8 Best Healthy Drinks, According To Nutritionists
If you’re like most Americans, you struggling to meet your daily fluid needs. You’re either too busy, forgetful, or just bored with the taste of water. That being said, proper hydration is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle – and water just happens to be the best way to stay hydrated.
Whether it’s keeping the intestines working properly, improving skin health, or regulating body temperature, there are plenty of reasons why drinking more water should be at the top of your to-do list. to do. “Every cell in your body needs water to function,” says Stefani Sassos, registered dietitian, MS, RDN, associate director of the Good Housekeeping Institute Nutrition Lab. “From preventing infections to optimizing your metabolic rate, the benefits of staying hydrated are vast and can even improve sleep quality and mood.”
About 75% of Americans are dehydratedand even mild dehydration can negatively impact energy levels, mood, and cognitive performance. But how much water do you need? Eight cups a day is a good rule of thumb, but your needs will vary greatly depending on your age, activity level, weight, health, and the climate you live in. For example, if you exercise regularly, you need to increase your water intake. On the other hand, if you’re at risk for certain medical conditions, like chronic kidney disease, drinking a gallon of water a day can be dangerous, so you’ll need to follow your doctor’s orders.
If you determine that you need to increase the amount of H2O you drink each day, but don’t like the taste of water at all, here’s the secret to staying hydrated: Keep it interesting! Plain water is not the only way to meet your daily needs. Nutrition experts recommend adding these best healthy drinks to your daily routine too.
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Flavored Sparkling Water
Water, but sparkle! Flavored sparkling water is just as hydrating as plain water – and it’s healthy too. “The best alternatives to water are low-sugar or sugar-free,” says Mascha Davis MPH, RDN, registered dietitian nutritionist and author of eat your vitamins. Davis adds that some varieties are also fortified with prebiotics, which can help fuel the good bacteria in your gut. If you’re looking to cut down on your soda or alcohol intake, try taking a sparkling non-alcoholic drink with flavored seltzer water or club soda.
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Kombucha is a fermented drink made from water, tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast. It’s naturally packed with probiotics, which help restore the balance of good bacteria in your gut. When you drink kombucha, you’re consuming healthy microbes that support your digestion and overall gut health. “While kombucha is by no means a magic elixir, it is still a great alternative to alcoholic beverages that can count towards your hydration needs,” says Nicole Rodriguez, RDN. You’ll want to avoid kombucha products that contain artificial flavors and excessive added sugars; instead, look for phrases like “naturally fermented” to ensure you’re getting minimally processed kombucha.
“Green tea is a great choice for its vitality benefits and may even help with blood sugar regulation and metabolic health,” Davis says. It also contains compounds like the antioxidant catechins, a class of flavonoids that help protect the body against free radicals and play a role in slowing the aging process.
If you’re looking for a coffee alternative, this might be your best bet. Green tea has a lower dose of caffeine than coffee and helps you avoid side effects like jitters or headaches, but can still keep your energy levels stable.
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If you’re always on the go, having a smoothie on hand can help keep you hydrated and nourished. These thick, creamy drinks can be made by blending your favorite fruits and vegetables with healthy sources of protein and fiber.
“When making a smoothie, think about protein, fat, fiber, and flavor,” Rodriguez says. In addition to carbohydrates in the form of fruits or vegetables, muscle-building proteins should be the base of your smoothie, whether it’s yogurt, milk, cottage cheese or whey protein. Then add a plant-based source of fat and fiber, like nut butter and chia seeds, and a tasty ingredient like cocoa powder to make a delicious, nutrient-dense smoothie.
RELATED: The best healthy smoothie recipes to start your day.
Hibiscus tea is made from the leaves of the hibiscus flower with its bright pink, red color and tart yet refreshing flavor. Rich in antioxidants like vitamin C and flavonoids, this tea can help prevent disease and boost immunity. In fact, drinking just one cup a day can lower blood pressure, according to a study.
To make, pick up dried hibiscus flowers on your next grocery run, pour boiling water over the dried flowers, and steep for five minutes. Then filter, sweeten and enjoy. Always consult your doctor if you are breastfeeding, pregnant, or taking medication before incorporating herbal teas into your diet.
Coconut water is a popular hydration option that has a sweet, nutty flavor. Plus, it’s packed with electrolytes like potassium, sodium, and magnesium that help maintain fluid balance. “It’s a great drink choice for a post-workout boost,” says Davis, who recommends choosing “100% coconut water” brands and watching out for added sugars and flavoring agents.
Sassos adds that if you don’t like the taste of coconut water on its own, try incorporating it into smoothies or mixed with sparkling water.
Low-fat and fat-free milk
Low-fat and fat-free milk is both an economical and nutritionally complete beverage. In fact, milk is one of the best sources of calcium, which your body needs to support bone health. It also contains key nutrients like B vitamins, phosphorus, potassium and vitamin K. “Low-fat and fat-free milk are both sources of 13 essential nutrients and provide a balance of protein and carbohydrates,” says Rodriguez. If milk typically upsets your stomach, keep an eye out in the dairy aisle for lactose-free versions of these hydrating superstars.
In addition to drinking it neat, you can make your own hot chocolate with milk. Cocoa provides energizing caffeine, increases “feel-good” hormones and contains antioxidant-rich polyphenols. To make, add a scoop of cocoa powder to your favorite hot milk, sprinkle with cinnamon and sweetener of your choice to taste, stir and enjoy!
Kefir is a fermented milk drink with a tart, creamy taste and a texture similar to a drinking yogurt. It’s higher in probiotics than many other fermented dairy products and is a source of key nutrients like vitamin D, calcium and magnesium, all of which support bone health and heart health. Sassos says that given its probiotic-rich nature, kefir has been shown to support a healthy immune system and even modulates the immune system to remove virus infections.
With a protein content of ten grams per cup, you’ll be well on your way to feeling full after drinking kefir. If you have lactose intolerance, this is a great alternative to milk, as it’s low in lactose. To enjoy kefir, pour a glass and drink it alone or use it as a base in your breakfast parfait. It also makes a great homemade salad dressing!
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