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Drinks for Good Health

Some reports indicate that we can stay adequately hydrated as long as we consume a good mixture of fluids and foods. Eating fruits and vegetables and drinking juices, milk, tea and coffee can be counted toward our daily hydration requirements. However, people should not expect to get all the water their bodies need from sources other than pure water. Although it has been commonly stated that the average person needs to drink at least eight glasses of water daily, the exact amount of fluids each person needs varies because of factors such as climate, physical activity, age, personal health status and body size. Under typical circumstances, adults may drink up to six or eight cups of fluid each day. Infants, young children, the elderly and athletes have different fluid requirements. Always check with your physician or a dietitian if you have questions about how much fluid you should be drinking.

Water comes from a variety of sources. Even solid foods contain water. Lettuce, celery and other crisp vegetables are composed of 90 percent or more water. Protein-rich foods such as meat, fish or chicken may contain as much as half to two-thirds their weight in water. Even grain products, which don’t seem watery at all, may be up to one-third water. Foods that have the least amount of water are sugar and fats such as butter or margarine.

Besides plain water, juices and milk or other beverages boost fluid intake. However, not all fluids are created equal. Some energy-rich drinks have a high concentration of sugars, electrolytes and flavoring agents. In addition, many specialty drinks and flavored waters can cost quite a bit; water is practically free.

Alcohol is both a tonic and a poison; the main difference is the amount that one consumes. Moderate drinking may be good for the heart and circulatory system but heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death – including traffic accidents, the development of some cancers and damage to various body organs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that men should consume no more than one to two drinks per day and women should have no more than one drink per day. Due to individual variances, the amount of alcohol a person can drink will depend on many factors including a person’s body size, type of alcoholic beverage and overall health status.

Carbonated Soft Drinks
Soft drinks have no nutritional value and are full of sugar. They also can cause weight management problems and ruin healthy teeth.

For these reasons, experts recommend limiting your soft drink consumption to 12 ounces a day. Soft drinks dominate the beverage choices in convenience stores, restaurants and even schools. Furthermore, consumers are bombarded by 20 to 64-ounce servings. Keep a variety of healthful drinks at home. When you do drink soda, pour a single serving into a cup and save the rest for another day or share it with someone else. If you have to buy soda, consider buying them in smaller eight ounce cans.

Coffee is another beverage that should be consumed in moderation. Limit yourself to one or two cups a day to help avoid the adverse effects of caffeine. The challenge is to reduce or avoid ordering or buying double espressos and calorie/sugar-laden specialty drinks.

Fruit Drinks
Fruit drinks and some fruity iced teas are popular but they usually have no nutritional value. If you check the label, you will find that many contain as little as 10 percent real fruit juice. Like soft drinks, they have lots of excess sugar without the benefit of vitamins or nutrients. If sugar, high fructose corn syrup or other sweeteners are at the beginning of the label’s list of ingredients, you should instead look for a label that says “100 percent fruit juice.” Better yet, have a piece of real fruit. Not only will it count toward your hydration needs, you’ll get all the vitamins, minerals and fiber that are absent in juice.

Sports Drinks
When a workout period exceeds 60 minutes, sports drinks can be beneficial because they provide a source of fuel for working muscles and will speed the absorption of water and glucose (sugar) from the small intestine. Sports beverages are recommended for activities lasting longer than one hour. (Drink plain water before or during activities lasting 60 minutes or less). With sports drinks, continued exercise won’t deplete muscle glycogen as fast and performance time may be lengthened. Sports drinks can also help reduce recovery time by rapidly restoring muscle glycogen after exercise. Sports drinks are also beneficial when exercising in high heat or humidity because the electrolytes help to enhance fluid absorption.

Good Beverages to Drink

Skim or 1-Percent Milk
Skim and low-fat milk are good sources of calcium and vitamin D (which improves calcium absorption). Because milk contains protein, carbohydrate and, in the case of 1-percent milk, a bit of fat, you absorb it slowly and stay satisfied longer. Milk may also assist in weight loss. A recent study found that women who consumed three to four servings of low-fat dairy products lost nearly twice as much weight as those who consumed lesser amounts.

Green tea contains flavonoids and polyphenols which are natural antioxidants that protect against carcinogens. Herbal teas, such as chamomile, licorice, peppermint, lemon and ginseng, could provide other health benefits, including relaxation, improved digestion and increased energy.

100-Percent Fruit Juices
In addition to the vitamins and minerals they provide, certain fruit juices carry added benefits. For example, orange juice may ward off cataracts, cancers and birth defects while boosting immunity. Cranberry juice may help prevent gum disease, and tomato juice is a rich source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is associated with a reduced risk of cancers.

Overall, water is one of the best beverage options. It cannot be completely replaced by drinking other beverages. Besides helping to keep you hydrated, water is calorie-free and an excellent choice when you exercise. Water prevents dehydration, keeps skin healthy, aids in digestion, regulates body temperature and reduces cardiovascular stress. Water helps distribute nutrients and essential elements throughout the body as well as helps with waste removal. Water is also important in helping to reduce your risks of various illnesses and chronic health ailments.

To give you an idea as to how much water the average adult should drink, take your body weight in pounds and divide that number in half. That gives you the approximate number of ounces of water per day that you need to drink. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, you should drink at least 80 ounces of water per day. Ask your physician about your water intake needs because a lot depends on your body frame and health status.

If possible, keep a bottle or other container of water in the refrigerator at all times. It’s easy to grab and refill as needed when you’re on the go and it’s less expensive than buying bottled water all the time.

There are some brands of flavored water available, but some of them have sugar or artificial sweeteners, which you don’t need.

Don’t wait for your body to signal that you’re thirsty. By that time, your body has already started to become dehydrated. Drink as much water as you can everyday, even if it’s just sipping water throughout the day. If you get bored with plain water, add a slice of lemon or lime for a touch of flavor. Keep yourself well hydrated to help maintain your overall health.