We all know sugary and fizzy drinks can wreak havoc on our health, and they are found everywhere. From TV commercials promoting diet soda to the enticing menu presented to us at our favorite restaurant, artificially sweetened drinks lie everywhere. The good news is there are healthy drinks out there, even if healthy beverage options may seem limited.
Thankfully, there are many more healthy drinks for you to choose from than you might think — so you won’t go astray from your health goals. These beverages can not only do your health great favors, but can spice up your palette so you won’t grow bored and throw in the towel to living a healthier lifestyle.
So what are the top 20 healthy drinks around, and what makes them so healthy? I’m glad you asked.
Hot chocolate, a popular and cozy drink enjoyed during the cold season, can actually do wonders for your health — if you chose the right chocolate, of course. Dark chocolate contains tryptophan, which is an amino acid precursor to serotonin, the neurotransmitter responsible for having a positive mood and feeling happy. Reduction in blood pressure, cholesterol and improved insulin sensitivity all have been associated with this tasty delight. (1)
2. Lemon Water
Lemons offer more than pleasant smells and sour flavor. The bright yellow fruit comes with potential uses from cleaning and scenting your house to improving your health. Add flavor to your water, help skin conditions, improve hair or add years to our life by utilizing the benefits of lemons. Of course, lemons are known for having high amounts of vitamin C, with a single lemon offering you approximately 51 percent to meet your daily vitamin C needs. (2)
3. Cranberry Juice
Most people think of cranberries as a delicious addition to holiday celebrations in the form of cranberry juice, sauces, stuffing and decorations. Cranberries are rich in health-promoting materials that are essential for all-around wellness. They’re known to store constituents that protect against cancer and cardiovascular disease, and that’s not even half of what cranberries are capable of. They can improve oxidative stress, inflammation and urinary antibacterial adhesion activity to prevent urinary tract infection. (3, 4)
4. Green Tea
Tea is the second most widely enjoyed beverage in the world behind only water. Green tea made from unfermented leaves reportedly contains the highest content of powerful antioxidants called polyphenols, making it one of the top healthy drinks around. Antioxidants are molecules that fight free radicals, which are cell-damaging compounds that damage DNA and even cause cell death. Research points that free radicals contribute to the aging process, as well as the development of a number of medical conditions, including cancer and cardiovascular disease. (5)
Dandelions are everywhere, visibly present throughout most of the year. They make the ground healthy by restoring its mineral health to the depleted soil. Dandelion leaf is used for arthritis, gout, gastric headaches, edema and skin ailments — plus it’s excellent for detoxification due to its action on the liver. The whole plant, especially the roots, is roasted and can be used as a coffee substitute. The high inulin content, especially during the fall season, makes dandelion root a good food source for beneficial gut bacteria. (6)
6. Stinging Nettle Leaf Tea
If you’ve ever gone outside to gather stinging nettle leaves by mistake with your bare hands, you know it feels like you’re being attacked by a group of angry bees. Ouch! Despite it being painful to the touch, this underestimated plant is a powerhouse of benefits.
Stinging nettle is beneficial as a liver tonic and rejuvenator. It has supportive effects on circulation, the immune system, urinary tract, nervous system, respiratory tract, digestive tract and endocrine system. Its high magnesium content may be the reason for nettle tea’s ability to reduce leg and menstrual cramps.
7. Turmeric Tea
Turmeric has been rising quickly in popularity worldwide, especially the golden milk drink. Curcumin is one of the main active constituents in turmeric that gives it its benefits. It is commonly combined with bromelain or black pepper for increased absorption and anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric has been long used in the Chinese and Indian medicine as an anticancer agent, protecting against wide variety of conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease, toothaches, rheumatoid arthritis, sprains and wounds.
8. Red Raspberry Leaf Tea
Red raspberry leaf tea has a long history in women’s health, particularly during pregnancy and labor to help prevent postpartum hemorrhage. Due to its drying effects of tannins, the leaves are used as a mouthwash in tonsillitis, diarrhea, skin conditions, abrasions and urinary tract infections. Red raspberry leaf is high in nutrients, including B vitamins, calcium and iron, which can help ward off all sorts of conditions. (7)
Thanks to the benefits of raspberry nutrition, red raspberry leaf tea joins the list of healthy drinks.
9. Watermelon Juice
Watermelon is a natural source of most powerful antioxidants. Perhaps no other fruit is as crunchy, thirst-quenching and hydrating than watermelon. It provides a good serving of vitamin C and vitamin A, particularly through its concentration of beta-carotene. The beautiful red color is a source of a potent carotene antioxidant known as lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer. Surprisingly, watermelon contains a higher concentration of lycopene than any other fruit or vegetable known. (8)
10. Parsley Juice
Parsley is a fairly small Mediterranean herb that leaves a nice presentation on your plate. Drinking parsley juice can decrease the risk of cancers, such as breast, prostate and skin cancer. The high amount of flavonoids, known as apigenin, makes it a strong antioxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. Folate in parsley encourages cardiovascular health by reducing pro-inflammatory homocysteine, and parsley offers protection from an extensive selection of disorders, including asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, colon cancer and more.
11. Blueberry Juice
Blueberries are an excellent choice to add to your diet because they not only taste great, but they have the highest antioxidant capacity of all fresh fruit. Blueberry drinks improve glucose control and decrease blood cholesterol, lowering the risk of heart disease and diabetes later in life. Anthocyanin, an antioxidant found in blueberries, is a very effective immune builder and antibacterial agent to prevent infections.
Blueberries are surprisingly high in iron, and their vitamin C content reportedly improves night vision, helps build collagen and maintains healthy gums. A handful of blueberries consists of the recommended daily fiber intake to help keep your body regular, and the manganese helps the development of bone and converts carbohydrates and fat into energy. (9)
12. Tart Cherry Juice
Tart cherries contain high levels of phytochemicals, including melatonin, a hormone important in regulating sleep cycle. (10) Cherries also are an excellent source of phenolic compounds, known for their anti inflammatory and antioxidant activity. Phenolic compounds may help yield a protective effect to muscle damage and pain before and during strenuous exercise. (11)
13. Blackstrap Molasses Drink
Blackstrap molasses has a long tradition as a health food and remedy for all sorts of ailments, known for having a low amount of sugar and a high nutrient content. Blackstrap molasses drink is a good source of calcium, copper, magnesium, manganese and potassium. Mixing one tablespoon in water with lemon provides 70 percent of your daily iron requirement, making it the greatest plant-based source of iron available. It contains a small amount of the cancer-fighting mineral selenium as well and is a completely delicious and nutrient-dense sweetener. Look for unsulfured blackstrap molasses from organic sugar. (12)
14. Coconut Water
Is coconut water good for you? Yes, which is why it’s among this list of healthy drinks. It’s rich in carbohydrates, chloride, potassium and sodium and viewed as a hydrating drink of choice in various parts of the world. (13)
Kefir is a probiotic drink that provides that healthy gut bacteria. It, along with other probiotic drinks, promotes efficient digestion by achieving a healthy gut flora, fighting against pathogens and boosting energy levels. Probiotic drinks are “pre-digested” as the sugars in the beverage have been broken down, making them easier to digest creating less work for the pancreas which secretes digestive juices.
Studies have shown that they can help alleviate symptoms constipation, yeast infection, diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome, candida and ulcers. (14)
16. Plant-Based Milk
Are you allergic to cow’s milk and want another non-dairy choice? Plant-based beverages choices, such as almond, coconut, hemp, oat, quinoa and rice milk, may be for you. Almond milk has more vitamin E since it’s made from grounded almonds. Hemp milk made with ground, soaked hemp seeds and water, delivers a significant amount of omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids and protein. (15)
Coconut milk has monolaurin, a molecule responsible for antimicrobial properties. Oat milk is rich in fiber and iron and, like rice milk, higher in carbohydrates so these two plant-based milk choices are not the best option for those with diabetes. Choose fortified nondairy milk alternatives with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Look for unsweetened and reduced sugar options, and limit those with a significant amount of protein. (16)
17. Aloe Vera Juice
The gel of aloe vera has been used extensively in beauty products for years. It’s also been used internally to alleviate arthritis, constipation, coughs, diabetes, headaches and ulcers . One of the constituents, aloe-emodin, has been shown to possess potential anticancer properties as well. Add aloe vera to water, with lemon, and your favorite organic sweetener for a refreshing and tasty drink. (17)
18. Holy Basil Tea
In Ayurvesda, holy basil, or tulsi, is known as “the queen of herbs” and is recommended for conditions such as fever, cough, arthritis, ringworm, and insect, snake and scorpion bites. It’s a potent adaptogen, which are herbs to help your mind and body cope with physical and emotional stress.
Tulsi has been shown to prevent brain, kidney and liver injury by protecting against cellular damage caused by industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and pesticides. In additional to protecting against toxic chemicals, holy basil has been shown to protect against the damaging effects of heavy metals as well. (18)
19. Green Vegetable Drinks
Dark green leafy vegetables are nutritious, offering a large amount of vitamins A, C, E and K. The abundant amount of antioxidants called carotenoids protect against cellular damage and help prevent development of many cancers. They also contain a high amount of calcium, fiber, iron, magnesium and potassium. Importantly, dark leafy vegetables have little carbohydrates, cholesterol and sodium. (19)
Dark leafy green drinks supply a significant amount of vitamin K, which helps prevent inflammation and protect bones against osteoporosis. Leafy vegetables may best your best choice when it comes to cancer prevention due to the high amounts of antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating two to three servings of dark leafy greens per week may help lower the risk of certain cancers, especially breast, skin and stomach. The significant amount of folate can help prevent birth defects and improve cardiovascular health as well. Folate is crucial for proper DNA repair and replication and may help reduce the risk of breast, cervical and lung cancers. (20)
Like kefir, kombucha is a fermented, probiotic drink that does wonders for your health. It’s been shown to help prevent disease, support a healthy gut, potentially improve mental state, benefit the lungs, fight bacteria, manage diabetes, support heart health and maintain a healthy liver.
Benefits of These Healthy Drinks
Replenish vitamins and minerals
Protect teeth and gums
1. Digestive Aid
When you drink healthy beverages, you get more of the nutritional value because they are in their liquid form, making it easier for you to digest and absorb nutrients. Your stomach won’t have to work as hard to break the food down and pull out the nutrients you need. Liquids skip the chewing process, and the beverage reaches your digestive system at a faster rate.
Probiotic drinks are beverages that have been through the fermentation process. Healthy bacteria found in your gut feed on the starch and sugar in the drink, making lactic acid. Fermentation has been shown to preserve nutrients, including B vitamins, beneficial enzymes and many strains of bacteria while breaking the beverage down into an easily digestible form. (21)
2. Replenish Vitamins and Minerals
Although drinking clean pure water alone is great in most cases, it doesn’t contain high levels of electrolytes and minerals to replenish what was lost during times of illness and strenuous exercise. Since the healthy drinks are at a liquid state, they can be easily digested, making the electrolytes and vitamins easily accessible to help avoid electrolyte imbalance.
Healthy drinks like coconut water may be useful as an oral rehydration therapy, replacing fluid loss in patients who suffer from severe dehydration. With high antioxidant properties, coconut water can help neutralize free radicals resulting from long hours of exercising. (22)
3. Skin Care
Healthy drinks with large amount of vitamin C, such as lemon water, have heaping amounts of antioxidants. In recent studies, vitamin C was found to be the most plentiful antioxidant in human skin, protecting the skin from oxidative stress caused by free radicals. Vitamin C is essential for collagen synthesis, serving as a co-factor for enzymes responsible for cross-linking and stabilizing collagen molecules. The anti-inflammatory properties of vitamin C in healthy drinks may help with conditions like acne and rosacea. It can promote wound healing and prevent post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation as well. (23)
4. Healthy Teeth and Gums
People lack the enzyme L-glucono-gamma lactone oxidase required for the proper synthesis of vitamin C; hence, they must acquire it from natural sources, such as healthy drinks that contain citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, strawberries, papaya and broccoli. Traditionally, vitamin C foods and drinks were carried by sailors on long journeys to avoid scurvy, a disease of bleeding gums.
Regular consumption of green tea may help your goal into having healthy teeth and gums. Research shows green tea may promote periodontal health by preventing bone loss, limiting growth of bacteria associated with periodontal disease and reducing inflammation. (24) The periodontal prevention effects of green tea has been credited by an antioxidant called catechin. Catechin may also help inhibit the acid-producing bacteria from causing dental caries. (25)
Healthy drinks are great way to feel and look healthier as they cleanse your body from harmful toxins. Healthy drinks are filled with powerful liver-cleansing, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant ingredients known to energize and rejuvenate. (26)
Herbs, such like dandelion, lemon and stinging nettle leaf, have high volatile bitter components, isolating toxins in the body and flushing them out. Bitters also help stimulate gastric juices to promote better digestion, absorption and transportation of toxins. (27)
Don’t be swayed by packaging pleasing to the eye or hidden words — be sure what you are buying is the real deal. When fruit juice is “100% pure fruit juice,” one serving size equals one cup or eight ounces. However, fruit juices lack dietary fiber, which is needed to help keep blood sugar levels at bay. In this case, it is best to incorporate dietary fiber in addition to consuming fruit juices to prevent unnecessary sugar spikes. Fruit juices labeled “cocktails” are beverages filled with sugar and artificial coloring, and most fruit juice is full of hidden, unhealthy additives. (28)
When it comes to soft drinks, they rank the top of the list of being the most unhealthy beverage out there. With tons of sugar and no nutritional value, soda can put you on the fast track of gaining weight, overeating, being dehydrated and developing dental caries.
Reaching for a commercial sports drink after exercise can put your weight-loss goals on hold. Sports drinks are filled with artificial sweeteners, sugar and other additives. Lemon water or coconut water are better options. (29)
Energy drinks are common among college students to pull an all-nighter and increase concentration before exams. Most energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar, giving you a short burst of energy but eventually tanking your energy levels fast. (30)
If you are prescribed medication, you should not use curcumin or turmeric without first talking to your health care provider. Turmeric drinks may interfere with the action of blood-thinners, diabetic drugs, or NSAIDS.
Dandelion drinks should be avoided when having conditions such as bile duct obstruction, acute gallbladder inflammation, acute gastrointestinal inflammation and intestinal blockage.
Final Thoughts on Healthy Drinks
Unhealthy drinks maybe shelved everywhere at your favorite grocery stores and restaurants, but healthy drinks are up and coming in popularity because many are taking an active role to better health.
There are a large variety of dark green leaf, organic fruit, tea and dark chocolate drink recipes that are not only delicious, but provide you with heaping health benefits.
If you want to improve your skin, go on a detox, replenish your electrolytes, healthy teeth and gums, and better digestion, healthy drinks will do the trick.
Unless you are juicing and making smoothies on your own, it is important to look at the nutritional value labels to ensure you are getting most of the fruit and vegetable and not purchasing drinks filled with sugar and artificial flavors.
If you were prescribed medication, consult your health care provider before consumption of some of the ingredients in healthy drinks as they can interact with your medication.