It can be tricky to locate calorie-free drinks that are all-natural. Some diet sodas boast zero calories, but these beverages are loaded with artificial sweeteners and other artificial ingredients, and are more like industrial products than a legitimate food source. At the same time, drinking water, which is the most common natural calorie-free drink, can get boring.
Tea and herbal teas offer a pleasing alternative. These beverages are produced by infusing various parts of a plant, usually leaves, in hot water. Because they are made from parts of the plant that contain negligible calories, and are prepared by steeping the plant in hot water, they can extract chemicals responsible for flavor and aroma while adding zero or a near-zero amount of calories.
About true tea: black, green, white, oolong, Pu-erh:
Tea, made from the Camellia sinensis plant, is a favorite calorie-free drink. Black tea, green tea, white tea, oolong, and Pu-erh all come from this same plant. The different varieties differ mainly in their production methods, which result in different levels and patterns of oxidation in the leaves. All true tea contains caffeine, although the amount is highly variable and tends to be much lower than in coffee. Black tea is natural and generally healthy, although like anything, there is a point at which it can be too much, mainly due to its caffeine content. If you are looking for zero calorie drinks that you can consume in quantity, or late at night when you wish to avoid caffeine, you will probably want to turn to herbal teas.
Remember, you can blend true tea with other herbs, either for taste, or to produce a lower-caffeine blend using half or less of the caffeinated tea.
Herbal teas and black tea?
Herbal teas are incredibly diverse and I can hardly do them justice by writing. There are herbal teas that taste like just about anything, and there are also herbal teas that can be used to treat a wide variety of medical conditions.
Most of the herbal teas that are in widespread use as beverages are actually very healthy. Nearly all herbal teas have antibacterial properties. Chamomile has a relaxing effect, and also shows some potential for preventing or treating type 2 diabetes. Mint, including peppermint and spearmint, can kill antibiotic resistant bacteria like MRSA. Rooibos, also known as South African Red Tea, shows some promise as an asthma medication, improving breathing for people who suffer from asthma or respiratory allergies. Hibiscus has been shown to lower blood pressure as effectively as some prescription drugs. And these are just a few.
Not only are these drinks calorie free, but many of them have potent health benefits as well. You can buy pre-blended herbal teas in tea bags at the supermarket, but you can also buy bulk or loose-leaf herbs and blend your own teas. Better yet, you can grow herbs in your own garden or indoors, and use these to brew your own fresh herbal infusions.
Brewing iced tea or herbal infusions for cold drinks:
Although hot tea or hot herbal drinks can be delicious, there are times when we wish to drink something cold or at room temperature. But fortunately, anything that can be brewed as a hot beverage can be made into an iced or cold beverage as well. To make any sort of iced drink, simply brew the drink hot, and then refrigerate it. If you make a big batch, you can save time and energy by brewing a small very concentrated cup with hot water, then letting it cool to room temperature before diluting it to the right concentration and pouring it over ice or placing it in the fridge.
Sweetening the all-natural way:
Some herbs, as well as the tea plant, are naturally rather bitter. Although some people love the brisk, crisp quality that a moderate amount of bitterness brings to a drink, other people would prefer to sweeten their beverages somewhat. Fortunately, there are a wide variety of different natural herbs available that can sweeten your drinks without adding any calories and without relying on artificial sweeteners. Stevia is the most well-known of these herbs, and is widely available in health-food stores, as a sweetener. However, many herbs naturally have a sweet flavor. Cinnamon is noticeably sweet, and can make a brewed herbal tea taste sweeter even if you do not add any other sweetener. Another very sweet herb is anise hyssop, a plant. If you sample many different herbs, you will find that quite a few of them have a subtle sweetness, and if you combine them in artful ways, you can come up with delightfully sweet beverages which are calorie-free and all-natural.