Drinks to cherish or avoid

Susannah Hickling 11 December 2021

Whether it’s water, juice, booze or hot beverages, here's how your favourite drink can affect your health

Avoid salty drinks 

Yes, that’s right—some drinks have salt in them. Soda water uses sodium bicarbonate to make it fizzy, so it’s salt-rich. Some have 1g per litre, which is a lot when you consider the daily maximum for the sake of your blood pressure is 6g. Drink sparkling mineral water instead. Some sports drinks also contain salt to replace what you lose when you sweat. This is fine if you’re ultra sporty, but if you’re not, then plain water is the way to go.

Drink more water to combat heart failure 

New research from the US has found that maintaining good hydration can prevent or slow down changes in the body that can lead to heart failure. The recommended amounts are 1.5 to 2.1 litres a day for women and between 2 and 3 litres for men, but many people don’t even reach the lower end of those ranges. 

Sip wine, not spirits, if you want to drink less 

Anxious you might make a fool of yourself at the Christmas party? A glass of wine provides more volume for the alcohol—meaning it lasts longer and so, you’ll drink less—than a gin and tonic. Other tips for holding your tipple: alternate a glass of wine with a glass of water, or opt for spritzers by mixing white wine with sparkling water.

Sugar-free drinks might be bad for your health 

Even when they don’t contain sugar, they contain artificial sweeteners. While they contain fewer calories, some scientists think they might still make you gain weight, as they may stimulate sweet-taste receptors and make you eat more of the wrong kinds of food. Worse still, a recent study across ten European countries found the risk of death from all causes was higher in people who drank two or more glasses of artificially sweetened drinks a day, compared to those who downed less than one glass a month. 

Orange juice is packed with sugar, but could help prevent dementia 

A fruit juice may contain “natural” rather than added sugars, but they’re still sugars and make it a high-calorie beverage. In fact, orange juice has more calories than orange squash. But juice is also full of vitamin C and has some other surprising benefits too—there’s evidence it makes you less prone to kidney stones and to dementia. For example, a US study found that men who glugged orange juice every day were 47 per cent less likely to develop poor thinking skills than those who drank it less than once a month.

Teabags contain more caffeine than leaves 

Broken tea leaves, found in teabags, give out more caffeine than whole leaves when brewed. You’ll also get more caffeine in your tea the longer you brew it and the hotter the water. Bear that in mind when you’re making a cuppa later in the day—you don’t want it interfering with sleep. 

Read more: Lockdown Christmas traditions we're keeping

Read more: The ultimate 2021 Christmas gift guide

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter