Top 8 summer drinks you should avoid 

A cool drink in a tall glass held in your hand and slowly sipped from is often associated with a hot summer day.  However, some of these ‘summer’ drinks pack a blow to your health, most likely in the form of a sugar bomb.

It’s so easy to slurp your way through 100’s of grams of excess sugar just by enjoying a couple of cool drinks a day.  And that is usually just the tip of the iceberg…

However, it doesn’t have to be like that because there are healthier options that will not only quench your thirst but may also satisfy your sweet tooth.  Basically, there’s no reason why you should damage your health (and your waistline) with these liquid disasters.

I can guess what you're thinking… you're not going to give up the little pleasure of enjoying a cool, tasty drink on a hot summer day. And I should hope not! But you needn't assume that sugar-packed soft or fizzy drinks, lemonade, sweet tea or frappes are your only choices. By thinking outside the box, you can satisfy your craving for a tasty cool beverage in a way that will essentially support instead of damage your health.  If you’re into alcoholic drinks, here’ some advice how to choose healthier options.

Here’s a list of the worst 8 drinks that you should avoid and below each a healthier alternative.

1. Soft drinks (including fizzy, regular or ‘diet’) – in many ways, these are as bad

for you as smoking is. The majority of these drinks pack too much sugar, or even worse,

artificial sweeteners.  For example, the artificial sweetener aspartame has many side

effects which are associated with consuming it including birth defects, brain tumours,

diabetes, emotional disorders and epilepsy or seizures.

In addition it contains:

  • Phosphoric acid - which can interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium, leading to osteoporosis or softening of the teeth and bones.

  • Benzene - While the usual limit for benzene in drinking water is 5 parts per billion (ppb), researchers have found benzene levels as high as 79 ppb in some soft drinks.  Benzene is a known carcinogen.

  • Artificial food colours - including caramel colouring, which has been identified as carcinogenic. The artificial brown colouring is made by reacting corn sugar with ammonia and sulphites under high pressures and at high temperatures.

  • Sodium benzoate - a popular preservative found in many soft drinks, which can cause DNA damage. This could eventually lead to diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and Parkinson's.

Instead of fizzy drinks go for sparkling mineral water….. you can add some fresh lemon or lime juice, couple of drops of peppermint or vanilla extract, liquid stevia, crushed mint leaves or cucumber slices.

2 Wine coolers - Wine coolers are alcoholic beverages which are produced to taste much

like fruit juice than alcohol. But in order to make them taste sweet, manufacturers usually

add fruit juice and sugar to the wine, which is often of the cheapest available quality. Some

"wine" coolers aren't even made from wine but instead are made of the far cheaper "malt".

These coolers can also contain artificial food colours, artificial flavours and even artificial

sweeteners like aspartame. And, of course, they also contain alcohol, which is very similar

to fructose both in its addictive properties and the kind of havoc it can cause to your health.

Whilst I don't recommend drinking alcohol, if you're going to have an alcoholic beverage, a glass of organic red or white wine is a far healthier choice to a heavily (or artificially) sweetened wine cooler.

3 Beer - The "classic" problems associated with beer – its alcohol content and huge

quantity of empty calories – are only the tip of the iceberg for why you should limit your beer

consumption. The yeast which is used to produce beer is a powerful trigger for uric acid.

Uric acid is a normal waste product found in the blood. High levels of uric acid are normally

associated with gout, but it also has been known for a long time that people suffering from

hypertension or kidney disease, and those who are overweight, frequently have high uric acid

levels as well. It used to be considered that the uric acid was secondary in these conditions, and not the cause.

Recent research indicates that uric acid could be a lead player in the development of these conditions, rather than just a supporting actor, when its levels in the body reach 5.5 mg/dl or above. At this level, uric acid is associated with an increased risk for developing high blood pressure, as well as diabetes, obesity, gout and kidney disease.

The classic "beer belly" is actually very similar to metabolic syndrome, and includes abdominal fat, hypertriglyceridemia (high triglycerides), hypertension, and even insulin resistance, so reducing or eliminating beer consumption is also something to consider when you're watching your weight and trying to improve your health.

For a spicy alternative, why not try adding whole ginger root to cold sparkling water

4 Fruit juices – Despite being very popular summer drinks, fruit juices

(including lemonade) are basically just an additional source of sugar you are

better do without.  Lemonade (the common type bought in the store) is

typically a blend of sugar or high fructose corn syrup, water, and flavourings.

It may or may not contain small amounts of actual lemon juice. In terms of its

impact on your health, lemonade and fruit juice will act much like fizzy drinks,

exposing you to excessive amounts of fructose that will increase your risk of

weight gain and chronic degenerative conditions. However, if you make fresh

lemonade or limeade then it is fine because these are the lowest fruits in fructose content. If you do have to use a sweetener, use a sweetener such as stevia and avoid processed sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Here's a recipe for a refreshing homemade fruit spritzer that's actually good for you. You can even throw in frozen berries instead of ice cubes. 

 

Ingredients:

  • Splash of bottled or fresh-squeezed organic watermelon juice

  • Splash of bottled or fresh-squeezed organic cherry juice

  • Ice to fill large glass 2/3 full

  • Approx. 1 cup sparkling water

 

Preparation: 

Fill tall glass 2/3 full with ice.

Pour in splash of organic watermelon juice.

Pour in splash of organic cherry juice.

Fill glass with sparkling water.
 

5 Ice tea – This is another very popular summer drink which is often confused as ‘healthy’ because of

the antioxidative properties of tea.  However, most iced teas are sweetened artificially or with sugar which

are both better avoided.  While the actual sugar content of sweetened teas obviously varies, it's not

unusual to find sweet tea recipes that contain more than20% sugar, which is twice the usual amount in a

soft drink.  For some people, sweet tea is not an occasional treat, it's more of a ‘ritual ‘, thus increasing the

health risks further more.

A healthier alternative to the readymade store-bought  ice tea would be a homemade version without sugar or  with a squirt of liquid stevia topped up with crushed mint  and if you’re adventurous a dash of cinnamon powder.

6 Energy drinks – These have become exceedingly popular of the last few years.  Many

choose to drink them for the quick energy boost they deliver, however, consuming large

quantities of caffeine may bring about serious health consequences (especially for children

and teens) including caffeine toxicity, stroke, arrhythmia, anxiety and (rarely) death.  Drinking

energy drinks may also have a devastating impact because of the acid on your teeth enamel. 

If you feel depleted of energy and consider reaching out for an energy drink you better realise

that your lack of energy is most likely a result of your lifestyle choices, such as not enough

healthy food, not enough exercise and sleep, and too much processed foods and sugar. To top

all that, you are probably not copping very well with your stress.  So rather than downing that

energy drink, consider making some healthy lifestyle choices.

For the ultimate energy drink dump all the store bought one and make yourself a green energy packed smoothie from fresh organic vegetables such as spinach, parsley, cucumber and celery.  Add a bit of lemon juice and sea salt for added flavour.

7 Sports drinks – Many people drink these drinks because they believe that they are necessary for replenishing electrolytes during exercise especially during the summer. They basically "work" because they contain high amounts of sodium (processed salt), which is meant to replenish the electrolytes you lose while sweating.  Studies show that in most cases rebalancing of the electrolytes is not necessary.  Not even during a marathon.  There are very few individuals whose physiology and level of exertion actually require them to consume sports drinks.  The way this drink work is that they are heavily laden with sodium (processed salt) which is meant to replenish the electrolytes which are lost through sweating. 

 

Additionally, many brands of sports drinks typically contain as much as two-thirds the sugar of soft drinks and more sodium. They also often contain high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) or artificial sweeteners, artificial flavours and food colouring, which has been connected to a variety of health problems, including allergic reactions, hyperactivity, decreased IQ in children, and numerous forms of cancer.Like energy drinks, sports drinks are very bad for your teeth.Brushing your teeth won't help because the citric acid in the sports drink will soften your tooth enamel so much it could be damaged by brushing.

Instead of the shop-bought energy drink why not try organic coconut water.  If is full of natural electrolytes, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, enzymes, antioxidants and phytonutrients, and is low in sugar yet pleasantly sweet.  Look for a brand that has no additives, or buy a fresh coconut and drain the water yourself.

8 Frappes and other iced or frozen drinks – Iced coffee can be great until you start ‘modifying’ it with additional sweeteners (sugar, artificial or natural) and flavouring that turn a nutritionally ‘innocent’ drink into a treat that more closely resembles a ‘boosted’ milkshake. 

 

Some frozen drinks from leading brands can contain up to 100gr of sugar, which is more than 2.5 time the maximum amount of sugar an adult should consume in a day….. and don’t get me started talking about the milk!

Just drink iced coffee and leave out all the ‘trimmings’.  It’s a refreshing drink with many health benefits which disappear as soon as you make it into a ‘dessert’

As ever, if you find this information helpful please share it with others.  The author is a clinical nutritionist practicing in London and the French Riviera (based in Monaco).  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me