What’s really lurking under the lid?
Most of us lead busy lives and depend on the convenience of being able to grab a beverage while on the go, especially if it also offers health or nutritional benefits. But what’s so great about these popular drinks, anyway?
Let’s go behind the branding to see just how helpful and healthy these beverages truly are.
This sure sounds like an appealing concept, but the execution falls short. Toronto registered dietitian Julia Stanislavskaia says it’s important to understand the amount of vitamins you are taking in and understand that “certain vitamins are readily available in an average diet, and there is no need to supplement those in an average person.”
And, adds Stanislavskaia, “it’s possible to overdose and get excess amounts of certain vitamins if you drink this water as well.” While you may be getting some more vitamins than drinking plain water, you’re also getting a mouthful of artificial flavours and colours, caffeine in some cases and lots of sugar.
The average bottle of vitamin water (591 ml/20 oz) can contain 32 grams — or eight teaspoons — of sugar!
To put that in perspective, the World Health Organization recommends the average person limit their daily intake of free sugars (such as glucose, fructose, sucrose or table sugar added to foods and drinks by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates) to 25 grams or six teaspoons.
There are brands of carbonated water that are infused with natural flavours. So while they tend to have no added sugar, they can still pose problems.
Toronto orthodontist Dr. Melissa Milligan says “it’s important to remember that any carbonated beverage becomes bubbly through the addition of carbon dioxide, which is an acid, meaning that every carbonated drink has some degree of acidic attack on your enamel.”
Since most of these beverages are naturally flavoured with various citrus fruits, that means they contain citric acid, which is also not toothfriendly.
Much like with fruit juice, the decaying combination of high acidity and sugar in sports drinks can really do a number on your teeth. It can soften tooth enamel and lead to erosion over time. And watch out for the caffeine levels in these drinks, along with the artificial colours and flavours.
Dr. Milligan says it’s also important to note that “sports drinks were formulated in a lab and tested on athletes in peak physical condition,” adding that they were “designed to replace carbohydrate and electrolyte loss during intense physical activity.”
But, she stresses, “we are now realizing that these beverages are being consumed at an alarming rate.” It’s better to replenish electrolytes lost during an intense workout or an active lifestyle by drinking water and maintaining a healthy diet.
There’s a reason why soft drinks are getting lots of negative attention these days. Portion sizes and sugar content nearly grew out of control until we realized just how bad consuming that much sugar or artificial sweetener is for the body and teeth.
With the average can of Coke ringing in at a whopping 39 grams of sugar, this is one of those beverages that should be enjoyed in moderation. According to Registered Dietitian Julia Stanislavskaia, “A couple of cans of pop per week is reasonable as a treat, just don’t keep large bottles or packs in the house to avoid temptation.” One serving size for pop is technically 250 ml/8 oz.
Water: The Perfect Drink
We’re lucky enough to have easy access to clean, safe drinking water, so why not enjoy more of it? Toronto orthodontist Dr. Melissa Milligan says that “water is our optimal source of hydration, as long as you’re not drinking distilled water, which has had all the minerals removed from it.”
Water is also free from sweeteners, caffeine, calories and artificial flavours and colours. And, it’s just a tap away! If the flavour of natural water falls flat for you, Dr. Milligan suggests boosting it with the addition of sliced fresh pineapple, cucumber, strawberries or ginger. You can also try fresh herbs such as mint, sage or lemongrass.