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The foods you consume can make a significant impact on your health, and so can the beverages you drink. A growing body of research reveals that beverage choice is far more important than once thought. When you drink a beverage—even if it is rich in calories, sugar, fat, and/or fiber—your body doesn’t identify that beverage as “fuel” in the same way that it registers solid food. If you need to shed some pounds, try this weight-loss tip: Get out your calorie counter and watch how many calories you’re drinking.
Many experts believe that sugar-sweetened beverages—soda, sweet teas and coffees, energy drinks, sports drinks, and fruit-flavored beverages—are a significant contributing factor to the nation’s obesity problem as well as the type 2 diabetes epidemic.
Many sweetened beverages consist of nothing more than a pile of sugar and flavorings that are added to a liquid. The American Heart Association issued a report advising Americans to cut back on added sugar, suggesting that women get no more than 100 calories (about 6 teaspoons) a day from added sugar and that men get no more than 150 calories (about 9 teaspoons) a day.
Water should be your No. 1 beverage, since it registers zero on a calorie counter; in fact, some food pyramids depicting healthy diets include several glasses of water. In addition, many plant-based beverages, such as tea, coffee, and even red wine, may offer health benefits.
True tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant. The varieties of tea—green, black, oolong, and white—depend upon how the leaves are processed. Research suggests that tea consumption is linked with a lower risk of heart disease and certain cancers, protection of oral health, bone health, and immune function, and perhaps even modest metabolic benefits. To reap the most benefits from tea, skip the premade tea drinks and brew your own-the flavonoid contents of freshly brewed teas are much higher than tea drinks in bottles or cans.
Coffee is loaded with phytochemicals—more than 1,000 active compounds with antioxidant properties have been identified in coffee beans. Coffee has been linked with improved mental and physical performance, a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, liver protection, and cancer-fighting properties. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, you can still gain antioxidant benefits from decaffeinated coffee.
4. Red wine
Research links red wine consumption with reduced risks of stroke, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, osteoporosis, and infectious diseases. Red wine can be included in a healthy eating plan; in fact, it is part of the Mediterranean-style diet pattern, which has been linked with a number of health benefits, including lower risks of heart disease, diabetes, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Red wine is rich in phytochemicals, including resveratrol. This phytochemical has antioxidant, anti-clotting, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer activities.
When it comes to your health, the most important thing about wine is to drink it in moderation. Benefits linked to red wine only occur with moderate consumption—one glass (5 ounces) per day for women, and one to two glasses per day for men.
Originally published in 2016, this post is regularly updated.