When you consider the fact that we're a country covered in coffee shops, juice bars and convenience stores that offer tanker-sized sodas, it's no surprise that many of us drink way more calories than we need to.
In fact, adding empty liquid calories is one of the worst dietary offenses we make. But the problem isn't just the added calories; it's also that many drinks can also influence hunger and fullness — thus coaxing you to eat even more. Let's take a look at the best beverages to drink — and the optimal times to have them.
1. Drink Water to Fight Fatigue
If you're feeling tired, have a headache or are just plain old grumpy, take a few big gulps of water. In a 2012 study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who were dehydrated by more than 1 percent reported decreased mood, lower concentration and increased headaches.
According to the study's authors, certain neurons detect dehydration and may signal other brain regions that regulate mood and cognitive functions. "A rule of thumb is that women need about 11 eight-ounce cups of water a day and men need around 15 cups," says nutritionist Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein. Try adding lemon to your water to shake things up.
2. Drink More Water to Lose Weight
Good new! Drinking water can help if you want to lose weight. In a 2010 meeting of The American Chemical Society, researchers found that over 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals three times per day lost about five pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake. Good guidelines: Drink two cups before every meal. And if you find yourself getting bored with plain ol' water, you might want to add fruit-infused water to the rotation.
3. Stick With Water During Short Workouts
Just because you're sweating doesn't mean you should reach for a sports drink. Yes, you need water for rehydration and because it helps lubricates joints and provides cushioning to organs and muscles, along with many other vital processes. However, people often overestimate their needs for sugar and sports drinks when exercising, says Lisa C. Cohn, owner of Park Avenue Nutrition in New York.
"Really, only water is needed unless you are active for more than 90 minutes with moderate to high intensity." Drink about 15 to 20 ounces two to three hours before exercise, and 8 to 10 ounces 10 to 15 minutes beforehand, and the same amount every 10 to 15 minutes during exercise.
4. Tea for Caffeine Withdrawal
If you're going through caffeine withdrawal, black tea may be the way to go when you want to reduce caffeine consumption, says Lisa Roberts-Lehan, a certified health and nutritional consultant and holistic chef. "It has about 50 milligrams of caffeine per eight-ounce cup, as compared to coffee, which has between 100 to 190 milligrams per eight-ounce cup."
Read more: 10 Everyday Ailments Soothed by Tea
5. Improve Digestion With Tea
If you have stomach issues, teas are said to improve digestion by neutralizing the stomach acids, according to Traditional Chinese Medicine. Holistic chef Lisa Roberts-Lehan recommends Oolong tea to support the digestive system because of its detoxifying qualities, while nutritionist Lisa C. Cohn suggests earl grey or lady grey with bergamont and ginger for their stomach-smoothing qualities.
6. Drink Orange Juice After a Fatty Meal
Drinking orange juice after eating a double cheeseburger may help to neutralize your body's inflammatory response of a high-fat meal. How? It may work because OJ works as an antioxidant, which would neutralize inflammation and help prevent damage to the blood vessels, according to University of Buffalo researchers. Drink one glass after a high-fat meal. Opt for fresh-squeezed if you can.
7. Sip Apple Cider Vinegar in the Morning
You may have heard a lot of hype around drinking apple cider vinegar. But what's fact and what's fanfare? Well, for starters, a 2009 Japanese study found that consuming apple cider vinegar led to reduced belly fat and increased weight loss. And several studies (see here, here and here) point to it's blood sugar-balancing properties (which is great for those at risk of diabetes).
But straight-up apple cider vinegar can be tough on your teeth and stomach, so it's best to consume a diluted version. One good option is BluePrint's Apple Cider Vinegar Tonics with added goodness from turmeric, ginger, hibiscus and blueberry.
8. Prune Juice Helps With Constipation
If you need constipation relief, prune juice is rich in vitamin C and minerals, such as calcium and iron. It also has high insoluble fiber content, which helps move waste through the intestines to be eliminated, says nutritionist Robin Miller, author of many cookbooks, including Robin Takes 5.
Drink some in the morning to help balance out the nutrients in your breakfast. Juice is best partnered with lean protein and complex carbohydrates to kick off the metabolism. Always look for 100-percent juice (like the one from Lakewood Organic) to avoid added sugars and calories.
9. Help Prevent Diabetes With Coffee
You read that right! Your morning cup of joe may help you prevent diabetes. "Coffee contains chromium and magnesium, two minerals that help the body use insulin — the hormone that controls blood sugar, which may help prevent Type 2 diabetes," says nutritionist Robin Miller. If you're not sensitive to caffeine, you can enjoy coffee — without added sugar, sugary syrups or full-fat milk or cream — all day long. Try Amavida Coffee, which is organic, fair-trade and single-origin.
10. Sip Coffee When You're Blue
If you're a woman feeling a little down and/or want to lower your cancer risk, coffee just might help. Caffeinated coffee has been shown to have several health benefits in women. "For example, one study found that women who drank four or more cups of coffee a day had a lower risk of endometrial cancer," says nutritionist Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein. "Another study found the more women drank caffeinated coffee, the less likely they were to have depressive symptoms."
11. Burn More Fat With Milk
You want to shed fat? Got milk? Milk is good for strong bones, yes, but it may also help you burn more fat, according to a 2012 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Subjects who followed a typical daily American diet (about 35-percent fat, 49-percent carbohydrates, 16-percent protein and 8 to 12 grams of fiber) and received adequate dairy intake (3 daily servings of dairy with each providing 300 to 350 milligrams calcium and 8 to 10 grams of protein) decreased their body fat by around 2 pounds. This was compared to the low-dairy (less than three servings) intake group. Go organic when you can (like milk from Horizon).
12. Sip a Beer After a Workout
You want an endurance boost or to improve your recovery? Try drinking a beer. Who would have thought that beer could improve your running time? "Dark beer has higher iron content than lighter beers. Iron is an essential mineral within all cells and it carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body," says nutritionist Robin Miller.
The more oxygen carriers you have, the easier your muscles can access the oxygen rich blood to keep you going. Miller says that although beer is 93 percent water, dark beers are a good source of antioxidants that reverse cellular damage in the body. Antioxidants are what you need to fight the natural exercise response to muscle damage inflammation, which can fuel a faster recovery.
13. Lemonade for Your Immune System
Drinking lemonade will increase your immune support. Due to its rich vitamin C content, lemons strengthen the immune system and are very cleansing, says holistic chef Lisa Roberts-Lehan. "Lemonade made from fresh lemons, water and a small amount of sweetener, like stevia, raw honey or raw agave, is detoxifying, freshening and cooling," she says.
14. Smoothies Are Great on the Go
You need a meal on-the-go? Choose a smoothie! Store-bought smoothies pack on up tons of calories and sugars, so make your own. Holistic chef Lisa Roberts-Lehan says a healthy smoothie ingredient list should include lots of greens, fresh fruit, a water-to-milk ratio of three parts water to one part milk or unsweetened non-dairy milk (such as almond milk), protein-rich chia seeds, hemp seeds, all-natural almond butter or a scoop of a green and/or protein powder.
Read more: 10 Ultimate Smoothies for Any Time of Day
15. Cherry Juice Can Help With Muscle Soreness
If your post-leg day muscle soreness is taking its toll on your ability to walk without pain (and avoid stairs at all costs), drink a glass of tart cherry juice. It contains an antioxidant anthocyanins, which research has found can be an effective natural painkiller.
A 2006 study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that drinking it before a workout reduced post-lift strength loss by 18 percent. And another 2010 study from the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that runners who drank tart cherry juice for one week before a big race (like a marathon) had less post-run muscle pains. One good option is Cherrish Montmorency Tart Cherry Juice.
What Do YOU Think?
What do you usually drink throughout the day? Do you drink any of the beverages on this list? Did you realize how many health benefits they had? Will you start drinking any of these? What else would you add to the list? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below!