Healthy Beverages

healthy beverages

It should come as no surprise that the healthiest beverage available today is actually the first beverage humans historically drank -- water.

Pure water restores bodily fluids expended through metabolic processes, helps regulate your body's temperature, and assists in removing toxins and waste. However, there are many more beverage choices available today, some of which hide behind a curtain of buzz words, dubious research, and in some cases, false claims.

There are many beverage companies on the market today that claim to offer 100% healthy and natural beverages. However, many of these companies continue to produce drinks that are packed with sugar and the infamous high fructose corn syrup.

There are really no health benefits to consuming either of these two non-nutrients. In fact, they are two of the few chemicals that you can go your entire life without consuming while having no negative effect on the body.

In response, an independent council called the Beverage Guidance Panel has published a guideline chart similar to the food pyramid. This chart lists six healthy beverage categories that cover most drinks available on the market today, as well as guidelines as to which ones should form the majority of your daily beverage intake. These guidelines are divided into six levels of a "healthy beverage pitcher."

The Levels of the Healthy Beverage Pitcher

The drinks contained within this article have been shown to be healthy for you in one way of another. Drinking these types of beverages every day can deliver calcium, hydration, anti-oxidants and other helpful by products that will keep your body healthy and running properly. Consider consuming these beverages (any mix of them) every day for the maximum effects. The only drink on this list that you absolutely should drink every day is, of course, water.

Level 1: Water

Recommended Daily Intake: Minimum Four Servings For Women, Six Servings For Men

No list of healthy beverages would be complete without the inclusion of the most basic drink there is, water. As readily available and cheap as water is, there is a shockingly large amount of people that do not regularly get enough water every day. It is almost impossible to count the benefits of water. Some of the most apparent benefits include, decreased chance of headaches, improvement of digestion, healthier skin and a decreased chance of dehydration. The mere fact that your muscles are 75% water should tell you how important hydration is to your body.

Level 2: Unsweetened coffee and tea

Recommended Daily Intake: Maximum Four Servings Coffee, Eight Servings Tea

Green tea has been used for medical purposes in eastern countries for thousands of years. One of the best benefits of green tea appears to be its remarkable ability to reduce the chance of several types of cancer. In fact, one Chinese study found that green tea reduced the chances of cancer of the esophagus by nearly 60%. Drinking decaffeinated green tea will give you all off its benefits without any of the costs.

Coffee has numerous health benefits. One Australian study found a correlation between a low incidence of type 2 diabetes and study participants who drank one additional cup of coffee each day. Another study on more than 100,000 Kaiser-Permanente health plan members found that participants were 20 percent less likely to be hospitalized for heart rhythm abnormalities. One final study, the Nurses' Health Study in 2009, linked coffee drinking in women to a lower risk of stroke.

It's important, however, to skip coffee beverages with additives like sugar, cream, flavorings, and whipped cream. Beverages that do contain coffee like a 16-ounce Mocha Frappuccino can shoot from 0 to 5 calories in the coffee to 470 calories in the drink. These largely empty calories (with exception to some calcium and protein from the cream) can cause unhealthy weight gain if not accounted for in your daily caloric intake.

Level 3: Nonfat or low-fat milk and fortified soy beverages

healthy beverages

Recommended Daily Intake: Maximum Two Servings

Milk is an age old beverage that has received a rather bad reputation in many cases due to its level of fat content. However, regularly drinking milk has been shown to be very beneficial in assisting individuals who are trying to lose weight.

The protein and calcium that is packed into a single glass of milk can provide your body with the energy you need to perform not only your daily activities but, an exercise routine as well. In addition, the calcium in milk has been shown in multiple medical studies to offset the detrimental effects of arthritis and osteoporosis.

Soy milk is a solid alternative for those who are lactose intolerant, or simply don't like the taste of cow's milk. Soy is packed with minerals like zinc, iron, and calcium; it's also high in omega-3 fatty acids. One of the benefits of soy (and indeed, all legumes) is that it has no cholesterol. Finally, soy milk is a good source of protein, which is why soy milk or low-fat milk are often used as a base for protein shakes.

Level 4: Diet beverages (sugar substitutes)

Recommended Daily Intake: Maximum Four Servings

Studies remain divided on diet sodas and other artificially sweetened beverages. While some long-term studies show positive results for people who attempt to lose weight while drinking diet soda, other show no effect. Still others actually show negative results. Some researchers believe that artificial sweeteners could trigger feedback from the brain, hormones, stomach, and nerves that distorted the body's ability to monitor caloric intake. One Purdue University study found that rats fed saccharin-sweetened food actually ate more calories than rats fed sugar-sweetened food.

No study has proved beyond a reasonable doubt that diet sodas have a strong correlation with weight gain. This doesn't make diet sodas a particularly healthy choice either. Added sodium in most diet beverages can cause you to exceed your recommended daily sodium intake if you drink the beverages in large quantities. There's nothing wrong with diet drinks in moderation, and most nutritionists recommend less than four servings, or approximately two 12-ounce cans a day.

Level 5: Sports drinks, 100% fruit and vegetable drinks, whole milk

Recommended Daily Intake: Up To One Serving

While high in calories, these beverages do supply some nutritional value, and can be a part of a healthy diet. Pomegranate juice recently exploded on the market after receiving multiple good reviews by leading health magazines and periodicals. One of the major contributions of pomegranate juice to the body is its ability to increase the flow of blood from the heart to other portions of the body. This increase has often been measured to be up to 40%. Not only is pomegranate juice extremely healthy, many people consider it to be one of the most delicious drinks.

Cranberry juice has many benefits that are related to the decrease in the chance of developing infections. One of the worst infections that cranberry juice has been shown to greatly reduce is a urinary tract infection. The effect that cranberry juice has on the reduction of infections is by inhibiting the ability for pili (found in bacteria) to bind to red blood cells and spread.

The Vitamin C that is packed into a glass of orange juice is extremely valuable in the promotion of a healthy immune system. Drinking orange juice regularly has been shown in multiple studies to reduce the chance of contracting the common cold by almost 55%. Do not just drink orange juice while you are sick. Drinking orange juice while you are healthy allows the nutrients to more effectively go to work to prevent illness from happening in the first place.

Level 6: High-Calorie beverages without nutrients (soft drinks)

Recommended Daily Intake: No More Than One Serving, None If Dieting

Beverages high in high-fructose corn syrup, sugar, and other flavorings are typically not necessary in a healthy diet, and should be avoided when dieting. Overconsumption of high-calorie beverages can lead to weight gain and other health complications such as type 2 diabetes. Many energy drinks, smoothies, carbonated sodas, sugar-sweetened juices, and flavored coffee drinks fall into this category.

healthy beverages

While 100% orange juice and cranberry juice has amazing health benefits, sugar-sweetened versions sacrifice many of the benefits for excess calories. A 12-ounce serving of cola typically comes with 10 teaspoons of sugar, or about 150 calories. A cranberry juice cocktail can pack in 12 teaspoons of sugar and up to 200 calories in a 12-ounce serving, about 10% of a 2,000-calorie diet.

With the variety of drinks available, it can be difficult to make healthy beverage choices every day. In moderation, some unlikely drinks can have health benefits. Drinking a glass of wine every day has been shown in multiple tests to support proper liver function, reduce the proliferation of smooth muscle cells and reduce the chance of heart attack and stroke. White wine is best as it does not contain sulfites (like red wine). Remember that just because wine is a healthy drink, regularly consuming it in large amounts can lead to serious conditions including, but not limited to, alcoholism.