To Your Health Part 4: Don't Drink That, Drink This!

Now you have the Juice...

It is time for another installment of the “To Your Heath” series. So far, I have covered the importance of breakfast, exercise, and diet. It has been three years since I began practicing what I preach in these articles, and I can tell you that if you can remain 90 percent faithful to what I have outlined, you will undoubtedly have success in the journey to a healthier you. I do understand the militaristic diligence I personally follow is not for most people, but remaining disciplined is paramount to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. After having established a successful diet and exercise routine for yourself, do not be afraid to give yourself a break from time to time. As discussed in an earlier article, even I enjoy a scoop of ice cream from time to time. Lest I digress anymore, in this article, I am going to address the importance of beverage selection.

People may not realize how many empty calories they ingest in the form of drinks. Unless black coffee and water are the only form of hydration one consumes, fruit juices and soda bolster daily caloric intake dramatically. I know a few people who when they gave up soda, unexpectedly lost ten pounds. This is of course highly dependent on how much soda is being consumed, but I know plenty of folks who rip through a six pack of cola in a day without much thought about what is exactly in that brown bubbly drink.

If you drink soda, crazy milk based coffee drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks, or those tall cans of “iced tea”, and you are looking to lose weight, it’s time to change your drinking habits. Not only do these beverages offer little in the way of hydration and nutrition, they provide a staggering number of empty calories in the form of refined sugar. Do not think that “diet” versions of these drinks are any better. The most overweight people I know drink nothing but diet soda. It brings to mind the old joke of someone ordering a large order of fast food with a diet soft drink, because they are trying to watch their weight.

While I may stick to black coffee and mineral water for my daily fluids, freshly brewed tea, is another alternative to soft drinks for those looking for variety. Tea is remarkably flexible. It comes in a wide range of types, from well caffeinated black teas, milder green teas, and caffeine free herbal varieties. Tea can be served hot or cold and makes a great substitute for soft drinks. If your taste is for something sweet, I would suggest sweetening your tea with honey. I prefer honey to other “natural” sweeteners such as agave and stevia, due to the way the body processes honey. Agave and stevia are vastly superior to sugar, don’t get me wrong, but in my opinion, honey is the best alternative. I will not muddy the waters with details; the information is out there if you would like to read up on it. Back to the subject at hand, it took me a while to find a honey that I liked (mesquite), so if you are not currently a fan of the stuff, there are countless types available, and chances are, one of them will be appealing to you.

If I haven’t ruined enough of your fun yet, I’d like to broach the subject of fruit juice. According to the Mayo Clinic, adults on a standard 2,200-calorie a day diet should get no more than 300 calories daily from fluids. That means if you like to drink fruit juice, you should not be consuming more than eight ounces a day, regardless of the type.

Just for perspective, four ounces of fruit juice contains the same calories as a single serving of fruit. That is to say that a half cup of apple juice contains as many calories as a whole apple. Also, apple juice has the same sugar count per ounce as Coca-Cola, and more calories to boot! The apple juice does however have vitamins and minerals that the cola does not, so not all is lost. This is however a perfect example of why the consumption of fruit juice should be taken in moderation.

Other fruit juices, such has grape juice, are even higher in calories. 12 ounces of grape juice contains 228 calories, where as a 12-ounce can of grape soda only has 162 calories. While the grape juice will certainly contain more nutrients than the soda, it’s a startling fact about the caloric density of fruit juice.

When selecting a fruit juice, don’t neglect reading the ingredient list. It’s no secret that the FDA has some weird guidelines for foods, and the difference between fruit juice and juice drink or juice cocktail is a great example. Legally, fruit juice describes a product made of 100 per cent fruit juice, while juice cocktail or juice drink describes a blend of fruit juice and other ingredients. Those other ingredients generally will include added sugar, be it cane sugar or high fructose corn syrup, so be on the lookout.

The other side of the juice spectrum is vegetable juice. These offerings are generally lower in sugar and calories than fruit juices. This is true for tomato, beet, and carrot juice as well as many others. While carrots and beets are high sugar vegetables, the juice is wonderfully nutrient dense, while being relatively low in calories compared to more popular fruit juices. There is of course the taste to cope with. As a regular drinker of “vampiro” juice, a Latin American juice mix made of celery, carrot, and beet juice, I can attest that it is the definition of an acquired taste. The first time I tasted a vampiro, I nearly did a spit take. There is no mistaking when something is good for you, as the taste can be rather off-putting. I didn’t give up though, and after putting down a half dozen vapiros, I had acquired the taste for what I now regard as a personal favorite. It has come to the point where I now have to slow myself from drinking it all in one long draw.

Drink up, but keep in mind that although many view it as a healthy alternative to soft drinks, fruit juice is not necessarily low in calories. Sugar, be it high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or the naturally occurring fructose found in fruits and vegetables, will all lead to weight gain if not taken in moderation. If you like to drink juice, try to drink fresh vegetable juice. There are fewer calories per ounce, and generally, more nutrient rich than fruit juice. If vegetable juice is of no interest, fruit juices are fine, but keep in mind to consume less than eight ounces a day and you shouldn’t have to worry about putting any extra weight on. Until next time, have a great tomorrow!

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