Diet & Nutrition
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The New Plant Waters: Worth the Hype?

Find out if maple water, coconut water and others live up to their health claims. 

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By Taylor Dahl

There’s something in the water: Maple sap, coconut, aloe vera and more unique ingredients are popping up in water bottles across the country. Their labels claim added electrolytes, minerals, antioxidants and other healthy benefits. But are these plant waters better than plain ol’ H20? We talked to Keith Roach, MD, chief medical officer of Sharecare, and dietitian Frances Largeman-Roth to investigate these waters and take the guesswork out of your grocery list. 

Coconut Water

2 / 7 Coconut Water

Of all the “water” types, coconut is probably the most recognized. In fact, sales of coconut water -- the clear liquid from young coconuts (not the milky white stuff) -- increased more than five times between 2008-2012.

 
The Claim: Packed with electrolytes, it’s a healthy way to rehydrate.
 
The Expert Says: “Coconut water has a good amount of electrolytes, particularly potassium, which are helpful if you’re exercising a lot,” says Dr. Roach. “On the bad side, it has some sugar, which matters if you’re drinking a lot of it.” He adds that coconut water has less sugar and more potassium than many sports drinks, so it’s not bad to drink 8-16 ounces after exercising. 
Maple Water

3 / 7 Maple Water

“Maple water isn’t water,” says Roach. “It’s sap.” The clear, thin liquid is what actually comes from the tree before being boiled and reduced to syrup. It tastes plain but mildly sweet.
 
The Claim: Health benefits galore, thanks to calcium, manganese and electrolytes. One brand claims that it can “boost immune health, aid in the prevention of degenerative diseases and act as a prebiotic to support digestive health.”

The Expert Says:
“I don’t believe that the minerals in maple water are in a high enough concentration to have much of a benefit,” says Largeman-Roth. “And, it hasn’t been around long enough to show that it does have health benefits.”  
Aloe Vera Juice

4 / 7 Aloe Vera Juice

Aloe vera juice, produced mainly from the green outer leaf of the aloe plant is probably the most controversial “water," according to Largeman-Roth.
 
The Claim: Aloe juice is “detoxifying” and “supports the immune system,” claims one popular women’s magazine. Both Dr. Roach and Largeman-Roth have heard claims that aloe vera juice could be helpful with IBD.
 

The Expert Says: Science doesn’t support the claims. “There is no clear benefit to drinking aloe vera juice, and for some people, it can cause diarrhea and waste potassium. It’s probably more likely to cause problems than benefits, and I don’t recommend drinking it,” says Roach.  

Vitamin-Enhanced Waters

5 / 7 Vitamin-Enhanced Waters

Vitamin-enhanced waters -- bottled water with added vitamins (plus coloring, flavors and artificial or regular sweeteners) -- have been around for years, but new varieties often come to market.
 
The Claim: All those vitamins and minerals help support your health.
 

The Expert Says: Plain water is best, but “if the flavor [of enhanced water] helps you drink more water, it can be good for hydration. In terms of actual vitamins in the drink, your body is going to get rid of most of it anyway the next time you use the restroom,” says Largeman-Roth.  

Artichoke and Cactus Waters

6 / 7 Artichoke and Cactus Waters

Artichoke and cactus waters are the newest and least-known drinks on the market.
 
The Claims: Both claim to reduce inflammation. One maker of artichoke water suggests the drink can reduce joint pain.
 

The Expert Says: “I’m all for people eating more vegetables, but I don’t think artichoke water is the way to do it,” Largeman-Roth says. You’ll miss out on many nutrients found in the actual artichoke, especially fiber. As for cactus water’s anti-inflammatory benefits: “Stay away from waters and juices making crazy claims like improving joint health and protecting cellular health.”  

The Healthiest Water

7 / 7 The Healthiest Water

None of those plant waters are as good for your body as plain, simple water. “This is really about marketing,” says Roach, “It’s not about health.”
 

Largeman-Roth adds, “Bottom line: Water is calorie free, cheap and the best way to hydrate.” But, if you like the flavor of the “water,” consume with caution as calories can add up if you’re not careful.