If you're new to whole food plant-based eating you've likely come across tons of information on what eat, what to avoid, and seemingly endless plant-based recipe suggestions. But what about beverages? Does it matter what you drink (or don't drink) when it comes to your health? YES!
So which beverages fit best with a health-promoting WFPB diet...and which ones should you consider limiting or eliminating altogether? Don't worry — we're answering all your WFPB beverage questions below!
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From a nutritional point of view, alcohol provides zero nutrition and a lot of empty calories. One gram of alcohol has seven calories, a little bit less than one gram of fat. The hard truth is, alcohol is not healthy beverage, and it is associated with a variety of conditions such as heart disease, inflammation of the stomach lining, liver disease, alcohol-induced pancreatitis, and cancers including liver cancer, stomach cancer, pancreatic cancer, and others. So that said, if your primary goal with your WFPB diet is optimal health and disease prevention/reversal, then the amount of alcohol you should consume is zero.
That said, if you decide to include alcohol as an occasional treat in your otherwise healthy WFPB diet, that's OK! Not everything has to be 100 percent "compliant" and you do you.
Plant-based newbies have this question all the time and it's a good one – can coffee be part of your healthy WFPB diet?
Don't ya just love a straight answer :) But here's the deal...
Coffee is rich in antioxidants and may reduce the risk of some forms of cancer. Caffeine was also found to reduce depression and cognitive decline, protecting your brain from conditions such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
However, in some people, coffee can trigger digestive issues, especially if you’re already suffering from IBS, gallstones, or celiac disease. And due to its acidic nature, coffee can cause inflammation within the gut. Coffee can also exascerbate stress and anxiety if consumed in excess. And one of the biggest negative affects of coffee, especially for people that follow a WFPB diet, is that it inhibits iron absorption.
So, all this to say: coffee can be a healthy part of your plant-based diet though it's not for everyone so if you struggle with anxiety or GI issues it may be best to limit or avoid it altogether.
Need help coming up with coffee alternatives? Here are 5 healthy WFPB beverages to add to your morning routine instead.
Tea is hydrating, tastes great, and has plenty of health benefits. It's good for your heart health, stress levels, and digestive system. Herbal teas, in particular, are high in flavonoids, and other antioxidants, making it a great addition to your WFPB diet.
Word of caution: many teas contain caffeine so you should be mindful of your consumption as excess can inhibit iron absorption.
Fermented teas have definitely gained popularity in the recent years, though it may be best to limit these on your WFPB diet. Kombucha consumption, in excess, has been associated with lactic acidosis, a build-up of lactic acid in the bloodstream, that can be life-threatening.
While juices may have vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, they fruit used to make juice has been stripped of fiber, which is essential for regulating sugar absorption in the bloodstream. Due to the increased risk of hyperglycemia when drinking juices, people with diabetes (or pre-diabetes) should limit their consumption.
As a general rule, eating whole fruits and vegetables is healthier than drinking fruit juice. If you are going to include juice on a WFPB diet, steer clear from store-bought varieties, which tend to be high in refined sugars, and instead make your own juice at home with whole fruits and veggies.
Smoothies are a great way to get more plant-based foods into your life, especially if you're on the go in the mornings. Not to mention, they're pretty darn tasty.
And smoothies don't have the same blood sugar-spiking effect as juices do because the fiber remains in tact as you blend whole fruits and veggies. That said, it's important to note that liquid foods might not fill you up as well as solid foods do, so if plant-based weight loss is your goal, make sure your smoothie is satiating by including plant-based fats, proteins, and fiber. (Here's a helpful formula for making a delicious and healthy WFPB smoothie, every time!)
If you're on the WFPB train, you've likely given dairy the boot altogether. But what's the best non-dairy milk to replace cow's milk?
Again, this depends! Let's break it down...
Plant-based milks are excellent sources of nutrients, especially if they are homemade. And while plant-based beginners may worry that non-dairy milks have too many ingredients, not enough calcium, and unfamiliar taste profiles, the good news is this isn't always the case. You just have to know which plant-based milks are best for your needs.
There are plenty of minimal ingredient options at the grocery store. And many varieties of non-dairy milk have as much if not more calcium than milk. Here's a guide to help you figure out which non-dairy milk is best for you, whether you're adding to your coffee, sipping with meals, looking for a protein boost, or using in vegan baked goods.
Maybe it's a bit redundant to mention water but the truth is, you may not be drinking enough of it and when it comes to supporting your optimal health, water is king! It is hydrating (of course!), bursting with essential minerals that maintain healthy homeostasis, and has zero side effects, unlike virtually every other beverage.
So, if your goal is to be as healthy as possible, water should be your preferred drink choice. And you should be drinking a lot of it. How much?
Most adults need about eight 8-oz glasses a day. A good way to ensure you get enough is to fill up at 64-oz pitcher at the beginning of the day and make it your goal to finish it before you turn down for the night! And start your day by drinking 2 glasses of lukewarm water first thing in the morning. It'll rehydrate you from your night without water and kickstart your digestive system (and accelerate plant-based weight loss!).
If plain water is boring for you, you can jazz it up by infusing it with cucumber slices, berries, and citrus!
- Alcohol is not a healthy beverage and is associated with the development of many diseases. That said, if you enjoy it responsibly on occasion, you do you!
- Coffee can be part of a healthy WFPB diet for most people. Some folks who suffer from anxiety/GI issues/low iron may want to steer clear or limit consumption.
- Tea is a great beverage to include in your WFPB lifestyle - especially herbal teas. Like coffee, caffeinated teas should be limited by those with anxiety or low levels of iron.
- Juice can have lots of minerals and vitamins but also lacks the fiber whole fruits and veggies provide. If you really want juice, make it yourself with whole foods and leave the bottled stuff at the grocery store.
- Vegan smoothies can be a great way to get more plant-based foods in your life — just be sure to include plant-based proteins, fats, and fiber to ensure you stay full and happy.
- Non-dairy milks are a wonderful way to replace cow's milk in your diet. If you need help decided which non-dairy milk is best for you, check out our guide on plant-based milks here.
- The absolute best beverage you can drink for your health is water! Most adults need about 8 8-oz glasses a day. A good way to ensure you get enough is to fill up at 64-oz pitcher at the beginning of the day and make it your goal to finish it before you turn down for the night!
Rafaela Michailidou is a Vegan Lifestyle Coach, and a freelance health and wellness content writer, with a Plant-Based Nutrition Certificate from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies.