To say that the pandemic has made for a tough 2020 is an understatement. But one silver lining may be that this novel public health crisis has inspired many to take an honest look at their health. For one thing, one of the most significant risk factors for severe COVID-19 illness is weighing above the normal range for your height. Other conditions associated with negative COVID outcomes include cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes (all of which have been linked to inflammation), as well as any condition or circumstance that may compromise your immunity.
Not surprisingly, the constant hum of health-related talk has laid the groundwork for a rise in products intended to improve health and well-being, including foods, supplements, and beverages containing functional ingredients.
“The beverage industry is at a really interesting place right now,” observes food and beverage expert Emma Fuerst Frelinghuysen, the CEO of plant-based protein bar brand, R.E.D.D. “There is an unusually high demand for functional ingredients that support immunity, mood, and/or cognitive function.”
The notion of “food-as-medicine” is what inspired nutritional health counselor Cindy Kasindorf to found Remedy Organics, which makes high-protein, plant-based beverages featuring adaptogenic ingredients such as matcha and hemp. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that have been shown to help the human body fight stress and boost memory, immunity, and focus. (On that note, here are seven adaptogens that we’re seeing as ingredients in functional wellness beverages these days.)
It’s also what inspired us to take a look at some recent entrants in the functional beverage category. Here are six new drinks to try for mind and body benefits, according to experts. (And in related news, don’t miss this one vitamin that doctors are recommending everyone take right now.)
When we asked Instacart’s Trends Expert, Laurentia Romaniuk, what beverages she’s seeing consumers gravitate towards, she said that while alcohol sales have been up during the pandemic, so have sales of tasty, guilt-free libations—especially those that feature functional ingredients.
“Many people are looking for new and exciting ways to indulge while still prioritizing health and wellness,” observes restauranteur Elizabeth Blau.
For a fun and festive non-alcoholic drink, registered dietitian Cassie Christopher recommends a homemade “fruit shrub,” which is a combination of vinegar, fruit, and sugar. “The vinegar has science-backed health benefits, as does fruit, so it’s just a matter of limiting the added sugar,” she tells Eat This, Not That!.
If making your own mocktail isn’t appealing, there are many commercially-prepared alternatives. Perhaps none are more interesting, however, than the crystal-infused non-alcoholic wine, Rock Grace. Each serving is not only calorie-free, it’s also infused with botanicals such as rosewater, which may help with inflammation. It also contains adaptogens such as anxiety-relieving ginseng, and “crystal energy,” which CEO and nutritional scientist, Anne Hulett, explains “can stabilize energy and increase the vibration level within any life form promoting vibrational alignment.”
Another interesting, commercially prepared choice is Spirity Cocktails, a line of award-winning mocktails (e.g., Mindful Margarita) that are made from pu’er tea, which has been demonstrated to help lower triglyceride levels. And while Ritual Zero Proof isn’t infused with anything but “fun,” it highlights another benefit Christopher points out about mocktails: The celebratory “ritual” itself provides positive mental benefits.
Another emerging trend in functional beverages is kombucha, according to Miriam Aniel, Head of Content and Research at AI-powered food intelligence solution, Tastewise. Kombucha is a probiotic drink made by fermenting tea with bacteria and yeast.
Because of the fermentation, some kombuchas contain alcohol. But one that doesn’t is Acqua ViTea, which comes in cool flavors like Blood Orange made with real fruit. Another is KeVita Master Brew Kombucha, which is made with live kombucha cultures and a number of functional ingredients, including ginger, starfruit, spirulina, and “yumberry,” a Chinese berry high in vitamin C and antioxidants.
According to Romaniuk, the most popular non-alcoholic kombucha on Instacart these days is good ole Nature’s Promise Ginger-infused Kombucha, and its price is likely unbeatable.
“The turmeric trend has been around for some time,” Christopher tells us. “But people seem to be adopting adding turmeric to their beverages on a wider scale. For example, Starbucks stores sell ground coffee that includes turmeric, and you can find turmeric hot cocoa, turmeric chai, and turmeric-just about anything else.”
This trend is based on science: the active compound in turmeric, curcumin, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that may even have weight-loss properties. The only issue is whether or not a beverage contains enough turmeric to make a difference. The Arthritis Foundation recommends consuming at least 1,200 mg per day.
The turmeric-infused ZYN line of functional drinks can get you off to a good start because each contains 200 mg, as well as piperine, an extract from black pepper that increases the bodies’ ability to absorb curcumin by 2000 percent, according to co-founder Asim Khan. Piperine is also known as an anti-inflammatory on its own and can help support weight loss.
If you miss those days of lingering leisurely over a cup of strong coffee at your neighborhood café, you’re not alone, according to coffee expert, Graham Cooke, who has observed that homemade espresso and coffee drinks are exploding in popularity. (P.S. Here are 12 of the tastiest coffee drinks you can make at home.)
If brewing your own doesn’t sound appealing, you can try Golden Ratio, an instant, ultra-light gold coffee that offers all the benefits of caffeine without the “jitters” or tooth-staining of regular coffee.
Another interesting choice is Magic Mind, which is a “productivity” shot that contains 12 active ingredients, including adaptogens that stimulate focus, creativity, energy, and motivation while decreasing stress, oxidation, and inflammation in the body. And there’s also Humblemaker Coffee Co.’s new vitamin-infused cold brew shots. Each is designed for a specific purpose, such as “cognitive wellness.”
When it comes to hydration, water is unparalleled, according to registered dietitian Elisa Bremner. Bremner likes to enhance her own water with fruit, cucumber, and herbs like mint, but she also makes room for the possibility that commercially-enhanced waters, depending on what they contain, may offer nutritional benefits.
For example, Protein2O is a good source of protein, so Bremner might recommend it for bariatric patients who find getting enough protein to be challenging.
Registered dietitian Trista Best is a big fan of chlorophyll-enhanced water. “It’s an easy way to detox, promote skin health, and provide the body with significant amounts of antioxidants,” she tells Eat This, Not That! You can prepare your own using liquid chlorophyll, or you can buy it prepared already. Another dietitian-recommended enhanced-water choice is Perfect Hydration, which is alkalized water (pH 9.5+) that neuroscientist and nutrition expert Nicole Avena says provides negative hydrogen ions, and thus serves as an antioxidant, while also containing electrolytes for balanced body fluids.
CBD (cannabidiol) is a cannabinoid that is found in cannabis and hemp and is known for having numerous health benefits, including decreasing inflammation and improving mood. Rhythm is a CBD-infused seltzer that comes in a number of configurations, depending on what health benefits you wish to derive from it and how much CBD you’d like your drink to contain. It’s also vegan-friendly, keto-friendly, and gluten-free.
In addition, actor, comedian, and podcast host, Joe Rogan, recently launched a new CBD drink in partnership with energy drink maker, Kill Cliff. It’s called Flaming Joe, and obviously, Rogan highly recommends them. “It’s amazing how much good you can get out of a 24-kilogram kettlebell and a can of Kill Cliff CBD,” he tells Eat This, Not That!. But they do contain 25 mg of hemp-derived CBD along with electrolytes, B vitamins, and just 20 calories.