There are plenty of options out there when it comes to liquid refreshment. But while it doesn’t take anything more complicated than plain old tap water to keep you hydrated, the newest beverages aren’t content to stop there. Functional beverages are drinks with a little something extra included — designed to protect your skin, boost your brainpower, reduce inflammation or help you get a better night’s sleep. The idea behind them is simple (to help you get more out of every sip), but the formulations are complex blends of vitamins, minerals, herbs, amino acids and more.
Pass the Tofu Drumstick
Having a vegan feast is becoming more popular. According to the Department of Agriculture, Americans ate about 12% less meat in 2012 than in 2007. Instead of turkey and trimmings, some Thanksgiving cooks are making tofurkey (tofu shaped like turkey) or cooking portobello mushroom steaks with kale salad, pecan stuffing and mushroom gravy on the side.
So Many Choices?!
With so many beverages lining store shelves plus media hubbub swirling about the so-called positive and negative effects of various drinks, what you should be sipping? Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health’s Department of Nutrition reviewed the wide selection of beverages available and ranked them into 6 levels based on the amount of calories, good-for-you nutrients, and scientific evidence on the negative and positive effects on health. Not too surprising, water topped the list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the only healthy choice.
Top Beverage Choices
Unsweetened tea, coffee and milk have a place in your healthy eating plan, while juice, alcohol and sweetened beverages should be consumed sparingly.
Water helps restore fluid losses and helps rehydrate your body. Although we’re often told to drink 8 cups of water each day, the amount of water we need varies from person to person. It depends on the amount of food you eat, how active you are and the climate you live in. Most people get about 80% of their fluids from beverages, the rest comes from food. The Institute of Medicine’s guidelines are 15 cups per day for men and 11 cups per day for women (coming from a combo of food and drinks).
Tea and Coffee
Tea and coffee are two of the most commonly consumed beverages in the world. Without all the fancy add-ins (like whipped cream, shaved chocolate, heavy cream), they can provide numerous nutritional benefits and help meet your daily fluid requirements. Green tea has been touted for helping prevent heart disease while coffee has been shown to have explosive amounts of cell-protecting antioxidants. Although studies have found that up to 3 or so cups of coffee or tea are okay, these drinks also tend to leach out calcium and iron, so try to keep it to that amount.
Low-Fat, Skim and Soy Milk
Milk provides 9 essential nutrients including protein, calcium, and vitamin D. The USDA’s Dietary Guidelines recommended choosing low-fat or fat-free (AKA skim) milk to minimize saturated fat and cholesterol. Drinking milk and soy milk can also help you meet the recommended 3 servings of dairy each day.
It’s filled with sugar and a ton of empty calories, but soda can be part of a healthy eating plan if it’s consumed rarely and as a special treat. However, studies have found that soda is one of the top sources of sugar in our diets. New York City has even tried to ban the sale of sugary beverages that are larger than 16 fluid ounces to help keep soda portions in check.
In addition to leading to weight gain, studies have found that folks who guzzle large amounts of soda tend to drink less milk and take in fewer nutrients like calcium. Furthermore, drinking large amounts of soda can be detrimental to your bones. Soda contains high amounts of phosphates, which can deplete the body’s calcium stores.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. For beer, a “drink” is defined as a 12-fluid ounce bottle. Moderate alcohol consumption (as recommended by the Dietary Guidelines) can help reduce your risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke, and lower the risk of gall stones.
The calories in a 12-fluid ounce bottle of regular beer vary from around 150 to 300. Lighter varieties usually run around 100 calories for 12-fluid ounces and are widely available in bars, restaurants and retail markets. However many bars offer pints (equivalent to 16-fluid ounces) with around 200 to 400 calories each.
If you’re looking for nutritional goodness, dark beer is the way to go. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture found that dark beers have more iron than both pale and non-alcoholic beer.
See the results of our light beer taste test.