pouring water into a glass

Shifting Away from the Sugarific

pouring soda from a canOf course, your teeth aren’t the only part of you that suffers the effects of sodas, fruit juices and other sweet drinks. Excess sugar consumption has been linked with more than 100 specific health problems.

In fact, it’s not so far-fetched to say that sugar is deadly stuff in the modern food environment. As Dr. Robert Lustig put it in a powerful Nature commentary a few years back, “A little is not a problem, but a lot kills – slowly….”

A good reminder of this simple and sobering fact came last week with the publication of new research in Circulation, which put some numbers to sugar’s damage potential. Its authors estimated that 184,000 deaths each year may be attributed largely to sugary drinks. Most of these – 133,000 – were due to diabetes, with another 45,000 to cardiovascular diseases. The rest were cancers.

Among the 20 most populous countries, the US ranked second in these deaths, with an estimated 125 per million adults. Number one was Mexico, for which the death rate was an estimated 405 per million.

Choose Water Instead

It’s not only what sodas and other sugarific drinks give us – sugars and acids – that’s the trouble. It’s also what they keep us from getting Sugar, for instance, interferes with the absorption of critical nutrients such as calcium and magnesium. Caffeine – common in soft drinks – is also a nutrient thief. Both prevent proper hydration, with the former tending to dehydrate and the latter being a well-known diuretic.

pouring water into a glassYet hydration – replenishment with water – is, like oxygen, an absolute necessity. Water is involved in your body’s every metabolic activity. It helps remove waste and regulate temperature. It nourishes and protects your brain. It cushions and lubricates your joints.

In fact, your body is mostly water – up to 70% of the whole. We lose a good amount each day just through our normal daily activities, more when it’s hot or we’re more physically active (thus, sweating more). It’s got to be replaced. Some we can get from food; the rest we need to drink.

How much? For most of us, about half your total body weight in ounces of water daily. So if you weigh 200 pounds, you’d want to drink 100 ounces of water daily, or a little over 3 quarts.

That may sound like a lot, but if you sip small amounts throughout the day, it’s more than manageable.

Here are some tips for getting more water through your daily routine:

  1. Start your morning off with a tall glass of cold water – before you eat or drink anything else.
  2. Keep a refillable water bottle always at hand. If water quality is a concern, invest in a filtering bottle. Some, such as those from ClearlyFiltered, are said to remove most fluoride and chlorine, along with other impurities.
  3. Make a “progress bottle” to monitor your intake through the day.
  4. Use a free app such as Daily Water (Apple/Android) or Water Your Body (Apple/Android) to give you reminders through the day.
  5. Drink water with your meals.
  6. If you like a little fizz in your drink, go for carbonated water.
  7. Like a little flavor in your water? Infuse your own with fruit, herbs or vegetables.

Images by frankieleon, Greg Riegler, via Flickr