14 Healthy Drinks to Enjoy Besides Water, According to Experts
Staying hydrated is crucial for our overall well-being, but let’s face it: sometimes plain water can get a bit boring. Luckily, there are plenty of refreshing and nutritious alternatives to keep you hydrated and satisfied. Whether you’re seeking a burst of flavor, an energy boost, or specific health benefits, we’ve got you covered with a variety of refreshing hydrating drinks besides water.
There are several big factors that determine whether or not a drink is healthy:
A beverage can be considered healthy based on several factors that contribute to its nutritional value and potential health benefits. Here are some key elements that make a beverage healthy:
- Calories: Drinks with lower calorie counts are preferred. Healthy options often have low or moderate calorie content, allowing for refreshing hydration without empty calories.
- Sugar content: Sugar-sweetened beverages are among the top sources of added sugars in the American diet, contributing to uncontrolled blood sugars and increased risk of cardiovascular disease, says Kiran Campbell, RDN . Healthy beverages typically have minimal added sugars or rely on natural sweeteners like fruit or stevia.
- Functional benefits: Some beverages offer specific health benefits beyond just hydration: herbal teas for their calming compounds, green juices packed with antioxidants, or probiotic-rich kombucha for gut health.
We spoke to dietitians to find out what they’re sipping on to spruce up their hydration game. Keep reading to find out exactly which beverages they recommend you reach for next time.
1. Herbal tea
Unlike caffeinated options, herbal teas offer delicious flavors without the jolt. They’re great served warm or chilled and are a fun way to liven up your hydration routine when you’re in a rut.
Ginger tea is a great alternative to water. It not only tastes great, but it also brings some great health benefits to the table. It’s rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Not only that, it can help with digestion and even nausea, offers Kristin Draayer, MS, RDN.
Made with refreshing hibiscus, Ruby canned teas give the essence of juice without the added sugar. Hibiscus is a deep red hue flower that offers a rich, slightly sweet flavor profile. With flavors like grape and berry cherry, you can enjoy a new, sweet beverage without added sugar and empty calories.
2. Prebiotic sodas
OLIPOP is a functional soda that offers the experience of enjoying cola without added sugar. Their products contain a whopping 9 grams of prebiotic fiber per can, which is 32% of the Daily Value for fiber, and offer the benefits of plant-based fiber, prebiotics, and other botanical ingredients to support a healthy gut.
I love to drink Califia Farms Simple & Organic Almond Milk. Unlike many other almond milks out there, it has just three ingredients: water, almonds, and sea salt. This means it has no added sugars, oils, gums, or other unnecessary additives—plus, it delivers 3 grams of satiating protein per cup, for only 60 calories. I like to drink it straight up, blended into a smoothie, or added to a homemade latte, says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, a plant-based dietitian in Stamford, Conncticut and a nutrition partner with Califia Farms.
4. Watermelon lemonade
You can make this one at home with fruit that is about to go bad. Watermelon lemonade is easy and refreshing. Add 3 cups of seedless watermelon to a blender and then top off with some fresh lemon. This will quench your thirst and give you some added vitamins and minerals from the fresh fruit, adds Molly Snyder, RDN a dietitian in Pennsylvania.
5. Iced coffee
Coffee contains antioxidants and other phytochemicals found to reduce the risk of liver disease, diabetes, and Parkinson’s. Add skim or 1% milk for added calcium and protein. If caffeine keeps you up, opt for iced decaf, recommends Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD.
Milk is a powerhouse of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamin D, protein, and potassium, making it a fantastic choice for overall health and well-being. Drinking milk can provide numerous health benefits, including improved bone strength, reduced risk of osteoporosis, enhanced muscle growth and repair, and a good source of essential vitamins and minerals. Whether it’s dairy milk or plant-based alternatives like almond, soy, or oat milk, they all offer unique benefits, says Jessie Hulsey RD, an Atlanta-based registered dietitian.
Fairlife milk is uniquely filtered to include 50% more protein and half the total sugar compared to regular milk products.
7. Pomegranate juice
Pomegranate juice is not only a delicious and refreshing drink, but it also offers a plethora of health benefits. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, this ruby-red elixir supports heart health, boosts immunity, and may even have anti-inflammatory properties. However, it’s essential to consume pomegranate juice in moderation due to its natural sugar content. As with any beverage, opting for pure, unsweetened varieties or diluting it with water can help minimize added sugars while still enjoying the incredible taste and health advantages of this vibrant fruit, Hulsey explains.
POM makes pomegranate cherry and pomegranate blueberry juice.
8. Tart cherry juice
Tart cherry juice not only offers a delightful burst of flavor but also boasts an impressive array of health benefits. Packed with powerful antioxidants and phytochemicals, tart cherry juice has been linked to reduced inflammation, improved sleep quality, and even enhanced exercise recovery. It’s important to choose 100% pure tart cherry juice without added sugars to reap its full nutritional advantages, Hulsey shares.
Kombucha! Kombucha is a refreshing and tangy fermented tea. It needs sugar for fermentation, so it’s not calorie free. Kombucha has probiotics, which are great for gut health, says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RD, CSCS.
Kefir is a fermented drink prepared with cow or goat’s milk. It is made by adding Kefir grains to the milk. These grains contain yeast and lactic acid bacteria, which multiply and ferment sugars in the milk. The result is kefir which is described as a “drinkable yogurt”. Yogurt and kefir provide similar nutrients, however, kefir is a much more potent source of probiotics. Touted health benefits include improved digestion and increased immunity, along with improved bone health/decreased risk of osteoporosis, offers Kathryn Piper, RDN, LD.
11. Sparkling water
Sparkling water is a great option, especially if you’re craving something with bubbles! Just make sure you’re choosing a variety that does not have added sugar and is low in sodium. La Croix is a great option and has a bunch of flavors to try whether it’s on the beach or paired with a salty treat, says Brittany DeLaurentis, MPH, RD Founder of Brittany Lynn Nutrition.
We also love Sanzo, an AAPI-owned and flavor-inspired brand with refreshing Asian notes like Yuzu and Lychee.
12. Maple water
Lauren Manaker MS, RDN shares her recommendation: “I love maple water. It is the sap that comes out of the maple tree that people boil down to make maple syrup. But unlike diluted syrup, the maple water is light in flavor and it is surprisingly hydrating, thanks to the natural minerals it contains, like magnesium and calcium. Plus, new data published in the Journal of Food and Nutrition Research has found that maple water may play a role in decreasing inflammation. Additionally, this data showed that when subjects ran on a treadmill, the maple water drinkers performed better than when they drank the placebo drink.”
13. Coconut water
Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes, including potassium, sodium, and magnesium, which can help replenish the body after exercise. Coconut water has more potassium than bananas, which helps keep fluid and electrolyte levels balanced, especially during exercise. It is a great source of prebiotics, which can help fuel the good bacteria in your gut. Coconut water is also free of additives and added sugars, compared to other electrolyte drinks, Wan Na Chun, MPH, RD, CPT of One Pot Wellness tells us.
ROAR is a beverage brand that bottles coconut water with added electrolytes and fun flavors like Strawberry Watermelon and Berry Lemonade. They also have a powder version if that’s your thing.
14. Mela water
Made with real watermelon, we love this summer-y option for an afternoon refreshment, mocktail, or cocktail mixer. Watermelon lime mocktails, anyone?
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