Hype or Hero?

A close look at what 5 trendy foods re­ally have in store for you

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - GUEST CHEF - By Matthew Kadey Kom­bucha Cold Brew Cof­fee Maple Wa­ter

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.

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