Staying hydrated by drinking enough liquids is important for good health, but if you choose sweetened drinks it’s easy to increase your sugar and calorie intake without realising it – bad news if you have type 2 diabetes or are trying to lose weight. So which are the best drinks to go for, and which should you avoid?
How much to drink?
Water is vital for the body to function healthily, and you’ve probably read that to stay hydrated we’re advised to drink between six and eight glasses of liquid a day. We take in more liquid than you might think from food – about 20 per cent of our daily requirements – and we get the rest from drinks. Some people believe that this means drinking lots of water on top of the drinks you might normally have every day, such as tea and coffee. This isn’t true. All liquids – except wine and neat spirits, which are dehydrating – count towards your intake. But that doesn’t mean that all drinks are the same: some are packed with sugar and calories.
A teaspoon of sugar has 13 calories, so if you take sugar in tea and coffee, switching to a calorie-free sweeteneror going without altogether could save you thousands of calories over a year. It’s really one of the easiest changes you can make – getting used to tea or coffee without sugar takes a couple of weeks, but many people find they prefer it eventually.
Switching to diet versions of drinks such as cola, lemonade, mixers such as tonic water and fruit squashes is also a very easy way to save calories and sugar. Check the label and go for varieties that are calorie-free: a drink that is ‘light’ or ‘low-sugar’ for instance might still have calories and sugar in it.
Water is still best
Still or carbonated, tap or bottled – water is the best way to quench a thirst. If you buy flavoured waters or ‘water plus’ drinks, check the label to make sure they don’t have added sugar and calories.
Tea and coffee
If tea and coffee are your tipple, go ahead – drink them black or with skimmed milk (and calorie-free sweetener if you like it). There is some evidence that drinking around four cups a day of tea or coffee can reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Avoid these in general as their ‘energy’ will usually come from sugar, and other ingredients such as caffeine or other stimulants may have unwelcome side effects. In particular they are not recommended if you have high blood pressure.
Fruit juices and smoothies
A glass of fruit juice counts as one of portion of fruit, but it’s advised not to have more than one per day. Although they contain nutrients, fruit juices and smoothies pack a lot of calories into a small volume so it’s easy to drink a lot quickly, and they can be high in sugar.
The British Nutrition Foundation has a useful poster and information, the Healthy Hydration Guide