10 Unhealthy Drinks That You Should Always Avoid
Who doesn’t love the idea of a delicious glass of marginally sweetened orange juice with breakfast? Or a chilled soft drink in the afternoon to keep summer at bay?
While drinks like this every once in a while are certainly not the end of the world, they also present the perfect disguise for large amounts of sugar to infiltrate your diet and can be detrimental to your health if consumed regularly.
Even the so-called “better-for-you beverages” more often than not tend to surprise you with hidden added sugars, artificial flavors, sweeteners, and colors featuring prominently in their list of ingredients.
We get that it isn’t always possible to read every label and research every ingredient so we’ve curated a list of a few of the more common drinks and beverages that you should try to avoid because they’re just plain unhealthy.
- Fruit Juices
Surprised? Fruits offer you a whole host of nutritional benefits and are rich in micronutrients and fiber. That said, they’re also packed with fructose, which, natural as it is, is still a potent source of sugar. When a fruit is juiced, all the good stuff (like the fiber and nutrients) is strained out and so all you’re essentially left with is the fructose. Fructose gets metabolized by the liver and is not even treated the same way as sugar. Consumption of large amounts of it without the equivalent fiber, is linked to metabolic syndrome, liver damage, and obesity. Excessive consumption of fruit juice has also been related to childhood obesity.
- Coffee (With Sugar)
Coffee, which contains caffeine, can help people feel less exhausted, enhance energy levels, burn fat by jump-starting the body's metabolism, and improve productivity and brain function, such as memory, mood, reaction speeds, and general mental performance. Due to it's intrinsically bitter taste, coffee is often combined with sugar to make it more palatable. This lends you an additional sugar high for a brief period but as the effects of caffeine and sugar start wearing off, people often find their energy levels plummet and crash. Thus, it is best to avoid sweet syrups and whipped toppings unless you are deliberately preparing your coffee as your dessert.
- Sodas, Soft Drinks and Carbonated Beverages
Most sweetened carbonated drinks including colas, lemon-lime sodas, and tonic water, have around 13 teaspoons of sugar per 475 ml, which is more than double the WHO’s recommended daily limit. Diet variants that advertise zero sugar contain artificial sweeteners. Excessive consumption of artificial sweeteners can alter your palate and taste preferences over time, boosting demand for extremely sweet meals which further compounds the problem. Some of these sweeteners are particularly unhealthy such as aspartame which has been linked to serious health problems such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, seizures, stroke, dementia as well as intestinal problems, mood disorders, headaches, and migraines. Coca-Cola, Sprite, Fanta, you name it, they are all sugar bombs. According to the Coca-Cola website, a single 350 mL can of Coke has a staggering 39 grams of sugar!
Premixed cocktails look really appealing but for all practical purposes, are little more than a hangover in a bottle. The mix of added sugar and preservatives accelerates the dehydration that occurs when you consume alcohol and adds a tonne of empty calories to your diet. While alcohol isn't the healthiest choice by itself, sweetened mixers that help mask the bitter taste of alcohol exacerbate the problem to a large degree so avoid them as far as possible.
If you purchase your kombucha off the shelf (rather than from the fridge), rest assured that what you're drinking is not the real thing. This indicates that the mixture has been pasteurized (destroying the naturally existing beneficial bacteria, such as those from búcha), after which the fermented drink is generally diluted with carbonated water. The only thing this mix will do for your gut is increasing its size!
- Ginger Beer
Regrettably, ginger beer is one of the most calorically rich carbonated beverages available. A 200 mL of ginger beer has 171 calories. This does no good for your waist, no matter how great it tastes.
- Prepackaged Smoothies
Generally speaking, a smoothie is healthier than juice since it still contains the entire fruit as opposed to straining out the pulp but this only applies to freshly made snoothies where you can control what ingredients are going in and which ones to keep out. Bottled (prepackaged) smoothies, on the other hand, lack these nutrients and are so high in sugar that you would have to spend hours on the treadmill just to burn those extra calories off.
- Energy Drinks With Alcohol
If you are feeling too weary to drink, listen to your body and maybe skip the bar at night. If you must go, skip the energy drinks. You do not want to rally by combining energy drinks (such as Monster and Red Bull) which are always highly caffeinated with alcohol. Aside from the dangerously high levels of caffeine that they contain, these drinks when used as mixers can mask the soporific effects of alcohol, (usually your body's way of telling you to stop/slowdown) and makes you feel more awake than you would otherwise. As a result, you end up consuming more alcohol and become even more intoxicated and may not know where to draw the line. Take our word for it, nothing is worse than having to taste last night’s drinks on their way back up the next morning.
- Bubble Tea
A trendy addition to cafe menus everywhere, bubble tea is a sweetened beverage that is generally served cold over tapioca balls at the bottom called boba. While each tea may be customized to your preferences, these teas usually contain syrups that are heavy on sugar and can spike your blood glucose levels in no time. Excess sugar in your diet might cause metabolic problems and weight gain.
- Probiotic Drinks
High-sugar diets are consistently related to a high ratio of harmful bacteria to beneficial bacteria. That implies that if you want to enhance your gut health, you must first reduce your sugar intake and incorporate probiotics into your diet. Unfortunately, many probiotic beverages are high in sugar, which negates the advantages of probiotics. A single serving of Tropicana Essentials Pineapple Mango Probiotics juice, for example, has a whopping 29 grams of sugar. While the packaging claims to have “no added sugar”, it does have an abundance of fruit sugar which is just as damaging as refined sugar, if not more.
What should I drink then?
There's nothing we can say about the benefits of water reigning supreme as your beverage of choice wherever you go that you haven't already heard. It is, without a doubt, the best choice from a health perspective. What we will tell you is that this isn’t your only option and that even amongst beverages, there are a few healthy choices to opt for whenever you’re craving something a little different or more exotic
Salted fresh lime water is a classic, a super safe choice, and combines the best of all possible beverage worlds.
Coconut water is low in calories, high in potassium, and devoid of fat and cholesterol. While there is no evidence that it is equivalent or superior to plain water for basic hydration, it does contain fewer calories and less sodium than other sports beverages.
Green tea is the world's healthiest beverage. It is high in antioxidants and nutrients, both of which have strong benefits on the body. This includes better cognitive function, weight reduction, a decreased chance of cancer, and a host of other significant advantages.
Always read the labels of anything that you buy. When you order in or order something at a cafe/restaurant, remember that if the drink tastes sweet, it probably has more sugar than you should be consuming.