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Rethink your drink

Your guide to healthy summer thirst quenchers

Rethink your drink
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Super summertime thirst quenchers

How much sugar is in your drink?

Winnipeg Health Region
Wave, Summer 2010

There is nothing like a long, cool drink of something cold on a hot summer day.

That's only natural. As the temperatures rise in summer, so does our need to be cooled and hydrated. Chances are, if you are feeling sluggish on a hot summer day, it's because your body is low on fluid, which is needed to help carry nutrients, digest food, and act as a cushion for organs and joints.

There is, of course, no shortage of sweet, tangy or tart drink choices to help shake your thirst. Specialty iced coffees, slushy ice drinks, pop, lemonades, juices and fancy cocktails are just a few of the options on the market today.

The problem is that these drinks are not always the best choice. Indeed, many of them are so laden with sugar, they are really nothing more than liquid candy. Moreover, these sweetened drinks are being marketed in ever-increasing portion sizes to kids and adults alike. The result: We're all drinking way too much sugar.

For example, did you know that a cup of iced slush coffee has over 70 times more calories, 30 grams (seven to eight teaspoons) more sugar, and seven grams more fat than a cup of regular brewed coffee? And don't forget, these drinks are often sold in larger sizes, providing even more of a difference.

The calories in these drinks are known as "empty calories" because they contain no nutritional punch. Even worse, the empty calories you consume can often fill you up to the point where you don't feel like consuming healthy foods and drinks. Each time you reach for the liquid candy, you miss the opportunity to eat fruits, vegetables and other foods that keep you healthy and reduce the risk of chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

According to Statistics Canada, the average Canadian eats about 23 teaspoons (92 grams) of added sugar each day, with soft drinks as the leading source. That's a lot of sugar, considering the American Heart Association recently recommended that women consume no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) of added, processed sugar a day, while men should aim for less than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) of added sugar a day.

In addition to containing heaping teaspoons of sugar, these drinks also contain acids, which can cause tooth decay. Drinks that contain natural or added acids are: pop (regular and diet), flavoured waters, sports drinks, energy drinks, all fruit drinks and fruit juices. If you have too many of these drinks, your teeth will be exposed to acid over and over again, which can result in an attack on your teeth's enamel.

Even fruit juices can be a challenge. Although 100 per cent unsweetened fruit juice contains naturally occurring sugars, the total sugar content is similar to pop and other fruit drinks. It is best to try to limit fruit juice and instead try to eat more whole fruits and vegetables, as they contain fibre and are more satisfying.

Now, none of this is meant to suggest that you can't enjoy a nice cool drink this summer. It just means that the next time you need to quench your thirst, you might want to try a healthier refreshment.

Water is a great choice any time, but especially in summer. In addition to cooling your body and replenishing your fluid losses from sweat, water is calorie-free, inexpensive, and readily available.

Milk and soy beverages are also good choices. They're refreshing drinks that are packed with nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Enjoy milk or soy beverages as a thirst quencher and consider the flavoured options on ice for a cool treat.

As for specialty iced coffees, energy drinks, sports drinks, ice slushes, and pop - try drinking them less often.

Michelle Arpin Molinski is a registered dietitian with the Winnipeg Health Region.


About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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