The healthiest beverage option is, and will always be, water. But for those who have trouble remembering to stay hydrated, alternatives such as fruit-infused waters or freshly brewed tea can be a healthful solution. Other drinks, on the other hand, can end up giving you more sugar than you bargained for — though, you’d never be able to tell unless you read the label.
Not all sugars have the same effect on your body. There are some sources of sugar contained in foods that are actually good for you. Fruit, for example, is high in sugar but also has fiber and other important nutrients that improve your digestion and can stave off disease. Milk has sugar, as well; but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it! The sugar in milk comes from lactose — unlike fructose, which is the simple sugar you might find sprinkled on a sugar cookie, lactose is processed differently by your body.
According to the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, foods such as fruit and milk have sugars that the body breaks down more slowly due to the other nutrients present in these foods. But if you’re drinking a sugary soft drink, your body runs through processing these refined sugar compounds much more quickly.
The drinks on this list are high in sugar, which is important to be aware of for monitoring your energy levels and blood sugar. But the type of sugar in each drink makes a big difference. Many of these are sweetened naturally; many are not. All of these drinks are generally considered healthy, but actually have a lot more sugar than you might think.
The debate over whether cow’s milk or almond milk is healthier rages on — but everyone tends to agree on one thing. Almond milk, especially the kind that’s vanilla or otherwise flavored, can come with a lot of added sugar. Of course, regular milk has sugar, too. But it’s the natural kind from lactose. Almond milk, on the other hand, is sweetened during processing. A cup of vanilla almond milk can have around 13 grams of sugar.
Beet juice has a number of notable health benefits. It’s extremely hydrating, which makes it the perfect choice for a post-workout drink. It’s also great to drink before you work out because it might actually improve your muscles’ ability to function. However, beets are naturally high in sugar; as a result, so is beet juice. A cup of beet juice can have around 20 grams of sugar. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drink it!
While some bottled tea is unsweetened, there are many drinks that contain hidden sugars to make the tea taste sweeter. You may think that tea is a healthier choice than soda, but if you pick the wrong one off the shelf, it might have a similar amount of sugar!
Chia drinks are sold as bottled “health” drinks due to the chia seeds floating inside. If you can get over the texture, these chia-filled drinks have a ton of omega-6 fatty acids, which can help to boost your brain and heart health. They’re often sweetened with fruit juice and a low-calorie sweetener such as agave. However, that doesn’t stop these drinks from loading your system with sugar. Some chia drinks contain 14 grams of sugar in a single bottle.
Coconut water is so Instagrammable if you’re drinking it from a bendy straw directly from a coconut. And no matter how it’s served, this drink is great for when you’re dehydrated since it’s filled with electrolytes. However, if you’re buying a bottled version, you should look out for added sweeteners. Bottled coconut water can contain 22 grams of sugar in a single bottle. If you buy fruit-flavored coconut water, it can have around 30 grams.
Whether you’re drinking a glass of OJ with breakfast or sipping on juice for a juice cleanse, you’re probably drinking more sugar than you realize. Fruit juice contains more of the sugar from fruit and less of the fiber. You’d probably be better off eating an actual serving of whatever the original fruit was.
If you’re feeling nauseous, ginger ale can help settle your stomach. But outside of that small benefit, there’s little that’s healthy about this carbonated beverage. A single can of ginger ale can contain over 30 grams of sugar with few other nutrients to speak of. A can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar — nearly the same!
Kombucha is all the rage these days; it’s got probiotics, which can help boost gut health. Many of these drinks are also made with immune-boosting spices like ginger or turmeric. Unflavored kombucha has just 2 to 6 grams of sugar — but if it was left unflavored, no one would want to drink it! As a result, these drinks can be excessively sugary if you buy the wrong brand. Some kinds of kombucha contain upwards of 9 grams of sugar per serving. A bottle often contains two servings, meaning you’ll be guzzling 18 grams of sugar if you drink the whole thing.
Matcha is a powdered form of green tea and can be a healthy way to get some caffeine in the morning. But if you’re getting a matcha latte from Starbucks or another coffee chain, watch out for added sweeteners. Sure, matcha can be bitter on its own, but these chains often overcompensate with syrups and refined sugars. To make your own healthier version, use a natural sweetener such as honey.
Eating a smoothie for breakfast could be a great way to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet — so long as you’re making it right. Some smoothies can contain many servings of fruit but not much else, meaning you’ll get an overload of sugar without any protein or fat to balance it out. If you prefer to buy your smoothies pre-made or from a smoothie shop, you should be even more wary. Often, smoothies are made with added sugars in addition to natural sugars from fruit. Some bottled smoothies contain over 50 grams of sugar! So much for your healthy, balanced breakfast.
If you’re running a marathon and need a boost of sugar and electrolytes, sports drinks can be an extremely useful option. But if you’re just feeling a little thirsty, you might want to opt for another hydrating beverage with less sugar. Popular sports drinks can have upwards of 35 grams of sugar per bottle.
Tomatoes have lycopene, an underrated nutrient that can help brighten your skin and boost your immune system. And yes, tomato juice is technically made from this vegetable — but that doesn’t mean it’s always the healthiest choice. A cup of tomato juice can have up to 10 grams of sugar. Though the sugar is natural and from tomatoes, it does add some sodium to your beverage. And some tomato juice, especially the kind that’s used as a mixer in a michelada or Bloody Mary, is blended with added salt before it’s packaged and sold — not that a cocktail is necessarily the healthiest way to eat your vegetables. But when you’re on an airplane, having the option to order a Bloody Mary is kind of a big deal. Did you know tomato juice actually tastes better when you’re up in the air? Learn why, along with some other weird airplane facts, here.
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