Ila Champine

Hot summer temperatures make it critical to stay hydrated. Drinking liquids every two to four hours, even when you’re not particularly thirsty, can help you beat the heat. 

But not all liquids are created equal. Many drinks contain lots of added sugar — something few people need more of. Packing the right drinks on that beach trip or hike can help you stay both cool and healthy.

Sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, energy drinks and sports drinks are the number-one source of added sugars in American diets, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). A single 12-ounce can of regular soda has 10 teaspoons of added sugar. That means anyone who drinks it is blowing through their suggested daily sugar consumption. The AHA recommends no more than six teaspoons for women and kids and nine for men.

Drinking (or eating) a bunch of added sugar is a problem because it adds calories while providing zero nutrients. Increased sugar consumption is linked with weight gain, which leads to a whole list of problems. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of heart attack, stroke and diabetes development.

It’s also hard to burn off those empty calories. For example, if you drank a 20-ounce soda, you’d have to walk from Dollar’s Corner to Battle Ground High School to (almost) work it all off. That’s 3 miles.

You can check the labels on your drinks to uncover added sugar. Aim to buy beverages with zero to five grams of sugar per 12 ounces. Don’t drink beverages with over 12 grams of sugar per 12 ounces.

Water is always a healthy drink option. If you’re craving a little pizazz, grab sparkling water or unsweetened tea. You can make your own flavored waters by adding fruit such as strawberries, peaches, and blueberries; fresh herbs such as basil and mint; or cucumber. Adding a splash of 100% juice can also pump up the flavor without going overboard on sugar.

Adults can also replace sugary drinks with sugar-free options containing artificial sweeteners such as NutraSweet and Splenda. This swap can be particularly helpful for patients diagnosed with diabetes, as these can satisfy a sweet tooth while making a smaller impact on blood glucose levels.

Researchers are still studying the health impacts of sugar substitutes. Some studies suggest that because they are sweeter than sugar that they can increase sugar cravings over time. Based on the results of fruit fly studies, scientists also think substitutes may trick people’s brains. If the amount of energy people receive from items containing sugar substitutes is less than it should be given the sweetness they’re experiencing, the brain may signal the body to consume more calories. Because of this, it’s important to stay mindful of your whole diet and how you’re using sugar substitutes.

Another way to avoid soda, chocolate milk, sugar-filled coffee drinks, and other temptations is to keep a refillable water bottle handy. When water is within arm’s reach there’s less reason to go out of your way to find another option.

Ila Champine is a physician assistant at Vancouver Clinic. She is also a licensed dietician. She enjoys building relationships with patients and getting to know them as people. 

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