Best Beverages for Health and Hydration
In the summer months, being mindful of your hydration is more important than ever. It is also important to remember that while drinking fluids is essential for hydration, they don’t fill you up and keep you satisfied like foods do. Drinking fluids that contain calories can lead to consuming more calories and sugar in a day than you need and lead to unwanted weight gain. People don’t tend to compensate by eating less food when they drink their calories. The Canadian Beverage Associations’(CBA) Balance Calories Initiative is aiming to reduce the number of calories that Canadians ingest from liquid refreshment beverages (LRBs) over the 2015 to 2025 time period.
According to Statistics Canada’s Canadian Community Health Survey-Nutrition, Canadian’s consumption of calories from beverages has decreased from 2004 to 2015 by 20% and decreased again by 10% from 2015 to 2018 since the start of the initiative. In 2015 Canadians reported consuming 275 calories per day from beverages. In a 2000 calorie diet this represents almost 14% of calories consumed. The beverages included milk, juice, sugar sweetened beverages, diet beverages, coffee, tea, pop and flavoured waters. The CBA is aiming for an additional 10% decrease by 2025. The data shows a reduction in sugar sweetened beverage intake in addition to a greater reduction in milk and juice with a significant increase in water consumption. The most recent data show a significant increase in non-caloric sparkling flavoured waters.
How much fluid do we need and what happens if we don’t get enough? We need water to help maintain normal body temperature, for nutrient absorption, removal of waste and electrical transmission of messages to the brain, to name a few. Not drinking enough fluid is associated with a higher risk of kidney stones and chronic dehydration is associated with higher risk of bladder cancer. When you are 2% dehydrated your performance in sports is reduced by 10%. Do you actually need 8 cups a day? No, some need 4 cups and others may need 16. If you eat a lot of fruit and vegetables, and watery foods like soup and yogurt you can drink less fluid. If you exercise and sweat a lot you need more. You can monitor your hydration status by the colour of your urine. Pale yellow or clear means you are well hydrated and bright yellow means you are not (or you just took a B vitamin supplement which can turn urine bright yellow). A good estimate is to consume 1 ml of water for every calorie you consume.
Best Beverage Options:
Water is by far your best choice of beverage. It is economical, calorie-free and sugar-free. It is widely available and locally sourced and tastes great. You can spruce it up with mint and cucumber or lemon and raspberries. Add ice cubes or drink it warm.
Tea and Coffee
Although neither provide calories when consumed black, tea and coffee are not the next best fluid to water. True we want to cut the calories coming from beverages, but these bevies are also low in nutrients. They are good water replacements in moderation if unsweetened and tea does have heart health benefits.
Sparkling flavoured water
These beverages are taking a significant market share as consumers seek to find healthy, calorie and sugar free beverage options with natural flavours and no artificial ingredients.
Milk and fortified soymilk can fill all kinds of nutritional gaps with calcium, vitamin D, protein, magnesium and potassium. Skim and 1 % milk are best or unsweetened soymilk. By sticking with the lower fat versions, you get less saturated fat and calories. Other calcium fortified beverages such as oat, rice, almond and coconut, if unsweetened, can be low calorie options for calcium but don’t contain as much protein as milk or soymilk.
100% pure Fruit Juice
Although a source of calories, pure fruit juice contains lots of vitamins too and can contribute to your fruit and vegetables intake. Unless you are trying to increase your calorie intake, I recommend that you limit your pure fruit juice to no more than ½ cup per day, including vegetable juices (which are high in sodium). Eating the whole fruit is better than drinking the juice because you get fibre with it and more vitamins and minerals. This includes juice you make by juicing your own fruit and vegetables. Pure fruit juice far surpasses fruit cocktail, fruit punch and fruit beverages in terms of nutrients, is lower in sugar and is often lower in calories.
These beverages are lower in calories than pop and juice but are void of phytochemicals and low in nutrients other than the electrolytes. The concentration of electrolytes in sports drinks are specifically designed to increase absorption rate and reduce gastric distress during exercise. Unless you are an athlete competing in endurance sports or exercising in the heat you don’t need sports drinks. Drink water.
Is diet better than regular pop? If all the evidence claiming the approved sweeteners are safe then your best bet is to go for calorie free pop rather than regular which can contain 9tsp sugar in 1 can, the equivalent of 144kcal just from sugar. However, there are no major health benefits from drinking pop and some significant health risks such as poor bone health and reduced nutrient absorption. Not to mention yet another source of caffeine.
Alcohol can be a significant source of calories in the diet. The Canadian cancer society does not state a safe amount of alcohol. Light to moderate alcohol consumption (1 drink per day for women and 2 for men) may reduce cardiovascular disease risk, diabetes and gallstones. Excessive alcohol consumption causes serious health and social problems such as heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and cirrhosis of the liver.
A hip new way to hydrate in 2022 is with drinks infused with CBD, adaptogens or biotic ingredients that claim to blend health benefits with delicious refreshment. If going this route, choose low sugar options and do your research. Depending on the concentration of the ingredients infused into the beverage they may or may not be concentrated enough to have the touted health benefit.
The bottom line: Drink water as your primary beverage of choice. Sparkling water is the next runner up. Limit or avoid sugar sweetened beverages and aim to get your nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein foods.