For a Sweet Summer, Skip the Sugary Drinks

After an hour of yard work, you run inside for a drink and grab that bottle of flavored water. After all, you keep hearing that keeping hydrated during the summer is important—and water is the best, right?

Well, yes and no. See, that flavored bottled water you just downed probably has about five teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar for every 12 ounces. That’s alarming when you factor in that the American Heart Association recommends that men limit their intake to nine teaspoons of added sugars per day, and women six teaspoons.

And sugar is no real friend to hydration—in fact, it has the opposite effect.

“It’s dehydrating,” Denice Taylor, a registered dietitian with Texas Health Arlington, says. “Sugar kind of pulls fluid from the cells. They have to try to metabolize that sugar quickly.

“They have to devote fluid and water to metabolize that sugar,” she continues. “And that can actually lead to dehydration.”

“Fruit juice and fruit drinks may have too many carbohydrates, and too little sodium, and may upset the stomach,” the Cleveland Clinic adds.

And sodas, energy drinks and sports drinks are the leading sources of added sugar in the American diet, the University of California-San Francisco’s “SugarScience” reveals. It represents 36 percent of the added sugar Americans consume.

“But fruit has sugars, too,” you might note. “Why is that sugary drink bad for me and an apple isn’t?”

The answer, the scientists at UCSF say, is what else is in that apple.

“When we eat an apple, for example, we may be getting as many as 18 grams of sugar, but the sugar is ‘packaged’ with about one-fifth of our daily requirement of fiber,” the research group explains.

That fiber, they say, takes our bodies a long time to digest. Because of that, those 18 grams of sugar are released slowly into the bloodstream.

But sugary drinks don’t have that time-release mechanism. As a result, the journey from liquid sugar to blood sugar happens quickly, delivering more sugar to the body’s vital organs than they can handle, according to SugarScience.

And when the sweet stuff hits, our bodies respond by producing triglycerides, some of which will be stored in the liver or will enter the bloodstream to line arteries, increasing heart attack risk.

So what can you drink in the summer? Water is a great choice, Taylor says. “You can always add sliced cucumber, lemons or limes to help flavor the water,” she adds. “A splash—just a splash—of juice is also a good way to flavor plain water.”

Need a little more flavor? “Honey is a natural sweetener, so it is a good alternative,” she allows. “You still have to use portion control on honey, and agave nectar.”

“Ice cold water can also taste better to some,” Taylor adds.

Taylor says aesthetics can also help. “Switch up the water bottles, find some that you really like,” she said. “If a new water bottle or cup will help you feel like drinking a healthy choice like water, do it!”


  • David says:

    I generally pour down the water, as I am predisposed to kidney stones, but when I have been working outside and get really hot and tired, I have found that a small amount (maybe 6-8 ounces) of Sprite or ginger ale helps pick me up. After that, it is just water.

  • Nicky says:

    How about sparkling waters? Are they good or bad?

    • Sarah McClellan-Brandt says:

      I think you’re in the clear on those (pun intended). Just skip the ones with artificial sweeteners.

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