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6 refreshing ways to stay hydrated this summer.

Nothing hits the spot on a summer day when you're super hot and thirsty quite like ... what? You see, everyone will answer that a little differently. I polled my family of four and got four different nominations for favorite cool summer drinks: ice water, iced tea, nonalcoholic beer (my husband's choice), and mineral water with lime.

Summer inspires us to sip more, and sip often. That's because:

  • We sip to hydrate our bodies.
  • We sip to cool down and refresh ourselves.
  • We sip for the sheer enjoyment of it.

Most of us have certain summer drinks we look forward to revisiting each year -- drinks that epitomize the sensation of summer. They may evoke happy memories from our childhoods -- like buying strawberry lemonade at the fair, or sipping sweet tea on the porch on a lazy summer night as your family watched the sun set.

But what are the best summer drinks? These are drinks that contribute water (hydration) with the least amount of other ingredients that might detract from hydration or health. For example, because caffeine is a diuretic (it increases the amount of urine eliminated by the body), it can hinder hydration.

Then there's sugar, which while adding enjoyment, also adds calories. Heavily sweetened beverages don't seem to quench your thirst, but stimulate it.

Alternative sweeteners shouldn't be a problem for most people, in moderate amounts. But, in my opinion, they aren't your best choice for drinking throughout the day anyway. If you don't seem to have a sensitivity to diet sodas, and you enjoy drinking them, try keeping them to 1-2 servings a day.

Keep in mind there are still questions about the health effects of drinking a lot of soda every day. One study showed that drinking more than two servings of cola a day more than doubled the likelihood of having chronic kidney disease. The interesting part: It didn't matter whether the cola was sweetened with sugar or alternative sweeteners. (Other types of carbonated beverages in the study were not associated with chronic kidney disease.) The researchers suggest that it probably isn't the caffeine or the sugar in soda causing problems, but phosphoric acid, which gives a tangy taste to cola and acts as a preservative.

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