Rethink Your Drink Part 3: Healthy Cocktails

The new year has arrived, and many of us have finalized our resolutions list and are ready to put our plans into action for a flourishing year ahead. More often than not, we aim to focus on our health—and make up for any detrimental behaviors we participated in prior. And let’s face it—while some of us have become rather health-conscious over the past couple years; some of us have picked up or over-indulged in some less than desirable habits recently, especially considering the stress we’ve all been under (crazy times!). Let’s rethink that alcoholic drink into something that nourishes the body and spirit

It can seem difficult to cut back. There will always be a hard week, a reason to celebrate, a social function where drinks are flowing, an encounter with the in-laws (yikes!). You get the idea; things that prompt a drink are plentiful. But the health benefits of not only cutting back your alcohol intake, but replacing it with something that’s good for you are even more plentiful, and it doesn’t have to feel awkward or like you’re making a sacrifice.  

Let’s start with Kombucha! Kombucha is a great replacement for an alcoholic beverage when you’re craving a tangy, refreshing beverage. It’s made from a base of green or black tea and sugar, and is fermented from a week, up to a month. The fermentation process does produce a TRACE amount of alcohol. Less than 0.5%. But that process also creates that zingy flavor that pleases a refined palate with a little “kick.”

Kombucha is high in polyphenols—which promote gut, brain, and heart health. It’s also rich in B vitamins and contains compounds that in some studies have been associated with improved GI and liver function. Be careful to choose kombucha with no added sugar, or if you’re up for trying something new, you may enjoy making your own kombucha at home. 

If you enjoy the art and ritual of creating a cocktail, consider hand-crafting a delicious mocktail instead.  Make one for yourself after a long day and enjoy as you begin to wind down, or offer mocktails the next time you host a dinner for friends at your home! It’s fun to play around with ingredients and cater to your own personal taste. If you love to cook, up your game by pairing a thoughtfully crafted mocktail with your best dinner recipe.  Keeping it more simple, try serving some tacos and pair with this tasty and easy “margarita” recipe


4 lime wedges

1 ½ oz fresh lime juice

1 ½ oz fresh lemon juice

3 oz simple syrup

1 ½ oz sparkling water

2 tbsp kosher salt (I highly recommend the Margarita Sea Salt blend at Raja Goods! It’s a course, smoked chipotle salt)

Place salt on a plate and set aside. Place a lime wedge over the rim of your margarita glass, swiping it around the glass until the rim is wet. Turn the glass upside down, setting the rim into the salt. Repeat with a second glass. Pour lime juice, lemon juice, simple syrup, and sparkling water in a cocktail shaker filled with ice . Put the top on the cocktail shaker and shake to combine and chill.  Pour into glasses and garnish with a slice of lime.  Enjoy! 

Here at Raja Wellness and our new store, Raja Goods—we have a special love for mocktails. We offer blends made from high quality, adaptogenic herbs to be enjoyed along with their many health benefits.  Be sure to ask about our mocktails at your next visit! 

If you’re reluctant to miss out on your favorite spirits, you may want to check out They offer replacements that taste just like the real thing! Add to a healthy mocktail and you won’t miss a bit of the flavor from your favorite drink. 

Remember, big improvements come from small adjustments. Consider rethinking your drink as a resolution this year. Cheers! 

In Part 1, I wrote about why many of the drinks waiting on store shelves really aren’t good for you because of the sugar in them. I didn’t really touch on the chemicals in them that we might be concerned about, but let’s just say most drinks you can buy aren’t good for you. It’s that simple. Even water can be a concern because of the leaching of chemicals from the plastic- in many cases, we don’t know if they are bad but we also can’t say they are good because it simply hasn’t been studied long-term. So what to drink? Many patients fear that giving up sweet drinks means a life of drinking only water. Never fear, there is hope! Welcome to the wonderful world of teas and tisanes.

Studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, and diabetes; encourage weight loss; lower cholesterol, and bring about mental alertness. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.

“There doesn’t seem to be a downside to tea,” says American Dietetic Association spokeswoman Katherine Tallmadge, MA, RD, LD. “I think it’s a great alternative to coffee drinking. First, tea has less caffeine. It’s pretty well established that the compounds in tea – their flavonoids – are good for the heart and may reduce cancer.”

There is significant literature on the health benefits of tea that I won’t repeat here, but the short version is for most people teas and tisanes are a healthy beverage choice with many varieties and flavors to choose from.

Let’s start with tisanes since most of you are already familiar with teas. Tisanes have no caffeine and depending on the ingredients you choose can have a wide variety of health benefits. The challenge is finding the ingredients locally because many haven’t made their way mainstream yet. Some Asian or international markets will have some. We carry some of these harder to find tisane ingredients for sale in loose form for our communities. They can be brewed and enjoyed hot or cold. In addition to many varieties made from herbs and fruits, a popular tisane is a rooibos. Rooibos teas are a naturally sweet and sometimes nutty herbal tea made from the South African Red Bush. The rooibos tea processing method involves harvesting the red bush leaves, followed by grinding and bruising of the leaves.

Most grocery stores have a wide selection of tisanes (or herbal teas). I recommend reading the labels and selecting those that are organic and without synthetic ingredients. You can even make your own at home from dried or fresh mint, organic citrus peels, fresh ginger, cinnamon...the options are endless.

Teas come in so many varieties- there is a whole world of flavors to explore. Here’s a quick summary of types, all are made from the Camellia sinensis plant:

Black tea made by a process of withering then rolling the tea leaves followed by a long period of fermentation. Then the black tea leaves are fired resulting in a loose leaf black tea with a complex yet recognizable smell and full-bodied, strong flavor.

  • Black tea - made by a process of withering then rolling the tea leaves followed by a long period of fermentation. Then the black tea leaves are fired resulting in a loose leaf black tea with a complex yet recognizable smell and full-bodied, strong flavor.
  • Oolong tea - A variety of black tea where after the tea leaves are picked, they are intentionally bruised by shaking. While the leaves are drying, the edges of the bruised leaves turn reddish in color and the surface becomes light yellow due to fermentation and oxidation. After some fermentation period, the tea leaves are pan-fried to create a semi-fermented tea.
  • Green tea - the tea leaves are picked, dried, and heat - treated to stop fermentation of the leaves. The heat treatment for Chinese green tea consists of roasting the tea leaves in a hot roasting pan whereas Japanese green tea is steamed. After moisture is removed through the heat treatment, the tea leaves are typically rolled and dried again before ready for use. Chinese green tea produces a yellowish green liquor and toasted taste while Japanese green tea is dark green in color and has a grassy taste.
  • White tea - made from the tea buds and youngest tea leaves. It is the least processed of all teas—the tea leaves are simply steamed and then dried. White tea has very little caffeine and brews a light color and flavor. White teas can be appreciated for their subtlety, complexity, natural sweetness, and delicacy.
  • Purehh tea - in which the tea leaves undergo microbial fermentation and oxidation after they are dried and rolled. Purehh teas have a strong taste and sometimes even a smoky flavor. Traditionally they are believed to help digestion, especially after a heavy meal.

Need some inspiration for your own teas or tisanes? Here are some of my favorites:

  • For stress relief (especially during the summer): Goji Berries & Chrysanthemum Flowers (for variety may be a few rose petals and ginkgo leaves)
  • For sugar cravings without the sugar: Licorice root, dried longan fruit & cinnamon
  • To cool off on a hot day: Mint & dried longan fruit
  • To satisfy that craving for a chai tea without all the sugar: 1 C coconut milk, 1t cinnamon, 1/2t turmeric, dash each of nutmeg and cayenne- bring to a gentle simmer, add a touch of honey if desired
  • To warm the digestion: 1” fresh ginger root thinly sliced, 1 small cinnamon stick or 1t ground cinnamon- simmer for 5-10 min, cool slightly and enjoy! If you add a few goji berries or dried longan fruit you won’t need any sugar at all.
  • For a mild headache: a combination of gingko leaves, green tea and chrysanthemum flowers
  • For women’s health & fertility: red raspberry leaf, goji berries, nettle leaf, red clover and rosehips

If you need help selecting a tisane specifically designed to support your health needs let us know during your next appointment! Do you regularly drink teas or tisanes? What is your favorite?


Tea: A drink made by steeping the leaves of a type of Camellia sinensis in hot water.
Tisane: An infusion of leaves or flowers used as a beverage, e.g. an herbal tea.

What do you reach for when you are thirsty? Is it a cold soda? An energy drink to get you through the afternoon? Or as many people do around here in Kentucky, a nice tall cup of sweet tea? Did you ever stop to think about what’s in your drink? Are those artificial colors and flavors, the amount of caffeine and the sugar (most often as high fructose corn syrup) really good for you? When you look at the numbers on the label is it really all that bad? What’s wrong with a little sugar in your drink?

This post gives a great summary of what happens when that 20oz of soda hits your body. That 20oz of soda has about the equivalent of ⅓ of a cup of sugar. Would you ever just sit down and eat ⅓ of a cup of sugar? And sometimes the drinks that look the healthiest may have the most sugar. Many fruit smoothies have more sugar than 10 glazed doughnuts!

Now I imagine my diet soda drinking readers are feeling good about their no sugar choice but not so fast! It’s well documented that drinking diet soda is correlated with increased risks of metabolic syndromes and cardiovascular disease.

So how about a nice glass of wholesome juice? It’s natural and can have good nutrients in it if you get the kind without added sugars, so it must be good, right? The key is how much. All fruit is high in fructose but when you eat the whole fruit you get the fiber with it which modulates its effect. Fruit juice is a straight shot of fructose and unlike glucose which can be used by every cell in the body, fructose can only be processed in the liver. Fructose is taken straight to the liver where it is metabolized into free fatty acids (FFAs), VLDL (the damaging form of cholesterol), and triglycerides, which get stored as fat. When you eat 120 calories of glucose, less than one calorie is stored as fat. 120 calories of fructose results in 40 calories being stored as fat. Turns out those little juice glasses used by your grandparents and great-grandparents were about the right size for a healthy serving of juice and more is not better.

So what’s with all these sugars and why do we care? When fructose combines with glucose, it makes sucrose. Sucrose is abundant in sugar cane, sugar beets, corn, and other plants. When extracted and refined, sucrose makes table sugar. “In the 1800s and early 1900s, the average American took in about 15 grams of fructose (about half an ounce), mostly from eating fruits and vegetables. Today we average 55 grams per day (73 grams for adolescents). The increase in fructose intake is worrisome, says Lustig, because it suspiciously parallels increases in obesity, diabetes, and a new condition called the nonalcoholic fatty liver disease that now affects up to one-third of Americans.”

And it turns out for many people there are two main sources of fructose and glucose in our diets: processed foods (even those that aren’t sweet like canned soup) and drinks. This means options for a healthy drink when eating out are often limited to water or unsweetened iced tea. So what to drink? Time to explore the wonderful world of teas and tisanes - which will be in our next article!


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