Best and worst beverages for your health
When it comes to beverages, the most common mistakes we make are the following:
- We don't drink enough WATER: if you drink less than 6 cups per day, there is a good chance you are not getting enough.
- We don't know what's in our drinks: ingredients, sugar, calories.
- We drink mindlessly: while driving, walking, working, etc.
- We don't take drinks into consideration when evaluating our nutritional intake: we end up swallowing plenty of unnecessary energy, which, of course, will be stored as fat!
Starting from those observations, how can we improve?
What's the best beverage for our body?
Well, it's pretty straightforward. The best beverage for our health is water. No coconut water, no vitamin water, no electrolyte water, just plain tap water (unless your water system has been contaminated and in that case, you might consider bottled water).
We all have different needs when it comes to water, depending on our age, gender, level of physical activity, the amount of water we get from our food, the climate we live in, etc. I won't tell you how much water you need to drink, because it's very specific to each person. Yet, if you have no clue what a reasonable amount of water is for you, you can start with the following plan:
- a cup of water right when you wake up;
- some water after every bathroom break;
- some water before each meal;
- a bit of water before you go to bed.
This should amount to about 6 to 8 cups per day. Of course, if you are thirsty in-between, drink! Thirst is a great indicator that you are not getting enough water :-). And if you workout, drink extra water too!
If you are still in doubt, here is another way to assess your hydration level. If you pee almost clear, you probably drink too much water. If you pee dark yellow, you are not drinking enough water. Yep, it's that easy! No need to get all fancy, scientific, and complicated!
Which beverage is the worst for our health?
Some will tell you it's coffee, others will tell you it's soda, and many will tell you it's alcohol. In my opinion, the worst beverage is the one you are drinking mindlessly. Out of habit, without enjoying it, and without being aware of what you are actually gulping down.
I would like to give you just a little more information about soft drinks. If you take a look at the food label on your favorite pop cans, you might notice that many of them contain added fructose. Natural fructose, which you find in fruit, is good for you. But added fructose is very damaging to your liver. Regular consumption of fructose-containing beverages is a cause of fatty liver in patients without risk factors, according to a study published in the US National Library of Medicine. Considering that fatty liver is the second leading indication for liver transplantation in the US, it is quite scary, isn't it?
I am not saying that soda is the worst beverage for your health (although, you would not have to tickle me much to have me confess!), but please, if you drink pops regularly, make sure you are really enjoying every single sip, because your body is paying quite a high price for this small pleasure.
Also, here is a word of caution regarding diet sodas. Their calorie content is very low or negligible. Yet, because they are very sweet, they don’t quench your thirst, they make you crave sugar, and they even make you eat more food. So don’t try to replace your regular pop with diet soda. It might help a bit, but t won't in the long term, especially if they make you feel that you are doing something good for your body.
I won't demonize alcohol and won't go through all the pros and cons here. Yet, I want to bring awareness around one of the many side-effects of alcohol.
I have seen clients struggling with weight loss because they are sleep deprived (yes, it's linked!). They don't always realize that their poor sleep is due to the couple of drinks they have at night. If you are having trouble sleeping through the night despite the fact that you are old enough to read those lines, alcohol might be a reason.
Alcohol makes you drowsy, so you might fall asleep better when you drink a glass or 2 at night. But, alcohol has a strong side effect: it is dehydrating. As a result, you will want to get up at night to pee. A good reason to wake up! Plus, you will be thirsty, so you will also want to get up to get a glass of water or you will be very uncomfortable with a dry mouth and maybe a headache. Chances are, you will wake up before your alarm gets off. Not to mention that once the “depressant” effect of alcohol is gone, you will have a sudden burst of energy and awareness, which will make you very likely to wake up during the night, no matter what.
Alcohol also aggravates breathing problems such as snoring, and it interferes with the most restorative stages of sleep. So when you drink alcohol before going to bed, you won’t feel as rested the next day and even feel groggy.
So, if you are having trouble sleeping, keep an eye on your alcohol consumption. By the way, if sleep is an issue for you, you might want to read my article "Why can't I sleep well anymore?" and download 25 Tips to Sleep Better (and a Bonus!).
Whatever you drink, make it count!
If an average person needs about 2200 calories per day from food and beverages. That’s about 700 calories per meal if you have 3 meals per day, right? Did you know that a Starbucks Caffe Vanilla Frappuccino can contain up to 530 calories? 12 oz of apple juice contain about 180 calories, even more than 12 oz of beer.
I am usually not a fan of calorie counting, far from it! But if you know approximately how many calories are in the beverages you consume on a regular basis, it might be a wake-up call. And maybe you will decide to eliminate a couple here and there, you know, the ones that are not quite "worth it"!
Here is the thing with drinks: we have a tendency to wolf them down without really noticing and without getting much pleasure from them. Yet, drink 2 beers tonight and you will swallow the equivalent, calorie wise, of almost half a meal. Maybe that's what you want? Maybe sharing a beer with someone might be a healthier option.
Evaluate your favorite beverages
Here is what I suggest you do ASAP. List all the beverages you consume regularly and find out their approximate calorie content. Here is a list to help you, with average values:
For more, you can go to USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
You can also use the Alcohol calorie calculator from the US Department of Health and Human Services. It's pretty convenient!
Having your own list will help you identify the most "dangerous" drinks. Next time you are about to drink one or the other from your list, ask yourself the following questions first:
- Am I drinking this because I am thirsty? If the answer is yes, drink WATER!
- Am I drinking this out of habit? If the answer is yes, could you put a healthier habit in place?
- Do I really want this drink? Will I enjoy it all?
- Could I pick a smaller size and still be satisfied?
- Is this drink worth the calorie content? If yes, could I cut my snack, or maybe skip dessert?
- Can I replace this drink with one that would be healthier?
- Can I make this same drink healthier by using slightly different ingredients?
What can I drink then?
I am not telling you “stop drinking!”, “no alcohol!”, “no sodas!”. Although honestly, I am not far from suggesting the latter, sorry! But be aware of their effect on your health and on your weight. Because sometimes, they are not worth it.
Whenever possible, favor the following beverages:
- water or sparkling water: plain or with a slice of lime or lemon, with slices of cucumber, strawberry, with fresh mint;
- herbal tea, unsweetened iced or hot tea;
- black coffee (decaf or not, depending on your sleep!).
If you are hesitating between a cocktail and a glass of wine or a beer, your best bet is often to go for the wine or beer. And stay away from sports drinks, unless your workout is quite intense and lasts an hour or more.
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As always, if you feel that you need a bit of extra help figuring out what to do and how to do it, contact me or request a FREE Healthy Lifestyle Kick-Off Consultation. If I believe that I can help you, I’ll be happy to offer you a free consult. Allons-y! Let’s Go!
None of my services are intended to diagnose, treat, prevent, or cure any illness or disease. The information provided in my services, programs, and classes is not intended to take the place of advice from your medical professional, licensed dietitian, or nutritionist. You are solely responsible for your health care and activity choices.