It seems like every time I walk into my neighborhood grocery store to pick up a few things, I gravitate towards the refrigerated shelves filled with healthy drinks. Their colorful cans and bottles labeled with trendy fonts promise to deliver my daily dose of prebiotics, electrolytes, and endless amounts of vitamins and minerals.
But are these drinks, which tend to be expensive, as healthy as they claim? Or are they just sugar and calorie bombs? I asked registered dietitians to find out.
Although the two nutritionists I consulted insist that the “health” of a drink depends on your individual needs and sensitivities – for example, if you are sensitive to caffeine, there are certain options you will want maybe ignore – here’s what they had to say about some of the hottest drinks on the market right now.
Let’s go from the worst to the first.
10. Guayaki Yerba Mate
Of course, yerba mate is tea, and tea can be healthy. But dietitian Kara Necklace noted that in addition to containing caffeine, to which some may be sensitive, Guayaki yerba mate has 120 calories per can and has 28 grams of added sugar, which is a lot.
“The American Heart Association recommends no more than 24 grams of sugar for adult women and no more than 36 grams of sugar for men, so it’s significantly higher in sugar than I might recommend for just one drink,” said Collier.
9. Pom Wonderful Pomegranate Juice
Pomegranate Juice Pom has existed for a long time. While Collier pointed out that it’s 100% juice, it’s juice concentrate – meaning there is a large amount of carbs, at 39 grams (and sugar at 34 grams), even though there is no added sugar.
“If you go with this one, you might want to use it in moderation and maybe even pair it with extra protein and fiber to reduce the impact it might have on your glucose levels. “, Collier suggested.
8. Wtrmln Wtr
Although delicious, if you sip Wtrmln Wtr for the health benefits, you might want to reconsider.
“Because it’s technically a fruit juice, you have carbs and natural sugar on board to the tune of about 18 grams,” Collier said. “Since fruit juice is more likely to raise blood sugar levels than whole fruit, due to the fact that juice lacks fiber, it’s a good idea to consider consuming it in moderation and combine with protein and other fiber sources.”
Better yet, Collier suggested, get a real watermelon – you’ll get the juice and the fiber.
7. GT’s Kombucha Energy
Collier and dietician Tamar Samuels, co-founder of Culinary Healthstruggle to fully endorse kombucha as a health drink due to the limited evidence surrounding it.
“Unfortunately, there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence on the health benefits of kombucha,” Samuels said. “These studies are often difficult to fund, which contributes to the lack of research on certain medicinal foods like kombucha. That being said, some studies have been done on rats and have shown that kombucha can reduce liver toxicity due to its antioxidant effects.
The The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported consuming up to 4 ounces of kombucha daily “may not cause adverse effects” in healthy people after two people fell ill after drinking homemade kombucha in the 1990s. And as for GT Kombuchasome flavors are higher in sugar than others – so if you’re watching your sugar intake (and you should be), this is something to be aware of.
6. Rebbl Herbal Coconut Elixirs
Packed with “plant-based superfoods”, Rebbl’s Coconut Elixirs promise to provide “energy, focus, immunity and beyond”. But Collier noted that the carb count for this drink is quite high at 24 grams, and said a lot more research into the ingredients is needed.
“Research is ongoing on the impact of quillaja extract, an ingredient used, and what amounts are considered upper tolerable intake levels for people,” Collier said. “Reishi mushrooms, another ingredient used, are considered a type of therapeutic mushroom often used to modulate the immune response.” But the most research about the immune and antioxidant effects of this mushroom has involved animals, she says, “so many questions about dosage and duration of use still arise.”
5. Poppi Prebiotic Soda
Like its rival Olipop, Poppi prebiotic sodas are healthier than regular sodas — but Poppi ranks lower than Olipop on Collier’s list. Poppi sodas contain caffeine, which some people may be sensitive to, and Collier said an ingredient called inulin is of potential concern.
“Inulin is a prebiotic fiber isolate,” she said. ”Recent search raised concerns that inulin additives may negatively impact certain aspects of liver function in mouse model studies. Of course, more human studies are needed to be sure.
4. Olipop Prebiotic Soda
With ingredients like chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, kudzu root, cassava fiber, cassava syrup, marshmallow root, slippery elm bark, nopal cactus, calendula flower, apple juice, lemon juice, stevia and pink rock salt, Collier said. Olipop garden aren’t a bad option, but they may not be healthy for everyone.
The cola flavor, for example, contains 2 grams of sugar and 9 grams of fiber.
“It’s definitely a low-sugar, low-carb option to traditional sodas,” Collier said. “The prebiotics in this drink may be gut-healthy for some people, although other people — perhaps those who are FODMAP-sensitive — may experience digestive issues from higher prebiotic intakes.”
3. Harmless Harvest Coconut Water
Collier and Samuels are both fans of Harmless Harvest Coconut Watermainly because the only ingredient is coconut water — there’s no added sugar.
“Coconut water is naturally high in potassium (around 13% of the RDA) and even has a decent amount of magnesium (60g or around 15% of the RDA),” Collier says. “Some people might use it as a ‘natural’ source of electrolytes, although it is low in two of the main electrolytes, sodium and calcium.”
Samuels added that even though Harmless Harvest coconut water is expensive, she is an overall fan.
“There’s less sugar (14 grams per serving) than most other brands of coconut water, and it tastes the best – it’s the closest I’ve found to coconut water fresh,” Samuels said.
2. Spindrift sparkling water
Made with real fruit juice and sparkling water, Collier and Samuels are big fans of Rotational drift.
“This is one of my favorite sparkling water products. The flavors taste great and are made with real fruit juice, instead of artificial flavors,” Samuels said. Still, it contains more sugar than sparkling water without fruit juice.
1. Small Mole
Arrive at #1 East Topo Chico mineral waterwhich Collier and Samuels both declare to be a bubbly delight.
“Topo Chico says their water is naturally carbonated at the source…that means the only ingredients in this drink are water and carbon dioxide,” Collier said. “No carbs, no added sugar, nada! This is one of the easiest, most straightforward sparkling water options you’ll find. Topo Chico’s water analysis report also states that their water contains varying amounts of calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and sulfate.
“Overall, sparkling water is a great alternative for people who don’t like to drink plain water but need to meet their water goals,” Samuels said. “I love Topo Chico for the taste! The bubbles are soft and smooth.
Are any of these drinks “bad” for you? No, not if you sip them in moderation. But before you splurge, keep in mind that some are better than others — and a few aren’t exactly great sugar-wise.