Juice and soda are over 80% water. Can I count them as water?
Trying to meet your daily water goal can feel pretty tedious if all you’re drinking is water, water, and more plain water. Thus, you might try to liven things up by enjoying a sweet beverage a couple of times a day. Do those other beverages count as water intake? Or is it necessary to fulfill your daily hydration needs by drinking plain water on top of the other beverages you consume?
If you hate water, you’re probably not going to love what you’re about to read, but it’s important, so read on!
We’ve been culturally trained to be sugar fiends
Culturally, sugary drinks are framed as more exciting than boring old water, so much that some folks consume almost entirely sweetened (or artificially sweetened) drinks.
Perhaps you grew up seeing sugary drinks like juice and soda as completely necessary to any meal. You may have been raised in a culture with advertisements for Coke or Minute Maid everywhere you turned. You might even have been known to sport a Kool-Aid smile once in a while as a child.
You probably don’t need the “sodas are bad” lecture, so let’s look more closely at two other sweet beverages: juice and “diet” sodas.
But I thought juice was healthy!
Sure, juices contain vitamins and some other nutrients, depending on how the juice was made, so it’s true that it’s usually better to drink juice than most other sweet beverages.
However, even if bottled juice has no “added” sugar, it naturally contains more sugar than is healthy for you. Because of the large amount of fruit required to extract a small amount of juice, the result contains several times more sugar than a single piece of fruit. For instance, drinking an 8-ounce glass of orange juice is like eating 3 to 4 oranges in one sitting.
Juices also tend to be made by straining out the fiber, which is one reason fruit is healthy in the first place. There’s a lot of fiber in the edible skin and membranes in a piece of fruit, and even juice with “extra pulp” doesn’t preserve the full fiber content. Thus you’d be better off eating an orange and washing it down with a glass of water.
Calorie-free doesn’t mean healthy
Ok, so you’ve gotten the message about sugar, right? Let’s move on to artificially-sweetened beverages. No calories, mostly made of water… how can it be bad for you?
Well, in a purely caloric sense, sure, diet sodas are not as problematic as their sugar-filled counterparts. And yes, they do provide hydration, as does anything containing water. But there are psychological and potentially neurological effects to drinking diet soda that can impact your relationship with sweet tastes so much that you end up with bigger problems than inadequate water intake.
Specifically, according to the Cleveland Clinic, consuming artificially sweetened beverages can not only make you crave more sugar, but can also trick your body into thinking it’s consuming calories. That latter part may sound like kind of a good thing on the surface. However, interfering with your body’s natural insulin response can increase your risk for Type 2 diabetes. In other words, choosing diet sodas to replace sugar and improve your health can be a self-defeating exercise!
You knew this was coming
Here’s the big finish: Yes, any beverage containing mostly water is better than no beverage at all. Still, when you compare it to most of the alternatives out there, water wins every time. This doesn’t mean you can never consume a sweet beverage ever again, but at least try to avoid relying on them for your hydration.
If you need help weaning yourself off of sugary or artificially sweetened drinks, here’s a quick way to start: Tomorrow, replace one sweet beverage with water or another unsweetened equivalent such as green tea. Commit to making the same choice the following day, then continue to be mindful about how frequently you choose sweet drinks. Take it slowly, and you’ll not only reduce your reliance on sweetened beverages, but you may also learn to love water!