You may have heard the warning: Don’t drink your calories. That bit of wisdom recognizes that beverages can be as waistline-expanding as a cheeseburger or a bowl of ice cream. But few of us want to drink plain water all the time.
To help you decide which drink to choose next time you head for the fridge, barista or bartender, read these head-to-head match ups.
- Soda vs. Diet Soda
We all know that regular soda is candy in a can: empty calories with lots of sugar and carbs. So diet sodas, with zero calories, zero carbs and zero sugar, may seem like the obvious better choice. But research shows that diet soda consumption is linked to weight gain, oddly enough, and even stroke and dementia. Sugar-sweetened beverages like regular soda were not associated with a risk of stroke and dementia, though they certainly will give you a belly.
Verdict: Whether you prefer regular or diet soda, make it an occasional treat rather than a daily drink.
- Juice vs. Smoothies
Despite its longtime standing as the kid drink of choice, juice isn’t good for you. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies younger than 1 not drink fruit juice and that older kids partake only in moderation. Fresh fruit is a much better option because it has fiber — the natural fiber is removed in juice while adding sugar and calories. Smoothies give you a chance to drink whole fruit, but the ones you can buy at fast-food restaurants or coffee shops are usually also packed with sugar, milk, cream and even ice cream, increasing the calories that you take in without adding needed fiber.
Verdict: Smoothie, but only if you make your own, use whole fruits and vegetables, and pay attention to sugar and fat content.
- Beer vs. Wine
First things first: Drinking too much alcohol is bad for your health, full stop. But some research shows that moderate drinking (one to two drinks per day for men, one drink for women) is linked to benefits for the heart and circulatory system. Of course, nothing is ever that clear-cut: Other research suggests that even moderate drinking can be bad for our brains. When it comes to calories, it’s a wash: One 12-ounce can of light beer has 103 calories, while a 5-ounce serving of red wine has 127 calories.
Verdict: Pick your poison, but stick to just one serving and remember to count those liquid calories, too.
- Coffee vs. Tea
Coffee and tea are both low-calorie, fat-free, carb-free beverages, as long as they’re not doctored with sweetener or cream. Black coffee has been linked to a range of health benefits, from a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, liver disease and type 2 diabetes to a longer life. Tea has been associated with several of the same benefits. (Note that this applies to unsweetened teas, not the sugary versions you can buy in a bottle.)
Verdict: Enjoy ’em both — just enjoy them plain. And if you have high blood pressure, limit caffeinated beverages such as coffee and tea to no more than two per day.