Best: Iced Coffee
The idea that coffee, because of its caffeine content, dehydrates you is outdated. While caffeinated drinks may have a mild diuretic effect — meaning that they may cause the need to urinate — they don’t appear to increase the risk of dehydration. And coffee is loaded with disease-fighting antioxidants, which may be part of the reason coffee has been linked to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes. Just skip, or at least go easy on, the cream and sugar.
Worst: Blended Coffee Drinks
While your cup of joe does offer some health benefits, when our coffee of choice is a caramel blended drink, more than just a few calories sneak into your daily calorie allowance. A barrage of sugary syrups, whole milk and whipped cream make the calories soar in these types of beverages. Even a seemingly innocent blended iced coffee can have almost 200 calories. Fancy coffee drinks are a prime example of how liquid calories add up.
Best: Iced Green Tea
Unflavored iced green tea is a zero-calorie beverage. Even sweetened versions usually contain fewer calories than soft drinks or juice. And research shows it has an extra benefit in the summertime: It helps absorb UV rays, minimizing sunburn risk. (Don’t toss the sunscreen, of course, and still avoid the strongest rays at midday.) Drink your tea plain over ice, or add a squeeze of lemon and 1/2 teaspoon of honey to provide sweetness and flavor with just 33 calories.
Sugar is one of the main reasons soda is unhealthy (and filled with empty calories). On average, a 12-ounce serving contains more than 110 calories and 8-10 teaspoons of sugar. Even diet sodas sabotage weight loss because the artificial sweeteners can actually leave you craving more sweets, derailing your efforts to eat healthier.
Best: Hibiscus Drinks
Hibiscus is a caffeine-free flower that makes a tart, ruby-red infusion when brewed. Linked to a host of health benefits, hibiscus helps to cure liver disease and reduces the risk of cancer. It’s rich in vitamin C, minerals and various antioxidants, and it’s also versatile. It makes a delicious iced tea or as a mixer in lemonade or cocktails.
Worst: Fast-Food Smoothies
Smoothies are so popular you can now find them not only at fast food restaurants but grocery stores and even coffee shops. But while smoothies may sound like a healthy treat, sometimes they’re anything but. Many feature plenty of high-fat and/or high-sugar items like ice cream, sweetened syrups, or chocolate. On the other hand, a homemade smoothie can be a very healthy beverage. Any smoothie that includes nonfat milk, soy milk, or yogurt will likely contribute a nice dose of protein, along with other goodies like vitamin D, B-12, and/or calcium.
This article first appeared in the July 2015 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.