Natural waters are popping up everywhere—but which drop should you drink? While coconut water has dented American palates for a decade, other new waters sourced from all kinds of different plants are flooding mainstream supermarket shelves.
Are these designer waters better than the real thing? Not necessarily, but if the taste and lure of added nutrients makes you thirsty, you might want to give your daily hydration plan a boost.
What Are “Natural” Ingredients
The FDA has not developed a definition of “natural,” but the word can be used if the product does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. Keep in mind that any packaged product has been processed and is no longer derived directly from the earth.
A cloudy, sweet liquid found naturally within young coconuts, this should not be confused with the much more caloric coconut milk. Coconut water is relatively low in calories and is a great source of potassium (your muscles will thank you), providing as much as a large banana. Sodium levels are too low to make it work as a sports drink replacement—but you can add a pinch of salt if you wish to swig this water on a long run.
Calories: 45 per 8 oz. serving
Cost: About $2 or more
Arty is the first artichoke water on the market and it is made from the entire plant, purportedly retaining all the nutrients found in the whole vegetable. This green veggie does have high levels of antioxidants and a modest amount of potassium. The finished product has eight ingredients—filtered water, artichokes, pandanus leaf, spearmint, blue agave nectar, natural flavors, monk fruit concentrate and traces of lactic acid. It may come down to taste: Do you like artichokes?
Calories: 40 per 8 oz. bottle
We know that cactuses hold in their water, but what you see on health store shelves isn’t made from draining a desert plant. The brand Caliwater contains prickly pear cactus purée and extract, water, sugar and lemon juice, while True Nopal includes prickly pear concentrate and water. Prickly pear delivers a rare class of antioxidants called betalains, and it’s used medicinally in Mexico for a wide variety of disorders. One manufacturer claims it reduces the inﬂammation associated with muscle fatigue.
Calories: 35 per 11.2 oz.
Cost: $3 per bottle
These waters (and juices) are made from various parts of the aloe plant. The brand Aloe Gloe is made from the inner leaf powder and does have sugar and stevia, which is added to mask the “unique” taste of aloe. This flavor may not be for everyone, and watch out for the heavier aloe juice. Often used to treat and soothe the gastrointestinal tract, it can have a laxative effect, so it may be good for digestion but not hydration. The juice will have more calories as well, sometimes up to 100 for 8 oz.
Calories: 18 per 8 oz.
Cost: About $3 per 8 oz.
This is actually cold-pressed watermelon (perhaps a bit more of a juice than a water), a fruit high in potassium and the phytonutrient lycopene. Wtrmln Wtr delivers a nutritional punch with a whopping dose of potassium and a good dose of vitamin C. If you love watermelon, you will enjoy this refreshing liquid. Keep in mind its juice-like status delivers more carbs than other waters, so drink it sparingly.
Calories: 60 per 8 oz. serving
Cost: $6 per 12-ounce bottle
For an all-natural thirst quencher, make your own ﬂavor-infused water. You can pick from fruits, such as citrus, berries and melons, as well as vegetables like cucumbers, celery and carrots. Some herbs and spices to try are mint, rosemary, lavender, ginger and cinnamon, but anything goes! You don’t have to worry about high-fructose corn syrup, added sugar or artificial sweeteners while developing flavored combos you love.
Start by adding your choice fruits and veggies to a pitcher and mash them with a wooden spoon or muddler. Add a touch of seasoning or spice, and then add filtered or sparkling water. Let sit for a few hours and serve. You can strain your water as you go, or you can buy fruit-infuser pitchers that contain a removable compartment to keep the good stuff at bay.
Originally sold in Canada, maple water is infiltrating the U.S. market with brands like DrinkMaple, Vertical Water and BetterSweet. The clear liquid is simply sap that flows naturally through sugar maple trees. Usually that sap is boiled down to the viscous syrup that covers your morning waffles (40 gallons of sap makes one gallon of syrup!). Maple water is only slightly sweet, and it has a high level of antioxidants known as polyphenols and provides 40 percent of the daily value of manganese, which plays a role in bone development.
Calories: 20 per 8.45 oz. box