While the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners for human consumption, the jury is still out on the long-term effects of consuming aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame and acesulfame-k. Consumers seeking tasty, low or zero calorie beverages are urged to drink water, nature’s ultimate thirst quencher, but many find themselves bored with a water-only regimen.
Enter these natural alternatives for sweet, flavorful low (or no) calorie beverages. Each beverage listed here uses only natural ingredients and adds a negligible number of calories to the drink. The ingredients can be found in any supermarket, and they’re easy to make.
Lemons add a bright, sweet-tart note to water and sparkling water. Cut slices of lemon and squeeze a few drops of fresh lemon into your water. If you have access to the herb lemon balm, you can also make an infusion or herbal tea from lemon balm leaves and add these to water-based beverages.
Mint is another herb that makes a terrific infusion. If you have fresh peppermint or spearmint growing in your garden, cut several sprigs and rinse them under cool water. Using kitchen twine, tie the stems together into a bouquet garni, and add to a pot of boiler water. Let the mint infuse the water for up to 15 minutes, then allow water to cool to room temperature before removing the herbs. Add the herbs to the compost pile or discard, cool the water, and chill. It makes a delicious and refreshing mint beverage.
Like mint water, brewing and chilling herbal teas also creates flavorful, no-calorie beverages. Flavored peach, orange, mint or berry-flavored teas can be brewed in a large pot, and then the water chilled to make a yummy summer beverage.
Fruit Juicy Water
Fruit juicy water adds a tablespoon or two of natural fruit juice to sparkling water. Choose strongly flavored fruit juices with no sugar added, such as unsweetened orange, cranberry or grape juice. Added to unflavored seltzer (soda water), it makes a subtle soda substitute. It may take a while for your palate to adjust to the lack of sugar, but you may find you enjoy fruit juicy water more than sugary soda pop.
Making the Switch from Diet Soft Drinks
It’s easy and convenient to reach for a commercial diet soft drink at the store, and according to both the FDA and the Harvard School of Public Health, ingesting artificial sweeteners occasionally is probably okay for most adults. If you have a negative reaction to any artificial sweeteners, such as headaches or dizziness, stop using them immediately and talk to your doctor.
Some recent research has found that people who drink a lot of artificial sweeteners do not lose weight and may, in fact, gain weight. It sounds counter-intuitive; after all, the whole point of diet foods and beverages is to trim calories, and with fewer calories, one should lose weight. However, research has found that people who ingest artificial sweeteners over long periods of time are more likely to have a higher than normal BMI (body mass index). The theory is that artificial sweeteners somehow confuse the body’s satiety signals, making people eat more, rather than fewer, calories, but researchers still aren’t sure of the answer.
No matter what your feelings or beliefs are about artificial sweeteners, it’s always a healthy idea to drink more water, especially during the hot summer months. Make a few of these recipes and keep them handy for a delicious and refreshing treat this summer.
PHOTO CREDIT: Image by William Warby. Flickr Creative Commons license.