If I were to offer a starting point for anyone’s health journey, before even starting with food, I would have one simple suggestion.
Stop drinking your calories.
Usually I don’t like blanket statements. Any rule anywhere that says you have to cut out X food or eliminate Y food from your life is usually wrong because a) no food is inherently completely good or completely bad – moderation matters most and b) eliminating food can create cravings because we tend to want more what we tell ourselves we can’t have.
However one thing I would say is liquid calories are 99% of the time completely unnecessary in the general population.
Let me explain. This doesn’t include anyone with any illness causing them to be unable to EAT their food, or for whatever reason are completely unable to eat solid food and require supplementation.
I’m talking about the average person like you or me, fortunate enough to have food choices available. And then what most of us do, is not only indulge on the cheaper and tastier food more often than we should, but also add a 2 litre bottle of soft drink, or a 1.5 litre carton of fruit juice. Milk does have nutrients so on this basis I won’t include milk here.
I mean more specifically the soft drinks, fruit juices, energy drinks and speciality drinks (lattes, cappucinos, milkshakes, freezofrappaccino or what have you).
What we gain from drinking Fanta or having a big tumbler of orange juice is sugar, with minimal to absolutely no nutritional value. The argument that natural fruit juices are healthy and contains vitamins is true but because the value you gain from the vitamins (which are not at the level of daily nutrient value) is not without consuming large amount of sugar, leave the suggestion of eating the fruit is a way better option.
Especially in the context of how we don’t usually take an actual serving size of the food we purchase – you know at the back, that box with the nutritional information also gives the serving size, calories per serving plus other information. Usual serving size is 200ml ie a small-medium size glass. Yet how often are 440ml cans, 500ml and even 1L bottles devoured, even multiple times a day.
And this is the trap we tend to fall into which if we were to avoid, could make a huge dent in improving not only our weight but also our general health.
Consuming large amounts of sugar which have no nutritional value simply doesn’t add any points to your health. In the context where it is taken in moderation eg 200 mls as part of a well balanced meal in which your lifestyle consists of some regular physical activity, adequate nutrients and calorie intake and adequate sleep, it may actually be better off ass there is balance in the whole lifestyle.
However what you’d tend to see is that these sugar laden drinks tend to get a bad rap not because of themselves (remember, no one particular food/drink is good or bad) but people who tend to drink these drinks also tend to exercise less, cook less, eat less nutritious food, smoke more and drink more alcohol and may have irregular/not enough sleep.
So there is a high correlation with sugary drinks and poorer health, for the reasons mentioned above. More plainly, the more “health conscious” you are, the less “healthy” activities you would tend to partake in. And yes fruit juice is in this group or sugary drinks as well. They are marketed are being healthier because the industry wants us to consume consume consume, so they make more $$$.
Sugar in itself is NOT a problem. It is simply a form of carbohydrate, which, if taken in moderation like any of the other macronutrients, will do no harm.
It is the excess that does harm. And where do we find excess? Of course, in our yummy juices and soft drinks!
So what do you do if you note that you do take in soft drinks everyday, or have a huge glass of juice (400ml) or have 3 chocolate milkshakes a week on average, and want to make some lifestyle changes? Simply reduce your intake gradually, and replace with water.
And what about shakes? And smoothies? Well with shakes and smoothies are usually better options as they often contain whole foods plus nutrients including protein, fibre and indeed alot of nutrients. Now THESE are something I support. In fact they may be an alternative if you don’t have time (or energy) to actually cook food.
And what about freshly squeezed juice (not bought from the store)? Even if you used your bare hands to squeeze the orange, you are mainly drinking the liquid without the benefits of filling fibre. Plus how many oranges would you need to squeeze to fill even a glass. Which brings us back to the large quantity of sugars. It would be easier, more filling with less calories to eat the fruit whole.
Milkshakes, frappaccinos? Well, those are laden with not only an ungodly amount of sugar but cream, chocolate and more unnecessary delicious components. I think most of us do know inherently to keep this to a minimum.
Do you find water boring? Well, you can add a small amount of fruits or lemon juice to it for “taste”. Cold water is delicious in hot weather too. But truth is water is plain. You just have to suck it up mostly, and if you stick to it long enough, you will find that you look forward to water, craving it actually instead of soft drinks. Your appetite may reduce because sometimes we drink when we are actually thirsty, your skin will glow, your kidneys will smile, headaches may reduce, etc etc. The health benefits of water are definitely numerous and can be life changing.
Moderation is always key, however in the case of soft drinks, milkshakes and even juices, I opt to recommend against them. Simply because their value (short of instant gratification) doesn’t outweigh the high GI carbohydrate-only calories they come with.
There is an argument for zero calorie drinks in the context of calories and they are a better substitute for original drink, however water is the gold standard to aim for.
So the next time you read for that can of Sprite, or feel thirsty, you walk into the kitchen, open the fridge trying to decide, just take a pause to wonder if it really is worth it for you and if it is taking you towards or away from where you want to be.
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