When we think about unhealthy beverages, drinks like soda, alcohol, sweetened juices and energy drinks might come to mind. But did you know that some of the “healthy” drinks on your shopping list aren’t healthy after all? I’m referring specifically to fruit juices, sports drinks and store-bought flavored waters.
Normally, I try to stick to just water or herbal teas during the day. When I was traveling in Colombia last year, it was a little challenging to stick to just water. It’s very common for certain Colombian dishes to be served with freshly squeezed juice. Now, I know what you’re thinking: “It’s freshly squeezed, so it’s healthy!” Well, that isn’t always the case.
Why freshly squeezed juice isn’t good for you
It was hard to refuse the tasty and fragrant fresh juice, but I did so most days because I know that the juice has very little nutritional benefit. When a fruit is juiced, the healthy fiber is removed so what you’re drinking is simply sugar and water. Sure, the sugar is from a natural source, but it’s still sugar.
To make one glass of orange juice, it takes about three oranges, which together contain about 20 grams of sugar. One glass of apple juice contains three or four apple’s worth – almost 30 grams of sugar. Even lower sugar fruits like grapefruit still contain high amounts of sugar when turned into juice (about 18 grams).
Eat fruit whole, not as juice
When you eat fruit whole, the sugar is absorbed more slowly by the body because you’re consuming fiber at the same time. When you drink juice, the sugar is absorbed faster by the body, causing a sugar high followed by a sugar crash.
This rise and quick drop leaves us craving more sugar soon after our glass is empty, because our bodies want to stabilize the blood sugar again.
Why light or zero-calorie beverages aren’t better
If sugar is the culprit, we should reach for zero-calorie drink alternatives, right? Not so fast. To make up for the lack of sugar and calories, these beverages often contain artificial flavorings and sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners are problematic because our bodies taste sweetness and are tricked into thinking there’s actual sugar and calories to digest.
So after guzzling down that diet soda, our bodies start metabolic processes in order to digest the sweetness even though we didn’t consume sugar. This causes blood sugar levels to drop and leaves us craving more food (read: sugar) to bring blood sugar levels back up.
Zero-calorie drinks and weight gain
Because of the food cravings associate with zero-calories beverages, they’re often associated with weight gain. Your body thinks you’re about to ingest real sugar and starts the processes for metabolizing sugar, such as releasing insulin. As a result, you’ll experience a decrease in blood sugar, which causes something we’re all too familiar with: those sugar cravings.
Alcohol is another beverage that can work against someone on a weight or fat loss plan. When we drink alcohol, our bodies always favor the metabolism of alcohol over fat. So even if you work out and eat mostly healthy meals, that glass (or bottle) of wine at night might cause you to plateau because healthy fats you’ve consumed are stored instead of burned.
- Drink alcohol in moderation
- Opt for a low-sugar options and avoid fruity mixed drinks
- Drink one glass of water for each alcoholic beverage you consume
- Skip the mixers
Understanding healthy drink options
Good old fashioned water is always the best choice – is keeps you hydrated, and is essential for a fully-functioning system. But, if it’s flavor you crave, you can reach for homemade flavored water or herbal teas. I recommend that women drink around 2.2 liters per day and men drink around 3 liters of liquid per day. If you’re active or live in a warm or dry climate, increase that amount to make up for the water you lose via sweat.