Spilling the Tea on Health Drinks

We can all probably agree that a can of sugary soda or a bottle of sweet tea isn’t the healthiest thing for your body. However, can we really be sure that every trendy health drink on the market right now is actually benefitting our bodies any more?

The sheer amount of teas, juices and flavored waters can be overwhelming and it is easy to be fooled by their claims to do wondrous things, so here is a quick breakdown.

1. Matcha

What is it?

Matcha is the new and trendier sister to traditional green tea. It is made by taking the tea leaves when they are young and grinding them into a bright green powder.

The Pros and Cons

Similar to green tea, matcha is packed with a kind of antioxidants known as catechins, specifically a catechin known as EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which studies have shown prevent heart disease and even encourage weight loss. When blended with hot water like a traditional tea, matcha can have immense health benefits, but additives can easily cancel these out.

The taste of pure matcha can resemble the taste of grass or spinach. As a result, many brands sweeten the green powder to make it taste better. Pure matcha is also expensive, so if you are finding your matcha at a lower price, chances are it is a low quality product.

The Bottom Line

Matcha and greet tea are extremely healthy on their own. However, if you can no longer taste the leafy greens in your matcha latte, chances are there is more sugar then there are health benefits.

2. Kombucha

What is it?

This centuries old fizzy drink was once obscure, but today is just as prevalent as Gatorade in just as many flavors. Kombucha is created by adding strains of bacteria, yeast and sugar to tea and allowing them to ferment.

The Pros and Cons

Because kombucha is made from green or black tea it can have many of the same benefits as tea. In addition, the fermentation process adds a good amount of probiotic bacteria to kombucha that aids in gut health. For this reason kombucha has the reputation for aiding in digestion, inflammation and even weight loss.

On the other hand, the fermentation process is also what gives kombucha its vinegary taste that can make a lot of people hesitant. As a result, many brands have began experimenting with sweeteners and flavors that make it more palatable. The advertising of kombucha as a “detox” drink is also concerning since there is no scientific evidence to back this up. In addition, it should not be used as a meal replacement of any kind.

The Bottom Line

If your tastebuds can take the acidic and bubbly taste of pure kombucha, then you can gain some serious benefits from this drink. Just be sure to read the label carefully to avoid one with a lot of added sugars and other not-so-healthy things. Also, avoid making your own kombucha since contaminated kombucha can do more harm to your body than good.

3. Cold Brew Coffee

What is it?

Cold Brew is slightly different than traditional iced coffee and the difference is how it is made. The coffee is brewed with colder water over a 12 to 24 hour period, and what you’re left with is a super strong coffee concentrate which is then mixed with water.

The Pros and Cons

Cold brew, like traditional coffee, has been shown to benefit your brain, heart and metabolism. When drank by itself it is a healthy extra dose of caffeine than your usual Starbucks order. What makes it less healthy is the added sweeteners which can add unnecessary calories as well as take away from the smooth and well rounded taste of the drink.

The Bottom Line

The more you add to it, the less healthy it gets. For example, a grande Starbucks Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Brew comes in at a  110 calories, which may not sound like a lot, but is on the higher side for a cold brew. If you find yourself really needing that extra sweetness try opting for a grande cold brew with almond milk. You can get the same amount of caffeine for only 20 calories.

4. Watermelon Water

What is it?

Similar to coconut water, watermelon water is marketed as a better hydrator with extra health benefits, especially extra electrolytes. The best known brand is WTRMLN WTR which brags on their website that each bottle “contains just three simple ingredients- watermelon flesh, watermelon rind and organic lemon.”

The Pros and Cons

While watermelon water might be healthier than other sports drinks that have artificial flavors and also incredibly refreshing post workout, it does not contain any sodium which is an important part of recovery after exercising.

The Bottom Line

WTRMLN WTR has 60 calories per every 8 ounces and boasts lots of vitamins, but is unnecessarily expensive when you can simply go home and eat watermelon itself.

5. Green Juices

What is it

Popular with models and celebrities, green juices are basically a blend of fruits and veggies with occasionally the added pinch of mint, parsley or ginger to give it some added flavor.

The Pros and Cons

When packed with a healthy dose of the right ingredients, green juices can be an easy way to get more vegetables and fruits into your daily diet if you don’t believe you can do so otherwise. Nevertheless, do not be fooled by the common green color, not green juices are not made the same. If too many fruits are added then it can add more sugar than should be consumed in one sitting. Also, make sure to read the label on store bought green juices since sodium content can also be a point of concern.

The Bottom Line

Make sure your green juice is mostly packed with vegetables instead of fruits, including things like kale, spinach and cucumbers. Also don’t mistake your green juice for a detox drink.

There are several “magical” ingredients out there that promise to do wondrous things to your body, and while it is okay to indulge in these health drink trends, it is just as important to research what else is in them to make sure you know exactly what you are choosing to consume.


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