When we think about inflammation, we think about the reaction of our immune system to a foreign object such as a virus or bacteria entering our body. However, in modern life, one of the most common causes of chronic inflammation besides lack of sleep and poor stress management is what we eat and drink. When the body is exposed to ongoing inflammation, we are at increased risk of chronic and autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, cancer, GERD, body pain, and others.
The good news is that we can reduce or reverse this process by changing our lifestyle, by working out regularly, getting better sleep, and watching our nutrition. Try to avoid foods that cause allergies or intolerance, reduce the intake of simple sugars, highly processed foods, hydrogenated oils or trans-fats, reduce alcohol consumption and try to reduce daily stress by exercising and sleeping better. A variety of drinks are very popular nowadays and have become an attractive alternative or addition to snacks. Here are some drinks that contribute to inflammation:
- Soda: they are concentrated in simple sugar and artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Diet soda may not contain sugar, but it is still loaded with other chemicals. It is better to drink water, tea, or sparkling water. If you need flavor, add lemon, peppermint leaves, cucumber slices, or crushed fruit. Read the ingredient list and the fewer ingredients in the drink, the better.
- Energy drinks: they are like soda, but with extra stimulants and vitamins to sound healthier. If you are looking for a natural energy drink, opt for coconut water.
- Fruit juices: because there is no added sugar, fruit juice sounds healthy. However, in the process of making juice from fruits, the fiber and skin are removed, and the end-product is a concentrated natural simple sugar drink. Instead of fruit juice, try to make a smoothie that includes one fruit, vegetables, protein powder, and a handful of nuts.
- Dressed up coffee: Latte, mocha, macchiato, cappuccino, Frappuccino, etc. These are some examples of different flavored drinks with added cream, whole milk, sugar. Instead, opt for black coffee which can be healthy for you. If you need a flavor boost, add nonfat milk, cinnamon, and vanilla for sweetness.
- Alcohol: One serving for women and two servings for men is an acceptable limit for alcohol, but more than that is not recommended. Excessive amounts of alcohol not only increase the inflammation in your body, but disrupt your sleep, concentration, and memory.
- Rice or oat milk: These types of milk are also high in sugar. Instead, try unsweetened soy, almond, or cashew milk as they have more nutritional value. Read the label before buying as some of them have added sugar.
The bottom line is that consuming these drinks in moderation and occasionally is not a big concern. Just remember it is easy to make just “a drink” a daily habit, and that increases your risk for inflammation and other medical concerns. Drinking plenty of water daily is a great way to stay hydrated, regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.
For more information, talk to your local dietitian.