Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines

The Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines, published in the March 2006 issue of the Journal of American Clinical Nutrition, were developed to help consumers make smart decisions about their beverage consumption based on the relative health and nutritional benefits and risks of various types of beverages.

Under the guidelines, unsweetened tea is second only to water as a beverage choice and individuals can drink up to eight servings of tea a day as part of a healthy diet.

About the Guidelines

A group of leading American experts in the fields of nutrition, epidemiology, obesity, hydration and phytochemicals from such prestigious institutions as Johns Hopkins University, the Harvard School of Public Health, the University of North Carolina, Louisiana State University, and Oregon State University, created the guidelines.

The researchers conducted a systematic literature review of nearly 150 scientific research papers and studies on beverages and health to develop the guidelines.

The panel developed the guidelines in response to the large increase in unhealthy weight patterns in the United States over the past 20 years. Dietary guidelines published to date have largely focused on food, yet it is estimated that Americans consume more than 20 percent of their total calories per day in beverages.

Some research also suggests that calories consumed through beverages are not as filling and satiating as the same number of calories from solids.

The researchers noted that a healthy diet does not rely on fluids for energy or nutrient needs and they recommended that the consumption of beverages with no or few calories take precedence over beverages with more calories.

Daily consumption

Under the guidelines, women should drink nine eight-ounce (250 ml) servings of beverages a day and men should drink 13 servings. However no more than 10 to 15 percent of daily calorie intake should be consumed in beverages and caffeine consumption should be limited to 400 mg per day.

To help individuals make the wisest choices for their daily servings of fluid, the panel ranked beverages based on their nutrient density or their nutrients per calories and according to scientific evidence of their potential health benefit such as reducing the risk of certain diseases or potential health risk such as contributing to obesity.

The panel ranked water as the best beverage choice and unsweetened tea and coffee as a close second, and recommended that both be consumed frequently.

The guidelines suggest that women can have up to nine servings of water a day and men 13 servings, and both can enjoy up to eight servings of unsweetened tea or four servings of coffee.

Skim or low fat milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverages were ranked on the third level in the health beverage guidelines and it was recommended that individuals can have up to two 100-calorie servings per day. On the fourth level were calorie-free sweetened beverages such as diet soft drinks and tea and coffee sweetened with sugar substitutes. Individuals can enjoy up to four servings of these beverages daily.

Whole milk, pure fruit juice and sports drinks were ranked on the fifth level by the panel and it was recommended that consumers have no more than one 115-calorie serving per day. Sweetened beverages such as soft drinks and juice drinks were ranked lowest and the panel said they should be consumed sparingly. Individuals should only have up to one 110-calorie serving per day of such beverages.

In placing tea in the second level, the scientists said that tea offers a number of potential health benefits. Black, green and oolong tea provide a variety of flavonoids and antioxidants, as well as micronutrients such as fluoride.

Based on current data, the experts said that drinking three or more servings of tea may decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease.

In terms of protective benefits against cancer, the panel said that there is solid evidence that tea protects against chemically induced cancers in experimental animals. However the data in humans is unclear.

Tea also provides some amino acids, primarily theanine which has been shown to enhance the body’s ability to resist infections, said the experts.


Daily Healthy Beverage Guidelines (.pdf)

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