Advertising
Advertising

8 Surprisingly Unhealthy Drinks You Should Avoid

8 Surprisingly Unhealthy Drinks You Should Avoid

When it comes to grabbing something quick that can quench your thirst in the most satisfying way possible, plain old water sometimes just doesn’t cut it. And if you consider yourself to be a relatively health-conscious individual, you’re likely not the type of person who regularly grabs a sugar-filled bottle of juice or an aspartame-ridden can of diet soda.

You already know that stuff’s bad for you. And besides, there are lots of other healthy beverage alternatives out there that taste great too. Or are there?

There certainly are a lot of choices out there, but you can’t always believe what advertisers say these days to get you drink their products. Phrases that suggest health benefits like “all natural” and “low-calorie” don’t exactly mean what you think it means, which is why it’s up to you to educate yourself about proper nutrition and read more of what’s included on product packaging labels.

Here are eight popular types of beverages most people think to be pretty okay or even healthy, but they might be surprised to discover that they’re actually much better off by ditching most of these entirely and replacing them with other beverages or foods that do a better job at keeping hydrated and offering nutritional value.

1. Almond Milk

Almond milk has quickly become everyone’s favorite alternative to cow’s milk. It’s affordable, it tastes good, it goes great with smoothies, and it’s an ideal choice for those who are sensitive to dairy. Derived from almonds, some fans of the drink are led to believe that they offer all or most of the nutritional benefits of the actual nut itself.

As it turns out, almond milk is only made up of about two percent of real almonds, therefore lacking most of the healthy fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals you get from eating the nuts in their solid form. As if that weren’t depressing enough, some types of almond milk have added sugar to sweeten them up, burdening you with more unnecessary and empty calories.

Advertising

You’re better off drinking a cold glass of water and snacking on a handful of raw almonds. Even for an extra 160 calories or so, at least you’ll be satiated and get the full nutritional benefit of what almonds have to offer.

2. Zero-calorie Drinks

Anyone who used to be a fan of soda of juice is usually a fan of zero-calorie drinks and drink mixes. You know, they’re either those little packets of powder you add to your water to make them taste like juice, or they’re already flavored and sold in cans or bottles at the grocery store.

Obviously, the “zero-calorie” component makes it an attractive choice in comparison to full-calorie drinks. People think they can drink as much of this stuff as they want and never gain a pound.

Shockingly enough though, your body is smarter than that. When it senses something sweet being consumed, it anticipates calories. Since these super sweet drink mixes don’t have any calories, your body gets confused, and then ramps up your hunger hormones so you start to crave high-calorie foods like chips, crackers, cookies, and anything else you can quickly shove into your mouth.

Try squeezing some lemon or lime into some sparkling water for a change. It may not be as sweet as you like, but at least it won’t lead to terrible cravings later on.

3. Energy Drinks

Everyone knows at least one person who can’t get through his day without a Red Bull, Rockstar, or Monster Energy drink. He swears it gives him the kick they need to stay alert and get through all the crazy things he needs to do, especially if he’s been running low on sleep lately. It’s a sugar and caffeine addict’s dream beverage.

Advertising

You might get a nice short-term burst of energy from one of these drinks, but you’ll probably crash later on — if not from the caffeine, then certainly from all that sugar. Just like other caffeinated and sugar-filled beverages, energy drinks can be highly addictive, sometimes causing you to suffer nasty side effects like the jitters, increased anxiety, and more headaches or migraines.

Try a protein-packed smoothie mixed with a healthy carbohydrate (like whole fruit) instead of reaching for another Red Bull. A lack of protein is a pretty common cause of fatigue, and lucky for you, it’s an easy fix.

4. Sports Drinks

Gym rats, endurance runners, and people who do a lot of physically demanding work often rely on drinks like Gatorade and Powerade. For a while now, they’ve been successfully positioned in the market as the best drinks for rehydrating and replenishing electrolytes.

The bad news about these types of drinks is that most of them contain high-fructose corn syrup, too much sodium, and almost just as much sugar as soda. Similar to energy drinks, sports drinks can also cause you to experience a short burst of great performance followed by a plummeting crash.

Unless you’re spending all day trekking through a hot dessert on foot, you don’t need this type of drink. The trick is to hydrate (with plain water) and feed yourself enough healthy carbs and protein before you work out. Adding a very small amount of unprocessed sea salt to your water as you sip on it through your workout can be a helpful option too, but not totally necessary unless you’re working out for a prolonged period.

5. Coffee Drinks

Alright, so most people probably know on some level that their favorite Starbucks drink isn’t all that healthy. For some reason, though, tons of people are still convinced it’s a good idea to use all the calories that come packed into their lattes, cappuccinos, and macchiatos to replace real food for breakfast.

Advertising

You may be getting an 800-calorie burst of sweet, frothy energy, but the quality of those calories earn you an F in terms of nutrition. All that saturated fat from cream-based ingredients plus sugar-loaded syrups and flavoring leave you with empty calories devoid of any significant nutritional value, plus the tendency to cause you to crash and feel sluggish later on.

If you absolutely can’t give up coffee, try switching to drinking it black and limiting how much you consume. Get your calories from real food that includes protein, complex carbs, and ideally fiber too. An example would be a piece of whole wheat toast with peanut butter, plus an apple.

6. Freshly Squeezed Fruit Juice

What could be so bad about freshly squeezed fruit juice? The general assumption is that it’s healthier than the stuff you buy preprocessed in cartons, jugs, bottles, and cans. Juicing your own fruits (and even veggies) means you get the fresh stuff without all the added sugar, preservatives, and other nasty junk that often gets mixed into the store-bought stuff.

There’s just one big problem with juicing, though. You miss out on fiber, which keeps you fuller longer and prevents that blood sugar spike you experience from eating stuff that’s far too sweet. Sure, you get most of the vitamins and minerals from using fresh ingredients, but you basically just end up consuming pure sugar, which really needs to be balanced with fiber.

You have two options to fix this: either start consuming your fruits and veggies whole, or switch from juicing to making smoothies. Just drop the full fruit or veggie into a blender with some other ingredients, water, and ice, and you’ll still get the benefit of the whole thing in liquid form.

7. Vitamin Water

The appeal behind certain brands of vitamin-infused beverages is pretty self-explanatory. If it has vitamins, it’s got to be healthier than pretty much any other drink, right? That’s exactly what the companies that produce and sell them want you to think.

Advertising

It’s true that vitamin beverages have vitamins added to them, but don’t think for a second that it makes up for all the other junk you can find added to them too. For example, one bottle of Vitaminwater contains a whopping 33 grams of sugar. That’s even more than what you get from the average can of soda.

If you really want vitamins, try asking your doctor for an appropriate supplement. Or better yet, eat a balanced diet of real and healthy foods, and drink lots of water. You can’t a better mix of nutrients from anywhere else other than a variety of fresh plant-based foods and lean sources of protein.

8. Coconut Water

There’s a big trend in the health and fitness world concerning coconut water these days. To be specific, health fanatics and super athletes believe it to be the Holy Grail of hydration and a natural, low-calorie alternative to sports drinks for being so high in potassium.

This is one drink that there’s been a lot of debate over lately. The health benefits that coconut water has to provide are actually hugely exaggerated, and chugging a bottle of the stuff while you workout or after you’re done isn’t any better than eating something with sodium or potassium before you work out, like a banana, in addition to drinking plenty of water.

Some athletes swear by it, though. So if you love coconut water and you think it helps, you can keep drinking it — just don’t entirely depend on it in place of real food and plain water, and make sure you choose a brand that doesn’t add any sweeteners or use a concentrate instead of the fresh stuff.

Surprised by some of the items on this list? You’re not the only one.

It’s a good idea to avoid most of these beverages and switch to some of the suggested healthier substitutes instead, but that doesn’t mean you can’t indulge once in a while. Anything is fine in moderation, and self-deprivation is never part of a healthy lifestyle, so if you can’t completely give up your Starbucks lattes or freshly squeezed orange juice, consider treating yourself once or twice a week.

More by this author

Elise Moreau

Elise helps desk workers lead healthier lifestyles. Visit her website on her profile to get a free list of health hacks.

Why You’ve Reached the Point of Burn out at Work & How to Deal with It The Benefits And Drawbacks To Your Preferred Sleep Position How Smartphones Are Affecting The Mind And Body Of Your Children Amazing Benefits Of Greek Yogurt (+5 Refreshing Recipes) 15 Free Resources To Get You More Organized In 2016

Trending in Health

1 Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism 2 27 Healthy Pressure Cooker Meals (with Easy Recipes) 3 10 Ways a Silent Retreat Improves Your Mental Health 4 What’s the Best Tea for Sleep? 7 Recipes to Try Tonight 5 The Best Foods to Eat and Avoid When You Have Diarrhea

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on November 15, 2019

Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

Expert Advice That Will Teach You How to Increase Your Metabolism

Wouldn’t you like to be able to eat twice as much as you do now without gaining weight? If so, I have good news for you because this is possible when you learn how to increase metabolism.

How Much Do You Know About Metabolism?

Before we get to the meat, let me say that metabolism is a term that describes all the chemical reactions in your body.[1] These chemical reactions keep your body alive and functioning, however, the word metabolism is often used interchangeably with the metabolic rate or the number of calories you burn.

The metabolic rate is a rough estimate of how much energy your body needs to simply stay alive and perform all its biochemical reactions. These reactions require energy, aka burn calories.

Imagine that your brain alone consumes nearly 20% of your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure at rest),[2] your digestion and the detoxifying system come second, repairing tissues third and so on.

Staying alive is expensive for your body and its two main currencies are fats and sugars.

When I am talking about improving your metabolic rate (metabolism), I mean improving the amount of energy, your body requires to (pretty much) lay down in bed and do nothing for 24 hours.

Extra physical activity, extra thinking or fighting illness are things that require a lot of energy (burn a lot of calories) but they don’t really increase metabolism… actually they can decrease it.

Can You Naturally Change the Speed of Your Basal Metabolism?

The answer to this question is yes and you can also achieve an increase in metabolism and a drop in body fat by eating more.

Shocked? Well, I was too.

The way I came across this phenomenon is quite funny. Over my 10 years as a coach, I helped many busy professionals to naturally increase their metabolism by getting them leaner, fitter and stronger but, at the beginning of my career, I actually had no idea whether they were losing weight because of an increase in metabolism or because we created a calorie deficit with diet and exercise.

When I was training my clients regularly, they would lose weight. Every time I would take a few weeks of vacation, I would come back to London and find out that most of them gained back a generous amount of weight despite the fact that they were following their diet and they swapped our weight training sessions with cardio.

On the contrary, when they were going on vacation, they would do zero exercises and binge like there was no tomorrow but come back either lighter or weighing the same (but looking more muscular).

Advertising

Observing this phenomenon happening over and over again, got me curious about the mechanics of our metabolism and the ways to hack it.

Was it really possible that by relaxing and eating more food, someone could actually maintain his/her current weight or even be losing fat?

Driven by the desire to answer this question, I spent a good amount of years researching and testing different food strategies until I finally cracked the code to an improved metabolism that allows you to eat like a king and look like a Greek God.

Does Eating More Increase Metabolism?

Before I explain why eating more increases your metabolism, let me dig into something that I see people doing much more often: “eating less and moving more.”

It is quite common to see people embarking their yearly weight loss journey (usually after Christmas or Easter) by following very restrictive diets and bombarding their body with several hours of exercise per day.

Despite the short-term effectiveness of this approach, in the long run, if the goal is to increase metabolism and lose a lot of fat over an extended period of time, this simply won’t work.

As I have mentioned before, eating fewer calories and exercising more are energy-consuming activities for your body. In the first case, your body needs to use its own energy reserves to top up the missing energy it needs to fully function; and in the second, it takes your body extra energy to contract your muscles.

In both cases, your TDEE (Total daily energy expenditure at rest) doesn’t vary much; therefore your metabolism stays unchanged.[3]

A different scenario happens when you eat less and move more for an extended period of time (weeks or months). In that case, your metabolism will slow down because your body is receiving a “we have little access to food and we need to run away from threats” signal.

Your metabolism is like your bank account.

To understand this concept, let’s imagine that you have $4,000 coming into your bank account each and every month. The money you spend on housing, transport, food and leisure are calibrated according to this monthly income.

Now, imagine that a rich uncle starts to send you $1,000 each day. What would you do? Probably, you would save that money for the first two or three days but, when you notice that $1,000 keep on coming every single day, you would likely start to spend more right?

Advertising

What if, instead of a rich uncle sending you money, a poor uncle needed your financial help to pay for the treatments of his illness? You would probably try your best to adjust your spending according to your old $4,000 monthly budget.

That’s exactly how your body reasons:

More Resources Coming in = More Energy Released (Improved Metabolism)

Fewer Resources Coming in = Less Energy Released (Decreased Metabolism)

Note that activities like weight training[4] and high-intensity interval training (HIIT),[5] when combined with an increase in nutrient-rich foods, will also improve your metabolism.

For this reason, today, when I coach a new client, I always start by increasing their daily food intake and their physical activities. Usually, people are quite confused because they come to me to lose weight and I tell them to eat more but, without fail, the next weekly weight-check shows a lower number.

Be aware that not all foods are equal and only certain foods have the power to increase metabolism to a noticeable extent.

Foods That Increase Metabolism

Doubling up on Snickers bars won’t improve your metabolism and you know that. What you may not know is that certain foods that are marked as “healthy” doesn’t help you with increasing your metabolism. They also make you gain weight.

Before giving you a list of foods to eat or avoid, let me explain a simple principle of human biochemistry.

Your body uses energy from three (or four) main sources:

  • Sugars: whether you eat a Snickers bar or a banana, the carbohydrates contained in both get absorbed in the gut and become blood glucose (the basic form of sugar our body utilizes as a source of energy).[6]
    When blood glucose is present in the bloodstream (elevated levels), the body always uses it as its primary source of energy. When blood glucose levels drop (this phenomenon happens when you’re using these sugars to fuel a physical activity or when your pancreas produced a spike of insulin and stores that glucose into fat and muscles), your body starts to release fatty acids into the bloodstream to use as a source of energy.
  • Fatty acids: either from your own fat cells (adipocytes) or from whatever fat-containing foods you ate in the past 2-3 hours. Fatty acids are a slower and more consistent form of energy than sugars that your body can utilise.
  • Amino acids: Amino acids are the broken-down form of proteins. Proteins cannot be used by the body as a source of energy, not even in their broken-down form. Your body can transform amino acids into glucose with a process called gluconeogenesis.[7] This is a very inefficient process where a decent amount of energy gets wasted (and that’s a good thing for us but I’ll get to that later).
  • Ketones: when you don’t feed your body any source of carbs (or proteins in excess), your liver produces an alternative source of energy called Ketones. It can replace the need for glucose (most of it at least).[8]

Now that you know the four energy sources the body can use to fuel its metabolism, let’s get to the meat (quite literally).

To make this simple for you, I am going to divide foods into three categories:

Advertising

  1. Red Flags – Avoid the red foods because they slow your metabolism. They are usually extremely low in micronutrients and high in antinutrients (agents that are highly toxic). They are highly processed or spike your insulin levels (therefore stopping your fat burning process).
  2. Orange Foods – Limit your consumption of orange foods. The orange foods on the list are suboptimal choices but they don’t have a negative impact on your metabolism when consumed in moderation. In fact, they contain a decent amount of micronutrients and, if eaten in small amounts, they shouldn’t stop your fat burning process.
  3. Green Foods – These are foods to consume most. Green foods will improve your metabolism and should be the main bulk of your diet.

Next, I’ll get into details exactly what foods to eat and avoid:

Sugars and Carbs

Sugars do not directly improve metabolism because they stop the process of fat utilisation. There is an exception to this rule though. When you eat a diet extremely low in carbohydrates and sugars for an extended period of time (two to six days onwards), introducing carbohydrates and sugars can actually improve metabolism quite a bit.

Unfortunately, for most of us that love eating bread, pasta, fruit and yoghurt, unless we were on a low-carb diet for the past few days, these foods are not an optimal choice.

Sugars like fructose (found in fruit or commercial sugar) actually decrease metabolism and should be limited. Heavily processed sugars and carbohydrates should be also limited. Here is the colour list of sugars and carbs that affect metabolism:

Red Flag Sugary Foods You Should Avoid:
  • Dried fruit
  • Commercial and packaged corn
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • All sorts of candies and lookalike
  • Packaged fruit juices and purees
  • Sugary dairy products like flavoured yoghurt, condensed milk etc
Orange Sugary Foods You Should Limit:
  • Bread and flour-based products
  • Milk and also vegan milk alternatives that are sweetened
  • Most fruit (exceptions are in the green list below)
  • Potatoes and potato starch products
  • Oatmeals and other grains
Green Sugary and Carb-Containing Foods That Improve Metabolism
  • All berries except strawberries
  • Tubers like squash, carrots, parsnips etc
  • Sweet potatoes
  • White rice
  • All green vegetables

Fats

Fatty acids and fats, in general, can improve or decrease metabolism depending on their composition.

Red Flag Fatty Foods You Should Avoid:
  • Margarine and hydrogenated fat
  • Lard
  • Gmo oils
  • Most vegetable oils from seeds and peanut oil
Orange Fatty Foods You Should Limit:
  • Nuts
  • Meat fat
  • Nut oils (macadamia, almond, cashew etc..)
  • Seeds
Green Fatty Foods You Should Eat Daily
  • Extra virgin olive oil (non-heated)
  • Avocado
  • Coconut oil
  • Butter (organic)
  • Egg yolks (free-range)
  • Bone marrow

The fatty foods in the green section tend to be very effective in increasing metabolism, especially in the absence of carbohydrates because they stimulate the production of ketones (I’ll talk about this later).

Bear in mind that 1 gram of fat has 2.5 times the calories of a gram of protein or carbohydrates; therefore “eating more fats” to increase metabolism should be done very gradually to avoid weight gain.

Proteins

Eating food not only sends regulatory signals to your brain about abundance vs scarcity of resources, but it can also increase your metabolism for a few hours. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF).[9] It’s caused by the extra calories required to digest, absorb and process the nutrients in your meal.

Protein causes the largest rise in TEF.[10] It increases your metabolic rate by 15-30%, compared to 5-10% for carbs and 0-3% for fats

Eating protein has also been shown to help you feel more full and prevent you from overeating, in fact, a study found that people were likely to eat around 441 fewer calories per day when protein made up 30% of their diet.[11]

Also, proteins help preserve muscle mass.[12] The more muscle mass we have, the higher our basal metabolism is.

For these reasons, the first nutritional advice I usually give to clients is to reduce sugars and increase proteins. This quick swap is often enough to kickstart their metabolism and commence the fat burning process.

Advertising

Red Protein Sources That Should Be Avoided
  • Cheap whey proteins
  • Soy proteins
  • GMO meat
  • GMO eggs
  • Packaged meat
Orange Protein Source to Be Limited
  • Canned tuna
  • Canned fish
  • Canned meat
  • Gluten-rich products like Seitan
  • Farmed fish
Green Protein Sources to Have Daily
  • Free-range meat
  • Free-range eggs
  • Wild meat and fish
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Collagen and beef protein hydrolyzed

Note that this is a general categorisation of the foods that, when added to your diet, have the power to increase or decrease metabolism. There are some specific foods and supplements worth mentioning because they have been proven to improve metabolism by increasing thyroid output or resting heart rate, they are as follows.

Other Foods and Supplements

Cold water

Drinking water may temporarily speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that drinking 17 ounces (0.5 litres) of water increases resting metabolism by 10-30% for about an hour.[13]

This is not a surprise since our body is made up mainly by water and proper hydration is key to a fast metabolism. This calorie-burning effect may be even greater if you drink cold water, as your body uses energy to heat it up to body temperature.

MCT Oils or Powders

Medium-chain triglycerides or MCT have been shown to improve metabolism by stimulating Ketone production.[14] Coconut oil contains MCT fats and, when used as a replacement for cooking oil can help you improve metabolism.

You can buy the concentrated version of MCT oils and eat it separately to further enhance this effect. Either way, coconut oil or pure MCT oil can be a great addition to your diet if you’re following a ketogenic or intermittent fasting protocol.

Caffeine

Caffeine and coffee have been shown to improve metabolism by improving heart rate and, therefore improving calorie consumption.[15]

Green Tea

Green tea

is thought to increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, and to reduce fat production and absorption.[16]

Bottom Line

In this article, I just covered the basics of food and metabolism but, there are many other non-food related things you can do to improve your metabolism, like improving your sleep quality and following certain exercise routines.

For now, just know that making small and gradual changes to your diet can increase your metabolism and improve your general health. Starting from changing one habit at a time is always the best strategy to accomplish any goal.

Once you improve your diet, your hydration and your supplementation you can think about testing more advanced “bio-hacks” or techniques like ice baths and fasted HIIT training.

And remember, having a higher metabolism doesn’t only help you lose weight and keep it off but it also give you more energy and a feeling of vibrancy. If you give it time, it really is worth the investment.

Featured photo credit: Fitsum Admasu via unsplash.com

Reference

Read Next