Monday, December 7, 2015

52 Weeks to a Simpler Life – Tip #14 – Drink Water

This week's tip is actually very simple. Make water your drink of preference. Many people I know have already made this switch. There are several very good reasons for applying this tip to your life. But, I must give you a warning. As easy as this sounds, it may be a bit more complicated than you think.

Reason #1: Health

First and foremost, the only liquid we need to sustain life is . . . drum roll, please . . . WATER! This is an absolute fact. Another absolute fact is that virtually everything we drink is water based. Think about it. What is the primary ingredient in coffee, tea, soft drinks, juice, milk – even alcoholic beverages (though decreasing the amount of water in alcoholic beverages increases the alcohol content and thus the strength of the drink)? WATER!

Depending on the particular drink, you can be adding a lot of calories, usually empty calories in the case of soft drinks and alcoholic beverages. The only time we NEED milk is when we are infants and then the best milk is your human mother's milk. We really don't need cow or goat milk, ever. Well, maybe when dunking Oreo cookies or donuts, but that's another story and I'm not going there now.

Yes, most of the drinks other than milk and pure fruit juice (mainly that you squeeze yourself) have additives, sugars, artificial sweeteners preservatives, artificial flavor and color.

Diet drinks are another story. They typically have some kind of artificial sweetener to replace sugar and reduce the caloric content. Basically, most died drinks have ZERO calories. That means all the calories in regular drinks come from sugar. Not good. But, since almost all sweeteners used in commercially available drinks are made from chemicals and are not natural, you're now adding more foreign chemicals to your body. These include aspartame, sucralose and saccharin or sodium cyclamate. There are natural substitute sweeteners like Stevia that will provide the desired sweetening without as much chemistry.

Here's one other interesting note. That most popular of all carbonated soft drinks, Coca Cola, has at least 50 alternative uses besides washing down that hamburger and fries. Yes, it will clean your toilet, take stains out of your clothes, remove paint, remove corrosion, remove rust, clean windows, clean battery terminals in your car, clean coins so they look freshly minted and so much more. Yes! This is the same stuff you pour in your stomach. Need I say more?

So, most of the things we drink, other than water, are not really beneficial for us from a health perspective. And, in fact, may effect us negatively.

Reason #2: Addictive

Yes! Many of the liquids we consume are addictive. Most anything with caffeine is addictive such as soft drinks, energy drinks, caffeinated coffee and so on.

Interestingly, tea is not as addictive nor does it have quite the same effect on most people as coffee and other drinks heavily laced with caffeine. The average cup of coffee has about 85 mg of caffeine and that can easily be double that amount, while the same amount of tea has only about 50 mg. Green tea only has about 30 mg. And, you can self-decaffeinate your tea by making a short cup with hot water. Allow it to steep for a few minutes then pour it out. Then make a second full cup of tea from the same tea bag and you will have reduced the amount of caffeine significantly. Most herbal teas don't have any caffeine.

Many soft drinks as well as coffee and alcoholic beverages are addictive. Your body creates a dependency and while you don't need it, your addiction causes the never ending craving. It's like that cup of coffee you have to have first thing in the morning for the caffeine jolt. And, I should mention that the “so-called” energy drinks are probably worse than most of the rest.

I'm looking at the label on a can of Red Bull Energy Drink sitting in front of me. Someone gave me this can about two years ago and I've yet to open it. When the label on something I'm going to consume has, in this case, 17 ingredients, a few of which I can't pronounce and several of which I have no idea what they are or why they are going to go into my body, I usually put the brakes on. Additionally, it says it has 80 mg of caffeine per 8.4 oz serving (this entire can). When something has to point out how much of an addictive ingredient is in it, I really don't want to introduce it to my body. Unlike most people, I'm very caffeine tolerant. In other words, caffeine doesn't effect me the way it effects most people. So, how much do I need before it will actually effect me? More than I'm willing to consume.

Additionally, this 8.4 oz can of Red Bull has 28g of carbohydrates, 27 of which are from SUGAR. It also has 100 mg of sodium. Frankly, I don't want this stuff in my body. Call me a wimp, a wuss or a dork, but I'd like this body to keep going for a lot more years – and not by kick-starting it everyday with chemicals.

And, of course, alcohol is extremely addictive. Mostly we're familiar with the term alcoholic where a person becomes dependent on having a certain amount of alcohol in their bloodstream at all times. If they don't have enough alcohol, just like with a lot of prescription and recreational drugs, they will go into withdrawal. That is not pretty. But, I believe a lot of people have minor addictions to alcohol, especially those who must have wine or beer regularly. They call it a way to unwind. Or, the guys get together with a few cases of beers to watch numerous sporting events on TV.

Addictions ARE NOT GOOD!

Reason #3: Economics
This one really hits home with me. No! I'm not a cheapskate, but I am frugal. I define the difference by saying that being a frugal person doesn't mean I won't spend any money, I simply learn the basic economics of whatever it is I'm going to consider spending money on. I use reason, logic, rational thinking and determine whether what I'm considering spending my hard earned money on will provide me with the fulfillment, contentment and pleasure I would like to derive or not.

Here's an example. Suppose I'm considering spending $6.00 for a glass or bottle of beer in some high priced pub. Now, I know I could buy the better part of a six pack and consume it over a week or two or three or share it with several friends, for nearly the same amount of money. How likely am I, as a frugal person, to pay $6.00 for that glass or bottle of beer? If I were a real cheapskate, I'd either con whoever I'm with to pay for the $6.00 beer or I'd sip on water. Of course, I sip on water even as a frugal person since that's my drink of preference.

Have you noticed how much soft drinks cost in restaurants and convenience stores? It always amazes me to see someone, who is going to sit down and eat in the fast food restaurant, order a super-sized, jumbo, monster cup soft drink and pay $2.00 or more for that drink. Oh yeah, and the refills are free. Why not buy the $1.00 value drink in the smaller cup and just refill it as many times as you want to? It seems like a no brainer to me. But, that's how frugal people think.

Here's the really important point. The reason these places allow you to have free refills, as much as you want to drink, is because soft drinks are the most profitable item they have to offer, usually. The drink is mainly carbonated water – that's WATER with bubbles in it – with a tiny bit of syrup added to make it into your favorite soft drink. In most cases, the cup is the most expensive part of the drink. You can't drink enough of that bubbly stuff to cause the restaurant to lose money.

I especially love ice tea. In reality, what the heck is ice tea? The last time I checked, it's WATER with some tea bags. It could be a powdered tea mix or it could be a tea flavored syrup. But, it cost next to NOTHING. Meanwhile, we will pay as much as $2.00 or more dollars for a glass/cup of ice tea with unlimited refills.

Coffee is the same thing. Hot tea is the same thing. The two drinks that probably cost the restaurants the most are real fruit juices and milk. And, of course, most of the juices are simply WATER with concentrated fruit juice mix. And cranberry juice is never 100% juice. It's always a high percentage of WATER and it's called cranberry juice cocktail.

Alcoholic beverages in the form of hard liquor and liqueurs are really pricey. There is one moderate priced chain box store restaurant that will charge in the range of $6.00 to $8.00 for a mixed drink – PLUS, another $6.00 or so for a shot of the liquor. So, a mixed drink could cost in the range of $12.00 to $15.00 for a drink. The entree might not even cost that much.

Am I making my point on the economics of drinking anything other than water?

The Bottom Line

So, here's the bottom line. Water is all we actually need to sustain life. All this other stuff is nice, but it has health and weight issues attached, it can become addictive and make you dependent on drinking the stuff and IT IS EXPENSIVE.

There are numerous alternatives. If you drink a particular herbal tea, carry some tea bags with you. Then order some hot water. Just hot water. Most places won't charge you for hot water, if they do and it's a reasonable price, go ahead and pay it, then put your own herbal tea bag in. If you want something cold to drink, order a glass or cup of cold tap water with ice and ask for a piece of lemon or lime. I think I've only run into one place over the years who had a small charge for the water with lemon.

There are a variety of drink flavoring powders and syrups in tiny squeeze bottles. If I want something flavored, I'll slip a few of those little powder tubes or a squeeze bottle in my pocket. When my water comes, I'll drop in the power or the syrup and I have a flavored glass of water. Depending on where you shop, you can get 24 tubes of powdered flavoring for about $.16 per 16 oz bottle, cup or glass of water. It's about the same price for the small bottles of syrup. A lot of fast food places and convenience stores provide a self-serve soft drink machine. One of the positions on the machine will offer just plain water. Some of the machines offer sparkling water (club soda, basically) on another tab. Fill your cup with the sparkling water and add your favorite flavoring and you've made your own soda.

Should you deprive yourself of all indulgences when it comes to enjoying beverages? Of course not. Variety is the spice of life, after all. And, I'm not trying to deprive a restaurant, convenience store or supermarket of their profits. In fact, I see more and more people drinking water these days than ever before. It seems to be a trend. But, lots of people will continue to pay the exorbitant prices for the variety of beverages available. I'm simply saying money is money and why spend it on something that, in almost all cases, has no nutritional benefit and may actually have any number of negative consequences?

I do indulge myself once in a while. A good cold beer might just hit the spot. A glass or cup of Dr. Pepper might just taste good with that hamburger. And, when I'm in my hometown, Clifton, NJ, I always stop at my favorite hot dog joint and have Boylan's birch beer with my dogs. It's a treat from my youth. And, yes, once in a while, I do enjoy some Oreo cookies or donuts and I want a nice cold glass of milk to dunk them in. Doing any of these things for a “special occasion” you dream up infrequently is not going to be detrimental to your health, your wallet and you won't become addicted, but you will feel good.

Read the labels (those flavored drink powders and syrups may be full of stuff you can't pronounce, too) and feel comfortable with what you put in your body. Water is readily available (yet). If you have decent tasting tap water available, get some good containers, preferably BPA free, and fill them yourself. Bottled water is certainly an option. However, it's recommended that the plastic bottles shouldn't be reused. Additionally, the more bottled water we use the more we will be sending to the landfills and recycling centers.

So, join the club of water drinkers. Tip #14 for a Simpler Life in 52 Weeks is – Drink WATER! Preserve or improve your health, maintain your weight, eliminate the possibility of developing an addiction and save money all by this one simple change.

Live free and be happy. EH 

1 comment:

Richard Rosen said...

I would add to your good suggestions that the quality of water from public water supplies has deteriorated. Lot of information on this.

I'm not a fan of bottled water because the plastic can leach, especially when it's hot out, plus not all sources are reliable. A filtering system is best in my opinion. We had used a gravity one with ceramic cartridges (http://www.aquarain.com/). Now we use only a filter at the sink because we have remained on well water, refusing to connect to county water and be at the mercy of its additives and contaminants.