The verdict is in, and nobody’s surprised. Sugary drinks are terrible for your health. They’re a leading cause of obesity, dehydration, and tooth decay. Sweet beverages can be fine as an occasional treat. But the fact is, many people drink them more than any other kind of liquid. And it’s doing terrible things to our health.
Experts agree that people should be drinking more water than anything else. But water is so, well, boring. How can we kick sugar filled drinks to the curb when they taste so good?
It’s easier than you think. And here’s why.
Why does Soda Taste so Good?
What makes soda so irresistible? Turns out, there are three things that make us crave it. The good news is, you can recreate these things in drinks you make yourself. Even better? It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s so, so healthy.
There’s nothing like a cold soda on a hot day. Luckily, that part is easy. Ice cubes or an hour in the fridge should make your healthy drink nice and cool.
It’s hard to beat the zip and sparkle of a fizzy drink. But you don’t have to get your fizz from a sugary soda or a chemical-laden diet soda. Here are a couple of ways to make a fizzy drink, without the sugar.
You may have experimented with baking soda and vinegar as a child, and seen a dramatic result. This result is what happens you mix an acid, like vinegar, with a base, like baking soda. Adding a small amount of baking soda (half a teaspoon) and a larger amount (one tablespoon) of either apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to a glass of water will give your water a nice fizz ─ and a bit of flavor, too. Not to mention that baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice all have demonstrated health benefits.
You can find unsweetened seltzer water at most grocery stores. It has no sugar, no sugar substitutes, and no calories. It’s become so popular that you can often find a variety of flavors, from lemon to cherry to watermelon. You will notice the lack of sweetness, but it’s not hard to get used to it. Especially when you realize what a big favor you’re doing for every part of your body, including your heart, your teeth, and your waistline. If you really miss the sweetness, try adding a small amount of a strongly flavored fruit juice, like orange, lemon or cranberry.
Soda comes in a handful of basic flavors, but they’re nothing compared to the combinations you can make yourself at home. When you buy sweet drinks, you’re drinking what other people think you should like. But when you create your own flavors, you have all of nature at your fingertips. Why not experiment? Let’s have a look at some popular flavors ─ and some that are off the beaten path. Who knows how far your imagination can take you?
Let’s start with some sweet flavors. That’s why we’re here, right? To learn how to replace refined sugar and chemical sugar substitutes with something better? Here are a few for you to try, with either still or sparkling water.
That’s an easy one. Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, oranges, and even grapefruit are packed with flavor. All you have to do is slice it up and float it on top. One slice will flavor a glass. Half a fruit, sliced up to let out the juices, will flavor an entire pitcher. Stick with one fruit, or mix it up. And not only are citrus fruits packed with flavor, they’re also packed with Vitamin C. Citrus fruits are also great for your heart. So, give it a try!
Berries, like citrus fruits, pack a flavorful punch. They’re also full of antioxidants. In addition, their flavors combine with a lot of other fruits, herbs, and spices. Float a handful of berries in your water, or slice up a small basket of strawberries for a pitcher. You’ll be glad you did.
Some kinds of melon, like honeydew and cantaloupe, are irresistibly sweet. And when you cut them up and add them to your water, they give it a light, bright sweetness that’s just right. Watermelon is a favorite, as it’s mostly water, and the flavor diffuses easily into your drink when you slice it. What’s more, melons are a terrific source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, and more.
There’s no end to the different fruits that can make your drink more interesting. Apples work well, and grapes, and kiwi fruit, too. Or you can try something you’ve never tried before. What do you have to lose?
Vegetable water? Why not? Restaurants have been offering cucumber water for years. And people love it! Although many vegetables don’t have the same concentration of flavor that fruits do, they can, still, give your water a zing. And if you’re trying to give up sweet drinks, why not try by giving up the sweet altogether? Here are a few ways to get your water and your veggies at the same time.
Cucumber is technically a melon. And although it doesn’t taste sugary, it will give your water a certain light, cool sweetness that is absolutely crave-worthy.
Peppers? In water? Yes! A mild pepper like a bell pepper will give your water a crisp, cheery flavor. If you want a kick, try a slice or two of a hot pepper, like a jalapeno.
Herbs and Spices
Now here’s where you can start letting your inner drinks artist come out to play. Herbs and spices add flavor without sugar. They combine well with fruits and vegetables. And, best of all, many of them have proven health benefits of their own. Try adding some of these to your water, either by themselves, or with another ingredient.
Cinnamon is the queen of spices. Not only does a little go a very long way, but it’s versatile, and you can find it almost anywhere. Not only that, but cinnamon has a long list of health benefits, including reducing cholesterol, improving circulation, helping to regulate blood sugar, and more. Experiment with powdered cinnamon vs. cinnamon sticks, to see which you like better.
Ginger is another powerhouse, both in terms of flavor, and in terms of boosting your health. It pairs well with both sweet and savory flavors. In addition, it can help fight colds and flu, it’s great for digestion, and it’s also terrific for your heart.
A lot of people think of meats when they think of sage. But did you know it goes really well with berry flavors? Try finely cutting fresh sage and adding it to your water with some crushed blackberries. You might discover a new taste sensation!
Lemongrass is one of the more recognizable tastes associated with Thai food. It’s similar to lemon, but different enough to be really, really interesting. You can buy it dried in the spice section of your local grocery store. Use it as you would a cinnamon stick. It goes beautifully with cucumber.
Basil is interesting, because it can go savory or sweet, depending on what you mix it with. And it’s lovely on its own, as well. Sweet, green, and almost peppery, it mixes very well with melon, strawberries, and mint.
Now, mint ─ there’s a powerful flavoring agent, and it goes well with so many things! Berries, melon, cucumber, apples ─ the list goes on and on. In addition, peppermint is renowned for its calming effect, as well as for its helpful influence on digestion.
Let your imagination run wild! Try some of these taste combinations, then make up a few of your own!
- Cucumber, mint, and strawberry
- Watermelon and basil
- Blackberries and sage
- Cinnamon, apple, and vanilla
- Jalapeno and watermelon
- Pineapple and raspberries
- Lemon and mint
It’s not hard to kick the sugar habit, but it does take a little practice. Fortunately, with all of nature at your fingertips, practice can be healthy ─ and fun.