The human body consists of up to 60 percent water, per the U.S. Department of the Interior.
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And with this high H2O concentration, the fluids we take in are especially essential to sustain the body's daily functions, such as flushing out toxins, maintaining chemical balance and repairing tissues, says Janice Padilla, a licensed dietitian who works with older adults.
While some beverages (like water and unsweetened tea) nourish the body's processes and promote long-term health, other liquids are less likely to lengthen your life expectancy.
Here, we discuss which drinks to avoid (or limit) in your diet to help support healthy aging.
1. Fruit Juice
Who doesn't love a big glass of OJ in the morning? Unfortunately, drinking fruit juice isn't doing you any favors in the longevity department.
That's because fruit juice often contains high amounts of sugar and can spike your blood sugar levels. Many studies have linked excessive use of sweeteners, which can impair glucose and lipid metabolism, to an increase in inflammation and obesity, Padilla says.
"The best option is to eat the fruit whole to get the vitamins and other nutrient benefits like fiber," she says.
If you must keep fruit juice in your diet, enjoy just one serving of natural fruit juice with no added sugars, says Jennifer Bruning, RDN, a dietitian with expertise in nutrition for older adults and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
“To keep blood sugar from rising rapidly, drink juice as part of a meal."
Alcohol can harm healthy aging.
Here's why: "Alcohol is a toxin that affects every type of cell in the body," Bruning says. "While our bodies can process some alcohol and clear it from our systems, long-term use, especially high levels of use, can contribute to heart disease, stroke, liver disease, cancer and other chronic diseases."
As if that's not bad enough, "drinking also weakens the immune system and can contribute to dementia or cognitive problems," Bruning says.
And the statistics are staggering: About 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults is due to excessive alcohol intake, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"If you do decide to drink, keep it to a minimum," Bruning says. That means no more than one drink per day for people assigned female at birth (AFAB) and two for people assigned male at birth (AMAB).
Sipping on too much soda can limit your lifespan, too. Problem is, most of us are drinking a deluge of it.
Indeed, sweetened beverages like soda supply the main source of added sugars in the American diet, according to the CDC.
Not only does the sweet stuff lack nutritional value, but "Diets high in added sugar are linked with multiple chronic health conditions including heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes," Bruning says.
And diet soda might not be better: For some people, artificial sweeteners in these drinks may lead to gastrointestinal issues like bloat, gas and diarrhea. So if you're fond of fizzy drinks, stick to something like seltzer.
4. Sweetened Tea
Tea touts flavonoids, which are powerful plant compounds that act as antioxidants and protect cellular function, Padilla says. But these health benefits may be trumped if your tea is steeped in sugar.
"Sweetened tea can contain anywhere from a little to a lot of added refined sugar," Bruning says.
And this high sugar content seems to contribute to the prevalence of weight gain and obesity, Padilla says. That's because excessive sugar intake can impact metabolism and increase the appetite stimulus, she explains.
If plain tea isn't well, your cup of tea, add fruit and let it steep like infused water for a fleck of flavor, Bruning says.
5. Sugary Coffee Creamer
Unless you take your coffee black, you're likely lapping up extra empty calories with your morning cup.
Case in point: Coffee creamers that contain unhealthy fats and added sugars are a common culprit. For example, just one tablespoon of Coffee Mate French Vanilla Coffee Creamer contains 5 grams of added sugar and 1.5 grams of fat.
While this may seem like no big deal, "for those who use multiple servings of creamer daily (or multiple times per day), this can add up," Bruning says. And it can have a big effect on your long-term health: Remember, excessive sugar intake is associated with a greater risk of chronic diseases including heart disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes.
If you enjoy your cuppa with a creamy consistency, "opt for naturally creamy, low- and no-sugar options like dairy or plant-based milks, or choose a latte made with a low-fat milk option and no added sugar," Bruning says.
6. Energy Drinks
If you rely on energy drinks for a midday boost or to get you through a workout, your pick-me-up could be putting your health at risk now and in the long run.
"Energy drinks typically contain large amounts of both sugar and caffeine — and sometimes guarana, a substance that itself contains caffeine, raising total caffeine content," Bruning says. "While many people consume caffeine from tea, coffee and soda, the excessive amounts found in energy drinks have sent people to the ER with high blood pressure, elevated heart rate and heart rhythm problems," she says.
Not to mention, in large quantities, caffeine can also disturb sleep, raise body temperature and increase gastric secretions, Padilla says.
"This can become particularly dangerous if one consumes energy 'shots,' small amounts of liquid with high levels of caffeine that make it easier to overdose," Bruning adds.
To make matters worse, some people mix energy drinks with alcohol, which is a toxin. That's a double whammy when it comes to harming your health.
The takeaway: Watch your caffeine intake. For most adults, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily (that translates to about 4 cups of coffee) is safe.
A Final Word
If you’re down because your drink of choice made the list, don’t fret: You don’t need to banish your fave beverage to oblivion. Just be more thoughtful about how much you sip.
Moderation is key. That means you can treat yourself to a glass of soda or a cocktail as long as you’re drinking water and limiting sugary drinks and alcohol on most days.
The bottom line: “As with foods, [the goal is to] find the balance of things that you like, can afford and that support your health goals,” Bruning says.