Category Archives: water


What’s Really In Sport Drinks?

I’m going to be blunt. Under no circumstances would I recommend commercial sport drinks. Period.  Well, maybe if you are dehydrated (literally) and no other liquid exists for miles. 

Sadly commercial sport drinks such as Gatorade and Vitamin Water are nothing but liquid sugar and chemical additives. The cons far outweigh any benefit. Most young children simply need water. Teenage and adult athletes may need extra support, but there are much healthier alternatives. And I guarantee professional athletes are not drinking Gatorade despite the advertisements you see on TV.

A Closer Look at the Ingredients in Sport Drinks

While there are minor differences in different sport drinks, many of them have the similar ingredients. Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in Gatorade…

Gatorade sport drinks nutrition label

Water: Good!

Sugar: And lots of it! An entire 16-ounce bottle contains a little more than 13 teaspoons of sugar. It’s counterproductive to encourage our kids to play sports to be healthy, but then load them up with sugar. Sugar sweetened beverages (SSBs) are the primary source of added sugars in the standard American diet. And several studies have linked SSBs to weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease [1].

Dextrose: Just another form of sugar. Unfortunately this form of sugar is made from corn and therefore most likely to be genetically modified (GM).

Citric Acid: A flavoring and a preservative. It may seem harmless because it is naturally found in fruit, but the citric acid found in foods and beverages is chemically produced from black mold secretions.  It’s also another product that comes from corn and another source of GM contamination.

Natural Flavor: Don’t let the name fool you. The “fruit punch” does not get its flavor from real fruit. These are flavors made in a laboratory. And no one really knows how or what is used to make them.

Salt: Salt is one of the electrolytes (the other major electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, potassium, and phosphate) however sea salt would be a better option here because it actually provides minerals. 

Sodium Citrate: A “sodium salt of citric acid” this chemically processed food additive is used to regulate acidity. It has a potential to cause allergic reactions, dizziness, or restlessness. 

Monopotassium Phosphate: This ingredient is a potassium salt that has the potential to cause abdominal discomfort. It’s a common food additive as well as a fertilizer and fungicide. 

Modified Food Starch: Another chemically processed food stabilizer.

Red 40: Artificial dyes are linked to behavior disorders and hyperactivity in children. Some kids are more sensitive than others. For those that are sensitive, it can be disastrous for them and their families. These dyes are made from petroleum and coal tar and are banned in several other countries. [2]

Glycerol Ester of Rosin: A food additive designed to keep oils suspended or evenly mixed in water. It is produced from pine tree wood rosin using a long list of chemicals.

Caramel Color: Another artificial coloring additive. Unfortunately it contains 4-methylimidazole which has been linked to cancer.

Unfortunately the “zero-calorie” options typically contain the exact same ingredients. However instead of sugar, they use artificial sweeteners. While many people turn to artificial sweeteners to consume fewer calories, studies have actually linked them to weight gain. [3]

Healthy alternatives

There are more “natural” brands on the market today, but they’re mostly made of concentrated fruit juice (another form of liquid sugar). And they still have a few unnecessary additives. Therefore, why buy over-sugared drinks when water is a much healthier, and cheaper, option.

And from an environmental standpoint, we’d use much less plastic if every team player brought a reusable water bottle filled from home. Further, you’ll also your reduce exposure to the harmful aspects of plastic by using a glass or stainless steel container.

While one sport drink won’t cause permanent harm, drinking them routinely is another story.

When you or your children truly need a source of electrolytes after an intense or prolonged period of physical activity, try one of these options instead:

  • Make your own electrolyte drink by combining water, lemon, raw honey and sea salt
  • Make an agua fresca
  • Choose coconut water, a well balanced electrolyte beverage (but, be sure to read the label and avoid harmful additives)

 

* * * * * * 

Resources:

[1] Sugar Sweetened Beverages: Over time, too much liquid sugar can lead to serious disease
[2] Food additives and hyperactive behavior in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-0ld children 
[3] Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings 

 

Water Water Where

As we move into the warmer months many people find their water consumption going up.  Drinking more water is the smallest part of our overall use.  However landscaping, washing cars, water activities such as pools, all contribute to higher water usage.  Many of us tend to ignore how much water we use or to be less mindful of ways to conserve this precious resource.  The following infographic highlights the growing stress on our water system.  We all need to learn to think about what and how we are using water.

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Water For Weight Loss

Screen shot 2013-03-29 at 10.53.44 PM

Water is something we don’t really give much thought.  There’s a perceived abundance of it on Earth; that makes it easy to take for granted.  We only really worry about it if there’s a water crisis or our pipelines are broken.

Regardless of how easy it is to overlook the importance of water, we can’t deny that it’s a key component in sustaining our lives.  60% of our body weight is attributable to water, 70% of our brain is made up of water, and, although there are differing opinions, 3 to 5 days without water can actually kill us.  Water is very important for our survival.  However, in addition being a requirement for to basic survival, water is also important if you’re trying to lose weight.

We all know the technique of drinking water before a meal in order to lose weight.  If this is the first time you’ve heard of it then welcome to the club. Drinking water before your meal can help to reduce your appetite.  It’s important to choose pure water, filtered if necessary, to remove toxic chemicals and environmental contaminants.  Adding water helps to increase satiety, which makes you feel full sooner and with less food intake.  Studies have shown that there’s a significant effect, although not drastic, of utilizing this practice for losing weight.  However, don’t rely on this and interpret it to imply that “drinking water burns fat.”  Water as part of the meal is there to contribute, not to be the weight loss solution.

On the flip side, it’s also important to not overdo it.  Drinking too much water can lead to water intoxication and changes to your body chemistry in a way that can prove to be unhealthy or worse, fatal.  There is, however, a way to use gallons and gallons of water for losing weight and healthy living.

While drinking excessive amounts of water can be negative for health, gallons and gallons of water outside of your body can help you get fit, lose weight, and be healthy.  I’m talking about swimming of course.

Scientifically speaking, swimming is one of the best forms of cardiovascular exercise.  Better than jogging or cycling, swimming is a low impact cardio that doesn’t take its toll on your joints.  You can get your lungs working and heart pumping to help you burn off those excess calories.  One example found on the internet is the inspirational story of Matthew who lost more than 100 pounds via eating right and swimming.

Swimming also provides a work out for the whole body as opposed to jogging and cycling which affect mostly the lower body.  When you swim you are exercising your core and back muscles as well as strengthening your legs and arms.  It’s a total body workout aided by the buoyancy factor of the water.

As you can see, you not only need water to survive;  you should use water if you are going for a healthy lifestyle and trying to lose weight.  Now if there’s was only an accessible swimming pool in every neighborhood…

 

Kurt Lao is the Editor of weight loss product reviews resource: WeightRater.com. He has several product reviews to his credit and serves as a contributor to some of the top health and weight loss blogs online.

photo: rebecca

On My Mind Monday 11.26.12

It’s never the same two weeks in a row.  A collection of what I find interesting in the world of food, nutrition, and holistic health.  Here’s what’s on my mind.

Southeast Paying Price For High Antibiotic Use – While overall antibiotic use is dropping, some areas of the country are not dropping as quickly as others.  This is problematic as those areas tend to show higher levels of antibiotic-resistant infections (including urinary tract infections).  It is important to remember that antibiotics should be taken responsibly.  Only take them if you really need them, take them according to the schedule written by your doctor, and finish your entire prescription to ensure that you do not potentially breed superbugs.

Fat blocking soda – Pepsi is at it again.  Trying to make an unhealthy product appear to be something that might be good for you.  Soda is not, is never, a healthy choice of beverage.  Fat blocking soda is just ridiculous.  By adding a dose of what is essentially an ingredient found in laxative Benefiber they are claiming it will block fat and help you lose weight.  My prediction is that this one won’t last long.  It’s kind of like the 7-up with anti-oxidants which was shut down for making nutrient claims.  Looking for fat blocking foods? Eat fiber-rich foods rather than drinking a chemically concocted, empty calorie beverage.

Edible deodorant – While I will be the first to tell you that many deodorants have ingredients in them which are unhealthy and should be avoided, I’m not a fan of this product. First we don’t know that it will work well for everyone as we are all bio-individual and there are no guarantees when it comes to body chemistry. Second I’m not convinced that the ingredients are going to be that great. Instead consider using the EWG’s Skindeep – Deodorant List.

Water Conservation – is still in the news. As I’ve written before it’s something we are definitely thinking more about (especially in light of the letter we recently received from our utility district informing us that water rates were going up by 14%). This is an issue that is not going away and I believe will have a profound impact not only on our water but also on our food (we need water to irrigate, wash, cook, etc).  Our big effort right now is looking for ways to get rid of more of the lawn. I’d love to hear any water conservation ideas anyone else has.

Veggieducken – Wow, what is it with us and combined foods? It’s certainly not a new concept and is something that’s been around for ages, but lately the idea seems to be regaining popularity. The turducken (a turkey stuffed with a duck stuffed with a chicken), a cherpumple (a monstrous three cake three pie combination) and now this. I will confess this one could be a WWME food but I’m not sure I’m willing to invest all the time it would take to make one.

I wanted to share this video from my friend Karen who talks for the first time about her personal journey with Crohn’s. Thank you Karen for your willingness to share and open up about your health and your condition.

Thoughts On Water

rain on grass | photo: adrian benko

We’ve been getting a fair amount of rain so far this year.  We don’t have a rain gauge (although I’m beginning to think we should) and I have my eye on this one.  For now we simply mark when it rains on the calendar because after two years of severe drought we’re more mindful of how desperately we need water in this Eastern Piney Woods Region of Texas.  

The drought was considered the worst one since the 1950’s and the effects were devastating.  The biggest environmental impact the highly destructive series of wildfires which burned nearly 2,000,000 acres of Texas land.  Livestock and wildlife were badly affected and thousands of people were made homeless by the fires.  Locally in my town fortunately no homes were destroyed by the fires, however we lost more than 15% of our trees and clean-up is still continuing nearly a year later.

So although we’ve been grateful for the rain, our household become more mindful of our water use and we’ve realized there are a few things that we can do to help conserve water.  There are of course a the typical things you can do:

  1. adjust your sprinkler system to not over water and install a rain gauge so you don’t water when it’s raining
  2. aerate your lawn so water can reach the roots rather than creating run-off
  3. mulch your garden to help retain moisture
  4. check outdoor faucets to make sure they don’t leak
  5. compost rather than using the dispos-all
  6. Wash fruits and veggies in a pan rather than under a running faucet
  7. shorten your shower time (1-2 minutes can add up to over 100 gallons per month)
  8. turn off the water while brushing your teeth (estimates claim this can save up to 25 gallons per month per household)
  9. check your toilet to make sure the valve closes completely after filling
  10. when cleaning your fish tank use the nutrient rich water for houseplants

However there are other  ways to increase your water conservancy as well and we’ve just implements two that I think will really help with our water usage.

My husband just installed a Dual Flush Toilet Conversion Kit.  I love these things.  Instead of a lever flush you have a cute button with a one dot push and a two dot push.  Each one of course corresponding to the common euphemisms for pee and poo.  The big reason to love it though is that now we don’t use more water than we need.  Let’s be honest, when you pee it takes far less water to flush the remains to the sewer system; however a regular flush system doesn’t allow you to differentiate.  It was easy to install and should last for a long time.

Also in the water conservation mode he recently installed a Rain Barrel.  After just a few rainstorms our barrel is full.  We plan to use this water for container plants and the vegetable garden.  We figure it’s better than turning on the hose and plants seem to love rainwater more anyway.  Also easy to install, it diverts the flow from our downspout.  When the barrel is full there is an overflow valve which backs up and the water again flows through the downspout.  I haven’t needed to use the water yet as our rainfall has been sufficient, but it’s nice to know we have it if we need it.

Given the growing world wide water crisis it is important that we all become more aware of how we use water.  To be more conscious of what we use and if it can be recycled or if we can use less.

Hydrating Foods

fruit salad | photo: Marisa DeMeglio

The seasons have changed and those hot, summer days can cause you to sweat.  A lot.  Through sweating you wind up losing valuable hydration.  While it’s important to make sure that you drink enough to stay well hydrated don’t forget to look at what you’re eating.  Many of the foods that are in season have a high water content and can help keep you hydrated.

Dehydration can cause a wide range of negative health effects from low blood pressure, increased heart rate, headache, or weakness to dizziness, and possibly even unconsciousness.   It is important not only to stay well hydrated but to consider the source of your hydration.  Avoid rehydrating through overconsumption of high sugar (such as soda or sports drinks), caffeinated, or alcoholic beverages.

Before we talk about hydrating foods let’s look at how much fluid you should be taking in.  This formula is based on an average person who is not exerting themselves to a high level. This is a very rough estimation of required hydration.  Start with your body weight, divide it in half, and convert those ounces to cups.  As an example:

                         A person weighing 150 lbs
                         Divided in half = 75 lbs
                         75 ounces = 9.4 cups

This number then needs to be further modified depending on whether you are living in an extreme temperature location, if you are exercising and how much, if you are pregnant or nursing, and/or how much of your hydration may be coming from food.  Obviously if you are out running a 5K, doing bikram yoga or even spending long hours in the sun doing yard work you need to up your fluid intake. But it serves well as a general starting point.

Some people don’t like to drink water.  Here are a few ways that you can bump it up a little.

  1.  Add flavor to your water by the use of things such as mint, cucumber, lemon, or lime.   By adding a little flavor (without sugar or chemicals) you may find yourself inclined to drink more water.  
  2. For those people who are used to drinking soda, consider purchasing a SodaStream seltzer maker (avoid the flavored, chemical-laden additives) and start to break yourself of the soda habit.  This has an added benefit of reducing your plastic waste because you won’t throw out endless amounts of plastic bottles.  I have had my SodaStream for over 3 years and my bottles are still going strong.
  3. Try drinking water kefir, a great way to quench your thirst and add healthy probiotics to your system at the same time.   Note:  water kefir needs to be drunk in moderation as too much can overwhelm your system.

Eating lots of hydrating foods has an effect on how much fluid intake you will need.  Food sources such as smoothies and cold soups (like this amazing gazpacho) add hydration as well as satisfying the appetite.  Specific foods which are high in water content include:

  • apples – tend to be highly contaminated with pesticides so it is worthwhile to purchase these organic.  High in fiber, vitamin C and the flavonol quercetin which is beneficial for heart health, blood sugar stabilization also considered anti-inflamatory.
  • bok choy – sometimes referred to as Chinese Cabbage, low in calories and high in vitamins A, C, calcium and fiber. Like most cabbages it is believed to be anti-carcinogenic.  There are some concerns about pesticide use with this vegetable and organic purchase is suggested.
  • carrots – in addition being an excellent source of vitamin A carrots also provide good levels of fiber, vitamin C, K, and potassium.  Highly antioxidant they are considered a good cardiovascular support food. 
  • cantaloupe – extremely high in vitamins A and C cantaloupes are also a good source of potassium.  The high levels of vitamin A make them very supportive for lung health while the high levels of A and C make them a good choice for eye health.  Be sure to wash thoroughly before cutting open.
  • cucumbers – very high in vitamin K,  considered antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.  Because they are one of the “dirty dozen” purchase these organic whenever possible.
  • celery – another great source of vitamin K,  high in fiber and studies indicate that it can be helpful in reducing blood pressure.  Another “dirty dozen” veggie; choose organic whenever possible.
  • cherries – very high in vitamin C and a good source of potassium, cherries come in both tart and sweet varieties.  Shown to be effective for helping to reduce blood pressure, it seems cherries may also support collagen health.
  • grapefruit – very high in vitamin C with a very high antioxidant level.  As with most citrus it also contains limonoids, a phytonutrient which appears to be helpful in reducing tumors.
  • peaches – purchase organic due to the high levels of pesticide contamination.  Highly antioxidant, a good source of fiber, vitamin C and potassium. Peaches are believed to help support healthy skin due to their high levels of phytonutrients.
  • plums – high in vitamin A, C, K and fiber, also help the body to absorb more iron from iron rich foods.  Highly supportive of eye health with studies showing that plums may lower the risk of age related macular degeneration.
  • strawberries – another pesticide laden fruit, these are best purchased organic.  Very high in vitamin C, also provide manganese and fiber.  Not only are they anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory, emerging research seems to indicate that daily intake of strawberries may be related to a reduction in inflammatory bowel disease.
  • tomatoes – a great source of antioxidants and high in vitamins A, C, K, and potassium.  In addition to being cardio-supportive new research appears to indicate that tomatoes may also be beneficial for bone health, especially in post-menopausal women.  
  • watermelon – very high in vitamin C, also provides a good source of vitamin A, some potassium and magnesium.  Watermelon is considered an anti-inflammatory, alkalizing fruit.
  • yogurt – in addition to being a good source of calcium, live culture yogurt also provides probiotics, phosphorus, potassium, zinc and protein.  As a dairy product it is also one of our few food sources of vitamin D.  Organic is the best choice to avoid antibiotics, hormones, and GMO feed.  It’s also important to get whole milk yogurt as the vitamin D in the yogurt is a fat-soluble vitamin (meaning it needs to be eaten with fat for the body to properly utilize it).  Choose the plain variety and add fresh fruit if needed for sweetness to avoid the added sugars.
  • kefir – a delicious fermented yogurt, kefir is thinner and has a tangy tart flavor to it.  With all the benefits of yogurt, kefir adds a little extra probiotic punch as the fermentation increases probiotic activity.
Try to include more of these fabulous and tasty foods into your summer time diet.  Not only will they provide nutritional support, they’ll also help keep you hydrated.

Stay Well-hydrated For Summer

Water | photo:  Suat Eman

With summer just around the corner and temperatures rising it’s important to stay well-hydrated during the summer months. Most of us don’t drink enough water in the first place, add in the higher temperatures and more outdoor activity, it all adds up to sweating more, leading to more fluid loss and potential dehydration. Dehydration can cause a large number of physical problems from headaches and migraines, to constipation to deep fatigue or loss of energy.

Before you reach for that cheap 54-oz Big Gulp think about what your body needs in terms of hydration. It certainly doesn’t need all that sugar. An 8-oz can of Sprite claims that it has 26 g of sugar, multiplied by 6.75 to equal a 54-oz drink, that comes to 175.5 g of sugar, not to mention all those chemicals. If you’re drinking sugar-free, you are taking in even more chemicals; caffeinated sodas would deliver a jolting 155 mg of caffeine.
Choose refreshing drink choices that are actually good for you. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Water – always good, water is exactly what your body needs. For a refreshing change to plain water add a slice of citrus to your water. For a cool and cleansing taste try slices of peeled cucumber or even a sprig of mint.
  • Iced tea – although tea does have caffeine if you make your iced teas with green tea you’ll be getting less caffeine over all. Or you can use herbal teas which have no caffeine and are very refreshing and enjoyable.
  • Spritzers – adding your favorite juice to cool seltzer water with some ice and perhaps a slice of fresh fruit can be a great way to stay hydrated. The usual proportions are 50% juice 50% seltzer. Just be sure to choose juices that are 100% juice, no additives, no preservatives, no colors.  If you are using concentrated juice you will need to adjust the proportions to your preference.
  • Agua fresca – these cool and tasty drinks, originally from Mexico, are made by taking blended fresh fruit, usually melons, and combining them with water, sugar, and a splash of lime juice. Because there is sugar, with both the fresh fruit and the added sugar, these should be consumed in moderation.  There is a delicious recipe posted below.
  • Lemonade or limeade – made with citrus juice, water and sugar this can be very satisfying and cooling. If you make it yourself you control how much sugar is in it.  There are a wide number of tasty recipes available online.

Strawberry Watermelon Agua Fresca | photo Marie the Bee

Agua Fresca

  • 3 cups of melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew, etc), seeded, peeled and diced
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons evaporated cane juice crystals
  • juice of 1-2 limes

  • Blend melon to a pulp in the blender
  • Strain pulp to remove fibers
  • In a pitcher mix together water and sugar until sugar crystals dissolve
  • Add melon juice
  • Add lime juice to taste
  • Serve over ice

It is important to remember that alcohol is a diuretic; this means you loose more body fluids when you drink it. So even though after spending the day in the hot summer sun that beer, wine cooler, or mixed drink seems cool and refreshing, it won’t help you stay healthy, hydrated and refreshed.

*this article has been modified from it’s original content originally published online at my Houston Holistic Health Examiner column.  

What’s In Your Water?

Water | Abhijit Tembhekar | Wikimedia Commons

Everyone seems to be drinking more water these days, that’s a good thing.  Unfortunately though many kids are drinking flavored water drinks that are presented as healthy.  You know the ones I’m talking about.  They come with names like Vitamin Water and Fruit2O.  Let’s not even start with the whole sports drink issue.

I was horrified when the pediatrician told my daughter that she needed to add more water to her diet, suggesting that she start drinking Propel.  My daughter was thrilled and turned to me with a gleeful look on her face that faded when she saw my expression.

I am continually amazed at how manipulated we are by manufacturers.  There is no other way to say this other than to just say it.  Water is water period end of story.  Why are they trying to fancy it up with all sorts of chemical additives for color and flavor, and why are they adding preservatives.  Preservatives?  What’s in water than needs preserving?

Are many of us dehydrated?  I believe the answer is yes.  Do we need 8 glasses of water per day?  That depends on what your bio-individual needs are.  If you live in a climate that causes you to lose a lot of moisture or you exercise a lot or you don’t eat high moisture foods and take in other liquids it all adds up.  However I also believe that by the time we feel thirsty we are generally more dehydrated than we realize.

Dehydration is known to cause headaches, can lead to worsening asthma, hypertension and other health issues.  Proper hydration is also key to helping the body eliminate toxins.  That is why it’s important to make sure that we are getting enough fluids to stay well hydrated.  Breathing, digesting, sweating, and excreting all cause us to lose fluids.

If what we need is to stay well hydrated what we do not need is all of the extra chemicals that come with most packaged water drinks.  Not only that if you look at the label you will see that they are misleading you by claiming to only have a certain number of calories.  What you need to remember is to look at the label and see how many calories are in a serving and how many servings are in a bottle.  One bottle of VitaminWater has 50 calories and 13g of sugar per serving.  The label purports to contain 2.5 servings per bottle.  Most people I know drink the whole bottle; that means 125 calories and over 32g of sugar per bottle.  And those are empty calories.  Providing no nutritional value and not filling you up at all.

Let me give you a hint, there are no calories in water.  If you are looking for a little flavor in your water consider adding a slice of fresh fruit, a squeeze of citrus, a slice of cucumber, or a sprig of mint.  These all add a lot of flavor without adding sugar, calories, “natural flavors”, or other chemicals.  Just drink water.  It’s what your body needs.