There is no better beverage for the human body than water. Next to air, it is the most essential nutrient for all living creatures, including plants. The human body is made up of approximately 65% water, drawing comparisons to a water balloon.
The billions of cells in our bodies require water for all their vital functions; deprived of this life-giving fluid, these cells quickly die. It is also extremely important to stay well hydrated to make up for the fluids constantly lost to perspiration, excretion, and respiration. It turns out that plain, cool, filtered water is best for hydration because it is quickly dispatched to the tissues that need it; with other beverages, the process of hydration is considerably slower.
But drawn to more colorful, tasty, “exciting” beverages, many people quickly tire of clear, thirst-quenching, “dull” water, even though it remains the only fluid the body really needs. To our bodies’ detriment, these alluring alternatives are often laden with refined sugars, chemical sweeteners, or artificial colors and flavors.
Since man was not created for water alone, what choices are wisest when reaching for something a little jazzier than water? Here are some alternatives that can add variety to your beverage cuisine: Teas – caffeinated (such as white, green, and black teas) and herbal – have become very popular in the last decade. Tea may be drunk iced, hot, or at room temperature, with fresh lemon greatly enhancing taste and aroma. If you like, you may use a natural sweetener, such as stevia, agar nectar, and honey - sparingly. For individuals with blood sugar concerns, stevia and agar nectar are preferable to honey, in that they do not affect blood sugar levels. Coffee, in moderation, is also acceptable; the latest research actually finds health benefits in that morning cup of joe.
What about carbonated beverages? Although not the beverage of choice, sparkling water – naturally flavored or unflavored – may be used to add variety, but try to limit its consumption to special occasions. Other beverage options are freshly squeezed vegetable juices (e.g. tomato, carrot, and blends) and fruit juices. Keep in mind that even unsweetened fruit juice contains large amounts of sugar, so it’s best to heavily dilute it with water. Or better yet, eat the fruit itself – you’ll quench your thirst with a healthy dose of fiber. Clear water with lemon or lime squeezed in for added taste is light, refreshing, and cleansing. And as research has shown, wine in moderation has potential health benefits as well; in particular, red wine contains resveratrol, a natural compound shown to lower the risk of heart disease.
So raise your glass – to better beverages!