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WHAT'S ON YOUR DRINK MENU?

I'll Just Have Water...
Part 5 of 5

When I was younger, my sister-in-law used to tease me about my predictable drink order. I always said the same thing: “I’ll just have water.”

Other than a dairy allergy, my consistent water choice had nothing to do with health. For the most part, I was just being picky. I knew nothing about the health effects of other popular drinks—either good or bad. I simply didn’t like them. Ordering water all the time was a little boring, but it kept me healthy.

If you’ve read parts 1 – 4 of this series, you already know that your healthy beverage choices are not limited to water, unless you simply don’t like anything else. However, as the most basic of beverages--and the healthiest—you can’t complete a revision of your personal drink menu without adding water to the list. 

Water to the Rescue

Your body needs water anyway, so you may as well choose it—at least some of the time. As Dr. Joseph Mercola notes on his website, one of the simplest ways to improve your health is simply to replace soda, or another unhealthy beverage, with water.

You probably already know many of water’s health benefits. But here’s a quick overview:

Drinking adequate amounts of water will help…

  • Keep the body’s fluids in balance.
  • Control weight.
  • Sustain proper muscle performance.
  • Moisturize your skin.
  • Maintain healthy kidneys
  • Keep digestion on track.
  • Lubricate joints.
  • Maintain body temperature.
  • Flush toxins out of your body.
  • Keep you energized.

Make It Appealing…

Even if you know the importance of water for your health, you’ll have a hard time choosing it if you simply don’t like it or if you get bored with it.

Check out the following ideas for making your daily water habit a bit more interesting.

  • Add juice from a lemon or lime wedge.
  • Submerge a few of your favorite berries.
  • Mix with a small amount of juice.
  • Pour your water over flavored ice cubes (make these by freezing your favorite, all-natural juice in ice cube trays).
  • Add a packet of flavored powder, such as orange-flavored vitamin C powder packets that boost your immune system.
  • Mix with a freshly-brewed bag of flavored tea. Add a bit of natural sweetener, if you’d like.

Specialty Water

If you’re willing to spend a little more money, try some of the specialty water on the market. Many bottled brands offer flavored water, for example, which could be a far better option than soda. Just be sure the ones you select don’t contain added sugars or artificial sweeteners. 

The same goes for vitamin-enriched water. Don’t think the added vitamins justify the extra sweetener. Remember: the best nutrients come from whole foods. Vitamin water won’t make up for poor eating habits.

Sparkling water, also called club soda or seltzer water, is plain, carbonated water. It might satisfy your craving for regular soda, especially if you add your own healthy flavorings.

If any of these options keep you from drinking soda, sports drinks, or worse, go ahead and try an interesting-looking, spiced up water. Just read the labels first and choose wisely.

When Water Fails

Can plain water ever be an unhealthy choice?

Surprisingly, yes.

Although most tap water supplied by your city is safe to consume, it also contains added chemicals, such as fluoride and chlorine. Many experts have concluded that consuming these chemicals over a long period of time will have a negative impact on your health.

In the long run, it’s best to drink spring water or some type of filtered water, in order to avoid these chemicals.

When you’re out and about, bottled water is sometimes your best choice. However, be aware that some bottled water may not be filtered and may contain as many harmful components as regular tap water. Many of the bottles, themselves, contain a substance called BPA, a toxic chemical that has been linked to various health concerns, including hormone imbalance, brain problems, heart problems, and cancer. So when you need to choose bottled water, try to find BPA-free brands and companies that sell filtered water or water collected directly from natural sources.

And the Winner Is…

Although any type of water filter is better than none, a water distiller removes all harmful substances. Since the process of distillation also removes minerals, however, some experts claim that drinking distilled water can lead to mineral deficiencies.

Many other professionals argue otherwise. Michael Colgan, PhD, a biochemist, physiologist, and nutritionist, and the founder of the Colgan Institute in Canada, wrote, “We get our minerals mainly from vegetables or from supplements made directly from mineral-rich soils.” He believes that any minerals obtained from non-distilled water aren’t necessary. Many experts agree that distilled water is your best choice.

How Much Do You Really Need?

You’ve probably heard the common guideline to drink eight glasses of water per day. That’s a lot of water! Thank goodness many health professionals no longer recommend this exact amount. The quantity of water your body needs depends on your size, your physical activity, your general health, and other sources of fluids.

Experts writing for the Mayo Clinic website suggest drinking eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid, not necessarily plain water, per day. Certain fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, grapes, or spinach, provide your body with a significant amount of water, too, as will most other healthy beverages. Although, in order to make sure your body has all of the fluids it needs to operate smoothly, you should choose water for your primary beverage.

Some resources advise calculating your required water intake: Divide your body weight in half and consume that amount in ounces. For example, if you weigh 100 pounds, drink 50 ounces of water daily (one cup equals eight ounces.)

But, seriously….Do you really feel like measuring out all of the fluids you drink each day? Good news. Plenty of recent research provides evidence that you don’t have to.

Kris Gunnars of Authority Nutrition looks at a number of relevant scientific studies. He concludes that your body’s thirst mechanism will let you know when you need more fluids. In other words, when you get thirsty, get a drink of water. If you’re exercising and/or losing fluids through sweating, drink a little more to compensate. Let your body be your guide.

Wrap-up Your Menu Revision

Although beverage choices abound and can be confusing, if you take the time to learn about them, you’ll be able to tell the good choices from the bad ones. 

Here’s a quick re-cap for a healthy drink menu:

  • Cut out drinks with added sugar (especially manmade sugars) and artificial sweeteners.
  • Avoid lots of caffeine.
  • Avoid the worst choices: sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks.
  • For the most part, stick with pure water, teas, and juices, and, perhaps the occasional cup of coffee (depending on your age).
  • Check ingredients when possible. If you don’t know what’s in a particular beverage, avoid it.

It won’t always be easy to choose water or unsweetened tea over your favorite drinks, but making wise beverage choices can make a big difference in your health. So, if you don’t change anything else, change what you’re drinking.

The next time the waitress is standing at your table awaiting your drink order, take the time to make a wise choice. And if you’re unsure, you can always say, “I’ll just have water.”

Written by Beth W. Prassel-Sieg
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- OTHER PARTS IN THIS SERIES –

Part 1:
WHAT’S ON YOUR DRINK MENU?
Cross Off the Pop

Part 2:
WHAT’S ON YOUR DRINK MENU?
Eliminate the Worst Offenders

Part 3:
WHAT’S ON YOUR DRINK MENU?
Watch Out For Imposters

Part 4:
WHAT’S ON YOUR DRINK MENU?
Three More Imposters Exposed 

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Good habits formed at youth make all of the difference in life. Aristotle