What have you been drinking lately? Our health is influenced by our day-to-day food and beverage choices so why not make your drinks count? Did you know the majority of added sugar in the American diet comes from sugar-sweetened beverages? This is not limited to soda. It also includes fruit juice, energy drinks, sports drinks and specialty coffees.
Frequently drinking sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with numerous health concerns: weight gain/obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, kidney diseases, non-alcoholic liver disease, tooth decay and gout.
This is a long-list and good reason to rethink your drink. You could be consuming hundreds of extra calories each day from your morning coffee run to your after-dinner cocktail. In addition, sugar-sweetened beverages contain little to no nutritional benefit.
Instead, focus on drinks that can nourish and relax, stimulate and revive. Here are 3 of my recommendations for drinks with added health benefits.
Tea- This is a broad category with a long history of use in the US. Black tea remains the most widely consumed but there is a whole world of teas waiting to be brewed by you. Green teas are particularly high in a component known as catechins. They can help fight inflammation in the body and reduce plaque buildup inside arteries. Matcha green tea powder is a great option since it can be mixed in cold or hot water and also added to your smoothies for an anti-oxidant boost.
Another tea gaining popularity in the US is yerba mate. Traditionally consumed in South America, yerba mate is recognized for its enduring boost and rich taste. It contains theobromine, a mild stimulant that also relaxes the muscles by dilating blood vessels. You can find it where tea is sold and in many convenience stores. Yerba mate can be enjoyed hot and cold.
Fermented drinks- you’ve probably heard of kombucha but what about water kefir? Both are a result of fermentation or the breakdown of sugars into acids by way of bacteria and yeast. Fermented drinks go far beyond beer and wine to include homemade ginger ale and the lesser known kvass. Each has a unique flavor profile but they all have one thing in common- probiotics. Including more probiotic-rich foods into your diet may improve immune function and improve digestion and absorption of food and nutrients.
Probiotics have also been used in the treatment or prevention of diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, and Crohn's disease.
Fermented drinks can be made at home or be found at your local grocer.
Infused waters We all know the importance of staying hydrated and water is the best choice for that but sometimes we just need something more flavorful. Why not liven up your water with a variety of herbs, fruits and vegetables? Infused water is like the original vitamin water or inexpensive functional beverage.
There are lots of tasty combinations you can try plus you’ll be saving calories from the lack of added sugar. Some fruit and herb combos I would recommend would be honeydew with sage, mint and mango, strawberry-basil and my favorite pineapple with thyme. You don’t need a recipe just throw a few herb sprigs into a jar or pitcher with cut up fruit and let sit in the refrigerator for a few hours. Before you know it you’ll be inventing some amazing infusions.
The next time you’re out to eat or at the convenience store remember to pause and rethink your drink. To make heathier choices throughout the day make water your “go-to”, switch to unsweetened teas and coffee, incorporate fermented drinks for gut health and consume smaller portions of the sugary stuff.
Doing so can help reduce your risk for common health concerns.
Rethink your Drink (CDC)