From plants? Drink up!
Water doesn’t have to be boring—and just from the tap. From coconut water to cactus water, plant-based beverages are brimming with health benefits and subtle sweetness.
Need something a little splashier than tap water? Ditched the sugar-laden sodas? Bring on the plant waters. Extracted from fruit, squeezed from leaves, and tapped from tree trunks, plant waters are not only hydrating—they’re also bursting with healthy goodness.
By far the most popular of all plant waters on natural health store shelves, coconut water is the pleasantly sweet, slightly nutty liquid that’s found inside young green coconuts. As coconuts mature, this liquid solidifies into the white flesh from which coconut milk is derived.
Touted as nature’s sports drink, coconut water may be best known for the electrolytes it contains—most notably potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Low electrolyte levels can cause dehydration, leading to fatigue and muscle cramps.
Coconut water’s electrolyte profile has made it a popular option for active people looking to replenish these essential nutrients after a tough workout.
Made from the puréed fruit of the rough and tough prickly pear cactus (also known as the nopal cactus), cactus water is jam-packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. It boasts a berry-esque taste.
Most notably, pure cactus water contains free radical-fighting vitamin C and energy-producing magnesium. It’s also a good source of taurine, an amino acid that helps regulate levels of water and minerals in the blood.
Betalains, contained in prickly pear cactus fruit, may promote optimal health by reducing inflammation and regulating blood sugar levels. Preliminary research also suggests betalains may inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells.
Aloe water, also known as aloe juice, is made from the clear, slightly sour pulp found inside leaves of the aloe vera plant.
Aloe pulp contains an array of healthy compounds, including vitamins, minerals, amino acids, blood sugar-regulating glucomannans, and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols. Studies suggest the myriad of nutrients found in aloe vera pulp may work together to ward off risk factors associated with many chronic diseases.
Plus, preliminary studies have found aloe vera pulp may stave off inflammation, aid in digestion, and promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Maple water is the pure, unprocessed sap that flows naturally out of maple trees each spring. Legend has it that maple water was first consumed centuries ago by Canada’s First Nations people, who were inspired to try the tree sap as a source of nourishment after observing a lively squirrel drinking it.
Maple syrup is the boiled down version of maple water. Unlike sugary maple syrup, which has a bold, distinctive taste, maple water is only slightly sweet and has just a hint of maple flavour.
Like coconut water, maple water may help replenish lost electrolytes, especially potassium, magnesium, and sodium. Also a good source of manganese (which helps the body metabolize carbohydrates, amino acids, and cholesterol), maple water contains about 30 percent of the recommended daily value per 1 cup (250 mL) serving.
Another notable nutrient found in maple water is abscisic acid. Although more research is needed, early studies suggest abscisic acid may increase the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.
Like maple water, birch water is unprocessed tree sap. It has a mild, almost undetectable, sweet taste. Birch water has been consumed as a health tonic for centuries in many parts of northern Europe and China.
Birch water has been used traditionally as a diuretic to support the liver and kidneys in flushing out unwanted substances from the body. Along with trace amounts of many vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, birch water is a source of saponins, plant compounds known for their strong antioxidant properties.
Preliminary research suggests saponins may aid the body in warding off disease by stimulating the immune system and may also support heart health by keeping blood cholesterol levels in check.
As with any food or beverage, the best way to know exactly what you’re consuming is to read the nutrition and ingredient information on the label. Plant-derived waters are inherently hydrating, but unlike good old-fashioned H2O, they’re not necessarily calorie free.
And, depending on how they’re processed, plant waters can also contain unwanted added sugars and artificial flavours.