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Heart-healthy summer drinks

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Drinks to sip & stay slim

Summer's here, and that means lounging on the porch with an icy-cold drink. Add in a good book or a couple of friends, and you're on the way to a perfect day, right? Perhaps not. It all depends on your drink of choice.

Couple Drinking Juice

Recent research suggests that sweet, sugar-laden drinks can increase your risk of heart disease and weight gain. Instead of grabbing for that soda, sugary juice or other sweet sipper, cool off with more healthful beverages that are good for your heart and waistline.

It's just liquid... how bad can it be?

Conveniently packaged and readily available drinks seem like a good idea -- a grab-and-go can of soda for the car, an energy drink for an afternoon pick-me-up at the office, or sweetened coffee in a can for a late-night jolt on the weekend. The convenience of bottles and cans is appealing in our fast-paced culture, but at what cost to health? They may taste innocently sweet and delicious, but that doesn't mean they are good for you.

Sweet drinks bad for your heart

Researchers tracked more than 88,000 women from 1980 to 2004 in the US Nurses' Health Study. Results published in the April 2009 issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicate that the women who drank at least two sweetened beverages a day had a 35 percent higher risk of heart attack than those women who drank less than one sweetened beverage a month. The women who drank one sweetened drink a day had a 23 percent higher risk.

The researchers say the sweetened beverages might harm the heart by raising blood sugar levels which, in turn, can promote inflammation of the heart muscle. Sweet drinks also may raise triglycerides (the chemical form of most fat in the bloodstream), which also have been linked to chronic heart disease.

Sweet drinks can lead to weight gain

A second study suggests that the consumption of liquid calories has increased in parallel with the obesity epidemic in the US. The May 2009 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that scientists from the Center for Human Nutrition, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore found that overweight or obese people who cut back on calories from sweetened beverages lost more weight than those people who cut back on calories from solid food.

Healthy drinks to cool you off and keep you slim

Forgo the soda, sugar juice and other sweetened drinks, and try one of these refreshing heart-healthy, waistline-friendly beverages.

Water

Sure, it may not be the most glamorous of beverages, but the fact is, your body is composed of about 60 percent water. A tall, cold glass of water is a natural choice for hydration and health.

Flavored water

Many people are so familiar with the tastes of sweeteners and added flavors that regular plain water seems boring and flavorless. You can make your own naturally flavored water easily, however, by adding slices of cucumber, orange, lemon or fresh ginger, or fresh mint or basil leaves to a jug of water. Keep refrigerated until ready to drink. Pour your spa-worthy water into a refillable bottle, and you'll be doing your body and the earth some good.

Juice chiller

Start with 100 percent juice, such as cranberry, cherry or orange. In a pitcher, stir together three or four parts water (plain or carbonated) to one part juice. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. Pour over ice and enjoy.

Naturally brewed iced tea

Brew your favorite antioxidant-rich green or black tea, let it cool and add some ice. Sweeten it with a little honey or agave.

Smoothies

Yes, you need your blender, but the rest is so easy. Simply add plain yogurt, milk or soymilk to your favorite frozen fruit and blend. Adjust the sweetness with a little honey or pure maple syrup, if needed.

Sipping a healthful summer drink as the season's swelter sets in will keep you refreshed and hydrated without damaging your heart or waistline.

More reasons to drink healthy summer drinks:

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