Most of us know by now that water is the healthiest drink. Every once in a while, though, we all like to imbibe in a more exciting, satisfying and thirst-quenching drink. But be careful what you reach for. So many drinks have added sugars. A recent study from researchers in New Zealand found that sugary drinks have more health risks than sugar-packed foods.
Here are a few tasty and healthy beverages choices.
Thought we’d leave water off our list? Well, think again; specifically, think again about how most of us typically consume water: Grab cup, turn on faucet. Guzzle.
We should be grateful for having water to consume, but often, we mindlessly chug it.
Try doing this instead: buy some oranges and limes or lemons and cut the fruit into little wedges. Get a nice glass one-gallon pitcher and pour some purified water and the wedges into it and store it in your fridge.
Fancy spas typically offer this water, even infusing the water with cucumber slices.
Enjoy the process of making “spa water.” Preparing it can be a meditative art.
To add even more flavor, add a teaspoon of agave syrup (which is slower acting on the glycemic index for those concerned about blood sugar levels). Also add a pinch of cayenne pepper, if you want to spice things up. Stir well. Marvel at how tasty water can be.
After a lengthy, sweaty session of cardio or strength training, sometimes we crave something more satisfying than plain old water. Spa water can do the trick.
Get creative with water. If spa water tastes good to you, share it with anybody you know who doesn’t drink enough water. Maybe they will be inspired to transform what they thought was a bland beverage into a satisfying healthy drink.
Guess we can’t get away from water, can we? Coconut water is an isotonic beverage, which simply means that it helps rehydrate the body with vitamins and minerals after exercising. Coconut water does so without unhealthy high fructose corn syrup or other artificial sugars found in many sports drinks.
Opt for all-natural coconut water that is not from concentrate. If you see any other ingredients listed besides coconut water, don’t buy it.
A typical box of coconut water from a convenience store or grocer has about 12 grams of sugar. That's still less than soda and juices, but obviously more than water. So keep servings to a minimum if you want to avoid a lot of added sugar.
Fruit, veggie and protein drinks
Many people still think apple juice and other fruit juices are healthy. Most of the time, they are not; fruit juices are usually loaded with sugar, even when all-natural. The healthy eating concept of incorporating whole foods into the diet and maximizing nutrient density is best summed up with the example of the apple.
Instead of drinking apple juice (or eating apple sauce), eat an apple. The whole-food apple is lower in sugar and contains the fiber (which juice does not), important for keeping the digestives pipes flowing smoothly.
Vegetable juices in general are healthier than fruit juices. Drinking fruit juice by itself will likely spike blood sugar levels, and as a result, may cause a drop in energy.
Some fruit juices are heralded for health benefits, such as cranberry for prostate health. So if you want plain fruit juice, dilute the sugar rush by “cutting” the fruit juice with spa water.
Some people have a problem with keeping their blood sugar levels rock steady all day. So even if you’re having veggie juice, if you struggle with energy fluctuations, consider mixing in a blender, a scoop of whey protein powder or any other alternative protein (hemp, egg white, rice, etc…) to your veggie juice.
Add a splash of flax oil, loaded with essential fatty acids. This will keep your energy streamlined throughout the day.
Judd Handler is a lifestyle and health coach who needs a cup of coffee in the morning but drinks spa water the rest of the day.
Editor's note: This story has been updated since it was originally published in April 2011.