8 unexpected drinks that are bad for your health

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
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19 December 2017

The usual suspects…

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you’re probably already familiar with the usual set of drinks that I often recommend you to drink in moderation – alcohol, coffee, coco-cola and other fizzy drinks. However, after over-indulging a little bit in the past week, I began to do a bit of detective work into those drinks that most us will consume without a second thought and some of us assume are actually good for our health!

1 – Bottled smoothies

As a nation, in recent years we’ve definitely become more health conscious and aware of the importance of getting our 5 a day (although some experts seem to think that number should rise to 10!) which is definitely being reflected in our food industry. The supermarket aisles are now packed with colourful pre-bottled smoothies and they make for a quick and easy on-the-go breakfast if you’re in a rush.

However, on closer inspection, these fruit-packed drinks are concealing some pretty unhappy secrets. Now, it’s almost inevitable that smoothies, being packed full of fruit, will contain sugar but those lining your supermarket shelves are loaded with the stuff.

Popular brands such as Naked Juice Smoothies and Innocent boast a sugar content that ranges between 47-55g depending on the drink, which is far too much when you consider that our sugar intake should be around 30g a day!1 Worryingly, many of these drinks are targeted towards children as an effective way of making sure they’re getting at least a portion of their 5 a day.

I can appreciate that blitzing up a smoothie each morning can be a bit time consuming, especially if you’re rushed off your feet in a busy household. Drinking a pre-bottled smoothie once or twice a week isn’t likely to dramatically impact your health but if you like a daily fruit hit, I would recommend trying to find time to make your own – I normally mix mine up before bed and leave it in the fridge overnight!

Here are a few of my favourite smoothie recipes!

2 – Flavoured Coconut Water

Coconut water? The electrolyte-rich drink that I keep urging people to try? Well not all coconut waters are created equal and, when it comes to flavoured coconut water, I would definitely avoid it! While combining your coconut water with fun flavours like lemon & lime or mango might sound like it will enhance the taste, it will also imbue your drink with a plethora of added sugars and sweeteners!

Also, many coconut water drinks that claim to be ‘natural’ are in fact produced using reconstituted concentrate which is cheaper to import but not as rich in nutrients. Quality matters when it comes to what you put into your body but thankfully, our friends over at Jan de Vries offer a range of natural and organic coconut water brands to choose from.

My favourite is Vito Coco’s Pure Coconut Water which is 100% natural and never made from concentrate!

3 – Nut milks

If you’ve read my blog ‘Our guide to dairy-free milk’ you’ll know that nut milks can make for a great alternative to ordinary milk and that there is an incredible amount of variety out there. However, as I mentioned in the article, it’s important to go for quality.

Many brands offering almond milk and soy milk have also filled their products with sweeteners and artificial flavourings which definitely won’t be enhancing the nutritional content of your milk. Carrageenan is one additive that you might have heard of – it’s incredible inflammatory and the World Health Organisation referred to it as a possible carcinogen, yet it still makes its way into many sweetened variety of nut milks.

If you want to make the most out of your nut milk, always opt for an unsweetened variety and avoid flavours! My personal favourite nut milk brand is Rude Health and I’m a huge fan of their Almond Drink! I add it to everything, from my cereal to my post-gym smoothie!

4 - Non-organic skimmed milk

It’s lower in fat than ordinary milk but that doesn’t mean that skimmed milk should get an instant pass. As I discussed in my blog ‘Is going dairy-free right for me’ milk does have some health benefits – it’s naturally high in protein – but the type of milk that you choose is important. Research has indicated that by opting for skimmed milk you could be losing out on fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A & E which are important for the immune system.2

You also have to consider that non-organic brands often don’t operate to the same standards as their organic counterparts. Often the livestock are encouraged to take antibiotics and growth hormones, the residues of which can still make their way into your morning cuppa. Instead, my advice would definitely be to go organic with your milk and to exercise moderation – a little milk with your cereal is unlikely to affect you but remember that too much of the white stuff can have consequences!

5 – Flavoured water

The taste of water isn’t to everyone’s liking which is why a huge market has developed for flavoured waters! In fact many are now converting away from fizzy drinks – hurrah! – to flavoured waters, believing them to be a healthier alternative and a compromise. However, is this true?

Unsurprisingly, flavoured waters contain plenty of artificial sweeteners and sugars to achieve their taste, with Volvic’s Touch of Fruit Lemon and Lime 750ml containing around 12.4g of sugar. Experts at the American Dental Association have also claimed that the citric and fruit acids used to flavour such drinks can also cause ‘significant tooth erosion’ –  yikes!

So what exactly are you supposed to do if you don’t enjoy the taste of plain old-fashioned water? Fortunately another trend is appearing and one that I fully approve of – Infuser Bottles! Affordable and easy to purchase online from sites such as Wilkos or Lakeland, these bottles allow you to flavour your water with fresh fruit – simply cut up some strawberries or lemons or whatever takes your fancy and voila – you have a refreshing bottle of flavoured water without all the nasty sugars and additives!

If you’re interested in trying out some recipes at home for yourself, I’d definitely suggest checking out our Detox Water, which is absolutely delicious and great for improving your digestion.

6 – Sports drinks

If you’ve read my article ‘Are sports drinks really better for you’ then you’ll already know my feelings about most of the sports and energy drinks already available on the market. To summarise here though, popular sports drinks such as Gatorade and Powerade are absolutely loaded with artificial colourings, sweeteners and sugars and most of us are drinking them unnecessarily, with some of us even giving them to children!

They’re definitely not a substitute for water in terms of hydration, but if you are intending to embark on a hard workout at the gym and feel you need a little extra from your pick-me-up, I would definitely recommend our Balance Drink instead. It’s outstanding for symptoms of fatigue and contains vital electrolytes such as potassium and calcium to help you recover and, best of all, it contains no added sugars!

7 – Protein shakes

Protein drinks are definitely in vogue at the moment as protein has evolved from its traditional association with body builders. While I couldn’t be happier with this shift in attitude, I am a little concerned by how readily protein drinks are being consumed. Many people don’t seem to be too educated on the subject and some seem to presume that protein shakes are an instant guarantee of toned muscles and weight loss, which unfortunately, they aren’t.

Most supermarket now offer their own protein drinks but these can vary in quality and include a  variety of unwanted extras. Normally they can be quite high in carbohydrates and protein, as well as artificial flavourings and sweeteners. If you really do want to include a protein drink in your diet, I would recommend purchasing a high quality protein powder and mixing your own shake up at home.

Our friends over at Jan de Vries offer a variety of protein powders, one of my personal favourites is Sunwarrior’s Classic Protein. Vegan-friendly and easy to digest, it contains all essential and non-essential amino acids while increasing your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals!

8 – Fruit juices

Across the country, many of us enjoy starting the day with a glass of cool fresh orange juice. High in vitamin C and one of your 5 a day, how could you possibly be going wrong? Well I’m not going to disagree with the health merits of fresh fruit juice, what I am going to say is remember, moderation.

The process for juicing fruits can sometimes remove fibre from the finished product, not mention it releases all the sugar in the fruit, which is why so many fruit juices contain almost as much sugar as a can of Coca-Cola! This is important to note as the fibre in fruit can help to slow your absorption of fructose and without it, you can become vulnerable to a sugar crash and cravings.

Consuming high quantities of fruit juice can also affect your dental health too, as fruit juices can be high in citric acid, which can damage the enamel of your teeth.  Instead of immediately reaching for a bottle of fresh apple juice, you might be better just eating an apple or, if you are drinking a fruit juice, try to opt for one that’s 100% pure and not derived from any concentrates.


1 https://www.nhs.uk/chq/pages/1139.aspx?categoryid=51 
2 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22585901 

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