Drink to Your Health!

Need an energy boost? Want to drop a few pounds? You can even spice up your sex life. These smart choices will quench your health needs as well as your thirst.

Drink to Your Health!

While experts have long recommended drinking eight glasses of water a day, most Americans come up about three glasses short. "Many people just don't like the taste of water," says Joy Bauer, RD, a nutritionist in New York City. "And that's okay. There are many other beverages out there that are beneficial to your health."

In fact, reaching for the right drink at the right time can help you beat PMS, think more clearly, cure a headache, and more. So next time you're thirsty, make the most it by pouring yourself a glass of good health.

You Need Help...Increasing Your Energy

Grab a Lemonade

Sip this summertime favorite if you need some extra pep in the mornings or a lift during a late-afternoon slump. Research conducted by neurologist Alan R. Hirsch, MD, director of the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, indicates that the taste of lemons can fight fatigue by stimulating a nerve in the nose, which in turn sets off "wake up" sensors in the brain.

You Need Help...Waking Up in the Morning

Grab a Light Coffee

Go ahead and pour a cup of java when you're dragging at the start of the day. "The caffeine will energize your nervous system, so you'll feel more clear-headed and alert," says Bauer. Just make sure you stick with low-fat or skim milk and avoid adding heaping teaspoons of sugar. Drinks with heavy cream and lots of sugar hurt your waistline, and the initial buzz they provide ends quickly, causing your energy to nosedive. Light milk, however, supplies needed protein and a steady dose of carbs that will keep your blood sugar on a more even keel for longer.

You Need Help...Dealing with PMS

Grab a Milk Shake

Food cravings hit right before your period every month, so why not indulge your sweet tooth with a drink that can prevent (and ease) cramps and other symptoms of PMS? Research conducted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst found that a diet rich in calcium and vitamin D helps reduce the risk of PMS by as much as 40 percent, possibly by altering estrogen levels. So whip up this low-cal treat: Blend 1 cup skim milk with 1 cup frozen strawberries. For just 160 calories you'll get 25 percent of your RDA of calcium and vitamin D.

You Need Help...Getting Rid of a Headache

Grab an Apple Juice

Has a stressful day left your head pounding? Apple juice or cider (hot or cold) can be just as effective at reducing the severity and duration of a headache as popping an aspirin, says Dr. Hirsch. His research shows that if you're fond of the scent of fresh apples, it can have an extremely therapeutic effect on your body. "Ninety percent of what we call taste is actually smell," explains Dr. Hirsch. And while his research looked at green apples, any type of apple juice — fresh or from concentrate — will help relieve headache pain.

You Need Help...with an Upset Stomach

Grab a Ginger Tea

Your mother may have been onto something when she gave you ginger ale for your tummy ache. Ginger helps settle a sour stomach and ease nausea, says Bauer. But carbonated soda can be difficult for some people to tolerate. Instead, add a dash or two of ground ginger to regular tea, or grate some fresh ginger into a pot of boiling water and let it steep five minutes before drinking. Chamomile or peppermint teas also have been found to comfort a bellyache, but avoid mint if you're dealing with heartburn, as it can aggravate reflux.

You Need Help...Reviving Your Sex Life

Grab a Banana Smoothie

The next time you want to monkey around, mix a frozen banana with a cup of skim milk and a cup of fat-free yogurt, and drink up. The smell of bananas seems to be an aphrodisiac for women, according to Dr. Hirsch. In one study the aroma of bananas was shown to increase blood flow to the genitals, making the nerves found there more sensitive to touch. Men, by the way, get turned on by the smell of pumpkin pie and lavender, as well as doughnuts and licorice.

You Need Help...Dropping a Few Pounds

Grab a Grapefruit Juice

Grapefruit's reputation as a weight-loss food isn't pulp fiction after all. A 12-week study of 108 obese patients at the Scripps Clinic in San Diego found that people who drank 8 ounces of grapefruit juice before each of their meals lost an average of 3.3 pounds. Is it really the grapefruit juice that does the trick? Apparently. The research authors had some patients drink the same number of calories in apple juice instead, and those people didn't drop any weight.

You Need Help...Recovering from Exercise

Grab a Low-Fat Chocolate Milk

Flavored milk contains the optimal ratio of carbs and protein — about 3 to 4 grams of carbs for every gram of protein. While most "recovery drinks" supply carbs and replenish electrolytes lost through sweat, adding protein to the mix can help speed up your postworkout recovery. Milk also contains bone-building nutrients, like calcium, at levels sports drinks don't match. Why chocolate milk? If you make it with real cocoa, it's chock-full of antioxidants, which further aid in muscle repair.

You Need Help...Thinking Straight

Grab a Green Tea

If you've been feeling a little forgetful, green tea's brain-boosting properties may help keep your mind razor sharp, suggests a recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers determined that seniors who drank at least two cups of green tea daily were half as likely to show signs of cognitive impairment compared with those who drank the tea only three times a week. Coffee, black tea, and oolong tea weren't found to be as helpful in providing a mental boost.

Copyright © 2008. Used with permission from the July 2007 issue of Family Circle magazine.