Rethink your drink this summer

Dietitian, Retha Harmse, educates us with facts so we can rethink our drink this summer.

With summer here, it’s not only imperative to keep sipping to prevent dehydration due to the heat, but it’s also such a good way of refreshing and cooling down.

But with so many drinks fighting for your attention and so many controversies regarding sugar-free drinks, and trying to keep your total energy and glucose levels down, it might be necessary to rethink your drink.

Looking at the facts

Studies found that among respondents 15 years and older, they consumed large amounts of sugary drinks daily, in the form of carbonated beverages and fruit juices.

However, is the sugar-free alternative better? It turns out it doesn’t matter if the soft drink you’re consuming is the normal or sugar-free alternative, scientists say both kinds are associated with an increased risk of early death.

JAMA Internal Medicine

This shocking fact is according to a recently published (September 2019) study in JAMA Internal Medicine. The study looked at more than 450 000 people from across 10 European countries, including the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Using data from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), the research team looked at what participants ate and drank for an eight-year period.

They found one or more glasses of sugar-sweetened beverage a day were positively associated with deaths related to digestive diseases. While having two of more artificially sweetened drinks a day were positively associated with deaths related to circulatory diseases.

The findings are in line with previous studies that found a connection between sugary drinks and risks of early death. Another study has associated soft drinks to other health issues, such as having higher risks of having a stroke and dementia.

What are the options now?

Eat your water

Pile your plate high with vegetables and salad. Most vegetables are between 90 – 95% water. This additional to fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants makes them the perfect accompaniment for every meal.

Try to ensure that at least half of your plate is vegetables and/or salad, and that they represent all colours of the rainbow, from purple eggplants, yellow peppers, red radishes, orange butternut to green spinach.

Be wary of fruit juices

These often confuse people living with diabetes, because they read “no sugar added” on the label. Although there is no added sugar, fruit juices are high in fructose sugar that can push up blood glucose levels.

Fruit juices are a concentrated form of natural sugar from the fruit. You get all the sugar, but none of the fibre that’s good for you. A small glass of fruit juice can have twice as much sugar as a piece of fruit! Rather eat fresh fruit or see the next point for new fresh ideas.

Infused waters

Fresh fruit, herbs, and some vegetables make great flavours for water. While any combination can be tasty, here are my go-to resources for flavour pairings:

  • Apple, lemon, carrot
  • Strawberry, lemon, mint
  • Apricot, raspberry, mint
  • Orange, lime
  • Strawberry, pineapple
  • Peach, plum, mint
  • Cucumber, lemon, celery
  • Apple, cinnamon stick, red pear
  • Lemon, mint, ginger, cucumber
  • Cucumber, thyme, lime

Infused water is best two to four hours after you’ve made it. Or, you can let it infuse overnight in the refrigerator. Some ingredients last better than others. With herbs, for example, fresh basil lasts two to three days but rosemary can last up to a week.

Normal water

Last but not the least, your normal straight-forward water. It’s always a winner and so refreshing! If you feel it looks a bit bland, remember that you can always freeze edible flowers into your ice-cubes and serve in a beautiful glass.

What are the benefits of water?

  • Metabolic and biochemical reactions
  • Breaking down food through hydrolysis
  • Internal creation of water
  • Prevents constipation
  • Transport nutrients
  • We have approximately five litres of blood in our body. Our two kidneys filter about 180 litres of blood volume a day (125 ml/minute), performing this filtration some 50 to 60 times a day.
  • Body temperature regulation

Therefore, please enjoy a wonderful refreshing drink of any of the healthier options to keep the blood glucose levels in check. Manage your weight and prevent unnecessary weight gain over the holiday season as well as keeping dehydration at bay.


Retha Harmse (née Booyens) is a registered dietitian and the ADSA Public relations portfolio holder. She has a passion for informing and equipping the in the field of nutrition. She is currently in private practice in Saxonwold, Houghton and believes that everyone deserves happiness and health and to achieve this she gives practical and individual-specific advice, guidelines and diets.

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