Ever since the juice bar craze, we’ve come to expect more from what we drink. Here’s a closer look at three popular functional beverage options, and the evidence behind their health claims.
While adding apple cider vinegar to your diet won’t cure cancer or the flu, it may be a secret weapon in keeping blood sugar levels under control. Unlike the more outrageous claims made by proponents of apple cider vinegar, there is enough evidence that consuming it may decrease the risk of diabetes and insulin resistance. The high acetic acid content in vinegar inhibits the enzymes that help you digest carbohydrates, thereby producing a smaller blood sugar response after eating. As an added benefit, this undigested starch becomes food for the good bacteria in your gut, acting as a prebiotic that supports overall digestion and a healthier immune system. While there seems to be a big push in using apple cider vinegar, any vinegar will get the job done. Acetic acid, the carbohydrate-inhibiting ingredient, is present in all vinegars, so feel free to use whatever one you enjoy best. Additionally, you don’t have to drink the vinegar to get the benefits — eating your favorite salad with a vinegar-based dressing will work just as well.
Mushroom teas — hot water brewed with whole or powdered dried mushrooms — have soared in popularity over the last few years. While these drinks are not a cure-all, they are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Jessica Kelley, MS, RD creator of Nourished by Nutrition, is a big advocate for mushroom teas and the boost they can give to an overall healthful diet. “Purchasing the powdered form of cordyceps, chaga, and reshi mushrooms extends their use to more than just tea. I find adding them to smoothies, soups, or lattes makes it easier to incorporate these mushrooms daily.”
Dave Asprey, the creator of Bulletproof Coffee, claims that combining coffee, grass-fed butter and MCT (medium-chain triglyceride) oil can promote weight loss, mental focus and energy levels. While it may be delicious, the 450-calorie latte isn’t necessarily the breakfast of champions. As it’s recommended to be enjoyed without additional food, the bulletproof latte lacks the protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals that would normally be found in a balanced breakfast. However, eating a high-fat meal with caffeine could act as an appetite suppressant and therefore cause you to eat less over the course of the day, which may lead to weight loss. Bottom line, while there is benefit in swapping in medium-chain triglyceride fats, there isn’t any metabolic magic in the bulletproof coffee formula.
Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”