An analysis of 'healthy' alternative waters, from coconut to bamboo

Photo via Getty images/Paul_Brighton

An analysis of 'healthy' alternative waters, from coconut to bamboo

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An analysis of 'healthy' alternative waters, from coconut to bamboo

When it comes to cooling off with an ice cold bottle of water, you’ve got plenty of options these days. Sure, there are seemingly limitless types of regular old H20 to choose from – artesian well, spring, and distilled among them – but now grocery store refrigerator shelves are lined with bottle after bottle of alt-waters, ranging from coconut to CBD. But are these waters healthy for you? Are some of them even water at all? Read on to learn what a bottle of each alt-water does to your body.

Aloe water

#aloevita #pomegranate tastes so sweet, served ice cold perfect for summer!

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When most people think of aloe, they imagine slathering a palmful of the green goop straight out of the refrigerator and onto sunburned skin. But the processed leaves of the aloe barbadensis miller species can also be consumed. Aloe’s unique pH regulating compound, acemannan, can calm the effects of heartburn by regulating stomach acid. And the plant’s UV-combating compounds that make it such an effective topical skin relief can also work their magic from the inside out. Thus, drinking aloe water can assist the body in repairing UV damage to the skin, as well as diminishing fine lines and wrinkles.

Taste: Aloe water is touted for being exceptionally hydrating, but drinkers should also be mindful of this “water’s” relatively high sugar content. Aloe on its own tastes medicinal and bitter, so consumer products made with the plant must add generous amounts of sugar, honey or other sweeteners to make it palatable. Even this brand boasting of using only 100% natural cane sugar still manages to cram 24g of sugar into each 8oz (half a bottle) serving. Unlike actual water, regular aloe water consumption likely won’t get you any closer to your weight loss goals.

Bamboo water

Bamboo water is too new of a product to make any science-backed claims about health and wellness, but the extract of the bamboo grass has been used for centuries in parts of Asia and Oceania because of its medicinal qualities. Today you can buy bottled water fortified with that very extract, which possesses noted antimicrobial and antioxidant qualities. Bamboo water may even fight off bad breath! But again, the results of research studies that would prove these claims are for the most part still pending.

Bamboo water has the unique distinction among bottled waters of purportedly doing something good for the environment. That’s because the bamboo grown to harvest bamboo extract from otherwise wasted leaves actually sequesters harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Tastes like: Bamboo extract is light and floral, and has been added to drinking water in some parts of the world for generations. Be mindful that not all bamboo water companies use the same recipe. A cursory search found bottles completely devoid of sugars, and others containing 16g.

CBD water

Oh boy. CBD water, named after one of the active compounds in marijuana (cannabidiol), is also sometimes marketed as hemp water. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this alt-water is the most confusing to wrap our minds around – but, no, it won’t get you high, if that’s what you’re wondering. Top brand Living CBD Water touts its “nano amplified effect” and claims, “This process allows the Nano Sized CBD and Nano Size Nutrients to immediately penetrate into your cells, past the blood brain barrier and gives the body immediate 100% bio availability, giving a NANO AMPLIFIED EFFECT (gives up to 10 X the effect).” What that means exactly is really anyone’s guess.

Another CBD water brand, Hemp Rain, is fortified with potassium, magnesium and electrolytes, in addition to the full-spectrum non-psychotropic phytocannabinoids like cannabidiol. Still a bit confusing, but certainly less so.

Tastes like: CBD waters are all over the map when it comes to content, so surely the taste fluctuates as well. Many brands recommend consulting with your physician before imbibing, and laws permitting the sale of hemp products vary wildly from state to state. So if you can even get your hands on a bottle, speak to your doctor before drinking.

Coconut water

🐺🌑 – go ahead and show this #FullMoon who’s boss tonight.

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No other alt-water on our list has broken into mainstream culture quite in the way that coconut water has in recent years. Madonna, Rihanna and Matthew McConaughey have each invested in the elixir, and even the most remote gas station seems to stock multiple brands on its chilled shelves. But much of what the public believes about this “water” is simply false. Two popular myths – coconut water is 99% identical to human blood plasma and coconut water is more hydrating than actual water – are both brilliant marketing, but decidedly false.

What coconut water is however, is naturally sterile and quite high in potassium. And while it is lower in carbohydrates and sodium than many sodas and sports drinks, the sugars can still add up if you’re not careful.

Tastes like: Light and sweet, but ultimately like…coconuts! Curiously, various brands of coconut water can taste noticeably different. While that wouldn’t be unusual for a processed juice like orange or grapefruit, it’s a bit of a head scratcher how Vita Coco and Zico can taste so consistently different when they both are made from virgin coconuts.

Fulvic acid water

Maybe you’ve seen these curious bottles of black water in the health foods section of your grocery store (or in my case, the local food co-op). Unlike other trendy black foods, Blk Water doesn’t derive its midnight hue from activated charcoal. Instead, fulvic acid, normally found deep in the soil and silt of the earth’s crust, lends this drink its inky color.

Fulvic acid-infused water is said to assist the body in efficiently breaking down and absorbing nutrients. Originally marketed as a potential boost for cancer patients suffering from malabsorption, this same rapid nutrient delivery trait supposedly makes fulvic acid water a heck of a hangover cure. Still, not everyone is convinced, with some doctors saying that the human body doesn’t actually need fulvic acid in order to function correctly.

Taste: Having tried the Lemonade and Fruit Punch varieties of Blk Water (which both appear to have been discontinued), I can say that the taste is mildly minerally, but not displeasing. The hardest part to get over was just the color, which didn’t necessarily align with the taste.

Maple water

This alt-water boasts half the sugar content of leading coconut water brands, and more manganese than a cup of kale, along with 46 naturally occurring polyphenols, antioxidants, prebiotics, minerals and electrolytes, making maple water a contender for the most nutrient-rich alt-water on our list. The leading brand, Maple Water, was developed by a pair of Ironman triathletes, and is chiefly marketed as a sports drink.

Still, maple waters may be too new to market to back up many of their health claims with science. Though the drink sounds promising, some doctors remain skeptical.

Taste: The eponymous product is light and mildly sweet, like diluted maple syrup. And unlike most of the other alt-waters on this list, even the flavored varieties of maple water manage to keep the sugar content down, with most flavors containing just 7 or 8g per serving.

Watermelon water

Beyonce followed up her chart-topping Lemonade era with a somewhat quieter fruity business venture: an investment in WTRMLN WTR. Noted for its high levels of potassium (a frequently touted nutrient among alt-waters), the amino acid L-citrulline, and lycopene, watermelon water may be an effective boost to your cardiovascular system’s health.

Plus, watermelon water is chiefly made with “discarded melons,” agriculture industry talk for otherwise consumable fruit that cannot be sold because of an unflattering mark or misshape. By putting these unwanted melons to use, watermelon water helps farmers earn more for their hard work.

Taste: There’s no mistaking that this gorgeous elixir is made from watermelons, which naturally contain about 92% water. Still, like so many others on our list, frequent indulgers should be mindful of sugar content. Rival brands can contain anywhere from 10 to 18g per serving.

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