It’s not always easy to eat right. You may have the best intentions, but then you have a rough day and all you want to do is tuck into a burrito bowl from Chipotle. I get it. When my mother-in-law offers to bring over some crock-pot lasagne or my boss orders pizza for entire office, I’m not exactly going to say no.
One thing that I do to stay healthy — even if I slip up on my diet — is make sure that I’m drinking really healthy beverages. What you drink can have a huge impact on your health — positive or negative. Beverages like green tea are full of antioxidants that can help prevent heart failure, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. And a good morning smoothie can be a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants, and fatty acids.
Here are four of my favorite beverages that can have a huge impact on your health.
First, a word about alkaline and acid foods
One of the factors I look at when judging if a food or beverage is healthy is whether it is alkaline- or acid-forming. I’ve written about the importance of alkaline diets for Livestong and Reach Self. Many of the foods commonly found in the Western diet (bread, sugar, meat, soda, dairy, coffee) are acid forming. Too much acid in the body is thought to be a contributing factor to nearly every major health problem, including heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and stroke. So after I’ve had my morning cup of coffee, I always make sure to follow it with an alkaline-forming beverage. Fruits and vegetables are also alkaline foods, especially bananas, raisins, spinach, kale, cucumbers, and broccoli. All of the beverages listed here are alkaline forming and so would be an excellent addition to your diet if you tend to eat a lot of acid-forming foods.
Four healthy alkalizing drinks
1. Green smoothies. I try to always start my day with a green smoothie. They’re super easy to make, and you can pack an entire day’s worth of fruits and veggies into your breakfast and get the day started on the right foot. My standard smoothie recipe uses frozen blueberries, almond milk, almond butter, and lots of spinach. I might also throw in some chia seeds, cacao nibs, or a spoonful of Catie’s Organic Greens. Or if I’m out of almond milk, I’ll use coconut water. The great thing about smoothies is you can pretty much throw in anything. I’ve used avocado, beets, beet greens, kale, Swiss chard, and other types of frozen fruit. Play around with it and find something you like.
With the right ingredients, green smoothies can easily meet the requirements for the three things you need in every meal: healthy fats, protein, and phytonutrients.
2. Lemon water. Once I’ve finished my smoothie, I usually fill up a large cup with water and squeeze half a lemon into it. Lemon water is extremely good for you. First of all, adding any kind of fresh fruit to your water can help you drink more fluids, since drinking regular water can get boring. Lemon water in particular has numerous benefits:
- Lemon water aids digestion and helps your body break down the nutrients in your food.
- It’s good for your skin.
- It boosts your immune system.
- It helps reduce inflammation in your body, another contributing factor to many health conditions.
- It’s good for your liver and helps your body filter out toxins.
- It helps your body break down mucus, which is helpful if you’re congested or have any sinus issues. I always make sure to drink a big glass of lemon water if I eat any dairy for this reason.
- It will make you poop! Americans spend more than $700 million per year on laxatives. If you eat a healthy diet, you really shouldn’t have any problems going to the bathroom. But if you do need some help, a glass of lemon water will move things along nicely. No joke. Try it. You’re welcome.
3. Coconut water. I usually grab a can of coconut water in the afternoon. It’s also alkalizing. It’s high in minerals like potassium and magnesium. It comes in lots of yummy flavors. You can even get chocolate coconut water, which tastes like a glass of rich chocolate milk. It also contains antioxidants and compounds known as cytokinins that help inhibit the development of cancerous cells and slow down the aging process. A lot of people like coconut water after a workout; studies have shown that it replenishes body fluids better than water, and it’s far healthier than most sports drinks on the market.
4. Kombucha. I was hesitant to try kombucha for a long time; I thought it would taste weird or funky. But now I love it, and I drink it almost every day. Kombucha is a fermented tea that is said to deliver numerous health benefits because it contains healthy bacteria. We all have bacteria living in our guts, and the good kind keep our systems functioning smoothly and help keep the bad bacteria under control.
The biggest difference I’ve noticed since I started drinking kombucha is that I can occasionally eat gluten without experiencing crippling gastrointestinal distress. This is HUGE.
Kombucha reportedly delivers numerous health benefits:
- improves digestion
- improves mood and mental clarity
- reduces joint pain and inflammation
- boosts liver function
- helps prevent cancer
- aids digestion and gut health
- boosts the immune system
You can buy bottled kombucha in just about any grocery store or health food store, and it comes in just about every flavor imaginable. I like GT Synergy’s Grape Chia, which tastes kind of like grape soda and has the added benefit of containing chia seeds. If you’re not sure if you’ll like it, try a flavor that sounds appealing and try sipping it until you get used to it. Depending on the brand you choose, it may be slightly sweet and effervescent and a little tangy.