By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
When dining with strangers, they think I am weird because I drink hot water. On my recent trip to South America, one guy reacted differently. He asked, “Do you know something we don’t?”
Thanks to the unsexy drink, we connected. And I shared with him and other diners the benefits of drinking warm or hot water.
I don’t remember exactly when I got hooked on choosing warm water over icy cold water. My mother probably influenced me.
It began after I gave birth to my first son. In Chinese culture, eating cold things is not suitable for mothers in the first two months after giving birth, even in the hot summer. Why we adopt certain practices in our culture?
“Just follow it because it’s good for you,” is the common reply, case closed. That’s how tiger moms usually put it. As an obedient Chinese daughter, I generally never objected to what mom told me to do.
The tradition has lasted for thousands of years, there must be wisdom in it, I thought. Chinese culture relies on many years and generations of experience. Grandma taught my mother what her mother passed on to her, and my mother in turn, to me. If I rebel, the elder would simply say, “When you get old, you will find out,” meaning it will be too late, and your health would suffer. It also means that you will age quickly. The last factor probably frightens many Chinese women into complying.
Often, people wonder why I drink warm water, even during hot weather. My America-born children, who prefer cold water during meals, challenge me frequently. Lately, my younger son has been consuming warm water when we dine out. I don’t really know if he believes in the merits of doing so. Or if he’s simply trying to be a good son.
Instead of preaching why I choose hot water, I decided it’s time to do some research. Before I share the findings, I will tell you what warm water does for me — a lot. When I get up in the morning, warm water is the first thing I ingest, which triggers bowel movement. If you suffer from constipation, hot water is the best medicine. If one cup of warm water doesn’t induce a bowel movement, try two. If that doesn’t work, mix in a teaspoon of honey. It works like magic.
Several years ago, I did an experiment. I drank juice first instead of hot water one morning. After a while, constipation struck me.
Some of you might wonder what I do when I travel. My electric heating tool is always packed in my luggage. It takes less than 2 minutes to heat water. American restaurants don‘t charge for hot water. It is nice that many Starbucks in U.S. airports, charge nothing at all when I ask for a cup of hot water. I usually give them a dollar tip. But European restaurants can charge as much $3 per cup.
Hot water warms me up in the cold Seattle weather — not just my body, but my hands and fingers. It helps my blood circulation and aids in digestion.
A group of Japanese and Chinese doctors confirmed that warm water is 100 percent effective in resolving some health issues. Cold water will solidify the oily stuff that you have just consumed and slow down digestion. It also slows down organ function and causes muscles to contract. What is surprising is that it also contributes to migraines, high blood pressure, and painful joints.
What does Western medicine say about drinking warm water? I googled it and found many of the benefits that Asian medicine describes.
We all need water to flush out toxins and waste daily. But if warm water can speed up the cleansing process, why not go for it? A number of Western studies said water helps you to lose weight, as it makes you feel full, and you’ll eat less. According to Reader’s Digest’s recommendation, it’s good to start the morning with hot water and lemon to fire up your metabolism, which gives the body the ability to burn more calories throughout the day. It also prevents bloating.
What is interesting is one study said it can relieve menstrual cramps. I don’t know if that’s true. But there’s no harm in trying. You trust that the water you drink at home is clean. What about elsewhere? It’s safer to ask for hot water because boiling water kills germs.
Coffee and tea
It would be silly and monotonous to consume only hot water all day everyday. A new study has found that coffee and tea actually are good for your heart. Caffeine is instrumental in stimulating energy in your body. So I have two cups of tea in the morning. One cup is mixed with milk and honey, the other cup, just green tea. I wouldn’t drink more caffeine as it would keep me up at night. Sometimes, I have fruit juice with my breakfast. In the evening, I usually have soups with my meal.
The only thing I deliberately eliminate from my diet is soda and liquor. I’d rather have hot water over soda and alcohol. Years ago, my family friend nicknamed Auntie Chicken died. Everyday, she would drink two to four cups of soda. That’s over 500 calories and loaded with sugar. She was 100 pounds overweight. A Bloody Mary can have as much as 450 calories; a beer 280 calories. Water has zero calories — you decide.
My drinking habit is well-known
My hot water habit is famous in many Chinese restaurants in the International District. Before I sit down, many nice waiters will bring me a kettle of hot water without me asking. Outside of Chinatown, China Harbor Restaurant owner Hsiao-Ling Wan will sometimes bring me hot water herself.
I am impressed by the three waiters at the Seattle Westin Hotel, who bring me hot water when my Rotary Club meets. In fact, one waiter pays attention to where I sit for the Rotary meeting. Such fine service.
Just remember that the water temperature shouldn’t be so hot that it burns your tongue. Yes, you can mix in some cold water.
If you prefer drinking cold water during the summer and hot water during the winter, it’s still fine. But if you can adapt to drinking warm water all year round, you will notice that your health will improve over a period of time.
No one can change habits overnight. Take baby steps — one cup at a time. Hot water costs less than a fraction of a cent of electricity to make. Why not drink the best and cheapest health alternative!
Assunta can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.