Q. I am a tea drinker–green, black and herbals. I grew up putting milk in my black tea but I drink iced tea and herbals unadulterated.

I happened to overhear a conversation in which someone said putting milk in tea destroys the healthful benefits of the phytochemicals. Is this a fact? If it does have some effect, does it completely negate all the benefits of the black tea?

A. Don’t worry about the milk in your black tea. According to Jeffrey Blumberg, Ph.D., Chief of the Antioxidants Research Laboratory at Tufts University, milk doesn’t interfere substantially with those beneficial plant chemicals.

Recent research has confirmed that the antioxidant compounds in tea can be very good for you. Controlled studies have shown that tea drinkers are less likely to die from heart attacks. There are also studies suggesting that green tea may have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory activity.

Q. I am 15 years old and very active. I do tennis in the morning and soccer at night. I also suffer from bad leg cramps while at soccer. It has happened twice in the last three weeks. It may not seem like a lot but I never used to get these.

What is causing them? How do I prevent them? How do I treat them?

A. It’s hard to know why you have suddenly started getting leg cramps, but they can sometimes be prevented with extra minerals.

Some people find that foods rich in potassium can help. One reader offered: “Having always had jobs where I was on my feet, I got leg cramps often. A doctor friend suggested surgical stockings, but they didn’t help very much. Another friend told me to eat bananas. I ate one a day and my leg cramps disappeared like a miracle.”

If bananas don’t help, magnesium (100 or 200 mg) might. Don’t take too much, though, since it can cause diarrhea.

Some people find that a glass of tonic water helps prevent leg cramps. The quinine in tonic is the key ingredient. Anyone who experiences rash, nausea, ringing in the ears or changes in color vision should avoid it, however.

The best treatment for a leg cramp is to stretch the muscle gently. Ask your coach about stretches for calves and hamstrings.

Q. Will the daily use of one teaspoon of Metamucil over a long period of time become habit-forming like a regular laxative can? Would one’s system become dependent upon the psyllium for regular bowel elimination? Do you have any other suggestions for dealing with constipation?

A. Psyllium (the component of Metamucil and similar products) provides soluble fiber and is not a stimulant laxative. There is no need to worry about becoming dependent upon it.

There are many other safe approaches to solving the constipation problem. Over the years readers have shared their favorite remedies, including fresh dates and uncooked prunes, chocolate, hot water with lemon juice, sugar-free gum and blackstrap molasses.

We are sending you a Guide with 10 tips to combat constipation and a special low-fat pumpkin bran muffin recipe. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $2 in check or money order with a long (no. 10) stamped, self-addressed envelope: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. GG-30, P. O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

Q. Here’s an easy way to defuse dried beans. After pre-cooking, discard the water. Add fresh water and one whole, peeled potato. When beans are done, discard the potato.

A. Thanks for your approach to de-gassing beans.

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