Drinks can make or break weight-loss plans
Drinks can make or break weight-loss plans

Newsfeed display by CaRP WHEN it comes to weight loss, what you drink is just as important as what you eat.

A new study has found that beverages compose 20 percent of daily caloric intake and 50 percent of excess calories consumed daily (statistics for Americans aged 2 and above).

These are beverages like softdrinks and fruit drinks, smoothies and specialty coffees.
Liquid calories can contribute to weight gain because they are not as obvious as food calories. People will usually eat less when they have had too many calories but they don’t make any adjustments even if they have drunk the same amount of calories.

Nutritionists like Barry Popkin believe consumers need to be aware of what they drink. He headed a study published last month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that proposed a Beverage Guidance System (BGS) similar to the food pyramid.

He writes, "A healthy diet does not rely on fluids to provide energy or nutrient needs. Therefore, potable water could be used to fulfill almost all the fluid needs of healthy individuals. However, to allow for variety and individual preferences, healthful diets may include several other types of beverages."

The BGS has six levels from "most preferred" (level 1) to "least preferred" (level 6) in terms of calorie content and health benefits. Eight ounces is the standard portion size.
No or few calories

The bottom line recommendation is "that the consumption of beverages with no or few calories should take precedence over the consumption of beverages with more calories."

Level 1: Water
Women should drink nine glasses of fluid a day while men should drink 13 glasses. Ideally, water should account for majority of fluid needs (the BGS recommends at least 60 percent).

Level 2: Tea and coffee
Unsweetened tea and coffee have zero calories and various health benefits. Tea may help enhance the immune system, increase bone density, reduce tooth decay, reduce kidney stones and lower the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Non-caffeinated herbal teas like ginger, chamomile and peppermint are also calorie-free and have their own specific health benefits.

Coffee may help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes and Parkinson’s disease (in men).

Moderate consumption (up to 400 mg of caffeine or four cups of coffee) by healthy individuals will not increase the risk of heart disease, hypertension, osteoporosis (brittle bones) or high cholesterol. However, boiled unfiltered coffee can raise total and LDL cholesterol.

Coffee consumption of up to 500 mg daily will not cause dehydration or chronic water imbalance.

Gourmet or specialty coffees loaded with extras like sugar, whole milk, cream and chocolate should be considered similar to desserts -- high-calorie treats to have only occasionally.

Level 3: Milk and soy
Nonfat (skim) and low-fat (1-percent) milk or yogurt drinks are sources of calcium, Vitamin D and high-quality protein. Soy is an alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or have trouble digesting milk from animal sources.
Whole milk is not recommended by the BGS (except for children below the age of 2) because of its higher calorie and fat content (150 calories compared to 80 calories for nonfat milk).

Level 4: Artificially sweetened beverages
"Diet" drinks provide sweetness without the calories and, therefore, in terms of weight loss, would be preferable to drinks with calories. However, the BGS points out two areas that need further research: the safety of long-term use of artificial sweeteners and the theory that diet drinks may increase sugar cravings.

Level 5: Juices, sports drinks, alcohol
The BGS recommends eating whole fruits and vegetables instead of taking them in juice form because of the increased caloric content and decreased fiber content.

Sports drinks are only recommended for endurance athletes or those involved in strenuous activities lasting more than 60 minutes under hot and sweaty conditions (when sweat rate is greater than 8 liters per day). Regular exercisers don’t need the extra calories.

Alcohol consumption should be limited to one drink per day for women and two drinks for men.

Level 6: Softdrinks, fruit drinks
The least recommended drinks are those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup or sucrose. These include softdrinks and fruit drinks (sweetened beverages with very little real juice). These drinks are high in calories but low in nutrient value.

Acceptable range
According to the BGS, these are the acceptable ranges for 98 oz of fluid per day:
Water: 20-50 oz per day
Unsweetened tea or coffee: 0-40 oz per day (more than 32 oz of coffee can affect water balance)
Low-fat/skim milk and soy beverages: 0-16 oz per day
Diet drinks: 0-32 oz per day
100-percent fruit juices: 0-8 oz
Soft and fruit drinks: 0-8 oz


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Submitted: 06/13/06

Description: When it comes to weight loss, what you drink is just as important as what you eat.

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