A cup of juice is plenty for some people but may not seem like much to others, especially if they’re thirsty. If a cup of juice leaves you wanting more, consider mixing the juice with seltzer or club soda to stretch the serving, or purchase lower-sugar or sugar-free juice drinks to help you control the amount of calories and carbohydrates in your diet.
Most fruit juices and juice drinks contain very little sodium, but tomato and vegetable juices can have quite a lot. The regular varieties of these drinks generally have between 440 and 990 milligrams of sodium per 8-ounce serving. Low-sodium versions have 140 milligrams of sodium per serving, and no-salt-added juices may have as little as 25 milligrams per serving. The latest recommendations regarding sodium intake from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies of Science, the body that sets the recommended dietary allowances for both macro- and micronutrients, are that healthy Americans should consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. A high sodium intake can raise blood pressure in some people. African-Americans appear to be particularly susceptible to its effects. High blood pressure, if left untreated, increases the risk of heart, eye, and kidney disease. If you are watching your sodium intake to keep your blood pressure normal, selecting the low-sodium versions of these drinks will assist in keeping your sodium intake in target range.
Regular soft drinks may taste good, but most provide no nutrients other than sugar, and they provide plenty of that. A 12-ounce serving may provide anywhere from 90 to 200 calories and 23–52 grams of carbohydrate. On some meal plans, a single soft drink would supply the total goal amount of carbohydrate for a whole meal. Some carbonated soft drinks also contain caffeine, and some contain sodium.
Regular soft drinks can be useful to have on hand for treating hypoglycemia (but only drink an amount containing 15 grams of carbohydrate at a time) or for sipping when you have the flu and can’t tolerate any other foods. Otherwise, because they’re so high in carbohydrate and calories, it’s a good idea to reserve regular soft drinks for an occasional treat.
Sports and energy drinks
Sports drinks, such as Gatorade, that contain low amounts of sugar, sodium, and potassium can be helpful during or after workouts that last an hour or more. The carbohydrate in the drink helps replace fuel stores, called glycogen, in the muscles (glycogen is a storage form of glucose), and the sodium and potassium replace electrolytes (or salts) lost in sweat. For shorter workouts, sports drinks may not hurt but probably aren’t necessary. Water is usually sufficient to replace fluid lost through sweat.
Energy drinks are similar to sports drinks, but they tend to contain more sugar (unless they’re artificially sweetened), caffeine, and sometimes amino acids. They are typically marketed to young people as tools for increased mental capacity or physical performance. While sugar is an energy source, and caffeine can increase mental alertness and possibly athletic performance in the short term, energy drinks are no substitute for a following a good diet, getting a good night’s sleep, and doing regular training for either mental or physical performance. In addition, there’s no evidence that there’s any need to consume individual amino acids if a person consumes an adequate amount of protein in his diet. Energy drinks may also contain more sugar and caffeine than you wish to consume at any one time.
The serving size for sports and energy drinks is about 8–8 1/2 ounces. The carbohydrate content of these drinks ranges from 11 to 37 grams (1–2 1/2 carbohydrate choices). Many brands also have low-sugar or sugar-free versions of the drink, with 0–3 grams of carbohydrate per serving.