Beverages That Go Beyond Hydration
Almost all of today’s beverages boast several different functions. Energy drinks are no longer the only drinks where the benefits are advertised right on the label. Supermarkets sell beverages imbued with special vitamins and minerals that promise everything from relaxation to an immunity boost. Though water will always remain the star of the show when it comes to hydration, functional beverages offer exciting options for quenching your thirst.
What exactly is a functional beverage? Though exact definitions vary, the consensus is that functional beverages claim to provide the consumer with specific benefits, such as increased energy, immunity, etc. Sports drinks are products in this category that have been around for a long time. Many were initially designed to help athletes perform better during an intense workout, but now there are types designed for pre-workout preparation and post-workout recovery. Energy drinks are another prominent player in the functional beverage category. These are typically filled with caffeine and other ingredients that promote wakefulness, and they can be found in many forms, including juices and tea.
Almost any existing drink can become a functional beverage when given the proper ingredients. For example, instead of regular bottled water, consumers can purchase water with added electrolytes. Coffee is getting infused with all sorts of things, including collagen and probiotics. Tea, another major player in the wellness scene, is also getting a reboot. While classic types like black, green, and white are still the main players, many types of tea focus on specific health benefits rather than flavor. On-pack claims range from touting tea’s energy boosting abilities to its purported immunity benefits. Even milk, which historically has been fortified with vitamin D, is getting new formulations. Omega-3s and protein are two nutrients sometimes added to milk to increase its nutritional value beyond just providing a solid dose of calcium and vitamin D.
Even though the functional beverage market is not new, it is currently experiencing unprecedented growth. Much of this growth has been driven by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to increased consumer demand for beverages that could provide immunity benefits. Though functional beverages need not have an immunity component to be considered functional, these drinks, in particular, constitute a rapidly growing category. In the article “Drinking in the Benefits: Functional Beverages for Immune Health” published on the KerryDigest™ Blog, Erin Miller notes, “A recent global market report found that between 2016 and 2019—before COVID-19 further increased awareness—launches of products with an immunity claim grew by 9% in the juice category, 43% in flavored bottled waters and 32% in energy drinks.” Since these are pre-pandemic statistics, it isn’t a stretch to say that functional beverages focused on immunity will grow even more in the next year as more and more of us look for new ways to improve our health and ward off illness.
With the rapid growth of the functional beverage space, it can be tempting to overlook potential problems. One such issue is misleading advertising. A few companies faced this issue when their beverage products underwent scrutiny for their stated health claims. As a result, these companies faced lawsuits and had to undergo label changes. These controversies can serve as a warning to both consumers and manufacturers. For consumers, be sure to check the label to see if a product’s ingredients match up with a brand’s claims. It doesn’t hurt to do your own research into the science behind certain ingredients, as well as research to see if the product is halal certified. See if there is robust evidence for a company’s claims and make sure that there aren’t any problems associated with the ingredients. For manufacturers, it is wise to avoid claiming that your product is healthy simply because you fortified it with extra ingredients. The last thing you want is for consumers to lose trust in your product just as the market is starting to take off.
Other concerns regarding functional beverages have to do with the ingredients themselves. For example, alkaline water (water that has a pH above 7) can be considered a functional beverage because of the many health benefits that producers claim it has. Because of its alkalinity, however, consuming it may come with certain risks. In the article “What Is Alkaline Water—And Is It Better Than Regular Water?” for Women’s Health Magazine, Locke Hughes spoke to registered dietitian nutritionist Kerry Gans about possible health problems associated with alkaline water. According to Gans, people with kidney conditions should not drink alkaline water. For others, drinking too much of it can result in alkalosis, a state where the blood in your body is too alkaline, which can result in serious symptoms. Though alkaline water is just one example of a beverage touted for its supposed health benefits, it serves as a reminder that not all added ingredients are safe for everyone.
If you decide to try a functional beverage, talk to your doctor first to ensure that it will not interfere with your medications or exacerbate existing health problems. That way, you can take part in a growing trend without worrying about the potentially adverse effects of whatever you are drinking. If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend a cup of green tea. There’s nothing like a hot beverage to warm you up on a chilly day, especially when it has the potential to provide health benefits.
|Abbott||Pedialyte® Sport – Lemon Lime, Fruit Punch|
|Arbonne®||InnerCalm Adaptogenic De-Stress Powder|
|Melaleuca®||Sustain® Sport – Lemon Blast, Raspberry Lemonade, Ruby Red Grapefruit|
|Nu Skin®||G3 Juice|
|Sunrider®||Calli® – Cinnamon, Regular, Mint|
Alison DeGuide is a content developer at IFANCA®, as well as the editor of Halal Consumer® Magazine. She holds a master’s degree in public diplomacy from the University of Southern California, where she also did her undergraduate studies.