It's time to drink to your health with wellness beverages that taste good, help you feel great and can be sipped whenever you need a refreshing pick-me-up.
If coffee just isn’t cutting it, it might be time to swap that after noon cappuccino for a different kind of bevvy boost. Wellness drinks are trending and they can do everything from lift energy levels to soothe stress to promote a better night’s sleep.
“My health philosophy is that everything we put into our bodies is an opportunity to feed ourselves well and to build great health. Drinks should be looked at in the same way,” says Sarah White, a naturopath in Oakville, Ont.
With that in mind, read on for the latest on the season’s most buzzworthy wellness drinks—and why you should be enjoying them more often.
They’re not just for breakfast anymore. Smoothies can be a great afternoon refreshment, or even a light dinner alternative during the warmer months, says White. “Eating a heavier breakfast, a decentsized lunch and actually having a lighter dinner, so digestion isn’t taking away from great sleep, is not a bad idea,” she adds. “We tend to be busier in the summer, too, so a smoothie can be a quick and easy option in the evenings.”
Whatever time of day you decide to down a smoothie, ensure your blend contains a healthy fat, as well as fibre and protein, for a balanced, drinkable meal—or even dessert— that offers maximum benefits. “My favourite smoothie contains cashews, coconut oil, maple syrup and Reishi,” says Gabby Ouimet, a certified nutritional practitioner and director of retail at Village Juicery, a fresh raw juice company in Toronto. “It’s a rich chocolatey drink,” she says.
If you’re grabbing a smoothie to go at a juice bar, pay close attention to the menu and don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions or omissions, advises White. Be wary of drinks containing sweetened frozen yogurt or too many other sugary ingredients, like dates. “I’ve seen commercial smoothies that are touted as healthy but they’ve got 60 grams of sugar because they contain a sweetened frozen yogurt, as well as dates and maple syrup, and that’s not ideal,” she says. As a rule of thumb, one sweet ingredient, like a banana, is usually enough to make it tasty.
Technically, elixir is a pharmaceutical term for a sweet flavoured liquid that’s used to administer bioactive medicine. But in the world of wellness, we’ve come to interpret elixirs as hot drinks packed with good-for-you ingredients. These therapeutic beverages have been popping up at juice bars and health food restaurants across the country. (You’ve probably seen a Lemon Ginger Steamer or supertrendy Golden Milk Elixir on the menu at a vegan restaurant near you).
Elixirs tend to have a base of steamed milk, or an almond or cashew beverage, combined with an infusion of superfoods like Reishi, Lion’s Mane or other mushroom powders (known for boosting immune function, fight ing fatigue and supporting cognitive function). They often also contain herbs, spices like turmeric (which has major antioxidant properties) and macronutrients.
Try one in the morning as an alternative to coffee, or in the evening before bed. “Traditionally, we drink warm milk to calm down and relax before sleep, and that can be a really appropriate way to think about drink ing an elixir,” says White.
Unlike the regular OJ at the supermarket, cold-pressed juices aren’t pasteurized (a process that uses high heat to kill bacteria, and can also neutralize valuable vitamins and minerals). Instead juices are extracted via hydraulic press, which results in a bigger nutritional punch. “Separating the juice from the pulp also makes the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables easier to digest and absorb,” says Ouimet.
They may be a great way to support your daily nutritional intake, but there is a potential downside to juices if they’re not blended properly. “When you take away all the fibre from fruits and vegetables, it speeds up the delivery of glucose and fructose to cells and you get an insulin spike,” says White. To avoid the sugar bomb effect, opt for juices that are loaded with veggies but lighter on fruit, and favour ones with fruit that have a low-glycemic profile, like pear and lime. “One of our popular blends since day one at Village Juicery combines deep greens, including kale and dandelion, and balances them with a little green apple and lemon,” says Ouimet.
Sip your juice with a meal so that you’re getting some fibre and protein at the same time to balance things out, advises White. “I don’t think they’re a great meal replacement,” she says, “but they can be a good addition to a healthy meal.”
These lightly effervescent tonics are made by fermenting tea and sugar with a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast (also called a SCOBY). Real kombucha is raw and loaded with probiotics, organic acids and antioxidants that support digestion and immune function.
“Health-supporting sippers should be on everyone’s radar,” says Axel Kalbarczyk, president of Montreal-based RISE Kombucha. “We believe that kombucha is a functional beverage, and everyone should have access to its health benefits.”
But not all kombuchas are created equal. If the SCOBY isn’t handled properly and the fermentation process isn’t managed fully, bottled kombucha can continue to ferment, leading to a higher alcohol content, more CO2 and an off-putting vinegary flavour that people who don’t enjoy kombucha have likely tasted, says Kalbarczyk. Anyone who’s ever attempted a homebrew can attest to the tricky-to-master fermentation process after a bottle explosion in the back of the fridge or fizz overflow when opening a bottle that’s been sitting for too long.
Aside from being good for you, kombucha should taste good. But getting this fizzy drink to be palette-pleasing, without too much sugar or the addition of artificial sweeteners is finicky. “We know that many of our customers are following a keto diet, or just want less sugar, so we introduced fruit-forward flavours with just 1 gram of sugar per serving,” says Kalbarczyk, adding, “first and foremost, kombucha should be a beverage that people drink because they enjoy it.”