The Benefit: Lowers risk of heart disease. Soy milk contains soluble fiber and soy protein, which lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and triglycerides, reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. If you’re drinking it instead of cow’s milk, buy soy milk fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D. One caveat: Soy contains phytoestrogens, which may be linked to an increased risk of breast cancer. Talk to your doctor about drinking soy milk if you have a family history of the disease or have had it yourself.
Calories: 81 for 8 ounces
The Benefit: Eases cramps and helps ward off indigestion. “Mint is an antispasmodic, so it can relax muscles, which combats stiffness and aches,” says Susan Lark, MD, author of The Chemistry of Success (Bay Books, 1999). It also aids in digestion by promoting the movement of food through the digestive tract.
The Benefit: Helps reduce risk of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, and cavities. Green tea contains a rich concentration of flavonoids and polyphenols, natural antioxidants that may protect cells from carcinogens (cancer-causing substances) and inhibit tumor growth by helping to neutralize free radicals in the body. The tea’s antioxidants may also guard against heart disease by relaxing blood vessels, inhibiting the formation of blood clots that trigger heart attacks and strokes. Green tea also contains fluoride, which strengthens teeth; the flavonoids may build up bones as well, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and tooth decay.
The Benefit: Improves mood and may help protect against heart disease. Chocolate increases the production of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which is responsible for regulating mood. (Low levels of serotonin have been associated with depression.) Cocoa is also rich in polyphenols, plant-derived antioxidants that may protect cells against oxidative damage that can lower HDL (good) cholesterol levels, possibly putting you at higher risk for a heart attack.
Calories: 195 for 8 ounces homemade cocoa; 115 for a powdered mix
The Benefit: Helps prevent gum disease. Research suggests that the same antibacterial properties present in cranberry juice that fight off urinary tract infections may also protect against periodontal disease. Experts theorize that a component of the juice called nondialysable material (NDM) inhibits bacteria from sticking to the gums. Many nutritionists are wary of fruit juices because of their sugar content, so limit your intake to no more than one glass (6 to 8 ounces) daily. “Make sure the label says 100 percent juice, not ‘juice drink’ or ‘cocktail,'” suggests Heidi Reichenberger, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. You can find this type of juice in health-food stores and some supermarkets.
Calories: 140 for 8 ounces