The shocking nutritional facts about many sugar-loaded drinks have been well telegraphed. You should probably stay away from a Starbucks Venti Iced White Chocolate Mocha and the number of calories in a Wendy's Caramel Frosy Shake will blow your mind.
Meanwhile, a new Harvard study linked almost 200,000 deaths worldwide with consuming sugary drinks such as sodas, sports drinks and fruit drinks, as they contribute to diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
But what about our go-to drinks for a healthy alternative? We've been told ginger teas can cure common colds and beet juice can cleanse our livers, but there are still many misconceptions about the health benefits of so-called diet or nourishing drinks.
Registered dietitian Patricia Chuey of Vancouver says these days, it's common to be confused by nutritional labelling on healthy products like the latest coconut juice or "miracle tea."
"Who doesn't like the idea of drinking something and having more energy?" Chuey says. "It seems like a quick way to get a boost in your day, although there is very little, if any, science to back up these notions."
Eating fresh fruits and vegetables is the best option, but not everyone has the time to eat their recommended daily amount. Chuey says there are ways to see if you're getting the most nutritious beverage.
"A healthy beverage supplies fluid for hydration that is not adulterated by excess sugar, salt, artificial colours, excess caffeine or additives," she tells The Huffington Post Canada. "Ideally, it should not be excessive in calories and offers some meaningful nutrients such as vitamin A or C."
This may leave you few options to choose from, but Chuey says this doesn't have to be the case. Water — probably the healthiest drink for your body — should be a priority, but homemade smoothies, iced teas and even herbal teas have added health benefits. For adults, coffee, which has been linked to benefits like lowering depression and lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes, are fine in moderation.
"If you include pleasure and enjoyment as part of being a healthy person — I follow the 80 to 20 approach — any beverage is okay as long as it isn't daily or preventing you from eating the foods and drinks that your body needs for optimal health."
So when is a "healthy" drink considered unhealthy? Here are Chuey's 11 examples:
If you're looking for a nutritious smoothie, you're better off making your own. "Homemade is way better because you can reduce the sugar and boost the protein with yogurt, tofu, nut butters, protein powder or others," says Patricia Chuey, a registered dietitian based in Vancouver. Chuey adds commercial smoothies (like the ones from juice bars or the Tim Hortons mixed fruit smoothie with 30 grams of sugar) often tastes sweeter and have added carbs from sugar.
We've all heard about health benefits of red wine including reducing the risk of breast cancer and promoting a healthy heart. "Red wine is cardio-protective due to the presence of resveratrol — a naturally occurring substance in grapes," Chuey says. But other studies have shown that if you're already healthy, red wine isn't always needed to boost life expectancy, according to The Daily Mail. Chuey says you says you can skip the alcohol and get healthy heart benefits from eating fresh grapes or unsweetened grape juice instead.
Green Tea And Black Tea:
On their own, both green tea and black tea actually quite good for you. "They are rich in various antioxidant nutrients that offer heart protecting and cancer preventing properties," she says. But don't ruin the benefits by adding sugar.
Milk: Is Soy Milk Or Almond Milk Better?
"Whether you drink dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, rice milk or potato milk, ensure it naturally contains or is fortified with calcium and vitamin D," Chuey says. She notes that people don't need to drink more than two glasses of a milk per day.
If you're comparing this to pop, go for it. "It's far more natural than pop, but you should still read labels and check sugar levels," she says. However, other reports have shown that coconut water or juice isn't always hydrating and shouldn't be replaced for water if you're active.
Just because you don't see any sugar or calories, it doesn't mean diet pop will help your health. Even though artificial sweeteners are safe for most people, don't rely on diet pop to help you lose weight or have a healthier lifestyle, according to The Mayo Clinic. In fact, research has also shown that artificial sweeteners can confuse our brains to thinking were drinking calories, making our body release unwanted insulin, according to The Doctor Oz Show.
POM Juice: Is It A Miracle?
"Miracle drink? No. Tasty for an occasional treat? Sure," she says. Pomegranate juice has been hailed as a trendy super drink but Chuey says even though pomegranates are nutritious, pomegranate juices carry excess sugar. For example, POM's 100% Pomegranate juice has 32 grams of sugar.
Iced Tea: Safe?
"Well it depends. Many commercial iced teas are lousy. They are too high in sugar with little or no real tea," she says. Instead, try making your own iced tea with brewed tea, lemon and honey.
Hot chocolate made from a tin can? You might want to skip it. "Hot chocolate made from lower fat milk (dairy or otherwise) with real cocoa and a bit of sweetening is fine," Chuey says. "Made with water from a pseudo-cocoa chemical concoction? Not good."
For vegetable-based drinks such as V8 and Mott's Clamato, the best scenario would be to make your own or just eat your vegetables. "Although V8 and tomato juices can be nice for variety, these drinks are notoriously high in sodium," she says.
For this drink, think about additional toppings and calories. "The black "bubbles" are tapioca pearls that have been soaked in tea and 50 grams of the pearls are about 100 calories," she says. Bubble teas are also often high in sugar as well.