When the weather’s this hot, one of the most important things you can do for your body is to stay hydrated.

But not all beverages are created equal, and experts caution against quenching your thirst with sodas and other high-calorie, caffeinated drinks. These drinks, though enticing, come at a high cost healthwise, according to Heli Roy, extension nutritionist with the LSU AgCenter.

Some of the most heavily promoted drinks are the specialty coffees. Their sales have been increasing about 20 percent a year, Roy said. Though refreshing, an iced mocha coffee with whipped cream can have as many calories as a malted milk.

“Some of these specialty coffee drinks have as many as 1,200 calories,” Roy said. “These calories can add up.”

One study showed that college women who regularly drank specialty coffees consumed 200 more calories and 32 more grams of sugar per day than their counterparts who avoided these drinks.

So-called energy drinks, which are loaded with caffeine, continue to gain popularity, too.

“People drink them because they don’t get enough sleep, and they’re tired. And they drink them with alcohol while partying,” Roy said.

She recommends these drinks never be consumed by children or adolescents because of their stimulant content.

These energy drinks typically contain 80 to 140 milligrams of caffeine per 8 ounces, which is about the same as two 12-ounce cans of a caffeinated soft drink such as Mountain Dew, Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola or Dr Pepper.

But even caffeine-free soft drinks can cause problems. All soft drinks, even sugar-free, can contribute to weight gain and tooth decay and should only be consumed in moderation.

In one study, women who consumed two or more regular soft drinks per day had a 24 percent higher risk of developing diabetes during a six-year follow-up period compared with women who drank less than one soft drink per month, Roy said.

So what should you reach for when you’re battling 100-degree temperatures? What Roy and other experts recommend likely will not surprise you.

“You just can’t beat water,” Roy said. “It’s the perfect beverage to rehydrate the system and should be your beverage of choice most of the time.”

People on medications need to be particularly conscientious about getting enough to drink. Some medications, such as high blood pressure medicine, are diuretics and can cause fluid loss.

“Elderly people, who tend to be on medication, need to be very diligent about drinking plenty of water,” Roy said.

Low-fat milk and 100 percent fruit juice are also good beverage options. Milk provides our bodies with calcium and vitamin D, which is especially important for children.

Real, 100 percent fruit juice, meanwhile, though heavy in natural sugar, has most of the nutrients of the fruit itself and usually delivers more energy.

“Unlike with soft drinks, studies show that children do not gain weight from drinking 100 percent juice,” Roy said.

For more information on this topic, contact Roy at (225) 578-1425 or hroy@agcenter.lsu.edu.