Best Beverages for HealthLast updated: Oct 01, 2014
Consuming large amounts of sugar is at the root of high rates of obesity and overweight, dental decay, high triglyceride levels, heart disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, and gout in the United States.1 In addition to the obvious high-sugar foods such as sweets, sugar is often added to foods and beverages during processing and preparation. You might be surprised to know that sugar is added to canned fruits and vegetables, condiments such as ketchup, and fat-free salad dressings.
Sweetened beverages such as soft drinks,
fruit juice, fruit drinks, sports drinks,
flavored teas, flavored coffees,
energy drinks, and alcoholic drinks
account for large amounts of sugar consumption
in the United States.1
Sugar consumption has increased in recent decades, with the average daily sugar intake of 50 calories per day among US adults in 1965, to an average 224 calories per day among US adults today. Data show that 80 percent of US adolescents and 63 percent of US adults drink sweetened beverages each day.1
Sweetened beverages contribute to obesity by containing nutrient-free calories that do not make you feel full. Sweetened beverages also release insulin that can prompt unnecessary snacking and overeating.1
Replacing sweetened drinks with unsweetened drinks
can help you lose and keep off unwanted pounds.
Try these alternatives to sweetened drinks to reduce sugar in your diet:
- Plain tea and coffee
- Low-fat milk, skim milk, and soy drinks
- Calorie-free drinks
- Drinks that include essential nutrients such as 100 percent fruit juice and low-sodium 100 percent vegetable juice
The Skinny on Sugar Substitutes
According to a study including more than 100,000 children and adults published in American Journal of Nutrition, replacing sugar-based drinks with sugar-free options helped study participants lose a modest amount of weight and reduce body mass index, fat mass, and waist circumference. For weight loss to be effective, dieters must adopt a multifaceted approach that includes a balanced, healthy diet with consideration for total calories and regular exercise.
The National Weight Control registry (NWC), a study of people who have maintained long-term (7-year) weight loss, found that 78 percent of participants who drank no-calorie / low-calorie beverages successfully limited their overall calories. Results from the study suggest that no-calorie and low-calorie drinks can help with maintaining long-term weight loss.
Although data on sugar substitutes such as aspartame (Equal), acesfulfame-potassium (Sweet One), sucralose (Splenda), and stevia (Truvia), show the sweeteners are safe, have no adverse effects on blood sugar, and can help promote and maintain weight loss, guideline from the Institutes of Medicine recommend replacing most daily drinks with water because it has no sugar, no salt, no calories, and is ideal for quenching thirst and keeping hydrated.
Try these tips for no-calorie, low-calorie drinks that can keep you hydrated:
- Make water your primary beverage
- Men should drink ~15 cups of water per day
- Women should drink ~9 cups of water per day
- Replace sweetened drinks with zero-calorie beverages to cut out unnecessary calories and avoid health problems from having too much sugar
- Drink plain tea and plain coffee for a zero-calorie way to get antioxidants
- Limit caffeinated drinks to 1 cup or less per day
- Limit decaffeinated tea and coffee to 3 or fewer cups per day
- Replace sweetened fruit drinks with 100 percent fruit juice with no added sugar
- If you are watching sugar and calories, limit even 100 percent fruit juice, which is high in calories and fructose
- Make flavored water by adding fresh slices of lemon, lime, orange, cucumbers, and strawberries
- Drink mineral water or seltzer
- Drink 1 to 2 cups of low-fat or skim milk to get plenty of protein, vitamin D, and calcium each day
- Enjoy an occasional calorie-free beverage sweetened with sugar substitute
- Use them sparingly to help transition from sugar-sweetened drinks to water
1. The CDC Guide to Strategies for Reducing the Consumption of Sugar-Sweetened Beverages. http://www.cdph.ca.gov/SiteCollectionDocuments/StratstoReduce_Sugar_Sweetened_Bevs.pdf March 2010. Accessed October 1, 2014.
2. Harvard School of Public Health. Healthy Beverage Guidelines. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks-full-story/ Accessed October 1, 2014.
3. Miller PE, Perez V. Low-calorie sweeteners and body weight and composition: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2014:100(3);765-777.
4. Catenacci VA, Pan Z, et al. Low/ no calorie sweetened beverage consumption in the National Weight Control registry. Obesity. 2014: 22(10);244-2251.