If you’re like me, trying to drink eight cups of water every day can get a bit boring. I know I like a little flavor in my day. While drinking water has numerous benefits, there are other beverages you can choose to drink that can have a huge impact on your health.
In addition to coffee, tea, and seltzer water, there are four other beverages that you can enjoy and they can help your body fight Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
For instance, a study several years ago found you can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease simply by drinking fruit or vegetable juice. The study involved a group of dementia-free adults living in Seattle. People who drank juice three or more times per week were reported to be 76% less likely to develop signs of Alzheimer’s disease than those who drank less than one serving per week. This was after taking into account dietary intake of vitamins E, C, and beta-carotene.
Most of the evidence we have suggests a build-up of plaque from the protein beta-amyloid causes Alzheimer’s. When oxidative stress damages or kills brain cells, it causes this plaque to build up. Most researchers assumed the reason juice prevented Alzheimer’s was because of their protective effects against the oxidative stress. But they found this wasn’t the cause.
If the more well-known antioxidants don’t give the protective effects, what does? The researchers believe the answer must lie in the other compounds that juices provide. Fruits and vegetables have loads of disease-fighting chemicals called “phytonutrients.” Among them are the polyphenols, catechins, and proanthocyanidins. While most fruits and vegetables have them, these nutrients are most abundant in the darker foods. The higher the levels of these compounds, the bigger the benefit.
This Beverage Fights Oxidative Stress and More
Take pomegranate juice, for example. Early studies showed that drinking concentrated pomegranate juice reduces cholesterol. Israeli researchers showed that drinking a glass of pomegranate juice a day for one year reduced blood pressure (particularly systolic pressure). They also found that it slowed down LDL cholesterol (the bad cholesterol) oxidation.
Pomegranates contain abundant polyphenols, tannins, and anthocyanins – all of which are beneficial antioxidants. They also contain high levels of antioxidants – higher than most other fruit juices, red wine, or green tea.
Another study from Israel found the juice to be highly beneficial to diabetics. The August 2006 issue of Atherosclerosis reported that diabetics who drank six ounces of pomegranate juice each day for three months experienced a reduced risk for atherosclerosis, a condition that leads to arterial wall thickening and hardening. Atherosclerosis accounts for 80% of all deaths among diabetic patients.
Pomegranate Juice Softens the Arteries
More research explains how pomegranate juice may help fight hardening of the arteries. Researchers found that the juice reduces blood vessel damage. And it also reverses the progression of this disease.
Hardening of the arteries causes decreased blood flow. This can lead to heart attacks and strokes. In the study, researchers tested the effects of pomegranate juice on samples of human cells that line blood vessels. They exposed the cells to excessive physical stress, such as what might happen when a person has high blood pressure.
The cells they treated with pomegranate juice had less evidence of damage from the stress. The tests showed that pomegranate juice reduced the effects of stress on human blood vessel cells by stimulating the production of nitric oxide. The researchers believe this chemical helps keep arteries open and blood flowing.
Previous studies on red wine, black tea, and purple grape juice indicate these antioxidant-rich beverages can protect arteries from damage by improving blood flow. Add pomegranate juice to that list.
Then Add Cranberry Juice
A University of Scranton scientist reported good news for heart health at the American Chemical Society’s spring meeting in New Orleans. It turns out that regular consumption of small amounts of cranberry juice provide huge cholesterol benefits in middle-age men and women.
The participants in this study had eight-ounce servings of cranberry juice cocktail, which contains 27% juice. Or they could choose a low-sugar version made from cranberry concentrate diluted with water. Regardless of the juice they chose, the drink did something unexpected. It raised their HDL (the good cholesterol).
In a follow-up trial, Vinson’s team put 20 adults on a cranberry-juice regimen. All of the volunteers were middle-age men with elevated cholesterol levels.
For the first month, each of the men drank a daily eight-ounce glass of either the sugared or sugar-free cranberry-juice cocktail. During the second month, each recruit drank two glasses daily. During the last month of the experiment, daily juice intake increased to three glasses.
Before the trial and at the end of each month, the scientists ran a series of blood tests on each participant. The data confirmed that the antioxidant levels in the blood increased steadily with each increased juice intake. Compared with the before-juice measurements, concentrations of oxidated products in the volunteers’ blood was 15% lower after the first month of the trial and about 40% lower by the close of the third month.
Their HDL levels also increased steadily. Remember that for each point that HDL climbs, the risk of heart disease in men decreases by 2%. And it gives women even more protection. Each point of HDL translates to a 3% reduction in heart disease risk in females. In the study, the HDL went up 10%, giving the men a reduced risk of 20% and women a reduction of 30%. That is huge!
Raising your HDL can be hard to do. Exercise can do it. So can fish oils and the amino acid L-carnitine. But simply drinking cranberry juice is so easy, so affordable, and is such a delicious option!
Add a Little Kick to Your Drink
A third beverage you can drink to boost your health probably isn’t a surprise to you. Yes, it’s well known that red wine helps to protect the heart, but now it appears that the beverage may also help reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers specifically bred mice to develop Alzheimer’s. Then they put the red wine in their drinking water for seven months. The wine significantly reduced damage from beta amyloid deposits. It also stopped memory deterioration.
Several years ago, a study indicated moderate red wine consumption reduces risk of all-cause mortality by an amazing 49%. But beer and white wine were neutral and hard liquor increased mortality. The benefits of red wine appear to be from the high level of antioxidants and the amazing anti-aging nutrient called resveratrol contained in red grape skins and grape seeds.
This helps explain why studies consistently find benefit for moderate alcohol consumption. But there’s more than just resveratrol. Other studies show that drinking any alcohol in moderation can help you avoid dementia. You have to be careful not to overdo it, though, as drinking too much alcohol is the number one cause of memory loss.
Beet Juice Enhances Muscle Strength – Including the Heart Muscle – in Just Two Hours
This last amazing juice works so well, the lead researcher in one study says he compares its effects “to Popeye eating his spinach.” It works that well to boost your muscles – including your heart muscle.
So what is this powerful juice? It’s beet juice. And Andrew R. Coggan, PhD, assistant professor of Radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine, believes beet juice is even better for your muscles than we ever imagined. He said, “The magnitude of this improvement is comparable to that seen in heart failure patients who have done two to three months of resistance training.”
That’s fantastic news for anyone who struggles with muscle strength. The improvement Dr. Coggan saw in his research means beat juice can help those who can’t or won’t exercise as they age.
What’s astounding about these results is how fast they occur - within just two hours!
Here’s what happened. Dr. Coggan’s team had participants with heart failure drink beet juice. They had one group drink juice with naturally occurring nitrates. The second group drank beet juice with the nitrate content removed. Two hours after consuming the juice, those who consumed the nitrates-containing beverage had a 13% increase in power in muscles that extend the knee.
That’s the muscle group that helps you stand up. So you can see just how effective this drink could be for anyone who struggles to stand up. Another study confirmed the results of this study. It found that consuming a concentrated beet juice supplement will increase the muscle speed and power in healthy men and women. So it’s great for those who struggle with illness and for those who are healthy.
But the effect of beet juice isn’t gone after two hours. It continues to work. We’ve known for some time that beet juice can boost your stamina. One study found that those who drink beet juice prior to exercise are able to exercise for up to 16% longer.
So what’s the secret to beet juice’s miraculous improvements in your muscles? The researchers believe the benefit is related to nitrates turning into nitric oxide. We’ve talked about nitric oxide in the past. It helps every muscle in your body - including your heart - function even better. It helps your body utilize oxygen more effectively and helps your circulation. So it’s no wonder the beet juice can work so fast.
And if you hate exercise, beet juice has even more effects for you. It helps reduce the oxygen cost of low-intensity exercise and it enhances tolerance to high-intensity exercise. Anything that makes exercise easier gets an A+ in my book.
Since beet juice boosts nitric oxide, you know it’s helping more than just your muscles. Lots of other research shows NO is great for your heart and your brain, as well as your overall health.
What I love about all of these beverages is that they’re readily available at your local grocery store and most of them taste great (I’m not a fan of beet juice – I prefer the supplement). So buy some today and drink a toast to your great health.