Water doesn’t have to be boring. From coconut water to cactus water, plant-based beverages are brimming with health benefits and subtle sweetness.
Extracted from fruit, squeezed from leaves, and tapped from tree trunks, trendy plant waters are making a big splash across North America. You might have noticed them cropping up everywhere from yoga studios to natural health store shelves. These waters are not only hydrating, but they’re also bursting with healthy compounds such as antioxidants and electrolytes.
Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is the pleasantly sweet, slightly nutty liquid found inside young green coconuts. As coconuts mature, this liquid solidifies into the white flesh from which coconut milk is derived.
Why drink it
Touted as nature’s sports drink, coconut water may be best known for the electrolytes it contains—most prominently potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood that carry electrical impulses to and from the heart, muscles, and nerve cells. Essential for proper muscle function, electrolytes regulate both the amount of water in the body and the amount of acid in the blood.
Low electrolyte levels may cause the body to become dehydrated and may lead to fatigue and muscle cramps. Electrolytes lost through sweat need to be replaced by consuming fluids that contain them. Coconut water’s electrolyte profile has made it a popular option among active people looking to replenish these essential nutrients after a tough workout.
Maple water is the pure, unprocessed sap that flows naturally out of maple trees each spring. Legend has it that maple water was first consumed centuries ago by Canada’s First Nations people, who were inspired to try the tree sap as a source of nourishment after observing a lively squirrel drinking it.
Maple syrup is the boiled down version of maple water. Unlike sugary maple syrup, which has a bold, distinctive taste, maple water is only slightly sweet and has just a hint of maple flavour.
Why drink it
Like coconut water, maple water may help replenish lost electrolytes, as it is a source of potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Also a good source of manganese, maple water contains about 30 percent of the recommended daily value of this essential trace mineral per 1 cup (250 mL) serving. Manganese plays an important role in helping the body to metabolize carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol.
Another notable nutrient found in maple water is abscisic acid. Although more research is needed, early studies suggest abscisic acid may increase the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.
Like maple water, birch water is unprocessed tree sap. It has a mild, almost undetectable, sweet taste. Birch water has been consumed as a health tonic for centuries in many parts of northern Europe and China.
Why drink it
Although research into its health benefits is limited, birch water has been used traditionally as a diuretic. It’s thought to support the liver and kidneys in flushing out unwanted substances from the body.
In addition to containing trace amounts of many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, birch water is a source of saponins. Saponins are plant compounds known for their strong antioxidant properties. Preliminary research suggests saponins may aid the body in warding off disease by stimulating the immune system. Saponins may also support heart health by keeping blood cholesterol levels in check.
Made from the puréed fruit of the rough and tough prickly pear cactus (also known as the nopal cactus), cactus water is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It boasts a berry-esque taste.
Why drink it
Most notably, pure cactus water contains free radical-fighting vitamin C and energy-producing magnesium. It’s also a good source of taurine, an amino acid that helps regulate levels of water and minerals in the blood.
Plus, cactus water provides plenty of betalains. These phytochemicals are responsible for the reddish hue of the prickly pear cactus fruit. Early studies suggest betalains can promote optimal health by reducing inflammation and regulating blood sugar levels. Preliminary research has also found that betalains may inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells.
Aloe water, also known as aloe juice, is made from the clear, slightly sour pulp found inside leaves of the aloe vera plant.
Why drink it
While aloe pulp is best known for its skin-soothing properties when applied topically, emerging research suggests it may also be beneficial when ingested. Aloe pulp is thought to contain an array of healthy compounds, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, blood sugar-regulating glucomannans, and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.
Although research into aloe vera’s healing properties is limited, studies suggest the myriad of nutrients found in aloe vera pulp may work together to ward off risk factors associated with many chronic diseases. Plus, preliminary studies have found aloe vera pulp may stave off inflammation, aid in digestion, and promote healthy cholesterol levels. a
As with any food or beverage, the best way to know exactly what you are consuming is to read the nutrition and ingredient label. Plant-derived waters are inherently hydrating, but unlike good old-fashioned H2O, they are not calorie free. Depending on how they are processed, plant waters may contain unwanted added sugars and artificial flavours.
Why is water so important?
Required by every cell, tissue, and organ in the body, water is essential for good health. Some of its functions include
- delivering oxygen to cells
- transporting nutrients to organs
- aiding in digestion
- regulating body temperature
- supporting the body’s natural ability to rid itself of toxic invaders
When dehydrated, all the activities in the body slow down, blood becomes thick, and toxic substances can take hold.