Functional beverages are one of the hottest markets in the food and beverage industry. These drinks offer their customers unique benefits that often appeal to the health conscious. Some of these drinks are vastly overhyped and should be avoided. Other functional beverages are a fantastic support to one’s health and performance.
Functional beverages include sports and performance drinks, energy drinks, ready to drink teas, enhanced fruit drinks, soy beverages and vitamin waters among others. These drinks have become popular due to their appeal to consumers who are seeking unique health benefits offered by the specific drinks. Many functional beverages are promoted with benefits such as improving heart health, immunity, digestion, joint function, energy and satiety.
The vast majority of these functional beverages contain several dangerous ingredients. These include sugar, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, synthetic vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They are often times loaded up with stimulants that create an artificially induced energy rush. These drinks may contain certain anti-oxidants and other unique nutrients; however, the chemical residue is highly toxic.
The ideal functional beverage contains absolutely no chemicals, additives and preservatives. It is found within real foods and is nature’s answer to thirst. These drinks should be low in sugar or naturally fermented to provide mega-doses of high quality nutrients.
Nature’s greatest functional beverages
Coconut Water: Young coconuts contain natural water within that is rich in potassium. It is isotonic with human blood and has even been used in many countries for blood transfusions. This sweet drink is fantastic for quenching thirst and recharging the body.
Coconut water does contain sugar so it is better to ferment it with a coconut kefir starter. The coconut water kefir continues to have the benefits of coconut water with the addition of live enzymes, bioactive peptides, probiotics and beneficial yeasts to support digestion, energy production and immunity.
Fermented Whey: Whey is a natural byproduct of cheese manufacturing. It is a 5% solution of lactose in water with minerals and lacto-albumin. When the lactose goes through a fermentation cycle, lactic acid, healthy microorganisms & natural enzymes are produced. It is also loaded with potassium and other critical electrolytes.
Whey is an abundant source of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s) and sulfur containing amino acids. BCAA’s are used to fuel, build and repair muscles and joints. It is also rich in the sulfur containing amino acid cysteine. Cysteine is a critical agent used to make the super intracellular anti-oxidant glutathione.
Kombucha: This fermented beverage is produced through a large pancake looking SCOBY (Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast). It is scientifically classified as a zoogleal mat. This drink is loaded with healthy yeasts, enzymes, electrolytes, bacteria and other microorganisms. There are many different flavors with unique superfoods that are added making synergistically unique functional beverages.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) Drinks: ACV is a powerful tonic loaded with incredible living nutrients. The ACV should be raw, unpasteurized with the “mother” intact. The mother is the portion of the apple that is fermented and contains the source of the good bacteria and enzymes. There are many different combinations that provide unique synergistic effects with ACV as well.
The highest quality functional beverages are fermented. The natural acids that are produced blunt the typical blood sugar response and enhance the bioavailability of the nutrient packages within each drink. The fermentation process naturally produces high quality B vitamins and electrolytes that are necessary for optimal energy production and inflammatory control. The enzymes and beneficial microorganisms that are created break down inflammation and work to scavenge free radicals and boost nutrient absorption in the gut.
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