Nutritious Drinks: Summer Drinks That Feed Your Health
Reinforce. Focus. Energise. These are the key words in Nutrition & Hydration Week 2021. This year it runs from 14 – 20 June and considers the provision of nutrition and hydration, promotes necessary improvements and celebrates. It’s mostly focused in a care setting, for example in hospitals or nursing homes, and with the year we’ve had I’m sure there are many successes to recognise and celebrate.
Of course, standards of nutrition and hydration aren’t something that should only be considered when you are unwell, or as part of your recovery. It could be part of your every-day thoughts, a reminder that the quantity and quality of what you eat and drink contributes to your general health. With this in mind I’ve hijacked Nutrition & Hydration Week to consider how you might focus your dietary choices to reinforce and energise your health. But instead of looking at optimum nutrition OR optimum hydration, it’ll combine the two (killing two birds with one stone, or if you prefer, feeding two birds with one scone).
This article looks at NUTRITIOUS DRINKS. These are the liquid multi-taskers, as when you drink them during the hot Summer weather to quench your thirst, you’ll have the added benefit of feeding your health.
NUTRITIOUS DRINKS THAT FEED YOUR HEALTH
An Elixir of Medicinal Mushrooms
Although you might think of mushrooms as food, or find them in your health store as supplements, it’s actually possible to drink them on a daily basis. Mushrooms may be prepared as teas (stewed in hot water for a few minutes) or infusions (long-brewed teas). They may even be made into tinctures, which use alcohol instead of water to extract their active compounds. Sweetening these tinctures, with honey or stevia, can make them much more palatable. In fact, this is how you make an elixir.
Mushrooms contain a plethora of bioactive compounds, including the more familiar fats, proteins, polysaccharides minerals and vitamins (ascorbic acids, folates, tocopherols), as well as alkaloids, carotenoids, enzymes, flavonoids, lectins, organic acids, phenolics, polyglycosides, terpenoids and volatile oils . These are all made available when you drink a mushroom elixir. In a previous blog you were introduced to 4 of the medicinal mushrooms: shitake, reishi, cordyceps and lion’s mane. Some of their health benefits include better digestive health, improved sleep and relaxation, increased stamina, attention and focus .
Kombucha and Water Kefir
Fermented drinks like kombucha and kefir are tasty for so many reasons. Naturally sparkling they’re great to celebrate the Summer; with a slightly sour taste they’re distinctly refreshing; they also tap into one of the biggest trends of 2021 – having a healthy microbiome. This is simply a word for the mix of bacteria, viruses, fungi and other microscopic organisms which you find in a specific environment. For instance, your gut microbiome is distinctly different to your skin microbiome or your hair microbiome. When the microbiome in your gut is in balance, it’s like you have a team of hard-working minions – supporting your immune system, producing vitamins and helping you absorb more from your diet.
Drinking an occasional glass of kombucha or kefir gives you a small, positive boost. In one study, regular consumption decreased levels of constipation and laxative use in the participants 
Protein Mylk Shakes
When you’re gathered in the yard on a hot Summer’s day, a cold creamy milkshake can really hit the spot. But these don’t just have to be dairy rich, sugar-laden liquid confections. With a few scoops of protein, a plant-based mylk and some natural fruit and vegetable flavours they can be transformed into so much more. They could even work as a quick breakfast, as a meal replacement for when you’re on the move or when you don’t want to eat a filling and heavy meal. If hayfever symptoms plague your days, cutting back on dairy may also be of benefit.
The combination of plant mylk, fruit and veg, nuts and plant-based protein powders provides you with a complete protein. This means it contains all of the 22 amino acids, essential amino acids included, in ideal ratios which are useful for your health. All of the amino acids are building blocks, which are stuck together into specific combinations to make over 2 million structural and functional proteins. Once you have these available you can maintain a healthy weight, keep your immune system in peak condition, send signals from one cell to the next, add strength to your skin, hair and connective tissue, regulate your blood pressure and maintain healthy sleep pattterns. Yes, protein is needed for all of this!
Not sure what to whizz up? Try these Protein Mylk Shake Recipes here.
DRINKS WHICH DEPLETE YOUR NUTRIENTS
What sorts of drinks are most tempting when the summer sun is burning outside? Something ice cold and sparkling may come to mind. Many people reach for a can of coke or lemonade to try and quench their thirst. However, when it comes to drinks which have value in terms of nutrition and hydration fizzy soft drinks and low-calorie soft drinks – like coke, lemonade, diet and free-from sodas and iced teas – clearly don’t. They’re the types of drinks which are typically laden with sugar or artificial sweeteners, two types of products that you’d be hard-pressed to think of as nutritious. Ideally the foods and drinks you consume will be additive to your health, but both sugar and artificial sweeteners are depletive.
SUGAR: The natural sugar in food serves a purpose – to provide a supply of glucose that can be used by your brain, liver, heart and other tissues as an energy source. In fact, humans have evolved to seek out sugar. It was once such a rare commodity that we began to derive pleasure from eating it which encouraged us to gorge on it whenever it was found.
However, times have changed and you now have to contend with both natural sugars and added sugars. Added sugars, like glucose and fructose, are often used as a preservative or binder or to add flavour and sweetness. This practice is now so commonplace that as far back as 2015, Barry Popkin of UNC reported that 74% of the 600,000 supermarket products available in the US contained some form of added sugar .
Unfortunately an excess of dietary sugars isn’t great for your health. Studies suggest it may change your hunger signals and desire for food ( making you want to eat more, contribute to an excess of weight and increase your risk of diabetes [4. 5]. But such a high-intake of sugar and other carbohydrate-rich foods isn’t absolutely necessary, and if you diet was stripped of all carbohydrates in the long-term you would still survive – there are no known essential carbohydrates. This is the total opposite of protein and fat. There are essential amino acids and essential fatty acids that you can only get from your food.
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: Including aspartame, sucralose, acefultame potassium, monosodium glutamate, acesulfame K and others, artificial sweeteners hold great appeal. They provide the same pleasure as eating sugar but are calorie-free. However, they are not ‘silent’ within the body as they negatively influence gut microflora, liver function, insulin levels, triglyceride levels
A cold, fizzy soft-drink is a popular choice at the height of summer. However, if they contain added sugars (like fructose or glucose) or artificial sweeteners (like aspartame and sucralose) they may be more depletive than additive to your health. High-carb diets which have plenty of calorie from sugar are associated with weight gain, increase diabetes risk, and altered hunger signals and desires. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to increased information and changes in that’s got microflora, so impactful digestive health. Tasty alternatives which add to your wellbeing include medicinal mushroom iced teas, fermented kefir and kombucha. If you fancy a milkshake you could whizz up a protein-rich smoothie instead. There are many types of nutritious drinks. Now the warm weather has come, it’s the perfect time to explore them all.
References Venturella et al (2021) Medicinal Mushrooms: Bioactive Compounds, Use, and Clinical Trials  Turan et al (2014) Effects of a kefir supplement on symptoms, colonic transit, and bowel satisfaction score in patients with chronic constipation: a pilot study  Popkin & Hawkes (2015) Sweetening of the global diet, particularly beverages: Patterns, trends, and policy responses.  Luo et al (2015) Differential effects of fructose versus glucose on brain and appetitive responses to food cues and decisions for food rewards  Malik et al (2013) Sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain in children and adults: a systematic review and meta-analysis  Abou-Donia et al (2008) Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats  Nakanishi et al (2008) Monosodium glutamate (MSG): a villain and promoter of liver inflammation and dysplasia
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