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Nutritionists Reveal 9 Tips for Healthier Drinking Habits

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Most nutrition advice focuses on what you should eat and how much you should exercise, but what you drink also plays an important role in your overall health. We all know to drink lots of water and stay away from sugary soft drinks, but how else can we make better beverage choices? We talked to nutritionists to get their expert advice on drinking healthier.


Many of us can’t stay awake without a morning cup (or two) of coffee. Both coffee and tea have health benefits, and a daily cup of joe can be an acceptable part of a healthy diet—if it’s organic. “Conventional [non-organic] coffee is one of the most chemically treated foods,” says Tania Gabbay, a holistic health coach and certified Natural Foods Chef. Make sure that your coffee beans are free from nasty pesticides and come from a high quality, organic source.


Tap water can contain heavy metal deposits such as zinc, lead, cadmium, copper, and mercury, which can build up in your system over time and cause health problems. Erika Herman, a board-certified nutritionist and bestselling nutrition author, advises that you use a water filter that removes heavy metals as well as chlorine. Besides tasting and smelling bad, chlorine “has no place in your drinking-water supply—it damages gut microflora, which comprises around 80 percent of your immune system and regulates your body's inflammatory response,” says Herman.


Elissa Goodman, a certified holistic nutritionist, recommends drinking apple cider vinegar or water with lemon juice. One to two tablespoons per day of apple cider vinegar (you can dilute it with water to make it taste better) can prevent acid reflux, soothe the digestive system, and increase insulin sensitivity. “I prefer organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the ‘mother' in it, like Bragg’s brand. The ‘mother’ is a blend of proteins, friendly/good for you bacteria, and enzymes that gives the vinegar a cloudy look,” says Goodman.

Lemon water has its own benefits; it can reduce inflammation, aid digestion, ease heartburn, minimize bloat, and help the body flush toxins. Goodman recommends squeezing half a lemon into 8 ounces of room temperature water.


Although drinking water with apple cider vinegar or lemon juice can be a healthy habit, don’t overdo it. Herman says that this popular trend isn’t right for everyone. “Water with apple cider vinegar or lemon or lime juice can erode tooth enamel, trigger tooth sensitivity, and, for many, can upset urine pH.”

Herman advises that after drinking vinegar or lemon juice, you should rinse your mouth with plain water. And to protect your tooth enamel, “definitely don't brush your teeth for at least 30 minutes after,” says Herman.


If your taste buds get bored of plain filtered water, you can add some variety without resorting to sodas or sugary energy drinks. Herman suggests getting creative with infusions by adding slices of lemon, lime, or cucumber to a water glass or pitcher. You can also add a sprig of rosemary, mint, or parsley as well as grated turmeric, ginger, or cayenne pepper. Let the flavors sit in the water for at least half an hour. Experiment with different flavor variations to find your next favorite flavored water drink.


Because drinking too much alcohol can have a dehydrating effect on the body, it’s essential to stay hydrated when you imbibe. “An easy way to create more healthy habits surrounding drinking is to create a fun and creative cocktail with coconut water, fresh mint, muddled watermelon, and ice. The coconut water, watermelon, and ice will balance out the dehydrating alcohol,” says Gabbay.


Wine is loaded with sugar, and even clear liquors like gin or vodka—which have less sugar and calories than wine—are often served with sugary mixers. "It's the combination of alcohol and sugars found in mixers (or the bar food often consumed with alcohol) that causes problems” with weight, writes nutritional consultant Dr. Mike Roussell. “It is the metabolic priority that your body places on alcohol (over carbohydrates and fats) that causes the problem,” he adds. To combat the calories in mixers and alcohol’s metabolic effects, opt for adding mixers that are low in sugar and are as unprocessed as possible, like lime juice, grated ginger, or seltzer water.


Juice bars have become almost as popular as coffee shops, but are juices actually healthy? “Most conventional juices have too much sugar,” says Goodman. “The key to lowering the sugar content in your juices and smoothies is to lower the high sugar fruits and vegetables.”

For example, mixing lower sugar ingredients such as romaine, spinach, asparagus, ginger, parsley, turmeric, celery, cilantro, cucumber, kale, chard, collards, or beet greens with a small apple, a couple of beets or carrots, or a lemon will yield a lower sugar juice, according to Goodman.


We all know we should drink more water for optimal health, but how much is enough? Our bodies are all different, so when it comes to how much water we need to consume, it’s not one-size-fits-all. As a general guideline, 15-16 cups of water per day is adequate for men, while 11-12 cups per day is sufficient for women. Amanda Carlson-Phillips, a registered dietician and board certified specialist in sports dietetics, tells Fitness that athletes “should be consuming .5 to 1 ounce of H2O per pound of body weight every day.” That equals about 10-20 cups of water per day for a 150-pound person.

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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva
Man Buys Two Metric Tons of LEGO Bricks; Sorts Them Via Machine Learning
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iStock // Ekaterina Minaeva

Jacques Mattheij made a small, but awesome, mistake. He went on eBay one evening and bid on a bunch of bulk LEGO brick auctions, then went to sleep. Upon waking, he discovered that he was the high bidder on many, and was now the proud owner of two tons of LEGO bricks. (This is about 4400 pounds.) He wrote, "[L]esson 1: if you win almost all bids you are bidding too high."

Mattheij had noticed that bulk, unsorted bricks sell for something like €10/kilogram, whereas sets are roughly €40/kg and rare parts go for up to €100/kg. Much of the value of the bricks is in their sorting. If he could reduce the entropy of these bins of unsorted bricks, he could make a tidy profit. While many people do this work by hand, the problem is enormous—just the kind of challenge for a computer. Mattheij writes:

There are 38000+ shapes and there are 100+ possible shades of color (you can roughly tell how old someone is by asking them what lego colors they remember from their youth).

In the following months, Mattheij built a proof-of-concept sorting system using, of course, LEGO. He broke the problem down into a series of sub-problems (including "feeding LEGO reliably from a hopper is surprisingly hard," one of those facts of nature that will stymie even the best system design). After tinkering with the prototype at length, he expanded the system to a surprisingly complex system of conveyer belts (powered by a home treadmill), various pieces of cabinetry, and "copious quantities of crazy glue."

Here's a video showing the current system running at low speed:

The key part of the system was running the bricks past a camera paired with a computer running a neural net-based image classifier. That allows the computer (when sufficiently trained on brick images) to recognize bricks and thus categorize them by color, shape, or other parameters. Remember that as bricks pass by, they can be in any orientation, can be dirty, can even be stuck to other pieces. So having a flexible software system is key to recognizing—in a fraction of a second—what a given brick is, in order to sort it out. When a match is found, a jet of compressed air pops the piece off the conveyer belt and into a waiting bin.

After much experimentation, Mattheij rewrote the software (several times in fact) to accomplish a variety of basic tasks. At its core, the system takes images from a webcam and feeds them to a neural network to do the classification. Of course, the neural net needs to be "trained" by showing it lots of images, and telling it what those images represent. Mattheij's breakthrough was allowing the machine to effectively train itself, with guidance: Running pieces through allows the system to take its own photos, make a guess, and build on that guess. As long as Mattheij corrects the incorrect guesses, he ends up with a decent (and self-reinforcing) corpus of training data. As the machine continues running, it can rack up more training, allowing it to recognize a broad variety of pieces on the fly.

Here's another video, focusing on how the pieces move on conveyer belts (running at slow speed so puny humans can follow). You can also see the air jets in action:

In an email interview, Mattheij told Mental Floss that the system currently sorts LEGO bricks into more than 50 categories. It can also be run in a color-sorting mode to bin the parts across 12 color groups. (Thus at present you'd likely do a two-pass sort on the bricks: once for shape, then a separate pass for color.) He continues to refine the system, with a focus on making its recognition abilities faster. At some point down the line, he plans to make the software portion open source. You're on your own as far as building conveyer belts, bins, and so forth.

Check out Mattheij's writeup in two parts for more information. It starts with an overview of the story, followed up with a deep dive on the software. He's also tweeting about the project (among other things). And if you look around a bit, you'll find bulk LEGO brick auctions online—it's definitely a thing!

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© Nintendo
Nintendo Will Release an $80 Mini SNES in September
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© Nintendo

Retro gamers rejoice: Nintendo just announced that it will be launching a revamped version of its beloved Super Nintendo Classic console, which will allow kids and grown-ups alike to play classic 16-bit games in high-definition.

The new SNES Classic Edition, a miniature version of the original console, comes with an HDMI cable to make it compatible with modern televisions. It also comes pre-loaded with a roster of 21 games, including Super Mario Kart, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, Donkey Kong Country, and Star Fox 2, an unreleased sequel to the 1993 original.

“While many people from around the world consider the Super NES to be one of the greatest video game systems ever made, many of our younger fans never had a chance to play it,” Doug Bowser, Nintendo's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a statement. “With the Super NES Classic Edition, new fans will be introduced to some of the best Nintendo games of all time, while longtime fans can relive some of their favorite retro classics with family and friends.”

The SNES Classic Edition will go on sale on September 29 and retail for $79.99. Nintendo reportedly only plans to manufacture the console “until the end of calendar year 2017,” which means that the competition to get your hands on one will likely be stiff, as anyone who tried to purchase an NES Classic last year will well remember.

In November 2016, Nintendo released a miniature version of its original NES system, which sold out pretty much instantly. After selling 2.3 million units, Nintendo discontinued the NES Classic in April. In a statement to Polygon, the company has pledged to “produce significantly more units of Super NES Classic Edition than we did of NES Classic Edition.”

Nintendo has not yet released information about where gamers will be able to buy the new console, but you may want to start planning to get in line soon.