Flavored water. Water with electrolytes. Water with vitamins. Tonic water. Sparkling water. Seltzer.
Grocery shelves are packed with many different water options. And staying hydrated is an important part of cancer prevention and maintaining a healthy weight. But not every option that bills itself as water is good for your health.
“Most of these flavored beverages have high added sugar content,”says Erma Levy, a research dietitian at MD Anderson Cancer Center. “They’re high in calories and don’t make us full. Sugary drinks can contribute to unwanted weight gain. And that can lead to a higher risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.”
So, how can you tell which water beverages are the real deal and which ones are imposters?
We break down what to look for — and what to avoid.
Cancer prevention diet tip 1: Check the nutrition label
Always check the label to see what ingredients are in the product you are consuming. Plain water has no calories.
If it does, check the serving size and do the math. Many bottled or canned drinks have two or more servings, which can add up to as many as 250 to 400 calories.
Sugar drinks can contribute to unwanted weight gain. And that can lead to a higher risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
Cancer prevention diet tip 2: Watch out for sugar
Some water beverages may include sugar, fruit juice or other sweeteners. So, be sure to check the ingredients on the label like corn syrup, sugar or words ending in “-ose,” like fructose or sucrose. This would be evident in the total number of carbohydrates and sugars on the nutrition label.
Over time, drinks with a lot of sugar or caffeine can dehydrate you, no matter how much water they contain. That can cause headaches, dizziness and decreased blood pressure.
Cancer prevention diet tip 3: Don’t be fooled by added vitamins, minerals or fiber
It’s okay to occasionally drink a beverage with added vitamins, minerals or fiber. But beware: beverage companies often market these nutrients to trick you into thinking you’re getting something healthy — and to make you overlook the unhealthy ingredients in the drink, like sugar.
Keep in mind that you should get your nutrients from fruits and vegetables whenever possible — not from beverages.
Cancer prevention diet tip 4: Electrolytes aren’t usually necessary
Some beverages include electrolytes in them that promise improved athletic performance. But in most cases, your body doesn’t need to replenish electrolytes unless you’re doing aerobic or outdoor activity for longer than 60 minutes.
Cancer prevention diet tip 5: Drink filtered tap water when possible
Whenever possible, opt for filtered tap water. Not only will you save money; you’ll also reduce your exposure to toxins like Bisphenol-A (BPA), which may get into water that’s sold or stored in plastic bottles. Play it safe by keeping your filtered tap water in a glass or stainless steel BPA- and phthalate-free container.
Cancer prevention diet tip 6: Drink eight glasses of water every day
Try to drink at least 64 ounces — or eight glasses — of water each day. Your body needs this much water to stay hydrated and work efficiently. Research suggests that replacing sugary drinks with water may even help you shed a few pounds by helping you feel full longer so that you eat less and maintain a healthy weight
Don’t like water? ”Add strawberries, lemon, lime, cucumbers, mint and basil for a refreshing drink without the added calories,” Levy says. “Or freeze berries inside of ice cubes for added flavor and cancer-fighting nutrients.”
Remember, it’s OK to get a little sugar from drinks every now and then. But water should be your main go-to drink for hydration.
Request an appointment at MD Anderson's Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center online or call 877-632-6789.