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Is Coconut Water the Best Drink for Weight Loss?

There's no denying that coconut water is the coolest kid in the drinks aisle. Touted as nature's Gatorade, everyone from pop stars to health nuts down the stuff to hydrate after the gym or a night out. And why shouldn't they? It's healthy, right?

For sure—coconut water is far better than synthetic sports drinks and sodas—it's free of health-harming additives and corn syrup, and is a natural source of replenishing electrolytes. But don't let those distinguishing factors distract you from the other plant-waters on the health-food scene. Many of them carry the same total health and post-workout benefits and are just as exciting for your taste buds. Here, we dive into the nutritional benefits of four new plant beverages, all of which deserve a portion of coconut water's ever-expanding shelf space.

Watermelon Water

The aches and pains that follow a tough workout not only make sitting and standing a literal pain in the ass, but also make it challenging to hit the gym again, slowing fitness and weight loss progress. But fear not fitness fanatics: sipping watermelon water can ease your sore muscles. In a study of Spanish athletes, researchers found that watermelon juice diminishes post-workout soreness, likely thanks to its high potassium and magnesium content, two electrolytes that aid hydration, muscle relaxation and restorative sleep, explains Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN. Sure the sugar count can run a bit high (up to 24 grams in a 16-ounce bottle), but all of the sweet stuff comes from fresh watermelon and lemon juice, which can help replenish depleted glycogen stores after a long workout.

Drink This! One of the most popular varieties (read: easy to find) on the market is WTRMLN WTR. Can't find a bottle near you? Making your own by blending watermelon pieces with a few squeezes of lemon juice and ice.

Maple Water

Before Maple tree sap is boiled down to the consistency and sweetness of pancake syrup, it's far thinner and less sugary. And recently, a handful of companies began pasteurizing and bottling the stuff, which they've aptly named maple water. It more or less like water, but is slightly thicker and carries a hint of mapley sweetness. A 16-ounce bottle has about six grams of sugar and provides up to 66 percent of the day's manganese, a nutrient that staves off disease-causing free radicals, joint damage and inflammation. Though some inflammation is necessary to heal our muscles after a workout, too much inflammation can breakdown the healthy muscle mass, slowing metabolism.

Drink This! Pick up a bottle of Vertical Maple Water at your local health food store.

Cactus Water

If beautiful, young-looking skin is what you're after, cactus water is the answer. The trendy drink, made from prickly pear cactus extract and its juice, contains betalains, an antioxidant that prevents moisture loss, aiding the appearance of glowing youthful-looking skin. Aside from its aesthetic benefits, research indicates that consuming prickly pear can lower cholesterol and help diabetics manage their blood glucose. What's more, for a fruit-flavored beverage, it's relatively easy on the waistline: A 16-ounce serving contains just 50 calories, and 12 grams of sugar—about half of what you'd find in the same serving of coconut water.

Drink This! If you're interested in giving it a try, reserve it for a hot, sticky day or after a tough exercise routine. "Cactus water naturally contains many of the electrolytes lost through sweat like potassium, magnesium, calcium and sodium," notes Smith. We like Caliwater Cactus Water.

Artichoke Water

Unlike the other water alternatives on supermarket shelves, artichoke water, a yellow-green beverage made from water, artichokes, lemon and spearmint, can be enjoyed hot or cold. It's a good source various nutrients including a host of B vitamins and of vitamin C, a nutrient that counteracts stress hormones that trigger belly fat storage. It also "contains electrolytes key for hydration like potassium, calcium and magnesium, a nutrient that helps the body build lean muscle mass," adds Smith. And the taste? Consumers say the flavor resembles that of a mild green tea.

Drink This! Enjoy a bottle of Botanic Artichoke Water (currently available on Amazon and at select Whole Foods and Equinox Gyms) as a post-pump refresher. It's currently one of the only options on the market—and it's totally free of calories and sugar.

Dana Leigh Smith
Dana has written for Women's Health, Prevention, Reader's Digest, and countless other publications. Read more about Dana Leigh