Your guide to staying healthy and hydrated

It’s important to stay properly hydrated, especially in the hot summer months. Registered dietitian Sue Mah shares good, bad and so-so ways to get your fluids

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woman drinking water

Not all drinks are created equal

We need fluids to help us digest food, carry nutrients through the body, cushion internal organs, lubricate joints, moisturize skin and regulate body temperature. That's especially true in the hot summer months, when we lose more fluids through sweat. According to the Dietitians of Canada's recommendations, women need about nine cups (2.25 L) of fluids a day, and men need about 13 cups (3 L). [How much hydration you need throughout the day also depends on your activity level.]

But not all drinks are created equal. Here are calorie, sugar and, in some cases, sodium counts of popular beverages.

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chamomile tea

Healthy hydration choices

Water: Hands down, plain water is the best thirst quencher. For natural flavour, add slices of orange, lemon, strawberries, cucumber or even fresh mint to your water.

Flavoured water: Options such as Nestlé Pure Life Splash are another healthy choice if you're not a fan of plain water. Splenda (sucralose), an artificial sweetener, is used to flavour it, keeping it calorie- and sugar-free. Splenda is safe, and according to the Canadian Diabetes Association, it has no effect on insulin or blood sugar levels.

Coconut water: This is the juice of coconuts; it contains potassium, an electrolyte we lose when we sweat, as well as small amounts of magnesium (which we need for our muscles and nerves). Compared to a sports drink, coconut water is lower in sugar. For example, a 330-mL serving of O.N.E. coconut water contains 11 grams. Tip: Look for brands that contain no added sugar.

Unsweetened tea or coffee: Without sugar, tea and coffee are both calorie-free. (For each teaspoon of sugar you add, count on 16 calories and four grams of sugar. For each creamer, add 20 calories.) Bonus: Black tea and green tea contain phytonutrients that may play a role in heart and cognitive health. What about the diuretic effect of caffeine? A review by the Dietitians of Canada of clinical research found for most people, there's usually no diuretic effect so long as you limit caffeine to 225 mg a day (about two medium cups of coffee, or five to six cups of tea).

Lower-fat milk: You get lots of essential nutrients from milk-it's what is called a "nutrient-dense" food. A cup of one percent milk offers calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and phosphorus for 102 calories and 13 grams of sugar. The same-sized serving of one percent chocolate milk has the same 16 essential nutrients, about 170 calories-but more than double the sugar at 26 grams.

Vegetable juice:
These typically have at least one full serving of veggies in a serving size, and fewer calories and sugar than fruit juice. A small single-serving can (163 mL) of V8, for example, has 30 calories and five grams of sugar. But it also has 450 mg of sodium, about 30 percent of your daily requirement. Stick to low-sodium versions (V8's has 95 mg sodium in a 163-mL serving) or make your own veggie juices.

Powder or liquid water enhan­cers: Powders such as Crystal Light or liquid water enhancers such as MiO are other ways to boost the flavour of water while adding few or no calories. They are sugar-free and are made with sucralose, aspartame and/or acesulfame potassium. All of those artificial sweeteners are approved in Canada-but avoid products that contain aspartame if you have a sensitivity to it or if you have phenylketonuria (PKU), a genetic condition. If you are on a potassium-restricted diet, talk to your doctor about consuming products with acesulfame potassium.

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sports drinks

Drink in moderation

Vitamin-enhanced waters: Read the nutrition labels of vitamin water; otherwise, you might be in for a surprise. A 591-mL bottle of strawberry/kiwi-flavoured Aquafina Plus + Vitamins vitamin-enhanced water, for example, contains vitamins C, E and B, but at a cost of 100 calories and 25 grams of sugar. So watch how many you have in a day.

Fruit juice: A cup (250 mL) of 100 percent orange juice counts as two servings of fruit, and will give you your day's worth of vitamin C. Some brands, such as Tropicana Calcium + Vitamin D, have added these nutrients as well as heart-healthy plant sterols. But that same cup of regular Tropicana Pure Premium OJ rings in at 110 calories and 22 grams of sugar. Instead, try a calorie-reduced version like Trop 50, which has 50 calories and 10 grams of sugar in one cup. (It uses an extract of the stevia plant to add sweetness.)

Sports drinks: A bottle (591 mL) of Gator­ade, for example, contains 150 calories and 35 grams of sugar. On top of that, it has 270 mg of sodium. A lower-cal alternative that uses the artificial sweeteners sucralose and acesulfame potassium is Gatorade G2, which has 20 calories per cup (250 mL), five grams of sugar and 115 mg of sodium.

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energy drinks

Proceed with caution

Energy drinks: Caffeine, and sucrose and glucose (a.k.a. sugars), are the main ingredients in energy drinks. A 250-mL can of Red Bull has 110 calories, 80 mg of caffeine (about the same amount found in a cup of coffee) and 27 grams of sugar. That's a lot of sugar in a small serving. Warning: Don't mix energy drinks with alcohol. It can cause side effects such as irregular heartbeats.

Regular pop: A 355-mL can of Coke, for example, has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar-that's about 10 sugar cubes or about nine teaspoons of sugar. If you love pop, stick to the smaller-sized cans at 90 calories each, or switch to diet pop.

Iced coffee drinks: A large iced mocha coffee from Tim Hortons has 330 calories and 31 grams of sugar. For just a third of the cal­ories and sugar, order the small size and ask for it to be made with milk instead of cream.


Store-bought Iced tea and lemonade:
A 355-mL can of iced tea has 110 calories and 29 grams of sugar. A 240-mL bottle of lemonade contains 100 calories and 27 grams of sugar. Instead, look for the diet versions or make your own iced tea and lemonade-that way you control the sugar.

Related:
9 healthy, hydrating foods
Our best healthy smoothie and drink recipes
How much water do you really need?