Remember the days when a cup of water came from the sink? These days, most drinking water comes in bottles, and it's far less straightforward to fill them than turning on the tap. In addition to the standard types—spring, purified, mineral and sparkling—you may have noticed some trendy new varieties of bottled water taking up a growing amount of real estate on grocery store shelves. From charcoal to coconut to crystal, some of them may seem slightly strange, while others are nothing short of outlandishness over ice.
Are these hip H20s worth a sip, or are they just a big glass of hype? The experts weigh in, so you don't waste your money.
Other than the fact that Beyonce wants you to drink it, is there a valid reason to try watermelon water? Billed as cold-pressed watermelon juice, the WTRMLN WTR brand is made from three ingredients: watermelon flesh, watermelon rind and "a wee bit" of organic lemon.
Lorraine Miano, certified health coach and author of "The Magic Of Menopause," hails watermelon as a great hydrating fruit that's also full of lycopene, phytonutrients, potassium and vitamins A, B6 and C. "Drinking watermelon water could be beneficial for good heart health, as an anti-inflammatory and could even help with muscle soreness." That said, Miano advises drinking it in limited amounts, as watermelon is naturally high in sugar. Plus, she warns that too much lycopene and potassium could cause bloating, nausea and indigestion.
According to SparkPeople dietitian Becky Hand, a natural component of watermelon is L-Citrulline, which has been shown to increase nitric oxide synthesis and blood flow. However, the verdict is still out regarding the use of watermelon water to improve blood pressure. "Several research studies have shown blood pressure improvement in people with pre-hypertension or hypertension when using watermelon water as a supplement to their diet, while other studies have shown no improvement," Hand says. She suggests talking to your doctor to determine whether this is a viable treatment method.
Because it has a higher pH level than plain tap water, alkaline water is purported to neutralize acid in the bloodstream. It’s alleged benefits include helping to prevent disease, boosting energy, slowing the aging process and preventing acid reflux.
Registered dietitian Alissa Rumsey, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, doesn't recommend alkaline water to her clients. "While there is some anecdotal evidence supporting the benefits, there is no solid data behind this," she says. Rumsey asserts that except for people with kidney issues, drinking alkaline water won't hurt, but that you're better off sticking to tap water and supplementing with mineralized water if desired. Or, if you want to make your own filtered water more alkaline, Miano suggests squeezing a lime or lemon into it.
Hand also advises saving your money and skipping this trend. "It's simply not necessary to chemically change water to make it more alkaline and less acidic," she says. "The healthy adult body is totally capable of maintaining its perfect pH balance at all times, and there is no research evidence to support any additional health benefits."
Derived from the liquid inside a young, green coconut, this fat-free water is rich in magnesium, calcium and electrolytes, particularly sodium and potassium. One cup contains only 46 calories and has three grams of fiber and two grams of protein.
"The natural sugar sources in combination with the fiber and protein make this a refreshing, low-calorie beverage," says Dr. Caroline Cederquist, metabolism expert and creator of bistroMD, who recommends adding it to a protein shake.
Registered dietitian Kimberly Gomer, the Director of Nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center, suggests coconut water as a recovery drink after intense physical activity. "I wouldn't drink it to replace water, as it still has calories in it, but the high electrolyte content makes it a great recovery beverage," she says.
Although research has found coconut water to be an effective way to hydrate during exercise, it hasn't shown to be superior to regular water or sports beverages. Hand also warns that in some studies, subjects experienced bloating and upset stomach after drinking coconut water. "If you're thinking about using coconut water for endurance activities, be sure to test your body’s tolerance of the drink prior to a major competition," Hand recommends.
Also dubbed "high-vibration water," this type of H20 is infused with various forms of crystals, which supposedly renders the water with all sorts of positive, life-enriching vibes. Proponents claim that crystal water can help the drinker achieve a higher level of consciousness, self-awareness and peace in addition to a bevy of physical benefits, including improved digestion, an energy boost, a stronger immune system and a more efficient metabolism.
The experts aren't convinced. Miano would not encourage her clients to seek out crystal-infused water, simply because she can't find enough data to substantiate the claims of the physical benefits. As for the mental benefits? Miano believes they're most likely in the mind of the beholder—in other words, a self-fulfilling prophecy.
"As with any of these trendy health waters, the cost may not be worth the benefit," she says. "Sticking to good old filtered H2O is your best bet."
It might not sound appetizing, but some health enthusiasts are lining up for charcoal-infused water, which is made from activated charcoal that has been heated with gas. Supposedly, the pores in the charcoal absorb chemicals that would otherwise be digested by the body. Activated charcoal has long been used for medicinal purposes to treat poisonings, but now it's being marketed as an over-the-counter detox drink to counteract the effects of GMO foods, additives and preservatives.
According to Toby Amidor, nutrition expert and author of "The Greek Yogurt Kitchen," charcoal drinks don't come close to living up to the hype. "Besides tasting awful, drinking activated charcoal can leach nutrients that could otherwise be used by the body," she says. "A 2007 study actually found that there was a considerable reduction in vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin and biotic when activated charcoal was combined with apple juice—meaning, the nutrients from the apple juice were blocked from being absorbed into the body. This is potentially dangerous if used in large amounts or over an extended period of time."
Hand agrees that charcoal water is nothing short of a scam. "The use of charcoal-infused water to support health, detox the body and boost healing is a perfect example of inappropriately applying research evidence with the intent to make a buck and scam the consumer," she says. "It's true that activated charcoal has been used to treat poisonings and overdoses, but to imply that charcoal-infused water will trap toxins, prevent gas and bloating or quickly treat a hangover is inaccurate and unethical."
A few companies, such as Vertical Water, MAPLE3 and OVIVA, are hailing maple water as the next coconut water. Made from maple sap, which is tapped from the maple tree and boiled down into maple syrup, it's purported to be chock full of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols, and is also low in sugar and calories. Miano points out that maple water also includes saponin, a chemical that has been linked to maintaining healthy blood cholesterol levels.
Amidor agrees that maple water provides a variety of nutrients, and is also low in calories and sugar. "One cup of maple water contains 15 calories and three grams of carbs (sugar), and is a rich source of manganese," she says. "It also contains various phytochemicals, including abscisic acid, which should help to control blood sugar."
The only potential drawback of maple water is the taste. If you don't find it palatable on its own, Amidor suggests using it in smoothies and other liquid-based recipes to add some nutritional value.
The Last DropWhile there may be a place for some of these waters in a healthy diet—such as coconut and watermelon—most of them seem to be more hype than health. For health coaches like Miano, there's simply no substitute for the real thing. "I encourage my clients to begin by drinking filtered water from a glass or stainless steel bottle, and to have warm lemon water in the morning to get the digestion moving," she says. "Eat a whole food diet with a good variety, including a rainbow of colors of fruits and veggies, and you’ll get the nutrients your body needs."
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