June 18, 2024

What Should Teens Be Drinking? By Maggie Ayre

No fizzy drinks, no squash, no juice, no caffeine ……What Should Teenagers Be Drinking?

We are constantly, constantly being told what we shouldn’t be drinking. It is all sound advice but is it really helpful to be constantly told what we shouldn’t be doing? I think most people have long since stopped listening after years of conflicting advice

The Government recommends that teenage girls should drink water and semi-skimmed milk.  This is the advice of the vast majority of Western health authorities but the science would suggest that milk is one of the worst substances we can consume.

There is no disputing that cow’s milk is meant for calves, it assists in their development, and provides very specific amounts of calcium and nutrients to aid their development. Human milk, on the other hand has a different chemical composition, specifically for a baby’s development. Pasteurisation, homogenisation and the welfare of the cows all negatively affect the milk that we drink. Up to 70% of humans will be intolerant to drinking cow’s milk because many of us stop producing an enzyme called lactase, which helps us to digest milk, when we are weaned – this can lead to us developing irritable bowel and leaky gut syndrome, allergies and intolerances such as itching, hives, rhinitis, itchy eyes and ears, nausea, bloating, wind, cramps, diarrhoea, aggravation of lung conditions such as asthma, and can also lead to diabetes, and osteoporosis.

Many of us believe that drinking milk when our bodies are still growing will reduce the risk of osteoporosis because our bodies use the calcium in milk to develop strong bones, but if we consider the science; the mineral calcium is actually very concentrated in cow’s milk, with the ratio of calcium being up to 10 times more than magnesium (10:1 ratio). In human breast milk the calcium to magnesium ratio is 2:1! This can lead to major imbalances between these two co-dependent minerals in the body. Too much calcium causes the body to try and gain more magnesium in order to stay in balance. But too little magnesium in proportion to calcium can lead to muscle tension.

Let’s examine some of the alternatives…..

Juice – Most of the juice we buy from the supermarket is UHT.  This “ultra-heat treated” juice has been subjected to pretty extreme temperatures which break down all of the nutritional value of the juice rendering them useless as healthy drinks. Even fresh squeezed juice is of questionable nutritional value, with most of the goodness derived from a fruit through the action of chewing it. Instead juice is high in sugar and therefore not recommended.

Smoothies – The price tag of many smoothies puts them out of the reach of many teenagers.  Shop bought versions have been pasteurised which has destroyed all natural goodness, homemade versions can be considered a healthy drink but we need to be careful not to overindulge as they can be calorific and are generally not considered as good for us as chewing the fruit or vegetables.

Fizzy drinks and Energy Drinks – Fizzy drinks contain a huge amount of sugar and are of no nutritional value.  Many also contain caffeine which renders them virtually useless for rehydration. A recent study has linked fizzy drinks with liver damage. They break down the liver in the same way as alcohol and it has been suggested that just two fizzy drinks a day can have serious health implications.

Diet Fizzy Drinks – In diet fizzy drinks the sugar has been replaced by sweetener. On the surface this seems to make them a healthier option but these sweeteners can actually cause serious harm to our bodies.

Cartons of Squash – Shop bought cartons of squash have been shown to contain nearly as much sugar as fizzy drinks.  Homemade versions are a slightly lower sugar alternative.

So, what should teenagers be drinking?  The answer to that question is simple, water! 
Encourage your children to drink water as much as possible, then enjoying other drinks as an occasional treat. 

Maggie Ayre is a Personal Trainer and Nutrition Advisor. More information about Maggie’s work with teenagers can be found at www.maggieayre.com or www.femalefitnessrevolution.com.

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