass of water can go a long way in distracting yourself.

 

Coffee

Next time you find yourself in the line at Starbucks, try to forgo the excess cream and sugar. In a 16 ounce serving of black coffee, there is only one calorie according to the Starbucks website. Add in whole milk and sugar, and you’re looking at 120 calories.

If black coffee isn’t doable for you, there are a few alternatives. Low-fat or almond milk are good recourses; try other sweeteners like cinnamon or honey.

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About Matthew Fortin

Associate Arts and Life Editor