Termed by some as a ‘super water’, plant-based waters have recently hit the market as the new “it thing” in healthy drinks. But are they even any good, or any better than tap water?
The most common plant-based waters around at the moment are derived from: Coconuts, Aloe Vera, Maple Trees and Birch Trees. So far, so healthy by the sounds of it.
But with hoardes of health industry experts claiming they are rich in antioxidants, beneficial to digestion and provide a natural energy-boost, I had to try them myself to see what the hype was all about, and if indeed they were more style than substance.
Celebrity-endorsed and hugely popular amongst the athletic, coconut water has a myriad of healthy nutrients naturally encompassed in it. With more potassium than a several bananas and loads of vitamin C, it sounds too good to be true.
That’s because you will find in the packaged coconut waters such as Vita Coco, they are not simply made with coconut water and coconut water alone. Their other ingredients include sugar and added-in vitamin C. Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can add in a vitamin into a product and proclaim a ‘rich source of vitamin C’ (we saw that much with the Yollies campaign by Kerry Foods). And of course, let’s not forget that added sugar is added sugar… it’s never good for us, even if it’s not the main ingredient.
Aloe Vera water
When I first tried this drink, I was mesmerised. If not by the dazzlingly green translucent bottle, but by the little pockets of sap which were novel and bloomin’ tasty. It’s fair to say there isn’t another drink out there quite like the Aloe Vera water.
However, I began to realise that the more I drank of it, the more I wanted to dilute it with water. It just became too sweet too fast, and as I don’t eat or drink a lot of sugar in my daily life, it began to taste like too much sugar in a seemingly ‘healthy’ drink.
Upon checking the label, water and Aloe Vera gel & powder are the main ingredients, but this is slowly balanced out by cane sugar, added-in vitamin C and grape flavouring. The grape flavouring began to get a little overwhelming the more I drank it, and is probably why a lot of people enjoy it. For me though, I couldn’t help thinking it tasted just a little too much like flat grape soda with sap pockets.
Maple/Birch Tree Water
From the North American Maple Tree, this water is made by boiling down the stuff that makes maple syrup. During the boiling process, the sugars dissolve and decompartmentalise so it’s not half as sugary or as unhealthy as the syrup. Water from the Birch Tree is also very good and similar nutritionally to Maple.
Completely natural, with its only ingredient being the water from the tree’s sap, this drink has half the sugar of coconut water whilst also being able to shoot sugar out of the blood stream. This is a special property of maple water, which it given to it by its abscisic acid contents, a compound used by plants to aid in their adaptations to stress. The nutrient, saponin, provides further health benefits to this drink as it has been shown to lower cholesterol and produce anti-inflammatory effects.
The abscisic acid makes this is an ideal drink for diabetics who are looking for a healthier sweet drink, or for natural/raw food junkies looking for an uncomplicated, wholesome product with no added nasties.
So what do you think? Are plant waters worth the hype? If I was a betting woman, I’d bet that these were just fads. Those in the health industry are shooting all these claims about without any real evidence or proof, and are also avidly comparing them to sodas to promote their health benefits. Anybody looking to live a healthy lifestyle would know to avoid soda in the first place, plus these drinks are in no way a substitute to soda if you want super-sweet, bubbliness in your life. No, instead I’d say either have tap water (for free!) or spring water. Both are uncomplicated with everything you need from a drink – hydration and no nasties.
In fact, I recently trialled a range of sweet spring water drinks called Just Bee.
They are made up of just spring water and natural flavourings. Their flavours include: lemon, green tea & honey; apple, ginger & honey and blueberry, lemon & honey. All are completely natural with no refined sugar and less than 50 calories. Personally, my favourite was the lemon green tea one as it tastes great cold, with ice, sat in the sunshine. One of the lightest and most refreshing ways to while away a lazy Sunday afternoon, if you ask me.
Don’t be bought by health fads – sometimes it’s best to stick to what you know (and what comes directly from your tap isn’t all that awful anyway!).