3 Healthy Water Alternatives

By Jason Kessler / October 27, 2015

The ever-expanding menu of water alternatives

H20. Agua. Water. No matter what you call the liquid that comes out of your faucet, the combination of hydrogen and oxygen has been the source of life for just about everything on earth for all of recorded history.

Some would say water is pretty much perfect as it is, but a new product category is popping up to try and convince us that water can be even better for us, as long as we know what type to drink. Coconut water may be the most popular example of these alternative waters, but there’s a whole world of newfangled hydration out there vying for your dollars. I put them to the test to see how good they are.

Cactus Water   The fruit of the Opuntia cactus, which thrives in extremely harsh desert conditions and is commonly known as prickly pear, has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. The antioxidants found within the fruit are said to help revitalize the skin, reduce inflammation and keep the body well-hydrated.

While coconut water is actually the water found inside coconuts, cactus water is really prickly pear juice (fresh or from concentrate) diluted with water. The result is a somewhat berry-ish tasting drink that’s certainly refreshing, but not quite what I’m looking for when it comes to a water replacement.

One brand, Caliwater adds in organic cane sugar and lemon juice to make the final product taste better but those additions make the cactus water more of a juice cocktail than extracted water. While cactus water has less fat (zero, actually) and fewer calories than coconut water, I don’t think I’ll be running to snag a glass any time soon. drinkcaliwater.com 

Watermelon Water   Watermelon water is in a similar boat with cactus water when it comes to its claim of being a “water,” although purveyor WTRMLN WTR gets more of a free pass because the process involves cold-pressing whole watermelons (flesh and rind) to extract the water within and not mixing a puree with water.

The vowel-less company claims its product has six times the amount of electrolytes as sports drinks, plus vitamin C, lycopene and L-citrulline to aid workouts. While I can’t vouch for the health claims, I will say that I like watermelon water a lot. It’s extremely refreshing, just sweet enough and full of pure watermelon flavor. If you love eating watermelon but hate chewing, watermelon water will be right up your alley. wtrmlnwtr.com

Maple Water   If there’s one true competitor to the coconut-water crown, it’s maple water. Harvested from actual maple trees (as opposed to cold-pressing fruit), this water is actually maple sap culled from tapping trees on organic farms. It’s loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, polyphenols and enough manganese to rival kale.

The best part is, maple water tastes amazing (assuming you like the flavor of maple syrup). It’s vaguely sweet with a subtle maple flavor and in performing taste tests, I found that I wanted to finish the entire container of maple water whereas I was fine with a few sips of the others. DRINKmaple is one of the leading brands on the market and is available in over 1,000 outlets including Whole Foods, but Trader Joe’s has gotten in on the maple water action, too, so it should be fairly easy to find. drinkmaple.com

There are other contenders for the alternative water throne, too. Artichoke water and birch tree water are just a few other varieties to watch. Will they ever supplant regular ol’ H20 as our go-to hydrator? Probably not. There’s a good chance these alterna-waters are just nutritional fads, but the next time I’m looking to quench my thirst with a little flavor thrown in for good measure, don’t be surprised if I grab a big glass of maple water.

Jason Kessler is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @FlyDine.

Jason Kessler

Jason Kessler

Jason Kessler is a lifestyle writer/columnist for Bon Appetit, Food Republic and a slew of other publications. Follow him on Twitter @FlyDine.
Jason Kessler

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