News Release Distributed 06/24/11Enjoying fresh Louisiana berries is a treat that many people look forward to each year. Blueberries are delicious and provide important nutrients that make them a healthful choice to enjoy at meals or as snacks, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. A recent study reported by researchers at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge found that consuming 2 cups of blueberries a day lowered the risk of type 2 diabetes for people who have prediabetes and a family risk of diabetes, Reames says. Prediabetes is a condition that occurs when a person’s blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. Several studies show that many people with prediabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years. A 2010 study funded by the Agricultural Research Service in Little Rock, Ark., on laboratory mice found that blueberries may help fight atherosclerosis, also known as hardening of the arteries. The research provides the first direct evidence that blueberries can help prevent harmful plaques or lesions, symptomatic of atherosclerosis, from increasing in size in arteries. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center found that rats that ate a diet rich in blueberries gained health benefits that may lower their risk for heart disease and diabetes. These included lowered cholesterol levels, improved glucose control and decreased abdominal fat. Lowering cholesterol reduces risk of heart disease while glucose control – the body’s ability to convert sugar to energy – is related to diabetes risk. Increased abdominal fat is linked to increased risk for both heart disease and diabetes. More research is needed to confirm these results in humans, Reames says. Blueberries also are being studied to determine if they can slow aging and improve brain function. Blueberries pack high levels of health-promoting antioxidants, Reames says. Antioxidants are compounds that protect cells against damage by free radicals that form in the body. Uncontrolled free radical formation can cause cell damage that may lead to cancer, heart disease, inflammation and other health problems. “Blueberries also are a good source of vitamin C and fiber,” she says. “One-half cup of blueberries has only 42 calories.” When it comes to selecting berries, Reames offers these tips: – Look for berries that are plump and firm with a dark blue color and a frosty bloom. – Blueberries do not ripen after harvest, so as soon as you buy them, you can eat them. – Sweetness varies by variety. One pint of berries will provide four to five servings of fresh, uncooked fruit. Reames also has these tips for storage and preparation: – Handle fruit gently to avoid bruising. Bruising shortens the life of fruit. – Sort berries carefully and remove any that are too soft or decayed. – Store berries loosely in a shallow container to allow air circulation and to prevent the berries on top from crushing those underneath. – Do not wash berries before refrigerating because they’ll get mushy. Store covered containers of berries in a cool, moist area of the refrigerator, such the vegetable crisper, to help extend the usable life of the fruit. Recommended storage time is three to five days, but unwashed berries may keep up to two weeks when stored properly. – Before eating berries or using in them your favorite recipe, remove stems, wash berries gently in cool running water and drain. You can freeze blueberries without washing, Reames says. When washed before freezing, blueberry skins become tough. To freeze, remove stems and and trash, and package them tightly in freezer bags or containers or glass jars, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Then, seal the container airtight and put it in the freezer. When you remove blueberries from the freezer, rinse them in cold water and use them immediately. “You can use frozen berries directly from the freezer,” Reames says. “There’s no need to thaw them if you use them in baked products, except for pancakes. Pancakes may not cook thoroughly in the center if the berries are frozen. Microwave the amount you need for a few seconds to thaw.” Loose-pack frozen blueberries are available year-round, and you can use them in any recipe that calls for fresh blueberries. Because they are washed, they can be used right from the package.
News Release Distributed 06/24/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Home gardeners around Louisiana frequently have fruit trees in their landscapes, and the fig is certainly one of the most popular. Ficus carica is a native of Asia and was imported into the United States in the 16th century. The fruit is tasty and can be eaten fresh, made into preserves and jams, or used in baking. Figs make nice additions to landscape plantings. Figs are commonly grown in all of Louisiana and have the potential to produce an early crop, called the breba crop, on last year’s wood in the spring, a main crop on the current-season wood during the summer and a third crop in the fall. These different crop productions vary from one variety to another. Proper variety selection is important. Frequent rainfall and high humidity in Louisiana make many varieties unsuitable because of fruit splitting and souring. Varieties with “closed eyes” have fewer problems with fruit souring. The eye is the opening at the end of the fig opposite the stem. Figs are either open-eyed, less-open-eyed or closed-eyed. We prefer a closed eye because bacteria, fungi and moisture are less prone to enter the fig. Winter injury has killed plants of the cold-sensitive varieties in some years. Selecting varieties with cold tolerance is critical in north and central Louisiana. Figs are one of the easiest fruit trees to care for in the home orchard or home landscape. With little care, they will produce crops of juicy, sweet figs every year. Popular fig varieties in Louisiana include Celeste, LSU Purple, LSU Gold and Brown Turkey. Celeste produces small- to medium-size fruit that is resistant to splitting and souring. The fruit is violet to brown with a light strawberry-colored pulp. LSU Purple has been out for a few years and has medium-size, dark purple fruit and good resistance to foliage diseases. Its tendency to produce three distinct crops – a light crop in early spring, a heavy main crop in early July and a later crop sometimes lasting into December – makes it popular. LSU Gold is a new yellow-fruited variety that may still be hard to find, but it is well worth growing. The LSU Purple and LSU Gold cultivars were developed from crosses made by Ed O’Rourke in the 1950s. New figs released by the LSU AgCenter recently include Tiger, O’Rourke and Champagne. Fig trees need room. They can reach heights of 10-15 feet with an equal spread. Plant them in a sunny location away from large trees with overhanging branches. Figs will not produce well unless they receive at least six hours of direct sun daily. Pruning established figs is best done by late February. Yearly pruning helps to maintain vigor, create the desired shape of the tree and control its size (which makes harvesting easier). It is better to cut a fig tree back a moderate amount every year or two than to let it get to the point where severe pruning is required. Most of the branches cut back should be no larger than 1 inch to 2 inches in diameter. Newly planted figs definitely will need to be watered their first summer as they become established. During dry spells in summer, water young trees weekly. Also, mature, fruit-bearing-age trees need irrigation regularly during dry spells. Fig trees may drop fruit if they are drought-stressed. And once the crop is damaged, supplemental watering will not correct the problem. Mulch with pine straw or leaves to conserve soil moisture. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 06/22/11A durable home that withstands natural hazards like hurricanes saves money, time, the ordeal of making repairs and, potentially, your health. And the beginning of hurricane season is a good time to consider ways to make your home tougher if you’re planning any improvements. Hazard-resistant homes also help communities and the nation by reducing disaster costs, says LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel. They help the environment, too, by reducing waste. “Katrina, Rita and Gustav were wake-up calls for all,” Reichel says. “It’s a vivid reminder of the importance of making your home stronger, safer and smarter by including hazard-resistant improvements whenever you remodel or restore your home.” When making any improvements to your home, Reichel says, consider including hurricane and flood-resistant changes. The most common type of storm damage to homes is roof damage and resulting water damage. When reroofing, investigate the water-, wind- and hail-resistance ratings of the new roof system. Look for UL wind and impact (hail) ratings. Select shingles that have a class rating equal to or greater than the basic wind speed specified in the building code. When you remove the old roof coverings, inspect the sheathing. Add ring shank nails so the decking is secured every 6 inches and, if possible, install hurricane hardware to connect roof rafters or trusses to side walls. In south Louisiana, she suggests sealing seams of roof decking with 6-inch-wide roofing tape and upgrading to a tear-resistant, synthetic roofing underlayment material. For the highest level of water protection, invest in a single layer of adhesive-backed, “peel and stick” roof membrane underlayment. For a vented attic, a hurricane-rated ridge vent combined with securely attached, sturdy soffit vents is preferred. The most severe hurricane damage to non-coastal homes is typically caused by water entry and uneven air pressure loads when windows break or garage doors collapse. “Hurricane winds can turn unanchored items into missiles – and that can be just the beginning,” Reichel says. “Most homes that are destroyed during strong hurricanes have no window protection. When wind enters a home through large openings, the pressure that builds inside can lift roofs and collapse walls.” Operable hurricane shutters can protect glass from flying debris while providing an appealing, authentic design element to your home. Louvered Bahamas shutters hinged above the window offer the triple benefit of storm protection, decoration and the energy savings of an awning-like shade while preserving the view. Other choices include roll-down storm shutters that hide in a cornice until needed and several types of removable shutter and impact screen systems with tracks that can be painted to blend with siding. “Laminated, impact-resistant glass is a good alternative to storm shutters,” Reichel says. “It offers the added advantage of being storm-ready at all times – such as when no one is home – and home security.” Attractive garage doors, entry doors and windows with high wind-pressure ratings are now readily available. If you remodel interior areas, choose materials that can resist damage from flooding, termites and other possible hazards, Reichel says. Consider ceramic or clay tile or brick with waterproof mortar, solid vinyl flooring with chemical-set adhesives, decorative concrete, pressure-treated wood, fiber-cement and other durable flooring, wall finishes and siding. “When restoring or adding walls and floors, seize the opportunity to choose more flood-resistant materials,” Reichel says. “If you’re in or near flood hazards, consider creating flood-hardy, drainable, flushable walls with 2 to 3 inches of closed-cell foam insulation –spray foam or rigid board – in the lower wall cavities. She suggests using solid wood and plywood structural materials – no OSB – and paperless drywall. If the space does flood, leaving a gap at the base of the drywall behind removable baseboards allows space to flush and ventilate the wall cavities without having to “gut” the walls. To learn more about protecting your housing investment by making it more durable, visit LaHouse Resource Center on the LSU campus in Baton Rouge and the following websites: www.lsuagcenter.com, www.ibhs.org, www.flash.org and www.fema.gov.
News Release Distributed 06/16/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Azaleas either do great in Louisiana, or they do poorly. The LSU AgCenter regularly receives questions on azalea issues this time of year, but more inquiries than usual have come this spring. Many azalea problems this summer suggest drying foliage with partial to whole-canopy dieback. A number of reasons may be responsible for this. The weather from April through early June was dry enough for drought-stress symptoms to be appearing on azaleas that weren’t adequately watered. On the other hand, over-irrigation is common in commercial and residential landscapes. If azaleas were over-watered in an effort to counteract drought conditions, those plants could be suffering from fungal organisms in the soil that attack and damage or kill the roots. Dead roots cannot absorb water, so when the upper part of the plant is deprived of the water it needs, it withers and dies. This can often be distinguished from drought stress because it generally occurs sectionally. That is, a section of a plant will wilt and die (because it’s connected to roots that have been killed) while other sections (connected to roots that are still functioning) remain green. If lack of water in the soil is the problem, the entire plant wilts uniformly, but some portions of the canopy can show dieback faster than others. The LSU AgCenter earlier reported cold damage on azaleas this year. Cold can cause internal damage that affects the plant's circulatory system. In other words, it interferes with the plant's ability to move water through the branches and into the leaves. Although it occurs in winter, branch death often doesn’t occur until warm weather arrives. Cold-damaged azaleas will show numerous splits and cracks in the bark and even peeling bark. These symptoms are often sectional as well, with some parts staying green and some dying. Finally, azaleas may suffer from fungal infections of the branches themselves. These spots of infection cause cankers. The cankers block the flow of water to the branch beyond where they occur, and that branch withers and dies. This disease is called azalea dieback. These are some possible answers to current azalea problems we are seeing. Leaf gall was also present this spring. This is a fungal issue that creates unsightly malformation of azalea flowers and foliage. This has currently dissipated, so control is not currently warranted. In addition to these problems, azalea lace bugs were very active this spring. If you see them, control them now in order to reduce the late summer/early fall populations. Systemic insecticides work well. You can also spray with horticultural/summer oil products. Stressed azaleas have more lace bugs than nonstressed azaleas, and azaleas in full sun have more lace bugs than azaleas in shady areas. We hope this information will help with your azalea problems as we go through summer. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 06/10/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Home gardeners have long enjoyed zinnias, one of the most popular warm-season bedding plants. New zinnia varieties have been introduced regularly over the last few years. Extended bloom and fewer disease issues are some of the primary criteria in development of new zinnia varieties. Some of the newer zinnias include the Profusion and the Zahara groups. These landscape-type zinnias resulted from hybridization between the old cut-flower-type zinnias and the Mexican or narrowleaf zinnias. Flowers and foliage are smaller than the old cut-flower-type zinnias but larger than the narrowleaf zinnias. Plants reach heights of 14-18 inches and will bloom from planting date until first killing frost. They are also a great improvement over the Dreamland and Peter Pan zinnias, which have been the primary varieties used the past 10 years for landscape plantings. These also are good replacements in the landscape for the Crystal White narrowleaf zinnia variety. Both of these zinnia series are available in several colors. White, orange and cherry were the first introduced, and they are more of a traditional zinnia color. Newer colors include fire, apricot, coral, pink and yellow. Double forms in these flowers are now available, too. Several of these zinnias are All-America Selection winners. Zinnias can be planted throughout the warm season in Louisiana. Summer plantings work just as well as spring plantings. Zinnias flower abundantly in fall. A full-sun location is best. Old flowers can be pinched off to encourage continual bloom, but Profusion and Zahara zinnias stay in flower much better and longer than other varieties. Powdery mildew and leaf spot diseases (caused by fungus and bacteria) are sometimes a problem on zinnias but don’t occur on the Profusion series. Zinnias perform best in drier years. Also, it is important to note that a well-drained bed is preferred. Irrigation isn’t needed very often, but avoid overhead irrigation if you do water these plants. In general, zinnias are remarkably drought-tolerant. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 06/07/11Excessively hot weather can lead to an increased risk of dehydration, especially in older adults. Dehydration – the reduction of total body water – may result from an insufficient intake of fluids and/or fluid loss. “Older people are at high risk for developing heat-related illness because the ability to respond to summer heat can become less efficient with advancing years,” says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Beth Reames. “Studies show senior citizens may not drink sufficient fluids, and they also may be taking medications, such as diuretics for high blood pressure, which cause fluid loss.” Lifestyle factors that also can increase dehydration risks include extremely hot living quarters, lack of transportation, overdressing, visiting overcrowded places and not understanding weather conditions. Symptoms of heat-related illnesses may include headache, nausea, muscle spasms and fatigue after exposure to heat, Reames says. “Both an individual's general health and lifestyle may increase the threat of a heat-related illness,” she says. “Even small losses of body water can impair activity and judgment. Dehydration may increase the severity of an illness as well as the risk of death.” Studies show that most healthy adults are adequately hydrated. The Food and Nutrition Board of the Institute of Medicine recommends approximately 11 cups of total water from all beverages and food for women and 16 cups for men each day. People get water from both beverages and food, Reames says. About 80 percent of people's total water intake comes from drinking water and beverages – including caffeinated beverages – and the other 20 percent comes from food. Solid foods may contribute about four to five cups of water each day, and many fruits and vegetables are 90 percent fluid. Although most people can meet their fluid needs by drinking when they’re thirsty and regularly consuming beverages at meals, prolonged physical activity and heat exposure will increase water losses and may raise daily fluid needs. “In very hot weather, very active individuals often have daily total water needs of six quarts or more, according to several studies,” Reames says. “In addition to physical activity and environmental conditions, diet, disease and health conditions along with the use of diuretics and other medications can affect water needs. It’s also important to remember that water needs vary from day to day.” Research now shows that drinking caffeinated beverages doesn’t lead to dehydration, the nutritionist adds. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, people can meet their hydration needs by drinking caffeinated beverages along with other beverages and foods. Some beverages, especially those containing alcohol, however, may lead to loss of body water. Reames offers the following tips to help people get enough fluids, especially in hot weather: – Water is a great fluid replacer. Drink cool water because it’s absorbed faster, and you’ll usually drink more of it because it tastes better. It’s also calorie-free. – Try drinking fruit juice diluted with plain water or sparkling water for a refreshing lift. – Besides water, fluid can come from all kinds of beverages and food, including juice, milk, soup, tea, coffee and soft drinks. Fruits like watermelon and cantaloupe have high water content. So do frozen treats like 100-percent fruit juice pops.
News Release Distributed 06/07/11 The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s new food plate plan to encourage healthy eating is certainly easier to swallow than the old food pyramid schema, says Heli Roy, LSU AgCenter nutritionist. The plan, dubbed MyPlate, is for one meal and replaces MyPyramid, which had an intricate guide for a whole day’s consumption. “The pyramid plan had too much information. People saw all that food per day and thought they couldn’t eat that much – when, in fact, they could,” Roy said. “In MyPlate people can focus on one meal at a time.” In the MyPlate logo a fourth of the bigger circle is fruit; another fourth, vegetables. The other half of the circle is divided between a food high in protein, such as meat or beans, and a grain product, such as rice or pasta. The new recommendation is that half the grain products eaten be whole-grain. That means trying to incorporate brown rice and whole-grain breads, for example, into your diet. Whole-grain products are a good source of added fiber to the diet, which helps lower cholesterol. Another benefit is that research shows women who eat more whole-grain products have smaller waists, Roy said. To the side of the plate is a smaller circle that could represent a beverage, and it’s labeled “dairy.” This could mean drinking a glass of low-fat milk – or somehow making sure you incorporate a calcium-rich food with your meal, Roy said. The food plan includes a recommendation for soy-based beverages. These are high in calcium – plus digestible by people who are lactose-intolerant, Roy said. The MyPlate logo is colorful for a reason. “People need to think color when they plan a meal,” Roy said. “There should be lots of color, which you get from fruits and vegetables.” The MyPlate plan emphasizes dark-green, orange-yellow and red, which means foods like collard greens, sweet potatoes and tomatoes. “These colorful foods are the foods rich in vitamins and minerals, which help protect against heart disease and cancer. They’re also high in fiber, which is good for the digestive tract,” Roy said. Colorful foods tend to be more expensive, however, than more neutral-colored foods. “The best way to get bargains is to grow your own food and shop at farmers markets,” Roy said. “Buy fruits and vegetables when they’re in season and at their cheapest.” MyPlate is a component of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, which gives detailed eating plans by age, gender and activity level. The Dietary Guidelines emphasize eating fewer calories, less salt and sugar, and more fiber. “This is hard to do unless you prepare your own foods from scratch,” Roy said. “People are encouraged to eat more homemade meals and learn healthful cooking skills.” Off-the-shelf processed foods and restaurant food tend to be high in salt and sugar, which makes it almost impossible to eat based on the Dietary Guidelines. Roy says people can train themselves to enjoy less salty, less sweet food. “It takes three to seven sessions, but people can adapt their taste and learn to enjoy new, more nutritious foods,” Roy said. The USDA has made it easy for people to learn about the new recommendations at www.choosemyplate.gov. “The site includes recipes, which makes it easier for people to change their eating habits,” Roy said.
News Release Distributed 06/03/11By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Home gardeners need to know and be aware of how to care for and manage crape myrtle trees in our landscapes. These are the most popular of our flowering trees, and questions abound regarding proper care and maintenance. Keys to success with crape myrtles include correct sunlight, ideal soil pH and drainage, proper pruning, regular fertilization, proper mulching and insect control. Crape myrtles need full sun in order to perform the best, grow the best and bloom the best. This means eight hours or more of direct sun daily. Less than eight hours of sunlight daily isn’t sufficient for ideal crape myrtle performance. Many of us underestimate the amount of sun that our landscape receives, so check sun patterns in the morning, during the middle of the day and during late afternoon to determine how much sunlight your landscape receives. Soil pH is important for crape myrtles, but it may not be as important as it is for some of our other landscape plants. Crape myrtles like a soil pH of 6.0-6.5. This is considered slightly acid. Do not guess on soil pH – soil test. You can lower the soil pH with sulfur products and raise the pH with lime products. But always do this based on the results of a soil test. When it comes to pruning, February is the time to prune crape myrtles. But your particular crape myrtle may not need to be pruned. You should prune these trees to maintain a natural shape or to thin out branches to allow light into the canopy. Do not top or “hack off the top” of crape myrtle trees. This is often referred to as “crape murder.” Major pruning to reduce height is not recommended. Fertilization is very important for crape myrtles. To maximize spring growth and the resultant summer bloom, crape myrtles should be fertilized in early spring just prior to new growth commencing. A fertilizer like 8-8-8 or 13-13-13 will work fine and is recommended for crape myrtles. It is better to place fertilizer in drilled holes in the ground (about 8 inches deep) than to just scatter fertilizer on top of the ground. You can fertilize later in the spring and in the summer, but the plants won’t benefit as much as when fertilizer is applied in late winter to early spring. Mulching is, unfortunately, incorrectly done in many residential and commercial landscape plantings. When you mulch, go “out” instead of “up.” You may see mulch piled high around the base of trees. Don’t do this. Spread mulch out under the branches and use pine straw, pine bark or wood chips to a depth of 2-3 inches and refresh the layer as needed. Keep mulch off the trunk. One problem that is frequent on crape myrtles is insect damage. Actually, most insects do not do much damage except for aphids that may feed on the new shoot growth in the spring. White flies are also sometimes a problem on crape myrtles. Left unchecked, these insects will release bodily fluids onto the foliage, and the resultant honeydew leads to sooty mold on the leaves. This is the black discoloration that occurs normally in the early summer through fall months. If you control the insects, no sooty mold will develop. Popular crape myrtle varieties in Louisiana include Natchez, Muskogee, Tonto, Acoma and Sioux. Garden centers have the best availability of crape myrtles in late spring and early summer. All of the practices outlined here will help your crape myrtles be successful long-term in the landscape. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 06/01/11 During this hot, dry weather, stay hydrated with beverages that are good for you, and stay away from high-calorie, caffeine-containing drinks. These drinks, though enticing, come at a high cost healthwise, says 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 says. 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 that 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, Roy says. 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 says. Fortunately, the volume of soft drink consumption in the United States is dropping. In 2010, it dropped a half a percent – down to 9.36 billion cases – which is the industry’s sixth consecutive year of gradual decline, Roy says. The best beverages to help people stay hydrated and healthy are water, low-fat milk and 100 percent juice, Roy says. “You just can’t beat water,” Roy said. “It’s the perfect beverage to rehydrate the system. It should be the beverage you choose most of the time.” People on medications need to be particularly conscious of water consumption. 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. People, especially children, need milk for calcium and vitamin D. One-hundred-percent fruit juice has most of the nutrients of the fruit itself, and it usually delivers more energy, Roy says. “Unlike with soft drinks, studies show that children do not gain weight from drinking 100 percent juice,” Roy said.