Most of us enjoy sweet beverages during the warm days of summer—juices, iced tea, lemonade, and others. But there are times when drinks become even more refreshing if they offer a slightly savory element. Besides, juices and sweetened beverages have high amounts of sugar that can aggravate a propensity for diabetes and other health issues, including weight gain. Beverages that refresh with ingredients such as sparkling mineral water, herbs, florals and vegetables can be a welcome change.
Non-alcoholic beer, for example, has a number of health benefits. Not only is it lower in calories than that alcoholic beer, but the hops and barley used to make it provide many nutrients and healing properties, such as:
Hot ‘n Cold Beer
Wet the rim of a frosty 20-oz. glass and dip it into a plate sprinkled with Tajín (a salty, chili lime seasoning you can find in the produce section of most supermarkets); fill with non-alcoholic beer (such as Coors NA, St. Pauli NA, O’Doul’s, Beck’s, Kaliber) and add to it a tablespoon of fresh lime juice, a dash each of black pepper and Tabasco®, Chalupa® or other hot sauce.
Nuclear Strength Vegetable Juice
This drink is similar to a ‘Virgin Mary,’ which is a Bloody Mary without the vodka. The vegetable juice provides a good amount of vitamins and few calories. The rosemary can help prevent allergies and ease nasal congestion, while the basil and oregano are naturally calming.
Take a 20 oz. glass and put in sprigs of basil, rosemary, and oregano. Bruise the leaves with a muddler or a spoon. Pour in 8 oz. chilled low sodium vegetable juice, and an ounce each of fresh lemon and lime juice. Add a good squirt of your favorite hot sauce such as Sriracha, stir, then add ice.
Lemonade and Herbs
Lemonade goes well with so many herbs. The herbs have great nutritional benefits, such as calming basil or restorative thyme, but lemonade can have a lot of sugar. Half lemonade and half sparkling mineral water will reduce the calories significantly and the herbs will make the lemonade more adult.
Muddle a couple of basil leaves and a sprig of rosemary or thyme in the bottom of a glass; add about 8 oz. icy cold sparkling water and top off with about 2 oz. cold lemonade and enjoy. You can make this by the pitcher full—just remember to keep the sparkling water to lemonade ratio 4:1.
Mojitos, the Cuban beverage made popular by Ernest Hemingway, feature a good dose of rum. Make your own thirst-quenching, non-alcoholic version from my Age Gracefully Cookbook with lots of mint, which can improve brain function, ease digestive symptoms, relieve breastfeeding pain and diminish cold symptoms. The agave nectar in the recipe is high in fructose, a natural fruit sugar, so it doesn’t raise your blood sugar the way other sweeteners do.
For a slight variation, add a little fresh cilantro, which is high in vitamins and a good source of vitamins A, C, E, K, calcium, iron, potassium, and magnesium.
In my first cookbook, I have a recipe for Turmeric Orange Juice. The turmeric and vitamin C in the orange juice double the antioxidant power of this drink, while the turmeric also helps reduce inflammation.
If you want to create a lighter version, add 2 oz. of freshly squeezed orange juice and about 1 oz. of fresh turmeric juice to 12 oz. of cold sparkling water. Add a slice or two of fresh, peeled ginger, which has its own anti-inflammatory properties.
As a thirst quencher, iced tea is hard to beat. Variations make it interesting. Both black tea and green tea have valuable health properties. Black tea contains flavonoids that help strengthen blood vessel walls and improve concentration. Green tea contains powerful theaflavins and is a strong antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
Iced Hot Sweet Tea
Brew a quart of high-quality black tea. Leave it strong so you can pour it over ice. While the tea is still warm, add a tablespoon of Mike’s Hot Honey, which is infused with chili peppers. The combination of sweet and hot is addictive! Stir well and add the ice.
Cardamom Green Tea
I have an associate who’s just crazy for the cardamom iced tea she gets in her favorite Indian restaurant. You can find cardamom tea in ethnic grocery stores, but it’s easy to make it yourself and besides, cardamom is great to have on hand for your recipes. It has antioxidant and diuretic properties, which help lower blood pressure. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and may contain compounds that help fight cancer.
Brew up a quart of high-quality green tea, leaving it fairly strong so ice won’t dilute it too much. Take two teaspoons of ground cardamom and place it in a mesh tea infuser. Let it sit in the hot tea for at least 20 minutes. Pour over ice and enjoy its exotic taste.
Pineapple Hibiscus Quencher
While we think of juice as healthful, it contains a lot of sugar and calories. Here’s a way to enjoy pineapple juice that reduces the calories and increases the FoodTrients value.
Pineapple juice contains vitamin C and beta-carotene. These antioxidants can help fight skin damage caused by the sun and pollution and improve overall skin texture. Vitamin C also helps with collagen formation, which gives the skin its strength and structure. Hibiscus tea helps to prevent hypertension, reduce blood sugar levels, support liver function, help with menstrual cramps, and aid digestion. It’s a good source of vitamin C, contains minerals such as flavonoids and has laxative properties.
Fill a 20 oz. glass with 4 oz. pineapple juice, 6 oz. hibiscus tea, 2 oz. fresh squeezed lime juice and fill the rest with cold, sparkling water. Garnish with a fresh pineapple slice and mint.