Are Health Drinks All They Claim to Be?
We are always looking for a magic bullet to health and nutrition. When the buzz is that a new drink can replace a meal, help us lose weight or detox our bodies from the unhealthy things we do to them, we’re happy to try that kale shake or trendy beverage du jour.
Do these drinks really do what they claim, are they merely harmless, or could they actually be unhealthy?
While it’s challenging to get enough of the fuel and nutrients our bodies need through a balanced diet, there is no evidence to show we can drink our way to a desired weight, disease immunity or fitness level. So, before you tap into the latest liquid trend, here are the facts about four popular beverages.
Kombucha. This slightly bubbly, sweetened green or black tea is fermented by a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast.
The claim: It has been called the “immortal health elixir” with an ability to prevent and fight cancer, arthritis and other diseases. It is also said to be loaded with enzymes and bacterial acids that help detox the body.
The reality: Kombucha is naturally fermented with a living colony of bacteria and yeast, so it may help aid digestion and fight candida (an overgrowth of yeast). But, in addition to having beneficial super-bugs, kombucha drinks contain sugar and caffeine. So while they may be somewhat healthy, they can quickly derail a low-calorie diet. There are better and safer ways to get these beneficial bacteria into your system, including no-sugar-added plain Greek yogurt or low-fat buttermilk, both of which are proven to promote healthy digestion.
Bulletproof Coffee (BPC). Made with two servings of coffee, two tablespoons of grass-fed butter and something called brain octane oil, this Silicon Valley staple is a rich and frothy drink.
The claim: BPC helps you power through a grueling morning without so much as thinking about sitting down for a full breakfast. Proponents say it triggers weight loss by forcing the body into a metabolic state called ketosis. They also claim starting your day with BPC (and nothing else) kills pesky cravings, boosts energy and improves mental function.
The reality: BPC is loaded with calories and contains saturated fat and caffeine, and it’s likely to leave you jittery and hungry. In order to compensate for drinking 20 plus grams of fat, you would need to cut fat from elsewhere in your diet, and you would likely miss out on other nutrients. Unless you’re a hard-core athlete, BPC is not a good option.
Bone Broth. This simple, age-old recipe is essentially stock, or the basis for soups. It’s made with meat or poultry bones, water and herbs and simmered for hours. When strained, it’s a broth you can sip or cook with.
The claim: When slow simmered, the bones release myriad health-promoting nutrients, including the building blocks of collagen. (Collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, is a part of the connective tissue that supports skin firmness, suppleness and constant renewal of skin cells.)
The reality: It’s actually good for you! Bone broth contains protein-rich amino acids that are essential for building strong bones and teeth and smoothing the skin. For the fullest benefits, make your own broth, instead of using boxed or canned varieties.
Tea-Toxes. These steamy liquid elixirs are essentially a blend of several herbal teas.
The claim: Components in tea-toxes promote weight loss, boost metabolism and cleanse the body of toxins.
The reality: While herbs like barberry and dandelion may help aid in digestion and give your metabolism a kick, they’re not meant to be consumed in large doses. As for detox, there’s no herbal ingredient that can rival your own body’s natural detox system—your liver. Some tea-toxers might lose weight due to the tea’s laxative and stimulant effects. But, keep in mind that any herbs that speed up digestion and affect liver function may also cause the body to clear medications more quickly than desired, including everything from statins to birth control pills. A safer bet to lose weight: Eat a balanced diet, drink more water and increase your activity level.
The bottom line
The most beneficial liquid you can drink is water. Following a balanced diet and drinking six to nine glasses of water daily is still the best way to achieve optimal health and nutrition. If you are still determined to try the latest beverage trend, talk to your doctor first. With certain health conditions, some “healthy” drinks can have negative effects.
Have you found a type of health beverage that has helped you meet your health or fitness goals? Please share your experience below, without using brand names. Let us know below!