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Beverages are vital components of our daily dietary intake. Many beverages are very wholesome, are nutrient dense and are a rich source of nutrients, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. On the other hand, there are beverages that are harmful; they are
just ’empty calories’ – they provide an abundance of ‘sugar calories’ but very little, if any, nutrients.

What are healthful (nutrient dense) beverages?

What are harmful (empty) beverages?

Why sweetened beverages should not be consumed?

What are the health benefits of water?

What are the health benefits of alcohol?

Should we consume energy drinks?


Beverages that contain sugar as a prominent component have a pronounced deleterious effect even if they contain some healthful components, for example, sweetened tea, flavoured milk and flavoured soya milk. Sugar promotes weight gain and leads to diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

It is beneficial to consume beverages which have no added sugar and are nutrient dense.


  1. Tea and Coffee (unsweetened)
  2. Milk (unsweetened)
  3. Soya milk (unsweetened)
  4. Soup
  5. Lassi (unsweetened)
  6. Buttermilk
  7. Red wine
  8. Sattu drink
  9. Vegetable smoothie
  10. Green coconut water
  11. Nimbu-pani (unsweetened)


  1. Soft drinks (cold drinks)
  2. Sherbat
  3. Alcohol
  4. Fruit drink
  5. Fruit juice
  6. Glucose drink
  7. Energy drink


Sattu drink is prepared with roasted kala-chana, ground to a fine powder. Whisking a couple of tablespoonfuls of the powder in a glass of water with a pinch of ‘kala namak’ and a dash of lemon juice produces a delicious and nutritious beverage rich in protein, dietary fibre, and micronutrients such as magnesium and folic acid.


Soya milk, prepared from soya, is a plant food. Like all plant products, it contains no cholesterol. It is rich in protein (it contains all 9 essential amino acids vital for good health), magnesium, vitamin B6, and healthy fat. It contains no lactose and can be used in stead of milk in people who are lactose intolerant. Flavoured soya milk should be avoided because it is sweetened with sugar or a sugar-substitute.



Water is the elixir of life and is essential for human survival. Water provides no calories and has very few nutrients.We should consume water in liberal amounts (2-3 liters each day) unless there is a medical condition (such as renal failure) which demands a restricted intake. Keeping the body well hydrated helps it function optimally, helps lose weight and keeps it off by metabolising stored fat. A chronically dehydrated state leads to overweight and obesity.

In a healthy person, deep colored urine indicates inadequate water intake. The urine is light colored in a well hydrated state.

Fruit juice is available packaged (100% fruit juice – no sugar added) or extracted fresh, at home. In whichever way it is obtained, fruit juice is not healthful because all that it contains is water from the fruit, the flavour and almost all the sugar of the fruit. It contains very little nutrients and fibre, all of which get discarded with the pulp.

‘Fruit drink’ is fruit juice diluted with water and sweetened with sugar or sugar-substitute. ‘Fruit drinks’ are even unhealthier than fruit juice.

Instead of consuming juice, it is best to eat the fruit. This ensures the delivery of the entire goodness of the fruit – i.e. the nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fibre. The sugar naturally present in a fruit is trapped within the fibre. When the fruit is eaten, the sugar is released slowly in the intestine and so does not produce an unhealthy spike in the blood glucose level. If the skin is edible, we should always eat the fruit with the skin, because most of the micro-nutrients and a large quantity of fibre is located in the skin or just under it – such fruits include apples, pears and peaches.


Unsweetened nimbu-pani is a delicious and refreshing drink made with lemon juice squeezed into a glass of cold water or fizzy soda-water and flavoured with half a teaspoon of jal-jeera power. It is rich in natural vitamin C, which is a powerful antioxidant and boosts immunity.


Coconut water is a nourishing drink containing a sprinkling of many vitamins and minerals and is rich in potassium and magnesium. It comes packaged in its own hard shell and is therefore absolutely clean to consume directly from the shell. A glass of coconut water delivers just 50 calories of energy.


Eating a bowl of soup before every meal has many beneficial effects. Soups prepared without starch (such as corn flour, maida) are nutrient dense, and help prevent overeating by dampening appetite for the main course.


Red wine, when consumed in moderation, 1 glass for women and 2 for men per day, is a health promoting beverage. It has an abundance of antioxidants (polyphenols such as resveratrol and catechins) which neutralize the toxic free-radicles, protect blood vessels, reduce inflammation and help decrease the blood pressure. Red wine reduces risk of heart disease and heart attacks by increasing the ‘good’ HDL-cholesterol, reducing ‘bad’ triglycerides, and by reducing fibrinogen which causes blood clots. Red wine slows mental decline, combats aging and increases lifespan.

Red wine has a pronounced prebiotic effect – it promotes the growth of the good microbes in the intestine. The good bacteria play an immensely positive role in boosting our immunity and digestion, and protecting us from many diseases like ulcerative colitis and certain cancers.

Some, but not all these benefits, are seen in people consuming other alcoholic drinks such as whisky and gin. A great many benefits of red wine appear to be related to the polyphenols which are missing in other alcoholic drinks.

1 unit of drink = 150 ml of wine (12% alcohol) = 350 ml of regular beer (5% alcohol) = 45 ml of whisky/gin/brandy/rum (80 proof, 40% alcohol)


Coffee confers several significant health benefits because it contains a wealth of nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Its stimulating effect is generated by caffeine.

People who drink coffee in moderation (3-4 cups a day) live longer. Coffee is known to enhance mental performance, and decreases depression. It has a positive and healthful impact on liver cirrhosis, mortality, heart disease, type-2 diabetes mellitus (T2D), certain neurological diseases, and prevents liver and prostate cancer.

Coffee has been linked to heartburn and insomnia. Excess coffee can aggravate migraine, and produce irregular heart beat.


The use of tea dates back to the 6th century in china. The beverage is now consumed virtually all over the globe.

Tea is available in many varieties: black, green, oolong, white, etc. All teas contain nourishing antioxidants, stimulants like caffeine, and a dash of nutrients. Tea has a beneficial effect on cholesterol, strengthens the immune system to fight off infections, and protects against Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers. Unfortunately, tea is usually consumed as a hot sugary drink: the sugar has a negative impact on health.


Lassi is a nutritious and delicious drink, full of healthful microbes (called probiotics) which boost our immune system. It is prepared by whisking unsweetened yoghurt with water and spiced with a pinch of roasted cumin (jeera) seeds. Buttermilk is similar to lassi but contains less fat, and is more watery and spicier.


Soft drinks have no nutrients, are ’empty calories’ and have a substantial negative impact on health. They are cause overweight and obesity in every age group. Their overwhelmingly detrimental effect on health is produced by the high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which is usually used to sweeten the beverage. HFCS has been linked to a diverse range of diseases such as heart disease, ulcerative colitis and Alzheimer’s disease.


Like cold-drinks, all of these are delicious but have a deleterious effect on health because they are ’empty calories’.


These are carbonated drinks; laced with caffeine, amino acid taurine, a smattering of vitamins B3, B6 and B12, and a rich dollop of sugar or sugar-substitute like HFCS. Some drinks also have ginseng. All energy drinks are ’empty calories’, they are rich in unhealthy sugar and the nutrients are in too tiny a quantity to produce any beneficial effect.


This natural, nutrient-dense beverage is packed with proteins, carbs and fat. It contains saturated fat, and is also rich source of the healthy MUFA and omega-3 fat. Cow’s milk contains all the essential amino acids, which we cannot produce and must obtain from food we consume. Milk contains the simple carb lactose, which is an instant source of energy. Unfortunately, some of us are intolerant to lactose and have to avoid milk. Milk is a rich source of calcium which helps build strong bones. and.

It is healthful to consume it at any time of the day. A glass of warm milk taken at bedtime helps induce sleep because milk has an abundance of amino acid tryptophan which boosts the sleep promoting hormone melatonin. For vegetarians, it is safe to consume a litre of full-fat cow’s milk everyday.


A delicious, nourishing and nutrient-dense smoothie can easily be prepared by throwing in a few vegetables into a blender along with a splash of lemon juice, a dash of roasted cumin seeds, and an optional pinch of kala-namak. The nutritional benefit of this beverage cannot be overstressed; it provides a multitude of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and a rich supply of natural fibre.