Americans consume more than 450 calories a day from sodas and other soft drinks – that translates to 23 pounds a year in excess weight.
Excessive consumption of sugar-added drinks has also raised other health concerns. People with a genetic predisposition to obesity are more susceptible to the harmful effects of sugary drinks. Soda can also contribute to type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis.
EvergreenHealth nutritionist Marcy Dorsey, RD, recommends sticking to water most of the time and going for the occasional splurge on your favorite beverage.”
Instead of drinking soda, Marcy suggests trying sparkling water to give you carbonation without added sugar or artificial sweeteners. Or try another drink altogether, something with health benefits instead of empty calories.
Here are some beverages and their purported health benefits.
Coffee. Some experts believe your daily cup of java can be good for you, but too much caffeine can have negative effects.
It is addictive, and trying to quit can cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches and exhaustion. In addition, your body requires more and more caffeine over time to give you the same pick-me-up.
Excess caffeine can cause heart palpitations, sleep loss, anxiety, heartburn, and, since it has a diuretic effect, diarrhea. It may also interact with some medications, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), to cause liver damage.
Like all things, coffee is best enjoyed in moderation, so stick to one or two eight-ounce cups a day. Keep your coffee on the healthy side by drinking it black or with just a little (preferably low-fat) cream or sugar.
Avoid fancy sweetened coffee drinks. A grande vanilla latte with whole milk can have 290 calories and 11 grams of fat. Black coffee, on the other hand, has no calories. Or give chai a try – made with black tea, milk and spices like cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom, chai has less caffeine than coffee, but its creamy flavor is a great swap for decadent coffee drinks.
Tea. Like coffee, tea is full of antioxidants. Green tea, in particular, may have benefits that offer protection from heart disease and type 2 diabetes, while both black and green teas may decrease cancer risk and lower your cholesterol.
Certain types of tea may offer specific benefits.
Milk. Milk has calcium and vitamin D to protect against osteoporosis. Because it has carbohydrates and protein, your body absorbs it slowly, unlike sugary drinks, to satisfy you longer.
Milk is also high in calories, so you should drink no more than a glass or two of low-fat or skim milk per day. Less is fine, as long as you get your calcium from other sources.
If you don’t like or are unable to drink regular milk, calcium-fortified soy, rice, almond or coconut milk are options, but try unsweetened varieties to avoid unnecessary added sugars.
Milkshakes, while they contain calcium, also contain many, many calories. A regular fast-food shake contains around 500 calories.
Smoothies are a better choice, as long as you stick to ones made of fruits and vegetables with low- or no-fat milk or yogurt and limited added sweeteners.
Juice. Juice can give you lots of vitamins and nutrients, but you get better nutrition and fiber from eating the whole fruit or vegetable, Marcy says. If you drink juice, she says to make sure it is 100% fruit juice.
Juice quickly spikes your blood sugar so limit juice to four to eight ounces daily. Better yet, dilute it with water or seltzer to get the sweetness without overdoing it.
Try different juices to get specific nutrients:
Water. Water is the most important beverage of all. It provides your body with all the hydration it needs, including replacing fluids that you lose from exercise or other activities. Try one of Marcy’s suggestions for making plain water more exciting:
By making healthy beverage choices, you can enhance your nutrition and benefit your health without guzzling empty calories. Drink up!
Visit our Healthiest Best Foods homepage for more great ideas to get you and your family eating healthier.