When you consider the fact that we’re a country covered in coffee shops, juice bars and convenience stores that offer tanker-sized soda options, it’s no surprise that many of us drink way more calories than we need to.
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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.
Three Essential Situations to Drink Water
You’re feeling fatigue, have a headache, or are just plain old grumpy. In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, participants who were dehydrated by more than 1 percent reported decreased mood, lower concentration, and 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 8 oz. cups of water a day and men need around 15 cups,” says nutritionist Amanda Berhaupt-Glickstein.
You want to lose weight. In meeting of The American Chemical Society, researchers found that over 12 weeks, dieters who drank water before meals three times per day lost about 5 pounds more than dieters who did not increase their water intake. Good guidelines: Drink two cups before every meal.
- You exercise for 90 minutes or less. 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.
Two Reasons to Drink Tea
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 mg of caffeine per 8 oz. cup, as compared to coffee, which has between 100 to 190 mg per 8 oz. cup.”
- You have stomach issues. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, teas are said to improve digestion by neutralizing the stomach acids. Roberts-Lehan recommends Oolong tea to support the digestive system because of its detoxifying qualities, while Cohn advises such as earl grey or lady grey with bergamont and ginger for their stomach-smoothing qualities.
Three Reasons to Drink Juice
You've just eaten a high-fat meal. Drinking orange juice after eating a double cheeseburger may help to neutralize your body's inflammatory response of a high fat meal. 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.
You have a urinary tract infection (UTI). Cranberry juice contains substances that inhibit the binding of bacteria to bladder tissue, which can help prevent urinary tract infections, according to a study published in the Journal Food Science and Biotechnology. If you often suffer from recurrent UTI episodes, try a daily glass of 100 percent cranberry juice.
- 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 on the morning to help balance out the nutrients in breakfast. Juice is best partnered with lean protein and complex carbohydrates to kick off the metabolism. Always look for 100 percent juice to avoid added sugars and calories.
Two New Reasons to Drink Coffee
You’re concerned about 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 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.
- You’re female and feeling the blues and/or want to lower your cancer risk. 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 Berhaupt-Glickstein. “Another study found the more women drank caffeinated coffee, the less likely they were to have depressive symptoms.”
A Suprising New Reason to Drink 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 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 g of fiber) and received adequate dairy intake (3 daily servings of dairy with each providing 300 to 350 mg calcium and 8 to 10 g of protein) decreased their body fat by around 2 pounds. This was compared to the low-dairy (less than three servings) intake group.
A Surprising Reason to Drink Beer
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 Miller. The more oxygen carriers you have, the easier your muscles can access the oxygen rich blood to keep you going. Miller explains 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.
A Surprising Reason to Drink Lemonade
Drinking lemonade will increase your immune support. Due to its rich vitamin C content, lemons strengthen the immune system and are very cleansing, says Robert-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.
A Reason to Drink a Smoothie
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. 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.