The Five Healthiest Beverages You Can Drink
(Including Two You May Not Have Heard Of)
© 2014 Health Realizations, Inc. Update
When you’re feeling parched and need to quench your thirst, the beverage you choose can make a big difference to your health. And while most of us know that soda and other sweet drinks are not the healthiest choices around, which beverages are truly health-promoting remains more of a mystery.
Pure water is essential for your survival, and truly one of the healthiest beverages on the planet.
Ironically, while we need fluids for our very survival, continually choosing the wrong ones may push your health out of balance. So here we’ve detailed some of the best of the best when it comes to good-for-you drink choices. With these healthy beverages you really can do no wrong.
Water is crucial for survival -- it's the base of all your body fluids, like blood and digestive juices, it helps nutrients from your food get absorbed and be transported, and it helps eliminate waste. Even becoming mildly dehydrated (when you lose as little as 1 percent to 2 percent of your body weight) can seriously impact your body's ability to function.
How much water do you need? It's commonly said that you should drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day to stay healthy, but this is really just a rule of thumb, as so many factors (weather, age, activity level, health) affect how much water your body needs.
In general, you can prevent dehydration by focusing on staying hydrated throughout the day. Keep water with you and drink it regularly -- before you get thirsty. If it's hot outside or you're exercising (or pregnant or breastfeeding), you'll need even more fluids so drink more water.
A word of caution: not all water is good for you. Tap water can be potentially contaminated with chemicals, pesticides or even pharmaceutical drugs. And bottled water, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), has weaker regulations than the Environmental Protection Agency requires for tap water.
Plus, the bottles themselves often contain bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical that mimics the female hormone estrogen, impacting fertility, reproductive health and potentially promoting cancer, heart disease, diabetes and liver problems.
Kefir is a tart, yogurt-like beverage made from fermented milk that is popular in Russia at breakfast as well as an after-dinner snack. It has been a staple beverage in Russia since ancient times, and is just beginning to become popular among health-conscious U.S. consumers.
What makes kefir so healthy is that it’s full of beneficial bacteria (probiotics), which produce beneficial enzymes, aid digestion and promote healthy flora in your digestive tract. This nourishing drink is considered by many to boost the immune system, help fight disease and improve overall health (it is even customary for patients in Russian hospitals to receive kefir).
It's simple to make kefir at home using milk and kefir starter granules you can find online or in health food stores. You simply heat the milk slightly, add the granules, then let it sit, covered, for about a day.
Kvass is another fermented beverage from Russia, this one made from stale dark, sourdough rye bread. Kvass has been enjoyed in Russia for at least 1,000 years, yet even today if you visit Russia during the summer months you will see people lining up to get a cool glass of this tangy beverage from a street vendor.
Kvass in traditional form, if you can find it, is an extremely healthy beverage. It is rich in B vitamins, thought to relieve intestinal problems and hangovers. But more importantly, like kefir kvass is fermented, which means it contains beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, that are regarded as a digestive aid, and that may destroy disease-causing microbes in your intestine.
If you’d like to try out authentic kvass for yourself, you're guaranteed a wide variety if you hop a plane to Russia.
- 1 pound rye bread, cut into 1/4-inch slices (it should contain only rye flour, and no additives or preservatives)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar, in all
- 1 package dry active yeast
- 1 tablespoon unbleached white flour
- Filtered water
- About 1 dozen raisins
- Spread the bread on cookie sheets and bake for about 30 minutes at 325 degrees F. When cool, chop into 1/4-inch pieces in a food processor.
- Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil and then cool to 175 degrees F. Add the bread, stir well, cover with a lid and leave in a warm place (76-78 degrees F) for 1 hour. Strain and reserve both the bread and the liquid.
- Bring another 2 1/2 quarts of water to a boil, cool down to 175 degrees F and add the reserved bread. Cover with a lid and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Strain and discard the bread. Combine both batches of liquid.
- Place 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon water in a small cast-iron skillet. Stir continuously over heat until the mixture turns golden brown. (Be careful not to burn it.) Remove from heat and gradually blend in 1/2 cup of the reserved liquid. Then stir this mixture into the entire batch of liquid.
- In a small saucepan place 1 cup water and the remaining 1 1/4 cups sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes, skimming once or twice. Stir this syrup into the reserved liquid and allow the mixture to come to room temperature (about 75 degrees F).
- Mix the yeast with the flour and combine with 1 cup of the liquid. Return this yeast mixture to the pot. Make an X of masking tape across the top of the pot. Cover the pot with 2 layers of cheesecloth or a clean kitchen towel and leave in a warm place (73-78 degrees F) for 8-12 hours or overnight. Cool the kvass to about 50-54 degrees F. Transfer to bottles, seal tightly and refrigerate for 24 hours. The kvass will keep in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
4. Green Tea (and Other Varieties)
Green tea has emerged as a major natural player in fighting diseases like heart disease and cancer and helping with weight loss. Many people sip it religiously everyday in the hopes that it will make them healthier. Here is just a short list of some of the conditions green tea is supposed to help:
High cholesterol levels
Impaired immune function
High blood sugar levels
Many of the health benefits are attributed to the fact that green tea is a rich source of catechin polyphenols, namely epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which is a potent antioxidant. Other types of tea, such as black tea, may also have healthy antioxidant benefits, so feel free to expand your tea repertoire beyond green tea if you’re so inclined.
5. High-Antioxidant 100% Fruit Juice
Fruit juice is high in sugar and because of this whether or not it's truly healthy is debatable. And though most experts will unanimously agree that eating the whole fruit is always better than drinking fruit juice, certain types of juice do have their benefits.
A University of California, Los Angeles, study ranked 10 beverages according to their levels of disease-fighting antioxidants, and concluded that the 10 best were mostly fruit juices. The most antioxidant-rich beverages they found were:
- Pomegranate juice
- Red wine
- Concord grape juice
- Blueberry juice
- Black cherry juice
- Açaí juice
- Cranberry juice
- Orange juice
- Apple juice
If you do choose to drink juice, doing so in moderation is recommended. Further, there are major differences in juice quality out there. Here's what to look for, and avoid, when choosing a fruit juice for yourself or your child:
- Choose 100-percent fruit juice only.
- Avoid "fruit drinks," "fruit-juice cocktails," "fruit beverages," and any juices that have added sugars, flavors or colors.
- Choose dark-colored fruit juices (such as grape, cranberry, pomegranate, and blueberry), as they're rich in antioxidants.
- Look for juice that has sediment on the bottom of the jar. This means the fruit skins, which are very nutritious, were used in the processing (and be sure to shake the bottle up before your pour a glass).
Look for drinks that are 100% natural with NO caffeine, no preservatives, no synthetic food colors or artificial flavors. All to keep you hydrated, helping you function better, including after a workout, tiring day or whenever you need a boost.
- If you love fruit juice but want to limit your calories, mix half a serving with sparkling water.
Remember, if you get dehydrated, it will make you feel sluggish and can lead to a host of health problems. So drink up and drink healthy!