Water is life. Literally. Life of any form would not exist without water. Our bodies are composed of approximately 60% water and we lose around 2 litres of it per day. It therefore makes sense that we should replace it with none other than clean pure water.
Making water your go-to drink of choice does not mean you have to ditch other beverages entirely, but it should be what you reach for most often for hydration and overall health. Why? Here are 16 compelling reasons!
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16 REASONS TO MAKE WATER YOUR DRINK OF CHOICE
Water is cheap . . . or even free (drinking filtered tap water is recommended which is technically not free, but only pennies per glass depending upon the filter you choose - learn more about water quality and filters here)
Water is sugar free
Water is calorie free
Water is caffeine free
Water is non-alcoholic
Water is free of harmful food additives (colour, flavour etc.)
Water is the best thirst quencher
Water contains naturally occurring minerals (such as calcium, magnesium and potassium) that our body needs
Water is utilized by every cell in our body
Water has been proven to help with weight loss/management
Water helps improve metabolism
Water helps improve athletic performance
Water keeps our skin hydrated
Water helps flush toxins
Water cleanses our teeth/mouth and helps ward off cavities and bad breath
Adequate water consumption helps prevent a long list of negative health implications, including dehydration (learn more here)
How much water is should you be drinking? Find out here.
WHAT OTHER LIQUIDS ARE YOU CONSUMING IN PLACE OF WATER?
Nearly every beverage will in theory hydrate you to some degree, but at what expense? What else is in these other drinks that your body could do without, especially in excess? Drinks such as the following:
Caffeine is okay and even has some health benefits in moderation (around 1-2 cups of coffee per day), but does act as a diuretic, so 1 cup of coffee is not equivalent to 1 cup of water, and too much coffee/caffeine (beyond ~4 cups) can have negative health implications, such as anxiety, insomnia, tremors and rapid heart beat. As well, unless you are drinking it black, each cup comes with added sugar and/or fat and empty calories. It might not seem like much, but a medium Tim Hortons "double-double" has 12 grams of fat, 22 grams of sugar and 212 calories. These add up!
Handcrafted espresso drinks
Most handcrafted milk-based espresso and tea drinks pack calories similar to a small meal without filling you up like one, and with little nutritional benefit. As a treat once in a while, no problem, but consuming 1 to 2 of these everyday adds up in calories (not to mention dollars!), and is taking the place of what your body actually needs for both hydration and nutrients. A grande pumpkin spice latte packs 50 grams of sugar and 380 calories, and a grande mocha frappuccino has 52 grams of sugar and 370 calories! These both contain more that double the amount of sugar the Canadian Health and Stroke Foundation recommends per day for adults (24 grams). Check out the post Refined Sugar: The Sneaky Truth to learn more.
Not all juice is created equal, however even the freshest, organic, no sugar added fruit juices are unnecessary on a regular basis. When fruit and vegetables are juiced, the healthiest part is removed, which is the fibre. When the sugar in fruit is consumed without the fibre it is not processed by the body in the same way, and can lead to spikes in blood sugar similar to table sugar. Sticking to whole fruits and vegetables (or smoothies where the fibre is not removed) is a much healthier alternative to juice.
One can of soda has around 27 grams (10 teaspoons!) of sugar and 100 calories. Most soda is also sweetened with GMO high fructose corn syrup, and has been linked to osteoporosis, tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes, cancers, kidney damage and a long list of other health complications. Water outshines soda any day. If it is the bubbles you crave, sparkling/soda water is a great alternative.
Not so fast! There is absolutely nothing natural about these artificially sweetened drinks. They may not pack the same sugar or calorie load as regular soda, and do have a net hydrating effect, but they are far from healthy. If you crave the sweet taste of these drinks, it is likely you are craving and consuming highly sweetened foods in the rest of your diet. Our taste buds do not distinguish. Take a peek at the ingredient list. Besides carbonated water, you mostly find unrecognizable ingredients that are chemical compounds, not food. The no-calorie status of these drinks makes them appealing and seem like "freebees", however, artificially sweetened beverages have also been linked to weight gain, and do not lead to healthy eating or lifestyle habits.
There is no question whether sports drinks will hydrate you, however, unless you are exercising intensely for long durations (at least an hour), sports drinks are just vessels for sugar and other electrolytes (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, chloride, phosphate) that you don't really need and already get from food. One 20 oz bottle of gatorade has 36 grams of sugar! These drinks also contain artificial colouring which has been linked to cancer and other health implications. If you are exercising only moderately and under the 60-90 minute mark, water is all you need. If you are exercising for longer and looking for a healthier alternative, try coconut water or a banana.
Most energy drinks contain high (unhealthy) amounts of caffeine, sugar, artificial sweetener and other stimulants. They generally provide a short-term burst of energy, followed by a crash, which creates a dependency. Most energy drinks have little effect on hydration and are often consumed to compensate for issues such as a lack of sleep or stress, which can and should be addressed in healthier ways.
I don't need to remind you of the health consequences of drinking too much alcohol. But, did you know that each gram of alcohol has 7 calories? This is in addition to the 4 calories per gram of carbohydrates/sugar. Even unsweetened vodka drinks have nearly 100 calories just from the alcohol content, and one can of beer contains roughly 150 calories. In terms of hydration, despite alcohol's diuretic effect, low ABV (alcohol by volume) drinks, such as beer, cider and most cocktails, will have a net hydrating effect. However, higher ABV drinks, such as wine or hard liquor, will actively dehydrate you, making it even more important to drink plenty of water if you are consuming alcohol.
A FEW EXCEPTIONS
There are a few beverages, besides water, that are healthy to consume on a daily basis. These include smoothies (assuming they are made using healthy ingredients), unsweetened tea (particularly green or hibiscus), matcha, unsweetened organic plant based milk, sparkling water and a small amount of coffee.
More about tea...
If you consume a lot of tea (particularly black tea), be mindful of the risks of lead contamination. Also, be sure to choose loose leaf tea, or tea bags that do not contain plastic, which has been shown to leach into the tea.
Water is the only drink your body needs to thrive! Most other beverages are highly processed, full of sugar, contain chemical agents, food additives, artificial sweeteners, flavouring and colouring, are alcoholic or caffeinated, high in (empty) calories and have little to no nutritional benefit. Even the drinks that do claim to have nutritional benefit (Vitamin Water i'm looking at you) are not worth it in terms of all the other unwanted ingredients and calories. The vast majority of your daily calories and nutrients should be coming from food, not beverages. Water should always be your drink of choice and what you drink the most of throughout the day.
Need help breaking habits and creating new ones? On average, it takes at least 3 weeks to break or develop a habit, and setting goals is the best way to ensure success. Be sure to check out my step by step goal setting guide to start making small accumulative healthy lifestyle changes today!