Most nutrition advice focuses on what you should eat and how much you should exercise, but what you drink also plays an important role in your overall health. We all know to drink lots of water and stay away from sugary soft drinks, but how else can we make better beverage choices? We talked to nutritionists to get their expert advice on drinking healthier.
1. IF YOU MUST DRINK COFFEE, MAKE SURE IT’S ORGANIC.
Many of us can’t stay awake without a morning cup (or two) of coffee. Both coffee and tea have health benefits, and a daily cup of joe can be an acceptable part of a healthy diet—if it’s organic. “Conventional [non-organic] coffee is one of the most chemically treated foods,” says Tania Gabbay, a holistic health coach and certified Natural Foods Chef. Make sure that your coffee beans are free from nasty pesticides and come from a high quality, organic source.
2. USE A WATER FILTER.
Tap water can contain heavy metal deposits such as zinc, lead, cadmium, copper, and mercury, which can build up in your system over time and cause health problems. Erika Herman, a board-certified nutritionist and bestselling nutrition author, advises that you use a water filter that removes heavy metals as well as chlorine. Besides tasting and smelling bad, chlorine “has no place in your drinking-water supply—it damages gut microflora, which comprises around 80 percent of your immune system and regulates your body's inflammatory response,” says Herman.
3. DRINK APPLE CIDER VINEGAR OR LEMON JUICE…
Elissa Goodman, a certified holistic nutritionist, recommends drinking apple cider vinegar or water with lemon juice. One to two tablespoons per day of apple cider vinegar (you can dilute it with water to make it taste better) can prevent acid reflux, soothe the digestive system, and increase insulin sensitivity. “I prefer organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother' in it, like Bragg’s brand. The ‘mother’ is a blend of proteins, friendly/good for you bacteria, and enzymes that gives the vinegar a cloudy look,” says Goodman.
Lemon water has its own benefits; it can reduce inflammation, aid digestion, ease heartburn, minimize bloat, and help the body flush toxins. Goodman recommends squeezing half a lemon into 8 ounces of room temperature water.
4. …BUT DON’T OVERDO IT.
Although drinking water with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can be a healthy habit, don’t overdo it. Herman says that this popular trend isn’t right for everyone. “Water with apple cider vinegar or lemon or lime juice can erode tooth enamel, trigger tooth sensitivity, and, for many, can upset urine pH.”
Herman advises that after drinking vinegar or lemon juice, you should rinse your mouth with plain water. And to protect your tooth enamel, “definitely don't brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after,” says Herman.
5. DRINK INFUSED WATERS TO GET H20 VARIETY.
If your taste buds get bored of plain filtered water, you can add some variety without resorting to sodas or sugary energy drinks. Herman suggests getting creative with infusions by adding slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber to a water glass or pitcher. You can also add a sprig of rosemary, mint, or parsley as well as grated turmeric, ginger, or cayenne pepper. Let the flavors sit in the water for at least half an hour. Experiment with different flavor variations to find your next favorite flavored water drink.
6. STAY HYDRATED WHEN YOU DRINK ALCOHOL…
Because drinking too much alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on the body, it’s essential to stay hydrated when you imbibe. “An easy way to create more healthy habits surrounding drinking is to create a fun and creative cocktail with coconut water, fresh mint, muddled watermelon, and ice. The coconut water, watermelon, and ice will balance out the dehydrating alcohol,” says Gabbay.
7. …AND CHOOSE CLEAR LIQUORS FOR FEWER CALORIES.
Wine is loaded with sugar, and even clear liquors like gin or vodka—which have less sugar and calories than wine—are often served with sugary mixers. "It's the combination of alcohol and sugars found in mixers (or the bar food often consumed with alcohol) that causes problems” with weight, writes nutritional consultant Dr. Mike Roussell. “It is the metabolic priority that your body places on alcohol (over carbohydrates and fats) that causes the problem,” he adds. To combat the calories in mixers and alcohol’s metabolic effects, opt for adding mixers that are low in sugar and are as unprocessed as possible, like lime juice, grated ginger, or seltzer water.
8. CHOOSE YOUR JUICE AND SMOOTHIE INGREDIENTS WISELY.
Juice bars have become almost as popular as coffee shops, but are juices actually healthy? “Most conventional juices have too much sugar,” says Goodman. “The key to lowering the sugar content in your juices and smoothies is to lower the high sugar fruits and vegetables.”
For example, mixing lower sugar ingredients such as romaine, spinach, asparagus, ginger, parsley, turmeric, celery, cilantro, cucumber, kale, chard, collards, or beet greens with a small apple, a couple of beets or carrots, or a lemon will yield a lower sugar juice, according to Goodman.
9. DRINK MORE WATER THAN YOU THINK YOU NEED.
We all know we should drink more water for optimal health, but how much is enough? Our bodies are all different, so when it comes to how much water we need to consume, it’s not one-size-fits-all. As a general guideline, 15-16 cups of water per day is adequate for men, while 11-12 cups per day is sufficient for women. Amanda Carlson-Phillips, a registered dietician and board certified specialist in sports dietetics, tells Fitness that athletes “should be consuming .5 to 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight every day.” That equals about 10-20 cups of water per day for a 150-pound person.