The new shape of water

Plant-based waters are bubbling up everywhere, and they’ve got surprising perks. Hydration has never looked (or tasted) so good.

The new shape of water

Birch water

AKA … the Nordic newbie.

Is actually … unprocessed birch tree sap.

Tastes … mildly—almost undetectably—sweet.

You’ll get … trace amounts of many vitamins, minerals and amino acids.

Is buzzy because … it contains saponins. Saponins are plant compounds known for their strong antioxidant properties. Birch water has been consumed as a health tonic for centuries in many parts of northern Europe and China, and it’s believed to support the liver and kidneys in flushing out unwanted substances.

Maple water

AKA … not maple syrup (no sir!).

Is actually … the pure, unprocessed sap that flows naturally out of maple trees each spring. (Maple syrup, on the other hand, is the boiled down version of maple water and much, much more sugary.)

Tastes … slightly sweet and has just a hint of maple flavor.

You’ll get … electrolytes—potassium, magnesium and sodium—that you need post-exercise, as well as a healthy dose of manganese (an essential trace mineral).

Is buzzy because … it contains abscisic acid. Although more research is needed, early studies suggest abscisic acid may increase the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

Coconut water

AKA … Nature’s sports drink.

Is actually … the clear liquid inside young coconuts. This liquid solidifies into sweet white flesh as coconuts mature.

Tastes … pleasantly sweet and slightly nutty.

You’ll get … electrolytes—most prominently potassium, calcium and magnesium. Electrolytes are minerals essential for proper muscle function. They also play a key role in regulating both the amount of water in your body and the acidity of your blood.

Is buzzy because … it’s an ideal drink after a light- to moderate-intensity workout. Electrolytes lost through sweat need to be replaced by consuming electrolyte-rich fluids, and coconut water has been shown in studies to be just as effective as commercially available sport beverages at replenishing electrolytes lost during these workouts. Higher intensity workouts may call for a beverage that’s higher in sodium.

Cactus water

AKA … desert deliciousness.

Is actually … made from the pureed fruit of the rough and tough prickly pear cactus.

Tastes … berry-esque (yeah … we didn’t see that coming either).

You’ll get … free radical-fighting vitamin C and energy-producing magnesium, plus taurine, an amino acid that helps regulate levels of water and minerals in the blood.

Is buzzy because … it contains betalains. These phytochemicals are responsible for the bright coloration of the prickly pear cactus fruit. Early studies suggest betalains may promote optimal health by reducing inflammation and helping to balance blood sugar levels.

Aloe water

AKA … aloe juice.

Is actually … derived from the clear, slightly sour pulp found inside leaves of the aloe vera plant.

Tastes … bitter and tangy. Some aloe water beverages are sweetened to make the taste more palatable, so watch the calorie count.

You’ll get … vitamins, minerals, amino acids, blood sugar-regulating glucomannans and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols. Just be mindful that you don’t overdo it: aloe can act as a natural laxative.

Is buzzy because … preliminary research indicates aloe vera pulp may help protect liver cells, stave off inflammation and aid in digestion.

Kombucha

AKA … the popular kid (it’s the fastest-growing functional beverage out there).

Is actually … fermented black or green tea (and sometimes other types of tea) with added sugar, yeast and specific strains of bacteria.

Tastes … like sparkling cider: slightly sweet, slightly sour and definitely fizzy. Different flavors abound: ginger is a go-to, but you can find kombucha perked up with everything from turmeric to lavender to guava—even hot peppers and tree bark!

You’ll get … amino acids and a variety of B vitamins, as well as probiotics (“good” bacteria that help with gut heath).

Is buzzy because … robust gut health is linked with improved immunity, reduced inflammation and good health overall. Plus, kombucha may facilitate detoxification processes in liver cells.

Vitamin drink mixes

For when you want to actually turn your drink into a multivitamin

They are … flavored vitamin and mineral drink powders.

They come in … tiny to-go sachets.

They taste … fruity and fizzy. Citrus and berry flavors dominate.

They give you … vitamins, minerals, electrolytes and other health-promoting nutrients.

They should have … low sugar content and natural flavors (in other words: check the ingredients!). As with all supplements, speak with your doctor or health care practitioner about the best options for you.

As much as we’re swooning over new botanical bevvies, we know good old H2O still has to be our main source of hydration. Enter alkaline water: all the benefits of water, and then some. Alkaline water is less acidic than tap water and naturally rich in minerals like calcium, potassium and magnesium. Some research suggests that alkaline water might hydrate even more. We’re ready for that alka-life.

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