The Functional Beverage Trend

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It can be difficult to keep up with the functional beverage trend—we’ve all seen the increasing variety of beverages available in today’s market. And offering consumers clarity in this growing category was a top priority for Guiding Stars. The result? Two years ago, Guiding Stars was enhanced to include new beverage guidance. A beverage that earns the highest rating of 3 Guiding Stars, meaning best nutritional value, has no sweeteners, no additives to limit, and no added sodium.

Functional beverages, which are designed to do more than just hydrate, can be especially confusing. There are so many options that profess to improve gut health, appear as an alternative to sugary soda, and more. So it’s difficult to know which ones to make a regular part of our diet. Functional beverages can provide fiber, vitamins, minerals, and active cultures. To earn Guiding Stars, they must be low in sugar, salt, saturated fat, and additives to limit.

For Gut Health

In most produce aisles, you’ll find an array of prebiotic and probiotic drinks, including fermented beverages to support gut health. These products can be a regular part of your gut health regimen and a significant source of pre and probiotics.

Kombucha: An excellent source of probiotics, kombucha, or fermented tea, can be an acquired taste. In some cases, it can taste a bit too much like vinegar. To make up for this, some brands add sugar or other ingredients you may be trying to limit. These additions are reflected in the Guiding Stars rating within the category. Choose the options that work best for you as part of your balanced daily diet.

Kefir: Rich in probiotics, kefir (fermented milk) can be a good option for lactose-free individuals. (During the fermentation process, enzymes and probiotic bacteria diminish the lactose.) Guiding Stars earning kefir is an excellent source of probiotics. It’s also very rich in calcium, protein, vitamin D, and potassium.

Probiotic yogurt drinks: Alongside kefir, you will find probiotic-enhanced, nutritious yogurt drinks. With a smoothie-like consistency, these drinkable yogurts are also an excellent source of calcium, protein, and other nutrients. Look for drinkable yogurts that earn Guiding Stars to avoid options with added sugar and fat.

Prebiotic soda: Brands like Olipop, Poppie, and others have been “popping” up on store shelves a lot lately. These soda alternatives offer prebiotic fiber to support a healthy microbiome (think of prebiotic fiber as “food” for probiotic bacteria). A balanced, colorful diet can also provide prebiotic fiber. But these drinks are a fun alternative to soda, beneficial for our microbiome, and a good option for some.

Probiotic tea: There are a growing number of probiotic teas available. While at first glance they may all seem the same, it’s important to remember that probiotics can be fragile and degrade easily. Look for brands that use BC30, which is formulated to withstand heat and other variables.

For Enhanced Hydration

There are many bottled beverages available to provide additional electrolytes. While these products are not necessary all the time, they are beneficial if you’re at risk of becoming dehydrated. And they’re a good choice when you’ve lost sodium due to exercise or activity in high heat.

Electrolyte beverages: The sports drink/electrolyte beverage category offers a range of options, with varying positive and negative attributes. Rely on Guiding Stars to find the option that’s best for you.

Electrolyte-enhanced water: Bottled water boosted with electrolytes can be an excellent way to add hydration to your day. Most of the options in this category earn three Guiding Stars. I highly recommend them when you need an additional hydration boost.

Coconut water: Coconut water is a natural source of electrolytes, especially sodium. Seek products without added sugar or attributes that you’re trying to limit or avoid. Enjoy “as is” or add to smoothies and more for a hydration boost.

To Simply Encourage You to Drink More

Some of us just need a bit of encouragement to hydrate well throughout the day. And sometimes “regular” water just doesn’t cut it—you need flavor! It can seem like there are unlimited options to consider, including WaterTok trends and “water of the day” inspirations. So it’s good to know you have so many healthy choices available right on supermarket shelves. Look for calorie- and sugar-free seltzers or waters. They earn three Guiding Stars and are available in endless brands and flavors. Or try Spindrift. Unlike flavored seltzers and waters, Spindrift is made from carbonated water and real fruit juice. It’s perfect for folks looking for flavored seltzer made without natural flavors.