Soda isn't the healthiest drink. Known for its high sugar content, research suggests that the sweet and bubbly beverage can contribute to kidney stone formation, tooth decay, heart disease, diabetes, and weight gain.

As a result, many turn to fruit juice, believing it's a healthier alternative. But get this: many fruit juices have just as much sugar as your average soda, if not more. For example, eight ounces of cranberry juice has about 33 grams of sugar, whereas eight ounces of standard Coca Cola has 26 grams of sugar. Even 100% fruit juice can have more calories than a can of soda.

Sugar and your health

Sugary beverages like fruit juice, soda, and sports drinks are always in high demand in the United States; in fact, on any given day, about half the US population will gulp a sugary drink. That's not all: for 25% of the population, at least 200 daily calories come from sugary beverages.

Marketers know this, and often go to great lengths to disguise a drink’s sugar content. So, read the label and look for these ingredients, which are often used as sweeteners: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, evaporated cane juice, and anything that rhymes with “gross” — more specifically dextrose, fructose, and maltose.

Why? They can be dangerous to your health. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that these added sugars only make up of 10% of your daily caloric intake. Exceeding this amount on the daily may increase your chances of weight gain, tooth decay, and heart disease. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends against giving fruit juice to children under age one.

Related: Sugary Drinks Increase Heart Attack, Stroke Risk

While juice and soda may not do your body any favors, here are some drinks that offer a number of health-enhancing benefits:

Jazz up your water

Water is the best drink to quench your thirst and improve your health. It helps your body maintain a regular temperature, keeps tissues hydrated, and helps gets rid of waste through sweat and urination. Plus, it keeps you from consuming extra calories, as well as many artificial sugars, which have been found to contribute to obesity rates.

If you don’t like water's lack of flavor — or just want to switch it up — try adding lemons or limes. Or, you can make your own naturally flavored water. Simply combine these ingredients, let them sit in refrigerated water overnight, and enjoy chilled the next day:

  • Strawberry and cucumber
  • Orange and blueberry
  • Watermelon and mint

Other alternatives

Another great substitute for fruit juice, especially after a workout, is coconut water. It rebalances electrolyte and carbohydrate levels, helpful after working up a sweat. Coconut water also has many antioxidants and is high in potassium, an electrolyte that moderates sodium’s effects on the body. Just be sure to check the label for added sugar.

Related: Antioxidants

Do you enjoy iced tea? Swap out artificially sweetened iced tea for kombucha, a black tea fermented with bacteria and yeast. It's rich with nutrients and may help increase the biodiversity of bacteria in your gut, which could aid digestion. Note, however, that the kind of kombucha that helps gut bacteria is slightly alcoholic and unpasteurized, which carries risks of contamination, especially for pregnant women and others with vulnerable immune systems.

Related: The Best Foods for Good Gut Bacteria

By choosing these beverages over fruit juice, you'll save calories — and maybe even improve your health. Something to keep in mind next time you're at the supermarket.

Will you ever feel comfortable in your own skin? That is, if you don't make an effort to protect it? Although 64% of adults do report wearing sunscreen when outside for prolonged periods of time, it turns out that only about 10% of people surveyed actually protect themselves daily, according to a recent review.

No matter what your skin tone is, unless you live in a cave with no sunlight, daily protection with either sunscreen, sunblock or protective clothing can not only protect you from developing sunburns (ouch!) but can significantly reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, particularly the deadliest type called melanoma. In addition, for those of you wanting to keep your youthful looks, daily sunscreen has been shown to reduce the development of wrinkles. A great teacher once told me that the best way to not have wrinkles is not to get them in the first place (think of how much money you can save on useless creams that claim to diminish wrinkles).

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