Healthy Drinks

This Sparkling Probiotic Lemonade Is So Rich in Gut-Boosting Benefits

Photo: Stocksy/ Jeff Wasserman
Few things in life are as pure as the joy you felt starting a lemonade stand outside of your childhood home, hoping your ice cold cups of citrusy sugar water would bring in enough profits to finally land you that Razor scooter. There was just something so sacred about that neon lime green poster you'd spend hours crafting and the compassion of your kind neighbors as you sat outside for endless hours under the sweltering sun.

Care to relive your adolescent entrepreneurial dreams? We’ve discovered an upgraded (and probiotic-rich) lemonade recipe that’s guaranteed to be the hottest new iced beverage at the stand this summer.

With a registered dietitian's seal of approval, this super hydrating probiotic lemonade recipe by Nourished Kitchen is like liquid gold for your gut. It’s made with just four ingredients and no refined sugars, so you can also say goodbye to using overly-sweet premade mix forever. Plus, you’ll discover that making DIY fermented drinks at home is much easier than you’d ever expect—no special equipment is necessary for you to score an A-plus on this simple science experiment.

Health benefits of this probiotic lemonade recipe

We spoke with Roxana Ehsani, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN, a Miami-based registered dietitian nutritionist and National Media Spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, to learn more about this refreshing (and healthy) summertime beverage. She explains that it all starts with the ingredients—honey, lemon, and fresh whey—that provide a bounty of health benefits.

For starters, the honey serves as an ideal natural replacement for artificial sweeteners and offers additional immune-boosting properties. “Honey is mainly composed of carbohydrates and contains antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals,” Ehsani says. Plus, it serves as a gut-friendly prebiotic, aka non-digestible plant fibers that feed probiotics, which boosts the healthy bacteria in your gut.

According to Ehsani, honey is also a powerful antimicrobial and antibacterial agent. “Some research has found that honey can work similarly to a cough suppressant, as it can help alleviate cold-like symptoms,” she says. To reap the most throat-soothing honey benefits, Ehsani recommends sticking to darker honey that is shown to have more antioxidants than the lighter versions.

To make this super hydrating fizzy drink, this probiotic lemonade recipe relies on a bit of fermentation using fresh whey (one of the main proteins in milk) for a naturally carbonated beverage. “Fresh whey is an excellent source of high-quality protein, because it contains all essential amino acids, plus vitamins and minerals. It’s also easy to digest and absorb,” Ehsani says. “Fresh whey is the liquid that separates from milk; it can be found at the top of yogurt or during cheese production,” she adds.

If you’re wondering if this is the same kind that’s found in many protein powders, the answer is yes. “Whey protein that you find in protein powders contains the same whey found in liquid whey, but it’s made into powder form. Typically, whey protein is a mixture of protein, milk fat, lactose, vitamins, and minerals. Some whey protein powder may also have additional ingredients like different flavorings, the addition of sweeteners, and the possible addition of other types of proteins too,” Ehsani says. When making this recipe, she suggests sticking to using a product solely made from fresh whey.

And it wouldn’t be lemonade without the lemons, of course, which are packed with vitamin C (about 50 percent of your daily needs to be exact), and linked to longevity. “Lemons provide a high dose of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant and essential nutrient needed to keep your immune system strong and healthy,” says Ehsani.

Don't forget about the microbiome benefits, though: Ehsani says probiotics are what turn this lemonade into liquid gold for your gut. “Fermented foods contain live and active cultures that may act as probiotics, which help balance out and keep our gut flora healthy,” Ehsani says. To make this probiotic drink, Jenny McGruther from Nourished Kitchen uses fresh whey that ferments for four to seven days to create a naturally fizzy drink with no artificial ingredients. Although fermentation requires a little patience, the actual legwork and active time spent making it is minimal—just 10 minutes, to be exact.

Sparkling probiotic lemonade recipe

A perfect set-it-and-forget-it type of recipe, McGruther simply melts the ingredients in a pot together and transfers it into a sealed container to let it do its magic. As the mixture ferments, the healthy bacteria eat the honey's natural sugars which are then released as carbon dioxide, creating a natural effervescence. The final result is a mildly sweet, tangy, and refreshing drink filled with prebiotics and probiotics that help balance your gut.

probiotic lemonade recipe
Photo: Stocksy/ Nourished Kitchen

Yields 8 servings

6 cups water
1 cup honey
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup fresh whey

1. Warm the water in a saucepan over low heat, keeping it just warm enough to dissolve the honey (about 100°F). Whisk in the honey continuously until fully dissolved in the water. Turn off the heat, and remove the pot from the stove.

2. Whisk the lemon juice and whey into the honey water until fully incorporated.

3. Pour the lemonade through a narrow funnel into flip-top bottles. Seal the bottles, and allow the lemonade to sit at room temperature to ferment for at least four and up to seven days. You can open a bottle to check for fizziness and flavor, keeping in mind that the warmer your kitchen and the more time you allow, the sourer and more fizzy your soda will be.

Life giving you lots of lemons? Make these zero-waste lemon popsicles, too:

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