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Ask the Doctor: What Should I Drink?

Last week, Dr. Qureshi suggested ditching diet soda. So what are the options without pop?

After last week's article on , I received a follow-up question from a reader:

So, if I can't drink diet soda (or any soda, for that matter) what are my options? Drinking water all the time doesn't seem all that appealing.

While water is the best thing for us, as we are made up of about 75-80 percent water, I do realize it can get boring to just have water all the time. I even grew up drinking mostly Sprite or Coke (I'll even go so far as to say that I probably drank that exclusively) because water was "icky" and "boring." I feel fortunate to have walked away from childhood with only a few cavities. Many of our children now are developing Type 2 diabetes, which used to be associated with adults primarily, amongst other metabolic disorders. This is, in part, due to diet and our ever-increasing reliance on technology for entertainment. I grew up without gaming consoles and even a computer until elementary or middle school, whereas children now learn how to use an iPad by the time they're 4.

I digress ...

I also got a similar question from a patient who has a young son who used to drink diet soda. After reading the article last week, she said no more diet soda. It just wasn't worth the health of her son. Finding options for children can also be hard, but there are some healthy ones besides soda.

  • Juice: 100 percent juice is the way to go for a sweet treat. I always recommend that the juice is 100 percent with no additives or sweeteners. Make sure to read the label on the side. There should be very simple (and few) ingredients. If there's anything that sounds like a chemical experiment listed, look for another brand. In terms of quantity, about 8 ounces a day is about the maximum.
  • Water with fruit: Water with fruit that has been soaking in it is always a tasty option. I had my first experience with this about 10 years ago - water that had orange slices in it. With a fruit infuser, you can put in any fruit that would be tasty for you. There is a product available on Amazon that serves this purpose well! So you get a little bit of sweetness and a different flavor but without a ton of sugar.
  • Tea: A couple of cups of tea a day can be beneficial for your health, according to many different studies. Green and white teas, especially, are rich in antioxidants, which promote a healthy functioning immune system. Some teas are very calming and help promote sleep (chamomile) and others help digestion (minty teas). Tea is a better option than coffee because of the lower amount of caffeine found in tea relative to coffee. Most teas have only a small fraction of the caffeine. Too many cups of coffee lead to dehydration and headaches.

As far as Gatorade, Vitamin Water and other similar drinks, it's best to keep it at a minimum and not make it a majority of your liquid consumption for the day. I don't recommend any type of electrolyte replacement unless you're doing some moderate type of exercise that depletes your body of electrolytes. In those situations, Gatorade/Powerade can be a quick way to get that stuff back into your system. The biggest thing to watch out for with any drink is how much sugar is in them. Many sodas, carbonated waters, etc have about 35-45 grams of sugar. That is a bit too much.

How much water should you drink? There are a couple of recommendations as a baseline: 64 ounces of water daily or half your body weight in ounces daily. If you exercise heavily (even if you don't sweat too much), add more water to your day. With this summer heat, even if you don't exercise, add more. Water helps us stay hydrated, helps our muscles stay soft and supple, keeps blood pressure regulated, flushes the kidneys and can help us stay more alert and cognitively aware throughout the day.

Have a question you'd like featured here next week? Email me directly at QureshiDC@gmail.com or submit in the comments section below.

Thank you for reading!

Erich Von Zipper June 20, 2012 at 12:53 PM
Mandrake, ... I drink only distilled water, or rainwater, and only pure-grain alcohol...
Ayesha Qureshi June 20, 2012 at 03:28 PM
I received a question from someone this morning asking my thoughts on Crystal Light. I don't recommend Crystal Light at all because it contains aspartame, which has shown to be toxic and unsafe for us to consume. I think the fruit infused water is a much better alternative to Crystal Light and much richer in flavor.
John June 21, 2012 at 08:14 PM
---BEGIN my best tongue-and-cheek feigned-offended voice--- I say "Bahh" to your words: "Tea is a better option than coffee because of the lower amount of caffeine found in tea relative to coffee. Most teas have only a small fraction of the caffeine. Too many cups of coffee lead to dehydration and headaches." "Bah!" says I. Have you never heard of "Water Intoxication?" (Google it) Do you not know what the Bible says that God did on the eighth day? He made coffee. Alright, I am making that up but I still believe it. ---END my best tongue-and-cheek feigned-offended voice--- ;-) Anyhow, good stuff. I agree that sodas and fruit juices packed with chemicals are not healthy, but really, did you have to make tea out to be better than coffee? ;-)
Ayesha Qureshi June 22, 2012 at 03:38 PM
Thanks for the comment, John. You may need to refer me to that Bible quote specifically. :-) Yes, water intoxication is something I've heard of, and there are specific groups of people at risk, including infants and marathon runners. You have to drink quite a bit of water, however, to suffer from water intoxication. Many people that I come across barely get 30 ounces of water a day, so I think it's safe to say they are far from any kind of toxicity. And yeah, I do think coffee is better than tea. Sorry! While coffee does have some antioxidants, green and white teas just have more. I also just don't like coffee, so maybe I have a secret agenda. And, as my father in law said when he stopped smoking, 'I don't know why I drink coffee...it tastes like (your choice of expletive here)' He got his taste buds back and didn't like coffee anymore! Kinda funny. Thanks again for reading!
John June 22, 2012 at 05:06 PM
"Don't like coffee"?!?! Ouch, I think my eyes are bleeding. However much coffee is simply stale swill so I will give you that. The difference from standard coffee and fresh single origin coffee is like the difference between a Hostess Apple Pie and my Aunt's homemade apple pie - they both make you cry but only one from sheer joy ;-).

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