This article was originally published in June 2013, and has been updated.
1. Coconut water
The water from the centre of young green coconuts, coconut water is a refreshing alternative when things get hot. It’s perfect for replenishing electrolytes after a sweaty workout session or a hot day at the beach and coconut water has more potassium and fewer calories than a regular sports drink (without the added sugar and weird dyes no less).
Coconut water is also great for a hangover (not that we ever get those…). It not only hydrates, but also replenishes the essential minerals and antioxidants you lost due to the diuretic effects of alcohol.
How to consume: Coconut water is sold in most health food and convenience stores, but of course you can always crack open a coconut yourself for that fresh, tropical experience. Drink it on its own or (if you’re not a fan of the taste) add it to smoothies.
This fermented, living tea is made with tea, sugar, yeast and live bacteria. Although the health claims surrounding this increasingly-popular drink have yet to be confirmed, we do know that the abundance of probiotics and living enzymes in the naturally-fizzy drink are great for digestion and our gut bacteria balance.
Since digestive health plays a huge role in immunity, mental health and energy levels adding kombucha (and other fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi for that matter) to your daily routine may not be such a bad idea. And although it’s just gaining popularity in Canada, kombucha has been a popular health remedy for centuries in China. Often flavoured with antioxidant-containing fruits and herbs, many now sip it as an alternative to soda or alcohol.
How to consume: There are several kombucha recipes available to make at home, however kombucha is so accessible now that you don’t have to go to all the trouble. I often recommend Tonica kombucha, which is made in Toronto, to my patients.
3. Homemade iced tea
Although not fermented, homemade chilled teas have their own nutritional benefits. The summer is a perfect time to enjoy all the healing qualities of herbal teas in its most refreshing form — naturally flavoured with fresh herbs, lemon and raw honey for a touch of sweetness.
A great substitute for their store-bought counterparts, which are full of sugar and artificial ingredients, homemade iced teas offer everything from digestive support (with peppermint tea) to the calming effects of chamomile, depending on what steep. Enjoy the added vitamin C from fresh lemon and the natural antibacterial properties of raw, unpasteurized honey.
Recipe: Steep peppermint tea in water for 30 minutes (two tea bags per litre of water). Add one tablespoon of honey per litre and chill. Add fresh lemon slices and be sure to drink cold. Or try this rooibos recipe (below) that’s caffeine-free, and helps regulate blood sugar:
Rooibos iced tea
2 litres of boiling water
4 rooibos tea bags
Pour boiling water over tea bags in a large pitcher. Let steep for 8-10 minutes. Remove tea bags, add fruit and mint and let chill in fridge. Serve over ice.
4. Fresh juice
Not just for hydration, fresh juice delivers a quick energy boost. Full of vitamins and minerals, this hit of health is an energizing pick-me up on a hot day. Fresh juice is a great way to balance out summer’s ice cream cone- and beer-filled barbecues.
How to consume: With an abundance of juice companies popping up in the city, fresh juice is easier to buy than ever. However, if you have the time, and are willing, buying a juicer and juicing at home is a more economical option. Try juicing greens such as kale, with cucumber, parsley, ginger, lemon and green apple for sweetness. Trust me, you won’t need that cup of coffee in the morning after you get in the habit of using juice as a more natural pick-me-up.
5. Good old H20 with fruit, citrus and herbs
The classic combination of lemon and water jazzed up with fresh berries, cucumber and herbs — like mint and basil — make getting your daily requirements of water (which increases with the heat) much more enjoyable.
My favourite: Raspberries, mint and lime.
Tara Miller is a Toronto-based holistic nutritionist dedicated to helping people discover that small, daily changes can lead to optimal health, happiness and balance. She trained at The Institute of Holistic Nutrition and has a degree in psychology from the University of Guelph. She’s the owner of the Health Hut Boutique in Muskoka where she offers effective and toxic-free beauty, household and specialty food items. You can follow her blog at Tara Miller Nutrition.