Choosing healthy food is important if you want to feel great and stay well, but equally as important are the beverages you choose to consume. But with so many supposedly health-enhancing beverages to choose from today, how are you to know what really are the healthiest beverages? From stevia-sweetened sodas and waters with “natural flavors,” to coconut water and kombucha, it can be confusing to figure out the best choices. If you really want to boost your health, what does the science reveal about the healthiest beverages?
We all know proper hydration is important. But did you know that many people live in a state of chronic, low-level dehydration that can affect every part of their health — even the ability to think clearly? In a recent study at the University of East London, more than half of schoolchildren tested were found to be in a state of mild dehydration at the beginning of the school day. Children were given a test to measure cognitive performance, and then were given glasses of water and retested. In nearly every measure, including happiness, visual attention, and visual search, their scores increased. Similar studies with both children and adults have confirmed the findings that proper hydration is essential for cognitive performance and mental health.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is widely reported as one of the best beverages for cancer prevention, but did you know that green tea has also been found to improve artery function, thus reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease? Our blood vessels are lined with the endothelium – a thin, protective lining of cells. The endothelial cells produce a gas called nitric oxide which helps our blood flow smoothly. These precious cells only live for about 30 years. As these cells die and are replaced, people in their 40s and 50s often experience a decline in endothelial function. This decline in endothelial function is associated with an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and more.
3. Hibiscus Tea
In 2010, an extensive study was conducted on the total antioxidant content of more than 3,100 foods, beverages, spices, herbs, and supplements used worldwide. This study included 283 beverages. Of all beverages included, hibiscus tea was found to be highest in antioxidants. Hibiscus leaves are what make Red Zinger™ tea “zingy,” and they can be quite tart. One way to sweeten this ruby red herbal tea is by making a variation of the classic Mexican drink, called Agua Fresca. This is traditionally made with watermelon, lime, and sugar, but you can leave out the sugar.
4. Water With Apple Cider Vinegar
A glass of water with the addition of apple cider vinegar has long been used as a folk remedy for many ailments. Recent studies have confirmed that consuming vinegar with a meal reduces the spike in blood sugar, insulin, and triglycerides. It also increases satiety – the feeling of being full after a meal. In a recent Japanese study, vinegar intake was found to reduce body weight and body fat mass. During the 12-week trial, study participants were randomized into three groups and given similar vinegar beverages to drink each day – a high dose group, a low dose group and a control group, which was given a vinegar flavored drink containing no vinegar at all (a placebo).
5. White Tea
White, green, oolong, and black teas all come from the same tea plant – Camellia sinensis. But they differ in how they are processed. White tea is the least processed, followed by green, then oolong, then black, which is the most processed. The leaves and buds of white tea are simply steamed and dried. White tea also has a light, delicate flavor. Green tea has the highest level of antioxidants of the camellia sinensis teas at 5.73 mmol/l Fe2+ and once lemon is added, the levels of antioxidants are slightly increased to 6.39. White tea, however, begins at 4.02 mmol/l Fe2+ but adding lemon more than triples its antioxidant levels to 15.2!
Coffee has long been a controversial beverage when it comes to our health, but recent evidence suggests that the world’s favorite way to wake up may have caught an unnecessarily bad rap. Of course, what’s done to coffee — namely how the end product is made — has a significant impact on how healthy it actually is for you. Many coffee shops add sugar, milk, artificial flavorings, high fructose corn syrup, and other chemicals that can more than cancel out the health benefits of the coffee itself. But straight-up coffee has been found to be good for enhancing mood, reaction time, and general mental function. It improves circulation by dilating your blood vessels and may lower your risk for dementia, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.