A recent study linking sugary drinks like soda pop to an increased risk of gout is just another reason in a long list of why I think what you drink is just as important to your health as what you eat.

And it’s not just soda pop, with its high-fructose corn syrup and a long list of artificial chemicals, that’s on my list of beverages to avoid, although it’s certainly at or near the very top. It’s no coincidence that the rising obesity and diabetes rates and the introduction and increase in popularity of soda pop follow a similar path on a graph.

Diet soda pops are another on my don’t list. They may not contain the same calories as the regular version, but they sure are chock-full of chemicals not found in nature, which won’t help your health or even keep you slim. In fact, in a study done years ago, researchers were amazed to discover that of the mice that were provided water, regular soda, or diet soda to drink along with unlimited food, it was the ones drinking diet soda who gained the most weight because while the drink contained no calories, it certainly seemed to increase the critter’s appetites!

I’m also not a fan of so-called healthy drinks like fruit juice. Not just fruit-flavored juice, which is little more than high-fructose corn syrup, color, and artificial flavors, but also 100 percent fruit juice. I’d much rather see my patients drink water and eat an orange than have a glass of orange juice, which is really the calorie equivalent of eating five oranges minus the filling fiber that would accompany them.

Likewise milk, and certainly anything but skim milk, is another healthy beverage in question. Did you know that of all the animals on the planet, humans are the only ones who drink milk past the first year or so of life? And the milk of another species at that! It’s completely unnecessary.

Even flavored or plain seltzer waters are on my don’t recommend it list. Flavored ones often contain the same artificial sweeteners found in soda pop, and the carbonation in these beverages stretches the stomach, increasing appetite and cravings.

Unsweetened coffee or tea is okay in moderation, but it’s important to note that the caffeine these drinks contain can stimulate appetite and that both are mild diuretics that have a dehydrating effect on the body. If you must, reach for green tea, which has been linked to increasing metabolism and other health perks.

So what drink do I recommend? If you haven’t guessed, it’s pure, plain water. Water is nature’s perfect beverage, and by the way, the only thing any other adult animals drink. So why is it often the very last thing we reach for?

Many of my patients tell me they don’t like the taste of water. For them, I recommend they slowly reacquaint their taste buds with water a few ounces at a time. It really is the fault of clever marketing that we consider water to be the lowest of beverage options, when in fact it should be at the top of the list.

So if you don’t drink mostly water now, I’d encourage you to make that your goal. Gradually replace your current beverage of choice with H2O until it is the main or even only beverage you drink. Your health, and waistline, will benefit greatly.