It seems supermarket shelves are brimming over with a plethora of different beverages, and as a result making a heart-healthy choice can be particularly challenging So, what really makes for the perfect healthy drink?
Water is the ideal beverage, with zero calories, and 100% hydration! Aim to have 6-8 cups each day. If plain water isn't your thing, why not liven it up a little with a few slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber? Or, if you go for flavored water, be sure to check the nutritional label, as they can be very high in sugar, or artificial sweeteners.
Low-fat milk or soymilk are also healthy beverage alternatives, and considering most of us don't get enough calcium, a glass of milk each day can be particularly useful. If you opt for soymilk, look out for the calcium enriched version.
Sterol-fortified milks are available, which can be useful if you're trying to lower cholesterol levels.
#3 Whole fruit juice
When choosing fruit juice, select those that are 100% whole, with no added sugar. A small glass (4 ounces) makes up one serving, which is the recommended daily amount.
You can also purchase a sterol-fortified version, which will help to lower high cholesterol levels, and reduce inflammation - a process which plays and important role in the development of heart disease.
Tea is suggested to reduce the risk of stroke, some cancers and heart disease. A review carried out in 2001 of ten follow-up studies, found that the risk of heart attack was reduced by 11% when 3 cups of tea per day were consumed (237ml).
If you go for bottled tea, choose those that are unsweetened, or try making your own homemade iced, or hot herbal tea instead, as a healthier alternative to the sugar laden products.
#5 Sports drinks
Sports drinks are lower in calories than fruit juice or soda. However, they don't have the same nutritional goodness as fruit juice, or milk, and water is still the fluid of choice if your physical activity lasts less than 60 minutes.
Coffee has been credited as being "heart healthy," but if it's laden with cream and sugar, it will play havoc with your diet! Creamy coffee drinks can range anywhere from 300 to a whopping 500 calories, depending on your choice.
However, there are lower calorie options available, for example plain black coffees, skinny lattes, or for something completely different, herbal teas.
Alcohol is often an underestimated calorie source. The Consumer Federation of American have produced a handy Alcohol Facts chart, which provides details of the calorie content of alcoholic drinks on the market.
You should also take into consideration what mixer you use, as they can almost double the calorie content of your drink.
#8 Soft drinks
Researchers actually think that soda drinkers are more likely to have a lower intake of important nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, magnesium, and calcium. It's best to steer clear of soft drinks as much as possible - with 10 teaspoons of sugar per can; it's pretty clear how unhealthy they are.
#9 Diet soda
If you're trying to lose weight obviously diet drinks are a good choice, however I'd recommend consuming in moderation (once each week), as artificial sweeteners are best avoided, if at all possible.
#10 Energy drinks
Many energy drinks are loaded with caffeine, sugar and herbal stimulants that make you alert, however they can also make your heart beat faster, which can put you at risk of health issues.
The worrying problem with energy drinks is that they've become popular mixers for alcoholic beverages; this combination of caffeine and alcohol can be very dangerous.
5 refreshing beverage alternatives:
- Ice cold water with sprigs of fresh mint
- Green tea with chunks of lemon
- 50/50 whole fruit juice and fizzy water
- Home made iced tea with crushed ice
- Hot water with fresh ginger and slices of lemon
Read more from Melanie:
5 Easy Ways to Make Picknicking a Heart-Healthy Summertime Treat
Chinese Red Yeast Rice: Good for the Heart
Tea Does Your Heart Good: Learn Which Kinds and How Much
Melanie Thomassian is a professional dietitian, and author of the award winning Dietriffic.com.