Before you become too parched, reach for these healthier beverages instead of soda drinks.

Drinking soda drinks can be a detriment to human health. According to a study published in September 2019 in JAMA Internal Medicine, having soda drinks is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, colorectal cancer, and all causes of death.

It’s also linked to obesity, notes a review published in August 2017 in QJM, the journal of the Association of Physicians of Great Britain and Ireland.

Findings from a review of three small studies and published in the journal Appetitesuggested that soda drinks can trigger sweet cravings by dulling your sensitivity to sweet tastes, sparking a vicious cycle of eating foods and drinks with added sugar.

“Soda drinks have no nutrients of value,” says Kelly Kennedy, RD, staff nutritionist for Everyday Health. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one can of soda contains 36.8 grams (g) of sugar. “That’s about 1 ½ times more than the American Heart Association recommends a woman have in an entire day,” Kennedy notes. All of that added sugar intake has damaging effects.

A past study found that changing just one sugary drink a day for unsweetened coffee, tea, or water may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes by as much as 25 percent.

Diet soda drinks aren’t off the hook either. “While diet soda doesn’t contain added sugar or empty calories, there is some evidence to suggest that it isn’t much better than regular soda drinks,” Kennedy says. A past study found that diet soda intake is directly related to abdominal obesity in adults over age 65.

The increase in waist circumference among diet soda drinkers was 3 times the amount that it was in non-drinkers.

Earlier research suggests that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda may change how the brain’s reward system processes sweetness.

“While you’re not getting the same amount of calories or sugar from a diet soda that you would from a regular one, the belief is that with diet soda the body senses the sweet flavour and craves the calories that would normally go with that flavour,” notes Kennedy. “As a result, people end up making up for the missed calories in other foods that they eat throughout the day.”


In Kennedy’s opinion, other unhealthy lifestyle factors “often go with frequent soda drinks consumption, which compounds the effect on health,” she says. “Oftentimes, when someone is regularly having a soda drink, they’re not making the best food choices either.”

So what are some better choices? There are plenty of other refreshing beverages with nutritional value, that you can drink instead. It’s still important however, to consider what’s in your alternative drinks. Replacing soda drinks with high-sugar fruit juices or processed tea and coffee, which often contain added sugar, isn’t much better for your health.

But choosing drinks that are low in sugar, such as unsweetened iced coffee or tea, can reduce your sugar intake while adding beneficial antioxidants to your diet. “Low-fat or unsweetened soy milk is also a better option, providing vitamins and nutrients, such as calcium,” per the University of California in San Francisco.

Need some inspiration? Get started with these healthier, low-calorie thirst quenchers that are sure to still satisfy your taste buds.


Infuse Your Water With Delicious Flavour

Flavoured waters are everywhere these days, but many contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. A healthier choice is natural flavouring: Just add slices of your favourite fruit, veges or herbs – try lemons, oranges, watermelon, cucumber, mint, or limes – to a jub of ice-cold water for a refreshing and flavoursome drink.

Another great idea is to put chopped-up fruit in an ice cube tray, add water, and freeze. Place these colourful fruit cubes in your beverage for instant flavour and colour!

Go Natural With Green Tea – Hot or Iced

A past review of green tea research revealed that it may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, obesity, liver disease, and type 2 diabetes. In addition, the USDA notes that green tea is calorie-free (if you have it without milk or sugar) and naturally high in antioxidants, and is available in many varieties.

Make Your Water Sparkling

Plain, old-fashioned H2O is the healthiest substitute for soda, “but sometimes, people have a tough time making the switch directly from drinking soda to water,” Kennedy says. One way to smooth this transitionis to sip on sparkling water. You’ll get the hydration of water with the feel of carbonation from soda, Kennedy says, and in moderation, there are no downsides in terms of health.

Add Juice to Your Sparkling

There’s no need to purchase sugary soda drinks or pricey, so-called vitamin-enhanced waters, when instead you can use 100 percent no-sugar-added juice. A thick, tart juice, such as pomegranate or grape, makes for a great base. Pomegranate juice and grape juice are sources of antioxidants that may help protect your brain and blood vessels. Grape juice, meanwhile, may help protect the heart, according to a past article.

Regardless of the juice you drink, you don’t want to go overboard with this beverage. After all, whole fruit trumps juice when it comes to health benefits. “It’s a common misconception that juice is good for you because it’s made from fruit,” notes Kennedy. While it does have nutritional benefits that soda lacks, it can also be high in added sugar and calories. According to research published in May 2020 in the Journal of the American Heart Association, that added sugar can spell trouble for your health. After collecting self-reported data from more than 106,000 women over two decades, researchers found that those who consumed fruit juices with added sugars every day, rather than 100 percent fruit juice, had a 40 percent greater risk of cardiovascular disease. Plus, fruit juice lacks the filling fibre that fruit offers, notes the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Fake a Lemon-Lime Soda to Satisfy Your Citrus Fix

Can’t give up your favourite citrus-flavoured soda? Indulge in an occasional treat with a healthier version made with lemon or lime and a small amount of sweetener. Start with a glass of sparkling water and add a few slices of lemon or lime (or both) and a dash of stevia-based sweetener, which is calorie-free and low in carbohydrates. A small, short-term study suggests drinking beverages sweetened with 1g of stevia doesn’t increase appetite, though more rigorous research is needed.

Red Wine May Be Fine When Consumer In Moderation

If your drink of choice is a spirit mixed with cola, you may be better off ordering a glass of wine, specifically the red variety. “Drinking red wine has been associated with some potential health benefits, such as improved heart health and decreased risk of certain types of cancer,” Kennedy says. “However, it’s important to keep in mind that these health benefits are associated with moderate drinking habits only,” Kennedy says. “If you do not currently drink alcohol, it’s important that you not start in an attempt to gain these potential benefits.”

Research published in the August 2018 issue of The Lancet reveals that alcohol use is a leading risk factor for death and disability globally (it was the seventh leading risk factor for death in 2016). Study authors also warn that alcohol is a leading risk factor for global disease and causes significant health loss.

If you do enjoy the occasional glass of red wine, watch your consumption. MedlinePlus recommends that women limit alcohol consumption to one drink (4 ounces of wine) per day and men to two drinks per day.

Juice Fresh Vegetables

Vegetable juice offers a quick, low-calorie way to get many of the benefits of vegetables, without fibre. It also contains much less natural sugar than fruit juices, according to chapter eight of Culinary Nutrition. For example, per the USDA, 1 cup of orange juice contains roughly 24 grams (g) of sugar, while 1 cup of tomato juice contains 6 g of sugar. But vegetable juice can be high in sodium – 1 cup of tomato juice has 629 milligrams (mg) of sodium, which is roughly 27 percent of your daily value, so opt for a low-sodium version whenever possible.

Better yet, make your own fresh juice easily at home with a juicer. Simply add your favourite veges, and even a few slices of fruit if you want to sweeten your drink, to the juicer — no chopping required. And if you prefer a little kick, add some black pepper and a drop of hot sauce.

If You Can’t Do Dairy, Do Soy Milk

One cup of non-fat milk provides 322 mg of calcium, or nearly 25 percent of your daily value, and 2.7 micrograms of vitamin D, roughly 13.5 percent of your daily value, according to the USDA. But for those who are lactose intolerant or who don’t consume dairy, soy milk can be a good protein-packed, plant-based alternative, available in a variety of flavours, including almond and vanilla. While the data on soy’s health benefits have been mixed, intake of soy protein may lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, as well as blood pressure, according to a past review.

Look for low-fat, unsweetened soy beverages to reduce calories. Also, pick soy milk that has been fortified with nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, especially if you’re drinking it as a substitute for milk.

Other plant-based milks such as almond, coconut, rice, or oat are also potential dairy alternatives. But keep in mind that soy is the most nutritionally comparable substitute for dairy milk in terms of protein, Kennedy says.

If You Need Caffeine, Have A Cup of Coffee

A wealth of research suggests that drinking coffee in moderation can be a healthy part of your diet. “Unsweetened coffee, either black or with a small amount of non-fat or low-fat milk, or plant-based milk like almond or soy would be the healthiest option,” says Kennedy. Coffee drinkers may have a lower risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, endometrial cancer, and death from any cause, according to a review published in 2017 in BMJ.

The key to reaping the benefits of caffeine however, is not to overdo it. Too much caffeine can leave you jittery and anxious, so dietitians generally recommend that you drink no more than a couple of cups a day (depending on the way it’s prepared).

“It’s generally considered safe to have up to 400 milligrams of caffeine each day,” says Kennedy. “Certain types of brewing will have different amounts of caffeine, and some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others.
Pregnant women and those trying to become pregnant may want to avoid it, though research on this is mixed.”

Coffee consumption is also associated with an increased risk of fracture in women, so if you’re a woman with a high risk of fracture, you may want to steer clear of coffee, according to a review published in 2017 in BMJ. Yet authors say more research is needed.

Sip On Kombucha, A Fermented Tea

Kombucha, which is fermented tea, is another great way to satisfy your craving for carbonation while slashing your added-sugar intake. Plus, kombucha offers many potential health benefits, thanks in part to the fermentation process, which produces gut-friendly bacteria known as probiotics, according to a paper in the February 2019 issue of Annals of Epidemiology. “More studies are needed on the health benefits of kombucha, but it is a good source of probiotics and could help to improve gut health,” Kennedy says. The fermentation process gives kombucha a mildly acidic flavour, not unlike apple cider, according to a past review.

“One thing to keep in mind is that a small amount of alcohol is produced by the fermentation process,” Kennedy says. You may want to avoid kombucha if you’re sensitive to the effects of alcohol or if you’re pregnant or nursing.

People who are fighting off a serious illness, going through chemotherapy, or taking immune-suppressing drugs may also want to avoid kombucha, as the probiotics can cause harmful side effects, warns the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.

Refresh With A Glass of Coconut Water

Unsweetened coconut water is a natural source of vitamins and minerals, and has the added benefit of being low in sugar (only 12 g per cup), according to estimates from the USDA. Plus, coconut water contains electrolytes (minerals that help maintain fluid balance), such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium, which are often depleted during long or strenuous exercise, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The hospital adds that coconut water also contains less sodium than sports drinks. A very small study on 10 men found that coconut water was just as effective as a sports drink for rehydrating after a 90-minute run while causing less nausea and stomach upset.