Eating healthy foods, while simultaneously sipping sugary drinks is a lot like avoiding the tanning salon then going to the beach without sunblock: It’s bound to undo all of your health-protective efforts.
Among adults age years 20 and over, beverages contribute, on average, between 297 and 483 calories daily, which is up to 19 percent of the day’s total calories, according to the USDA. With that in mind, it’s really no surprise that so many Americans have trouble losing weight — even though they’re eating a healthy diet. They’re washing it all down with the wrong drinks.
Not sure which sips you should pour into your glass? We’ve got your back. Read on to find out the very best beverages for your health and waistline — no matter what your taste buds may crave.
Organic, 100% Grass Fed Milk
Organically raised cows are not subject to the same hormones and antibiotics that conventional cows are; no antibiotics for them means no antibiotics for you. Grass fed cows have been shown to have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids (good) and two to five times more CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) than their corn and grain fed counterparts. CLA contains a group of chemicals which provides a wide variety of health benefits, including immune and inflammatory system support, improved bone mass, improved blood sugar regulation, reduced body fat, reduced risk of heart attack, and maintenance of lean body mass.
Milk isn’t the only thing that can do your body good. Adding The Best Foods for 6 Pack Abs to your diet can also stave off flab. And if you can’t handle dairy, be sure to check out our guide to The Best Milk Alternatives.
BEST JUICE ALTERNATIVE
It’s no secret that chugging plain H2O can be less than stimulating, but there are fun ways to make this healthy habit less of a chore. Certain fruits have detoxifying properties in their flesh and peels; slice them whole into your water to reap the benefits and hit your water intake quota with an infusion of flavor. For delicious ways to drink up and de-puff, check out our list of 14 Detox Waters that Banish Bloat.
There are so many teas that aid weight loss, it’s truly hard to pick just one. But oolong may just be one of the best brews to give you that long, lean look you crave. Oolong, a Chinese name for “black dragon,” is a light, floral tea that, like green tea, is also packed with catechins, which help to promote weight loss by boosting your body’s ability to metabolise lipids (fat). A study in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that participants who regularly sipped oolong tea lost six pounds over the course of the six-week time period. That’s a pound a week! Shed more belly flab—rapidly—with one of the 4 Teas That Melt Fat!
Lassi is a popular drink from India and Pakistan, made from fermented yogurt. In Ayurvedic medicine, lassi “cools” the digestive system, aiding gut function. From a modern medical perspective, lassi is a fermented food that contains many healthy bacteria, or probiotics, which decrease bloating and reduce inflammation—two key contributors to weight loss. While lassi can be made with any number of fruits, mango lassi is one of the easiest and most popular drinks in India: Simply combine in a blender one cup of plain Greek yogurt, 1 tbsp of sugar, ½ cup frozen mango chunks, and enough water to blend. Pair it with these exclusive 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days for best results.
BEST PRE-WORKOUT DRINK
While H20 is the best bet for your body during workouts, a cup of black coffee should be your go-to pre-workout beverage. During a 1-hour time trial, cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo, a 2008 study published in the International Journal of Sports Physiology & Performance found. What’s more, other scientific research has linked caffeine consumption with increased endurance and reaction times. The longer and harder you can work out, the more calories and fat you’re apt to burn. The problem is, most caffeine-enhanced energy drinks are loaded with added sugars (what’s the point of an exercise-boosting drink that makes you fat?). A much more waistline-friendly way to reap the benefits of caffeine: black coffee. It’s sugar-free, packed with antioxidants and free of calories.
BEST POST-WORKOUT DRINK
Drinking a combination of carbohydrates and protein after a hard workout can help restore your energy and aid in building lean, metabolism-boosting muscle, but it turns out that you don’t need a fancy recovery beverage to reap these benefits. After participating in a vigorous cycling session, cyclists who drank chocolate milk were able to ride 51 percent longer in a subsequent workout than those who drank a standard recovery beverage, a 2009 article in Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism found. Plus, chocolate milk is cheaper (and tastier) than anything you’ll find in a sports nutrition store.
Sam Adams Light
In a recent Eat This, Not That! taste test, we rounded up all of the light beers we could find that ranked among the top 20 most purchased beers in America. we managed to track down all but Busch Light and Michelob Ultra and filled in the rest of the list with light beers we felt would be missed if they weren’t included. You know, the household names that don’t have the really big advertising bucks behind them. We ended up with a solid list of 13 brews. Of the 13, Sam Adams Light ranked numero uno. It was lauded for its discernable nutty flavor and relatively full body. One tester even noted that it “tasted like something I might find in a nice beer garden!” To find out which other tasty beers topped our list, check out the full report on the Best Light Beers in America.
While booze shouldn’t be part of your daily weight loss diet, downing a drink every now and again won’t throw you far off track — so long as you order smart. Every Mad Men fan knows that Don Draper favors the Old Fashioned. And just so long as you don’t sip them to his level of excess, the 119-calorie low-sugar drink can keep you on the track toward your better body goal. Not a fan of whiskey? Check out these other delicious, low-calorie cocktails.
BEST CAFFEINE SOURCE
When regular brewed coffee is chilled and stored, two things happen: First, it begins to lose whatever nuance of taste it once possessed; second, it starts losing the polyphenols that give coffee its health benefits. The best iced coffee is cold brewed; it takes more time to make so it will be more expensive, but you’ll taste the difference. Most notably it will be less bitter, which means you can get away with adding less sugar. And less sugar = fewer calories.
BEST DRINK IN AMERICA
You may feel trendy with a bottle of vitamin-enhanced water in your hand, but that brightly-hued liquid probably isn’t improving your health. Most vitamin-infused H20 is just colored sugar water with some vitamins tossed in—bad news when you consider that Americans take in about 355 calories of added sugar every day. If you want vitamins, get them from vitamin supplements or, better yet, from whole foods (wild salmon, for example, is loaded with energy-boosting vitamin B-12). And if you want water, get it from, well, water. Nature’s beverage is calorie-free, cost-free and will take care of all your hydration needs.
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