The beverage industry constantly bombards us with imagery and claims of fun, health, energy and weight loss. With all of that exciting promise, who wouldn’t want to try the latest drink to hit the market?
However, phrases that suggest health benefits like “all natural” and “low-calorie” don’t exactly mean what you think it means, which is why it’s up to you to educate yourself about proper nutrition and read more of what’s included on product packaging labels. Here are 12 surprisingly unhealthy drinks you should eliminate from your diet.
This list of its common ingredients explains why soda is bad for us.
- Sodium benzoate. It may damage nerves and has been shown make children more hyperactive and distractible.
- Brominated vegetable oil. It can disrupt hormone balance and impair neurological function.
- High fructose corn syrup or refined sugar. Both encourage insulin resistance and fat deposition.
Also, soda has no beneficial nutrients. That’s why skipping the soda is good for your health.
2. Flavored Waters
Flavored and infused waters may deliver a few extra vitamins — along with added sugars. Next time you buy a bottle of water, check the label. If you see anything more than water and natural flavors, leave it on the shelf.
3. Almond Milk
Almond milk has quickly become everyone’s favorite alternative to cow’s milk. It tastes good, it’s affordable, it goes great with smoothies, and it’s an ideal choice for those who are sensitive to dairy. Derived from almonds, some fans of the drink are led to believe that they offer all or most of the nutritional benefits of the actual nut itself.
As it turns out, almond milk is only made up of about 2% of real almonds, therefore lacking most of the healthy fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals you get from eating the nuts in their solid form. Additionally, some types of almond milk have added sugar to sweeten them up, burdening you with more unnecessary and empty calories.
You’re better off drinking a cold glass of water and snacking on a handful of raw almonds. Even for an extra 160 calories or so, at least you’ll be satiated and get the full nutritional benefit of what almonds have to offer.
4. Vitamin Water
Water and vitamins are both healthy, right? Put them together to make “vitamin water” and it must be really healthy! Not so fast. The problem with popular drinks that have a combination of vitamins and water is the amount of sugar in them — about 33 grams in a 20 oz bottle. Sure, it’s less than a soda but a lot more than the zero in a glass of plain water.
Then there’s the issue of quality and quantity of vitamins in these drinks. Both are lower than what you need and what you would get from a good quality supplement.
5. Freshly Squeezed Fruit Juice
The general assumption is that freshly squeezed fruit juice is healthier than the stuff you buy preprocessed in jugs, cartons, bottles, and cans. Juicing your own fruits means you get the fresh stuff without all the added sugar, preservatives, and other nasty junk that often gets mixed into the store-bought stuff.
There’s just one big problem with juicing, though. You miss out on fiber, which keeps you fuller longer and prevents that blood sugar spike you experience from eating stuff that’s far too sweet. Sure, you get most of the vitamins and minerals from using fresh ingredients, but you basically just end up consuming pure sugar, which really needs to be balanced with fiber.
6. Flavored Milk
Chocolate, vanilla, strawberry and other flavored milks are loaded with artificial food colorings, preservatives, and sugar. These products are most often marketed as a healthy choice for children but there’s a growing epidemic of obesity, insulin resistance, and Type 2 diabetes among young population. It’s not so important that children drink their milk that we should add sugar and chemicals to it so they’ll like it.
7. Soft Drinks
Soft drinks are overloaded with sugar and provide empty calories without satisfying your hunger. In fact, soft drinks are the only food that has been directly linked to causing obesity. Try to eliminate them from your diet entirely.
8. Fruit Smoothies
Yes, fruit on its own is good for you, but a 32-ounce smoothie can pack as many as 700 calories with fewer than two grams of protein, thanks to the high sugar content. That’s like eating a whole pineapple, entire mango, and one cup each of blueberries and strawberries in a single sitting. Why is that bad? Calories from any food get stored away in your fat cells if you eat more than you can burn.
9. Energy Drinks
We all need a little pick-me-up from time to time and energy drinks promise just that. However, energy drinks affect your system more than you need them to.
When people think about “energy” drinks, they’re usually referring to products that contain caffeine. The problem is that most “energy drinks” are loaded with too much caffeine and sugar, so while they may give you a short-term burst of energy, you’ll ultimately crash and just want to zonk out. When you need a brain boost, you’re better off sipping green tea or snacking on a handful of walnuts.
10. Sports Drinks
People who do a lot of physically demanding work often rely on sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. For a while now, they’ve been successfully positioned in the market as the best drinks for rehydrating and replenishing electrolytes.
The bad news about sports drinks is that most of them contain high-fructose corn syrup, too much sodium, and almost just as much sugar as soda. Similar to energy drinks, sports drinks can also cause you to experience a short burst of great performance followed by a plummeting crash.
You don’t need this type of drink, unless you’re spending all day trekking through a hot dessert on foot. The trick is to hydrate (with plain water) and feed yourself enough healthy carbs and protein before you work out. Adding a very small amount of unprocessed sea salt to your water as you sip on it through your workout can be a helpful option too, but not totally necessary unless you’re working out for a prolonged period.
11. Hard Liquor
Alcohol in moderation — one or two drinks a day — has been shown to raise HDL (good) cholesterol, boost bloodflow, and improve sugar metabolism. However, when you ask for that third drink, your risk for obesity and slew of other health problems starts to climb. A 2011 study from the American Cancer Society found that the risk of cancer death was 36% higher among people who drank heavily (three or more drinks each day) than those who drank in moderation or not at all.
12. Anything Diet
There have been so many red flags raised in research studies over the years with calorie free or reduced calorie sweeteners. Some of these red flags are their potential to disrupt hormones, increase cancer risks, aggravate irritable bowel syndrome, disrupt neurological function and act as migraine triggers.
All of that, in addition to mounting research suggesting these sweeteners may actually encourage weight gain, rebounding sugar cravings and possibly insulin resistance. There’s too much potential risk in consuming artificial sweeteners with little evidence of much benefit.