Before you hit the coffee shop or order a cocktail at dinner, think twice.
Note that additives and sugar may be lurking in some of your favorite drinks, and nutritionists are weighing in about which beverages to avoid if you’re looking to put your health first.
Read on for important nutritional and health-focused insights regarding many popular drinks.
Energy drinks and pre-workout drinks
Kylie Ivanir, a New York-based registered dietitian who runs her own private practice called Within Nutrition, said pre-workout drinks and energy drinks can lead to “increased blood pressure, stress and compromised sleep,” since they contain excess caffeine and stimulants.
“Other side effects of excess stimulants found in pre-workout and energy drinks are headaches and nausea,” she told Fox News Digital.
“Pre-workout and energy drinks also contain artificial sweeteners and flavors, which disrupt gut health and brain health,” she said.
“The supplement industry is also notoriously unregulated, which leads to contamination with toxins or banned substances that are detrimental to our health.”
Instead of pre-workout or energy drinks, Ivanir recommended opting for coffee or matcha tea.
Sweet alcoholic cocktails
Ivanir said the combination of alcohol and fructose syrup, which are sometimes found in cocktails, are not good for your liver — the organ in which those liquids are processed.
“This compromises the liver’s ability to filter out toxins and hampers its conversion of fructose to glucose,” Ivanir said.
“As a consequence, we can’t detox as well, and we also end up storing that excess fructose as fat. This can then cause a rise in triglycerides, a harmful blood lipid — and is one of the causes of a fatty liver.”
Soda is bad for your health due to its added sugar, experts say.
“I recommend instead opting for seltzer or sparkling water and adding a squeeze of lime, lemon or orange juice for flavor,” said Amy Gorin, an inclusive plant-based registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Master the Media in Stamford, Connecticut.
Gorin said that — according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 — people ages two and older should limit their intake of added sugars to less than 10% of total daily calories consumed.
“For someone following a 2,000-calorie daily diet, for example, this means no more than 200 calories from added sugar — or about 12 teaspoons,” she said.
“A 12-ounce can of cola contains about 10 teaspoons worth of added sugar.”
Jinan Banna, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition at the University of Hawaii, said not only does iced tea contain added sugar but bottled or commercially prepared teas may have the same amount of sugar as soda.
“A high consumption of sweetened drinks such as iced tea has been shown to be associated with development of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes,” she said, referencing a 2010 meta-analysis on sugar-sweetened beverages and type 2 diabetes.
Drinks sweetened with agave nectar
Agave syrup is made from agave plant sap, which has increased in popularity as a substitute for traditional sweeteners (like table sugar and honey), according to a chemical analysis and nutritional profile on agave syrup published in the National Library of Medicine.
But beware of agave-sweetened drinks, as “agave is pretty much high fructose corn syrup with a glorified label,” Ivanir said.
“Agave nectar can contain between 55% to 90% fructose — that’s higher than the amount of fructose in high fructose corn syrup,” she also said.
As Ivanir pointed out, most agave nectar sold in supermarkets contains about 80% to 90% of fructose.
“The problem with taking in a lot of fructose is that your body must convert it to glucose in the liver, but if you have too much, it gets stored as fat. Specifically, belly fat,” she said.
“Excess fructose is also pretty bad for your gut. Your gut bacteria don’t like large doses of fructose. For those with a sensitive gut, this can cause bloating, diarrhea and discomfort. It leads to increased LDL (your bad cholesterol) and decreases insulin sensitivity.”
If you’re thinking, “Isn’t fruit high in fructose?” then consider this: “Some fruits are, but when fructose is in its natural and fiber-wrapped form, then it’s not harmful. So there is no need to avoid fruit,” Ivanir said.
Sometimes, juices blended with additives get slapped with the word “cocktail” on their label, according to experts.
“This is a keyword to watch out for in the grocery store. The word ‘cocktail’ indicates that a juice is mixed with added sugar,” Gorin said.
“Added sugar is unnecessary and adds extra calories to your day. But not surprisingly, per the CDC, sugar-sweetened drinks are a top source of added sugar in the American diet.”
She said, “Shop for 100% fruit juice instead.”
Artificially sweetened drinks
As Ivanir pointed out, research has shown that artificial sugars like aspartame and sucralose “disturb the microbiome and damage our gut health,” she said.
“This is harmful to our overall health since the gut plays a key role in many of our body’s systems such as our immune health, hormone recycling, serotonin production and nutrient absorption,” Ivanir added.
“Stevia- or monk fruit sweetened drinks are great sugar alternatives that are also gut-friendly.”
She suggested jazzing up your beverage by adding herbs such as mint and basil or fresh fruit into water.
Apparently consuming frappuccinos simply aren’t worth it for your health.
“Frappuccinos and other sweet coffee drinks contain what I call ‘sweet fats’ — a combination of sugar [from the syrups and flavors] and saturated fats [from the cream]. While this combination of sugar and fat makes the drink taste deliciously creamy, it leads to excess fat storage due to a rise in the hormone insulin (our fat storage hormone),” Ivanir said.
“These ‘sweet fats’ hijack our brain circuits, making us want more and more.”
They also drive up insulin, leading to insulin resistance and higher lipid levels and ultimately metabolic syndrome, Ivanir added.
“In some establishments, this drink may contain more sugar than a can of coke, such as the caramel latte that is found in some businesses,” Banna said.
“Sweetened coffee drinks have been identified as an item in the diet that makes a notable contribution to intake of added sugar,” she added.
She pointed to a report published in the National Library of Medicine titled, “Sugar-sweetened beverage consumption among adults.”