To many of us, drinking plain old water is pretty boring. Yes, we all know that good health requires good hydration—but water alone doesn’t titillate the taste buds, which is one reason why many people instead guzzle bad-for-you beverages (such as soda and energy drinks) or sky-high-in-sugar fruit juices.
There is a better solution: Adding all-natural ingredients such as fruits, vegetables and herbs to water can infuse water with flavor and a bit of nutritional oomph, turning ho-hum H20 into a truly tasty and especially healthful beverage. There are lots of easy ways to create a spa-worthy water bar at home—and we’ve got some great taste combinations.
Why not just buy flavored water? Some commercial flavored water products contain high levels of acids that can soften tooth enamel, leading to erosion and increased sensitivity (though to be fair, this also can happen when you add a natural citrus juice such as lemon to water)…it is much more economical to make your own…and you get to create the exact taste you want.
HOW IT DOES A BODY GOOD
If flavoring your water encourages you to drink more of it, then the small effort involved is well worthwhile. That’s because good hydration is essential for maintaining proper organ function…preventing constipation, muscle spasms and headaches…flushing toxins out of your body…keeping energy up…and keeping food cravings at bay.
“You cannot overestimate the importance of water to your health, given that the human body is more than 50% water,” said Joseph Feuerstein, MD, an assistant professor of clinical medicine at Columbia University and director of integrative medicine at Stamford Hospital in Stamford, Connecticut. How much water do you need? A good guideline is to drink at least 64 ounces per day—or even more if the weather is hot…if you’re working out…or if 64 ounces isn’t enough to keep your urine clear.
The flavor-adding ingredients also enhance the nutritional value of the water—just a bit, but enough to make a difference. “Just as some foods, such blueberries and acai, are called ‘superfoods’ because of their multiple health benefits, adding healthy substances to water turns it into a ‘super drink,’” said Dr. Feuerstein.
An infusion is a drink prepared by soaking fresh or dried plants. This process allows many nutritious substances from the plants, such as vitamins and antioxidants, to seep into the water. Using hot water essentially “cooks” the plant, which can transform some of the substances (sometimes in ways that lessen their nutritional value) and/or alter the taste of the beverage…using cold water requires more soaking time to extract the nutrients but is a gentler form of extraction for some of the delicate compounds found in the plants, Dr. Feuerstein said.
How to make an infusion: All you really need is a pitcher, some tap or bottled water and whatever type of plant foods you’d like to use. Or you may want to try a special infusion pitcher (available at Amazon.com and housewares stores for as little as $14), which typically has a hollow slotted cylinder in the center into which you place cut-up fruits, veggies and/or herbs. Or consider getting a muddler, a rod-shaped tool used for mashing the produce ($3 and up at Amazon.com and elsewhere). Simply slice or mash the ingredients, add them to the pitcher, fill the pitcher with water and let soak in the refrigerator for at least two to four hours.
Experiment with various types of fruits, veggies and herbs, using them alone or in combination, to see which types of flavored water you like best. With fruits, riper generally is better—in fact, creating flavored water is a great way to use up overripe fruit. As for how much to use, it totally depends on what tastes good to you, though generally you’ll want to use enough plant ingredients in your infusion to bring about some change in color in the water, Dr. Feuerstein said. You can strain out the plant ingredients before drinking the infusion or leave them in if you prefer.
Tasty combinations to try…
- Pineapple, peaches and mint
- Cherries and basil
- Berries, citrus fruits and ginger (peeled and sliced)
- Watermelon and lime
- Cucumber slices, cilantro and dill
- Peppers, carrots and thyme
- Tomatoes and oregano
Different ingredients provide different health benefits—for instance, if you want to…
- Freshen the breath, clear congestion—use mint, basil and/or lime.
- Boost the immune system, aid digestion—use strawberries and/or kiwis.
- Relieve bloating, satisfy the appetite—use cucumber, orange, lemon and/or lime.
For more ideas: Check out this recipe page on Pinterest.