Functional foods have been defined as foods that provide health benefits beyond their nutritional value, positively affecting the overall health and well-being of the body. Functional beverages are gaining popularity because they are non-alcoholic, easy to use, and a convenient way to introduce health in a ready-to-use composition. They can help you target personal health needs, such as energy boost, stress relief, muscle building, and digestion concerns, as well as more clinical needs that support treatment and recovery from medical ailments. The functional beverage industry is a fast-growing sector, focusing on including specific nutrients and bioactive compounds like antioxidants, dietary fibres, prebiotics, proteins, peptides, unsaturated fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins to meet the needs of consumers.
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Here Are 4 Best Functional Beverages For Your Healthy Diet:
There are several types of functional beverages, such as dairy-based beverages, probiotic drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, meal replacers, caffeinated beverages, and vegetable and fruit beverages.
1. Functional Water:
Water by itself is a functional beverage as it supports life. Today, many producers have added flavours from ingredients like spices and herbs to provide consumers with hydration plus the benefits of these ingredients. Some add soluble hydrogen and oxygen, electrolytes, and vitamins to further increase the health benefits. Water, as we all know, is the most important fluid for hydration and maintaining energy levels, and these added ingredients make it even more beneficial.
Homemade functional water can be easily prepared using spices like ajwain, coriander seeds or leaves, and cumin water, which are well-documented for their digestive benefits and their role in managing medical conditions like diabetes. A simple fresh lemon water with salt is the best oral rehydration solution and is loaded with natural vitamin C. Coffee and tea are probably the oldest known functional waters, loaded with antioxidants and well-documented preventive effects on chronic diseases. Sherbets made with Bael fruit, Panna, khus, fermented kanji, and kombucha are also excellent choices.
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2. Energy Drinks:
These are the most popular functional drinks today, used to help stay energized and combat the effects of sedentary lifestyles. These drinks may contain caffeine, taurine, fats, and fibre, among other ingredients. Many energy drinks also add Vitamin D and linoleic acid, providing both nutritional and physiological benefits.
Homemade energy drinks can include steeping water with adaptogens like ashwagandha or ginseng root to help calm the body and mind. Coffee and tea, loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals, are known to boost cognition and energy. Soups or juices made from freshly blended vegetables and fruits provide antioxidants, minerals, vitamins, and fibre, boosting the immune system and providing energy. Coconut water is the original energy drink.
3. Sports Drinks or Supplements:
These are more specific and cater to the desired outcomes. They commonly provide carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats, designed to aid athletes or physically active individuals in recovering from strenuous physical activity, and building and repairing tissues. Sports drinks may contain protein isolates like whey and soy, specific amino acids, or creatine, helping athletes achieve their nutritional goals for muscle and strength.
Homemade sports drinks can be made with dairy like milk or yogurt along with added fruits, seeds, and nuts. This blend provides all the nutrients in their natural form, along with various other health benefits such as protection against chronic diseases, fibre, immunity boosts, and antioxidants.
4. Nutraceutical Beverages:
These plant-based drinks are made with fruits, vegetables, soy, cocoa, and dairy, addressing specific health problems such as digestive disorders, skin health, brain health, metabolic balance, and immunity. They cater to the demand for natural foods that help protect against diseases. Fruits and vegetables contain bioactive compounds known for their ability to protect against cancer, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and urinary tract infections. Milk, tea, and coffee also contribute compounds with health benefits. Commercial nutraceutical beverages isolate these compounds to create the drinks. Probiotic, prebiotic, and synbiotic beverages also fall into this category.
Homemade: Simply enjoy blended fruit, milk, chaas, lassi, or your cup of tea/coffee to experience the benefits in their most natural form. Plus, you'll get to enjoy their rich flavours. Haldi water and ginger water boost immunity, while ashwagandha balances metabolism.
Functional drinks are here to stay. They are healthier compared to sugary drinks with no nutrients. All you need to do is choose according to your health goals and read the labels carefully. Ideally, speak with your healthcare provider.
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About Rupali DattaRupali Datta is a Clinical Nutritionist and has worked in leading corporate hospitals. She has created and lead teams of professionals to deliver clinical solutions for patients across all medical specialties including critical care. She is a member of the Indian Dietetic Association and Indian Association of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition.