Hype or Hero?
A close look at what 5 trendy foods really have in store for you
In the age of social media, the popularity – and price – of certain niche foods and beverages is exploding as people tout their nutritional and health benefits. Cyclists are not immune to jumping on bandwagons in the hopes of finding something to sip or nibble on that will supercharge their rides. Here are five items that are having a moment, but when we separate the science from the sales pitch it turns out you may not always be getting much of a bang for your buck. With headlines screaming the myriad benefits of consuming more of the friendly critters known as probiotics – which can improve digestive and immune health – more people are seeking out products that are home to a healthy population of bugs. One such item demanding increased shelf space at health-food stores is kombucha, a fermented tea beverage made by combining tea with a fermentation starter and a bustling colony of bacteria and yeast. The tea is then left for a period of time to turn a little funky and becomes populated with a robust population of probiotics. Since pure kombucha is too much for most taste buds, manufacturers often mask the vinegary flavour with sweeteners. In fact, some bottles will have sugar numbers on par with much maligned sodas. Those figures are concerning when you consider that there is a raft of research showing that drinking sweetened drinks regularly is associated with a host of health woes including diabetes and obesity. So the question remains: do the benefits of the probiotic count in kombucha outweigh the risks associated with the sugars often pumped into the product? Also, there is no guarantee that the microorganisms in a brand of kombucha are ideal for your own particular microbiome.
The verdict: You might be better served seeking out other probiotic rich items, such as kefir, yogurt, miso and sauerkraut – all of which have easy-to-find unsweetened options. If you do decide to sip kombucha, be sure to compare brands, looking for those that pack in less sugar. Keep in mind that most brands list their nutrition numbers for more than a single serving per bottle. Not just for hipsters, cold coffee is the hot new thing when it comes to java. Cold brewing refers to soaking grounds in cold water for several hours and then filtering the liquid out. The long brewing time is typically why cold brew costs more than typical coffee. The cold water used to steep the grounds releases less acid than hot water, so the drink could be gentler on your digestive system if regular coffee typically bothers you. This evidence, however, remains anecdotal. Also, the prolonged brewing time and higher grounds-to-water ratio may lend cold brew coffee more of a caffeine jolt, which is a perk if you’re looking to rev up your ride. Caffeine has proven to help boost exercise performance via its stimulation of the central nervous system.
The verdict: Turn down the heat on your brew, but just be on the lookout for the high amount of sugars that can be pumped into flavoured and bottled versions. Sometimes promoted as the North American answer to coconut water, maple water is simply the clear sap of maple trees before it is boiled down into the iconic syrup. It’s low in calories and has a very faint taste of the sweet stickiness that coats flapjacks. Proponents of the trendy drink claim that it provides several nutritional highlights. In reality, this is nonsensical marketing. The only item maple water has high amounts of is manganese. This mineral manganese is necessary for proper metabolism, but this is one of the easiest nutrients to obtain through a healthy diet. You shouldn’t feel the need to chug back gallons of maple water to help meet dietary requirements. Buying a carton every now and then just for kicks probably won’t break the bank, but it’s still a lot more expensive than good old tap water.
“More people are seeking out products that are home to a healthy population of bugs.”
The verdict: To stay hydrated, stick with getting your water from the kitchen faucet and keep on using maple syrup on your weekend pancakes.