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What is There to Drink?

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Just water? “I get so tired of just drinking water” is the refrain I hear from clients time and time again. And, of course, I understand the frustration. We’ve become used to so many options – most of which are some version or sugar-water, or artificially sweetened water. But I’d like to offer some other ideas that will provide variety, as well as maintain health. First, let’s put a spotlight on the culprit. There are many problems associated with having too much sugar in our diet, beyond the classic one of weight gain. In fact, a recent study conducted by Tufts University found that people who follow a low sugar diet have lower levels of depression and anxiety. This is completely consistent with what I have learned over the years working with clients struggling with anxiety and depression. I’ve found that eating a balanced, complex carbohydrate anti-inflammatory diet is a first step to reducing depression and anxiety.

Also, a recent 4-year study conducted in San Francisco of elderly women and reported in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, suggests that chronically elevated blood sugar is associated with an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. These are just two recent studies joining the mounting evidence of the danger of excessive sugar in the diet. Without doubt, we know a high sugar diet impairs health in many ways, including causing increased inflammation that can aggravate asthma, allergies, arthritis and all other inflammatory conditions. It can facilitate heart disease and cause diabetes. Sugar feeds intestinal yeasts, fungi and cellular cancer. And… each serving of sugar suppresses immunity for about 8 hours — which is why colds and flu are so common around the holidays.

And, as if all the above were not enough, sugar cravings often go hand-in-hand with high levels of stress hormones circulating in the body. Unfortunately, reaching for a sugary drink or a caffeinated or alcoholic drink is often the easiest (though clearly not the best) way to satisfy these cravings. Therefore, it becomes even more important when we are stressed to be extra vigilant with making sure we have healthy beverages available.

What about artificial sweeteners like NutraSweet (aspartame) and Splenda? Are they safe? Do they work? I wish I had better news, but the truth is these kinds of artificial sweeteners can cause myriad symptoms in the body ranging from rashes to wheezing to migraines to neurological problems. Also, BOTH sugar and artificial sweeteners increase appetite and increase desire for sugar, creating a vicious cycle of wanting more and more sugar!

OK, now let’s talk about alternatives. If you are trying to get off of soda and replace it with healthy beverages — here are some ideas:

  • Try adding to a pitcher of filtered water in the refrigerator one of the following: cucumber slices, raspberries, orange slices, lime slices, fresh ginger slices, or mint leaves. Soak overnight to allow time for the flavor to permeate the water.
  • Blend a juice drink from a variety of vegetables.
  • Experiment with some of the many varieties of herbal tea, which are available in spicy, sweet and fruity flavors, some of which are very good as iced tea as well.
  • You may want to have a super-green drink for an energy boost.
  • Caffeinated and alcoholic beverages can be part of a healthy diet if kept to moderate levels. That is, no more than one cup of a caffeinated beverage a day, and no more than one drink three times a week.
  • Start with having a variety of non-sugary beverages available in your kitchen.