It doesn’t matter how healthy or thin you are, reaching for a sugary drink is still dangerous for your heart. Four times as dangerous as not drinking one.

New research presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association finds that women who drank only two sugary drinks a day were nearly four times as likely to have high triglycerides, the best predictor of heart risk for women.

They were also significantly more likely to have impaired blood sugar levels even when not eating or drinking.1

Sugary drinks increase triglycerides because they are almost pure carbohydrate. Drinking flavored water, sweetened tea, soda, or those dessert-like coffees send a rush of sugar straight into your bloodstream.

When your body gets too much of this kind of carbohydrate, it wants to store it as fat. How does it do this? It turns the carbs into triglycerides. Then it transports them through the blood from the liver where they’re made to the adipose cells where they’re stored.

Problem is, even if you’re outwardly thin, this fat can accumulate around your organs without you ever knowing it. It’s called visceral fat. It causes inflammation, and can lead to the inflammatory diseases diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

And sugary drinks are bad for that reason, but diet drinks may actually be worse.

Researchers were shocked when looking at results from the San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. They followed 474 people for nearly 10 years. They compared the change in waist size for diet soda users versus non-users (both sugary drink drinkers and non-drinkers).

People who drank diet sodas had a 70 percent greater increase in waist size. And for those who said they drank two or more diet sodas a day, their bellies grew by 500 percent more.2

That’s five times bigger waists for people drinking diet sodas.

On average, for each diet soft drink you have each day, you’re 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years, and 41 percent more likely to become obese.

And it’s not just soda. All juices are just as bad when packaged.

You just can’t package things without ruining them. Because they’re either going to be homogenized, pasteurized or from concentrate and all of those ruin the vitamins and increase the glycemic index.

Unless you’re going to pick the fruit and drink the juice fresh, don’t drink juice.

So what should you drink?

Tea is a very good alternative. Use lemon and lime for flavoring, and if you want a bit of sweetness, use honey. Agave nectar is not too bad, either.

Plain water is another way to go, and you could sweeten your water with just a little bit of fresh squeezed juice or raw sugar.

My favorite flavored water is cucumber water.

Here are three ways to make it:

  1. The first way is to blend a cucumber and strain out the juice overnight. I use any old strainer lined with a cheesecloth, but you can use a fine strainer, too.
    Just let the juice drip out of the cucumber into a container in the fridge, and the next daymix the juice you get with a pitcher of ice water. The thing I like about this method is you can decide how much cucumber juice to add, depending on how strong a flavor you want.

  2. You could also cut up a cucumber into small chunks, cover them in the amount of water you want to drink and let it soak in the fridge overnight. In the morning, strain it into a glass or pitcher and throw away the cucumbers.
  3. The third way is to add a bunch of slices of cucumber to some ice water, let it sit for a couple of hours, and you’ll have a tasty drink in no time.

Mint makes cucumber water even more refreshing. If you add mint, blend it in with the cucumber in the first method. Chop the mint and let it soak with the cucumber chunks in the second method, or just break up some mint and let it sit in the water for the third.

1. Shay, C., et. al. "Sugar-sweetened beverages may increase cardiovascular risk in women." American Heart Assoc. Scientific Sessions. Nov. 13, 2011.
2. Sansom, W. "New analysis suggests ‘diet soda paradox’ – less sugar, more weight." Univ Tex SA Health Sci Ctr. June, 2005. Retrieved Dec 1, 2011.

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