Water You Waiting For?

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In celebration of March as National Nutrition Month, this month’s Health Hacks program was “Water You Waiting For?”

Never heard of Health Hacks? This is a collaboration between UNCW’s Center for Healthy Communities, WWAY, and the Brunswick Wellness Coalition. Each month a new “hack” is presented on a nutrition or physical fitness topic. Originally,
classes were held at the WWAY studio in Leland, but since COVID-19 they have been virtual via Facebook live or Zoom.

Members of the Family and Consumer Science (FCS) team from the N.C.
Cooperative Extension of Brunswick County were pleased to present this month’s class. Speakers were Ren Levocz, a Public Health student at UNCW and current Brunswick FCS, and Meghan Lassiter, our FCS Extension Agent. They talked about two topics that are often forgotten when it comes to good nutrition: added sugars and the importance of water. They are linked together because water should replace the majority of high sugar drinks that Americans consume.

Levocz started the presentation by talking about the two types of sugars that we eat and drink. There is natural sugar found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and milk. These foods have not been associated with any negative health impacts.
Added sugar is the other type and they do have a negative effect on our health.
These are sugars we add to our coffee and tea as well as baked goods, candy, yogurt, cereals, cookies, dairy desserts, and soft drinks. Added sugars contribute calories, but not essential nutrients.

The average American eats or drinks about 17 teaspoons (70 grams) of sugar a day. That’s 57 pounds of added sugar each year per person. Almost half of the added sugars in our diets come from drinks—like fruit drinks, sodas, and other sweetened beverages.

Levocz took several popular beverages and filled bags with sugar to show how much of this hidden sugar is in each drink. Helpful tip: a teaspoon of sugar weighs about four grams and has 17 calories.

Intern with bottled drinks and added sugar.

His examples:

  • Energy drink (8.4 ounces)—6.75 teaspoons of added sugar
  • Flavored water (20 ounces)—6.5 teaspoons of added sugar
  • Cola soda (20 ounces)—17.5 teaspoons of added sugar
  • Sweetened tea (18.5 ounces)—10.5 teaspoons of added sugar

He suggested swapping out some of these sweet drinks by selecting 100% fruit juice, a sugar-free latte, diet cola, water, plain coffee, or fat-free milk. These simple changes have zero grams of added sugar. As a bonus, you’ll get the vitamins and minerals from the juice and milk. If you can’t go “cold turkey” on cutting out these beverages completely, work to cut down on the amount you drink. How about having a smaller soda or use one teaspoon of sugar in your coffee instead of two?

With that being said, you still need to drink an adequate amount of fluids. Just make more nutrient-dense choices! The American Heart Association says men should have about 3.7 liters or about 15 8-ounce glasses and women should consume 2.7 liters or about 11 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day. Remember, you’re not drinking all of this as beverages, some (about 20%) come from food.

Try to make water your beverage of choice. It is an essential nutrient that prevents dehydration, helps to get rid of wastes, keeps the body temperature normal, and lubricates and cushions joints.

Lassiter was in the kitchen and demonstrated making citrus and cucumber-infused water. By adding fruits or vegetables to plain water, you can have flavor and variety without added sugar. If it tastes good, you might drink more. This recipe can be found on the Med Instead of Meds website.

A recording of the March Health Hacks (and past classes) can be found on the
Brunswick Wellness Coalition’s Facebook page. Health Hacks is held on the 2nd Monday of each month at 6 p.m. The April topic is Vaccine Ready and a Fun Fit Hack, the May topic will be Ways to be Active and Hurricane Preparedness, and June is a Blueprint for Health.

If you’d like to get a reminder, follow the Brunswick Wellness Coalition on Facebook and/or email brunswickwellnesscoaltion@gmail.com. They hope to have Health Hacks classes return face-to-face in the future!

Recipe source: Med Instead of Meds 

Cheryle Syracuse wrote this article and more similar ones for the Family and Consumer Sciences Column in the Brunswick Beacon. Syracuse is an FCS team member and can be reached at N.C. Cooperative Extension, Brunswick County Center 910-253-2610.