The Popularity of Beverages

For some curious reason, the habit has grown up of taking a large part of the six glasses of water that we require daily in the form of mixtures known as beverages. These beverages are always much more expensive than pure water; are often quite troublesome to secure and prepare; have little, or no, food value; are of doubtful value even in small amounts; and injurious in large ones. Why they should ever have come into such universal use, in all races and in all ages of the world, is one of the standing puzzles of human nature. They practically all consist of from ninety to ninety-eight per cent of water, the food elements that may be added to them being in such trifling amounts as to be practically of no value. They serve no known useful purpose in the body, save as a means of introducing the water which they contain; and yet mankind has used them ever since the dawn of history.

We Have no Natural Appetite for Beverages

It is a most striking fact that, although these beverages have been drunk by the race for centuries, we have never developed an instinct or natural appetite for them! No child ever yet was born with an appetite or natural liking for beer or whiskey; and very few children really like the taste of tea or coffee the first time, although they soon learn to drink them on account of the sugar and cream in them. Thus, nature has clearly marked them off from all the real foods on our tables, showing that they are not essential to either life or health; and that they are absolutely unnecessary, and almost always harmful in childhood and during the period of growth. If {90}no child ever drank alcohol until he really craved it, as he craves milk, sugar, and bread and butter, there would be no drunkards in the world. Our other food-instincts have shown themselves worthy to be trusted—why not trust this one, and let these beverages, especially alcohol, absolutely alone?

Statistics from the alcoholic wards of our great hospitals show that of those who become drunkards, nearly ninety per cent begin to drink before they are twenty years old. Of that ninety per cent, over two-thirds took their first drink, not because they felt any craving for it, or even thought it would taste good, but because they saw others doing it; or thought it would be a “manly” thing to do; or were afraid that they would be laughed at if they didn’t! Whatever vices and bad habits our natural appetites, and so-called “animal instincts,” may lead us into, drunkenness is not one of them.

This striking hint on the part of nature, that alcoholic beverages are unnecessary, is fully confirmed by the overwhelming majority of hundreds of tests which have been made in the laboratory, showing clearly that, while these beverages may give off trifling amounts of energy in the body, their real effects and the sole reason for their use are their stimulating, or their discomfort-deadening (narcotic) effect. And the more carefully we study them, the heavier we find the price that has to be paid for any temporary relief or enjoyment which they may seem to give.

Tea, Coffee, and Cocoa

The “weakest” and most commonly used of these beverages or amusement foods, are tea, coffee, and cocoa. These have an agreeable taste, mildly stimulate the nervous system, and, when used in moderation by adults, seldom do much harm. To a small percentage of individuals, who are specially sensitive to their effects, they seem to act as mild poison-foods, much in the same way as strawberries, cheese, or lobsters do to others.

Tea is made from the green leaves of a shrub growing in {91}hilly districts in China, Japan, and Southern India. The finer and more delicately flavored brands are from the young leaves, shoots, and flowers of the plant; while the coarser and cheaper are from the old leaves, stalks, and even twigs—the latter containing the most tannin, which, as we shall see, is the most injurious element in tea.

Coffee is made from the seeds of a cherry-like berry growing upon a shrub, or low tree, on tropical hillsides. The bulk of our supply comes from South America, and is known as “Rio” coffee, from Rio Janeiro, the port in Brazil from which most of it is shipped. That from the East Indies is known as Java, and that from Arabia as Mocha; though these last two are now but little more than trade-names for certain finer varieties of coffee, no matter where grown.

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