Not everyone is the biggest fan of water, but water is always going to be the hands-down beverage of choice when it comes to your health. Water is in everything. It’s an essential nutrient, and it’s part of every cell of your body. However, sometimes we just need to change things up a little. While water should be the basis of your liquid intake, there are some healthy drinks besides water that you can add to your diet for added variety. Some of these should only be used in moderation, but they still have many health benefits, and can be included as part of a well-rounded fitness lifestyle.
Some people can’t live without their coffee. Luckily for them, coffee reduces the risk of cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases   . Coffee drinkers also have a lower risk for type II diabetes . If that wasn’t enough, coffee can also aid in fat loss. Caffeine, chlorogenic acid, and quinides are just a few of the chemical compounds in coffee that promote weight loss through thermogenesis, increased fat oxidation, and the reduction of insulin levels   .
Tea is rich in EGCG, a catechin antioxidant believed to be responsible for the majority of tea’s health benefits. While the majority of studies done on green tea have only been done in vitro (isolated from the living organism – think “test tube”) and and in animals, the scientific literature looks promising. Catechins are scavengers of free radicals. Because of this, it’s believed that tea can be an effective combatant against cardiovascular disease and cancer . While limited, there are still many studies showing that tea can reduce the risk of stroke, cognitive impairment, and osteoporosis .
No, I’m not talking about the sugary pre-made drinks you buy in the store. Nor am I talking about any kind of artificially flavored water. I’m talking about slicing up some lemon, lime, oranges, or cucumbers and adding a few slices to your water. This is usually enough to get people over the boredom of water. If you want a little extra sensory stimulation, consider using some sparkling water.
Wine is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s one of the few vices I recommend as part of a healthy lifestyle (dark chocolate being another). It needs to be consumed in moderation of course. Alcohol contains 7 calories per gram – putting it right behind fat’s 9 calories per gram for calorie density. What about weight gain? Alcohol in and of itself cannot be converted to fat.
What happens is alcohol gets priority above all other macronutrients to get metabolized. That means any kind of protein, fat, or carbohydrate metabolism is put on hold until alcohol is converted to acetate and oxidized to carbon dioxide and water. When consumed within calorie allotments, alcohol can promote insulin sensitivity . It also lowers the risk of death from all causes of mortality, and has a beneficial effect on several types of cancer .
Is this a food, or is it a drink? I suppose it’s a little of both, but if you can drink it through a straw, I suppose it’s psychologically a drink. For the longest time, I used to make a post-workout shake consisting of 50 grams of whey protein, a frozen banana, some frozen berries, and a handful of spinach. The addition of spinach was an easy way to get in some greens and extra fiber, and the best part was, you couldn’t taste it. The combinations of fruits and greens are endless, and each have their own health benefit and flavor. I prefer to make smoothies instead of drinking juice. Juice removes the fiber and other healthy antioxidants.
I’ve already touted all the health benefits of dark chocolate. But what about hot cocoa? Can you add cocoa to the list of healthy drinks besides water? It turns out cocoa has many of the same health benefits as dark chocolate. And why wouldn’t it? After all, cacao is also the core component in dark chocolate. When it comes to antioxidant capacity, cocoa has more antioxidants than both tea and red wine . Cocoa is inversely associated with blood pressure, and lowers the risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality .
For those who don’t have an intolerance to dairy and lactose, milk can be a good way to get in added calcium, vitamins, and some extra protein. However, dairy is insulinogenic (insulin producing), so if you’re going to drink it, it might be best to do so after your workout . The consumption of dairy has been associated with improved body compositions . I wouldn’t go overboard though. It’s not clear whether this improved body composition is a result of calcium, or some other compounds in dairy. Calcium is also high in foods such as herbs, nuts, seeds, and green leafy vegetables. Positive effects of dairy on cardiovascular health, type II diabetes, and some cancers have been noted; however, there has been some evidence of an increased risk of prostate cancer   . If you tolerate dairy well, milk can be a viable addition to your diet.
There are too many health benefits to coconuts to list out in a paragraph. Coconut has been a staple in many cultures for a very long time. Nearly every part of the coconut provides some sort of health benefit. Coconut water has been shown to decrease blood pressure in hypertensive subjects . Add some fruit to it for additional flavor, or add some to your smoothies. If you like the taste of coconut, feel free to drink it in its simple form.