Supplements, not replacements

Health drinks are valuable supplements to the usual diet, especially for the elderly and children

DrinkThere is growing health consciousness among people today. We are giving increasing importance to fitness, and healthy lifestyle choices. People have started understanding the notion, "A healthy diet comprises different kinds of foods in such quantities and proportions that the body's need for essential nutrients are adequately met, thus promoting the highest level of physical and mental health".

We, however, on account of prolonged working hours and hectic lifestyles find little time to cook at home. We then opt for convenience and "complete nutrition" from meal replacements rather than a chore of preparing a meal. We get attracted to health beverages and their benefits, and are willing to pay a premium for such beverages.

Such health drinks are popular worldwide. Their popularity is at the same level whether in a developed, developing or underdeveloped country. The manufacturers are touting these health drinks as appropriate healthy meal replacements for everyone, not just for children and the frail population. And all of us seem to lap them up.

Is such attraction well-founded? Let us explore.

Two types of health beverages

Health beverages can broadly be divided into two categories, namely, milk-food beverages [also known as milk-food drinks] and fruit juices.

Fruit-based beverages include Ready-To-Serve [RTS] and natural fruit juices. They can be very good fillers [in-between meals] providing various phytonutrients such as vitamin C, carotene and folic acid. They are an excellent source of anti-oxidants, required by our body to get rid of harmful free radicals. Fruit-based beverages are instant sources of energy and an efficient way to keep the body hydrated.

Nutritional benefits

The majority of consumers of health drinks are from the younger and older generations. Health drinks provide essential nutrients to the body for speedy growth and recovery in case of any injury or ailment. It also increases the resistance power of the body. The micronutrients provided by these health drinks act as catalysts to the growth in children. It supplements the deficiency in the intake of nutrients for the body, absent or present in much lower quantities in the regular diet. Health drinks are fortified with various nutrients such as zinc, manganese, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, which are helpful to improve one's cognitive abilities and build an efficient defence system in the body.

Quick and easy to make

Health drinks have already undergone some processing so that the actual time and energy required for preparation is reduced, thus facilitating people of all ages with little or no culinary skills. Simply speaking, they are very healthy, convenient and instant to prepare; they are consume-anytime-anywhere drinks.

Milk-based beverages only supplements

Milk-based health drinks do offer nutrients; but we do not get everything we need from them. There are other nutritional elements that they do not supply. These types of products are meant to boost nutrition intake rather than to supply it totally. Health drinks, by definition, are believed to be beneficial to health but not a replacement of our meals. Health drinks are just a supplement to our diet. A young person's calorie requirements should not be made up from supplements alone. These supplements/health drinks are designed to "add" to an established oral intake and not as a "complete nutrition" feed. These drinks can be consumed by those who need extra energy e.g. elderly when recovering from illness particularly or kids during their growing years. But these drinks won't be able to meet the complete nutritional requirement of adults or sports people as they lack adequate quantity of essential electrolytes [sodium, potassium, chloride] and phytonutrients found in yellow, orange fruits and vegetables.

Be savvy

Therefore, as a consumer, instead of being misled by television and other media ads, we should be savvy label readers. For instance, you should be aware that ingredients on a food label are listed in the order of greatest quantity to smallest quantity and use. Always remember a food can be described as nutrient-dense when per a given quantity of calories, the food also provides other nutrients such as complex carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and fibre.

However, in defence of these supplements, one can say they are less harmful than tea, coffee, carbonated beverages or soda.

Ideally, everyone should consume a varied diet containing foods from each of the major food groups in adequate amounts to meet the proper nutrient requirements. However, when additional energy or nutrients are required, or usual food intake is diminished due to some illness, having these convenient and nourishing health drinks is highly recommended.

Fruit Juice Facts

100 per cent juices play a major role in a healthy diet because they offer great taste and a variety of important nutrients found naturally in fruits and vegetables. Here are a few important facts:

  • Fruit juices offer great taste and health benefits that are found naturally in 100 per cent juice.
  • 100 per cent juices are nutritious, either naturally or when fortified, with nutrients such as vitamin C, calcium and vitamin D.
  • 100 per cent juices are fat-free and are rich in vitamins, minerals and naturally occurring phytonutrients that contribute to good health.
  • Phytonutrients are compounds in fruits, vegetables and other plants that researchers find have disease preventative and disease fighting properties.
  • 100 per cent juices are considered nutritionally rich or nutrient-dense foods since they offer multiple nutrients [vitamins, minerals and naturally occurring phytonutrients] in each ? cup serving.
  • Hundreds of studies have demonstrated that the nutrients found in 100 per cent juices offer health benefits.

Team CW

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Deepshikha Agarwal
Deepshikha Agarwal is a Mumbai-based dietician and sports nutritionist. She writes nutrition-related columns in newspapers and conducts corporate workshops. She also teaches and conducts lectures on diet and wellness isues.

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