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v8juice.com
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updated 9/5/2007 12:36:24 PM ET 2007-09-05T16:36:24

Ever read the ingredients label on that can of soda? Grab one now and read it. Surprising, isn't it? Most likely the top ingredients are corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup, two very concentrated forms of sweetener, and a whole list of artificial ingredients. Like sugar-free? What does that label say? Anything "natural" in it?

The supermarket has hundreds of delicious, refreshing alternatives to the nutrient-free soda. Here are a few to consider:

1. Vegetable juice
1. Vegetable juice is one terrific way to insure you get your three to five servings a day. Most vegetable juices are concentrated forms that equal at least two servings. Green drinks with concentrated forms of greens is fantastic and combination drinks like V-8 come in regular or spicy for a real change to the palate. You can make your own vegetable juices with a blender or a juicer. All of them can be diluted with spring water. Suggested serving is four to six ounces, especially of sweet juices like carrot.

2. Fruit juice
Fruit juice is an ideal drink for all ages whether fresh squeezed or bought in concentrated or non-concentrated form. When melons are inexpensive make them into juices; plain watermelon juice, cantaloupe or honeydew melon blended with crushed ice, or any of the great melons on the market make refreshing, filling juices. No need for added anything. When drinking juices at home, consider a fruit spritzer with one-third juice and one-third sparkling water for a sparkling and cooling drink. You can also dilute fruit juice with water that not only stretches the juice, it also stretches the concentration of natural sugars. Suggested serving is six to eight ounces a day.

CAUTION: Lots of fruit juice manufacturers add high fructose syrup and other sugars to both bottled and canned products that are totally unnecessary and only provide more calories. Once you try fresh squeezed or blended juices, you'll understand why fruit juices are terrific on their own.

3. Teas and coffees
Teas and coffeesrefresh the body, stimulate the brain, and give some energy yet the caveat is moderation, moderation, moderation. Both teas and coffees are dehydrating because of their caffeine content and other elements. Over-consumption can mean depletion of essential elements leaving your body dehydrated and, in some cases, over stimulating your nerves. Tea, which has a milder form of caffeine called theine, is preferable because it enters the bloodstream slower and is less jarring to the nerves to most people than coffee. Suggested per-day consumption is four to 12 ounces. You can enjoy tea or coffee hot or iced.

One iced tea recipe is tea sangria, made with your choice of tea, cut up fruit like strawberries, kiwi or stone fruit, and serve over ice. Iced coffees are great with a spoonful of condensed or evaporated milk for extra richness yet way below the typical 400-600 calorie laden coffee and tea drinks you buy at your local coffee shop; consider these special once-in-a-while treats.

4. Enhanced waters
Enhanced water can be a great alternative to spring waters. Most come in flavors, with extra minerals and/or vitamins. They're not without sweetening, but usually in the form of crystalline fructose (which comes from fruits or is artificially made to simulate fructose.) Excellent cold Suggested serving is one-half to one 20 ounce bottle per day.

Other waters or juices enhanced with electrolytes do indeed help hydrate the body during excessive workouts or during times of excessively hot weather. In fact, electrolytes in liquids work even better than plain water in hydrating the body. Again, read the labels. Some products like Gatorade® are loaded with corn syrups and high fructose syrups and, while it is temping to down a whole bottle, cut it with water and drink modest amounts, eight to 16 ounces a day. Even if the electrolyte product has no corn syrups and high fructose syrups, you should keep the quantity consumed per day at 16 ounces unless requested to consume more by your health practitioner.

Sparkling mineral water, domestic or imported, is refreshing, has the carbonation you may enjoy, and tastes great alone or with a freshly cut lime, orange or lemon dropped into the glass. Mineral waters are so named because they do have healthful minerals and no artificial or non-nutrient chemical additives. If you choose flavored mineral water, read the label to make sure the flavorings are natural. Suggested serving is two to four eight-ounce servings a day.

5. Spring or distilled waters
These are your best choice for your daily drink, especially if your city's municipal water resource is too hard or soft for your taste. Spring waters contain natural minerals; distilled waters contain none, and some people view distilled waters best for irons and hair curlers, and others prefer the taste of distilled, without any elements at all so that's a viable choice.

Perk up plain waters with fresh-cut citrus or other fruit. While the ubiquitous recommendation of 64 ounces of water per day keeps popping up, it is not necessary if you eat a well-rounded diet of grains, fruits and vegetables (which contain a lot of water), and get enough daily exercise so that your digestion is regular. If it is not, try for 16 ounces, then work up to 32 ounces or more of plain waters until you feel you are comfortably hydrated and your body is in "good working order."

Phil Lempert is food editor of the TODAY show. He welcomes questions and comments, which can be sent to phil.lempert@nbc.com or by using the mail box below. For more about the latest trends on the supermarket shelves, visit Phil’s Web site at SuperMarketGuru.com.

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