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Drink a Glass of Health

Focused on Health - April 2011

By Laura Nathan-Garner and Colleen Martin

woman drinking coffeeYou’ve probably heard that you are what you eat. But you are what you drink, too.

That’s because drinking lots of fluids can help your body get rid of toxins that put you at risk of diseases like bladder cancer. And, liquids also can help you feel full longer so you eat less.

This is good news because maintaining a healthy body weight may reduce your risk for several common cancers.

But not just any drink will do the trick. Below, we break down the cancer prevention perks and pitfalls of popular drinks.

Coffee: a cup for health

  • Health perks: Coffee’s anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants may help prevent diabetes, stroke and some cancers.
  • Avoid: Add-ins like creamer, whipped cream, sugar, syrup and milk can add nearly 700 calories to a single drink — and add inches to your waistline over time.
  • Serving size: Stick to eight ounces. That’s a “regular” or “small” cup at most coffee shops.
  • Know your limit:  Caffeine may cause fluid loss, making it harder for your body to get rid of toxins.So limit yourself to one cup a day.
  • Beware: Pregnant or have high blood pressure, heartburn or reflux disease? Coffee can cause complications, so talk to your doctor before you brew.

Fruit juice: pick a low-sugar option

  • Health perks: Fruit juice is an easy way to sneak in fruit — and the vitamins your body needs to stay healthy.
  • Serving size: Try not to drink more than 8 ounces.
  • Know your limit: Juice is usually loaded with sugar, so stick to one serving per day.
  • Take note: Try fresh-squeezed juice, or choose one that’s 100% fruit juice (not from concentrate). This helps you avoid added sugar and calories.
cup of tea

Tea: white is best

  • Health perks: Tea speeds up your metabolism, which can help you maintain a healthy weight. Even better: tea’s antioxidants may help your body get rid of toxins and prevent abnormal cells from turning into cancer, says the National Cancer Institute.
  • Know your colors: Want to get your fill of antioxidants? Drink white tea. Green tea is a good second choice. But black tea is heavily processed, so it has fewer cancer-fighting antioxidants.
  • Avoid: Sugars or sweeteners add extra calories.
  • Know your limit: Limit yourself to no more than 40 ounces of unsweetened tea per day, and drinks lots of water.
  • Take note: Herbal teas aren’t actually tea. So, they don’t offer the same prevention perks as green, white tea or even black tea.

Sodas: avoid when possible

Go easy on sodas. Diet or not, they provide zero nutrition. And even worse, sodas are easy to drink in large quantities, but they don’t make you feel full. So, you keep drinking and taking in calories, but never feel satisfied.

And, with a 12-ounce can of soda packing on almost 150 calories, that can widen your waistline and up your cancer risk, says the American Institute for Cancer Research. Plus, the phosphorus in soda makes it harder for your bones to absorb calcium, putting you at risk for bone fractures and osteoporosis.

Make water your drink of choicewoman drinking water

What drink tops our beverage list? Water! You can drink as much of it as you want. It keeps your muscles hydrated so physical activity is easier and more productive.

Even better: drinking water before or during meals helps fill you up so you eat less. The health perks go on and on.

Yes, getting enough fluids is definitely part of a healthy diet. But remember: you should get most of your vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants from fresh, plant-based foods — not drinks.

After all, you are what you eat — and drink.

Related Links:
Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol

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Multimedia - April 2011


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center