Stay away from high-calorie, caffeine-containing drinks in hot weather

Linda Benedict  |  6/1/2011 11:49:35 PM

News Release Distributed 06/01/11

During this hot, dry weather, stay hydrated with beverages that are good for you, and stay away from high-calorie, caffeine-containing drinks. These drinks, though enticing, come at a high cost healthwise, says Heli Roy, extension nutritionist with the LSU AgCenter.

Some of the most heavily promoted drinks are the specialty coffees. Their sales have been increasing about 20 percent a year, Roy says. Though refreshing, an iced mocha coffee with whipped cream can have as many calories as a malted milk.

“Some of these specialty coffee drinks have as many as 1,200 calories,” Roy said. “These calories can add up.”

One study showed that college women who regularly drank specialty coffees consumed 200 more calories and 32 more grams of sugar per day than their counterparts who avoided these drinks.

So-called energy drinks, which are loaded with caffeine, continue to gain popularity, too.

“People drink them because they don’t get enough sleep, and they’re tired. And they drink them with alcohol while partying,” Roy said.

She recommends that these drinks never be consumed by children or adolescents because of their stimulant content.

These energy drinks typically contain 80 to 140 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces, which is about the same as two 12-ounce cans of a caffeinated soft drink such as Mountain Dew, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola or Dr. Pepper, Roy says.

But even caffeine-free soft drinks can cause problems. All soft drinks, even sugar-free, can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay and should only be consumed in moderation. In one study women who consumed two or more regular soft drinks per day had a 24 percent higher risk of developing diabetes during a six-year follow-up period compared with women who drank less than one soft drink per month, Roy says.

Fortunately, the volume of soft drink consumption in the United States is dropping. In 2010, it dropped a half a percent – down to 9.36 billion cases – which is the industry’s sixth consecutive year of gradual decline, Roy says.

The best beverages to help people stay hydrated and healthy are water, low-fat milk and 100 percent juice, Roy says.

“You just can’t beat water,” Roy said. “It’s the perfect beverage to rehydrate the system. It should be the beverage you choose most of the time.”

People on medications need to be particularly conscious of water consumption. Some medications, such as high blood pressure medicine, are diuretics and can cause fluid loss.

“Elderly people, who tend to be on medication, need to be very diligent about drinking plenty of water,” Roy said.

People, especially children, need milk for calcium and vitamin D.

One-hundred-percent fruit juice has most of the nutrients of the fruit itself, and it usually delivers more energy, Roy says.

“Unlike with soft drinks, studies show that children do not gain weight from drinking 100 percent juice,” Roy said.

Linda Foster Benedict
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