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Food in Vietnam: Top four beverages to try—with health benefits!

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Dehydration is a common concern for travelers in hot, humid Southeast Asia. Lucky for those visiting Vietnam, the country has the best variety of juices and other beverages to try! Many are sugar-free and very healthy. Here’s my top four favorites.

Sugarcane Juice
Sugarcane Juice Photo: louis r via Flickr

Sugarcane Juice

Nước mía—Sugarcane juice, known as nước mía, is an absolute must-try in Vietnam. It is sold on nearly every street in Saigon. Not only is sugarcane juice delicious and cooling, but it has electrolytes and antioxidants to fight dehydration and promote skin health. Nước mía has no added sugar—it’s sweet enough already. Tip: This beverage is number one because, being freshly made in Vietnam, nước mía has a unique flavor that you will only taste in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee
Vietnamese Iced Coffee Photo: Tauno Tõhk / 陶诺 via Flickr

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Cà phê sữa đá—Vietnam is one of the top coffee producers of the world—and Vietnamese coffee is to die for. Order cà phê sữa đá (including condensed milk) if you like your coffee sweet, and order cà phê đen đá/cà phê đá  (black iced coffee, not including condensed milk)  if you like a stronger flavor. Say “không có đường” if you want no sugar whatsoever.  Drop the “đá” and say “nóng” if you want hot coffee. The coffee sold on the streets is less than 50 cents USD, but keep in mind it’s not as high quality as Trung Nguyen and other more expensive brands. And don’t forget—coffee has many antioxidants easily absorbed by the human body.

Coconut Water
Coconut Water Photo by Melissa Dailey

Coconut Water

Nước dừa—As cheap as 7,000 dong and as expensive as 15,000 dong, fresh young coconut juice is my personal favorite of all drinks I have tried in Asia. Perfectly delicious and healthy as it is, drinking coconut juice remedies dehydration—something needed by everyone sweating it off in Vietnam—according to one medical study. Tip: On a tour in the southern Mekong, I nearly passed on a coconut that was 15,000 dong, but I’m glad I didn’t—it was the juiciest, most delicious coconut I have ever drank!

Lemonade
Lemonade Photo: Matt Mets via Flickr

Lemonade

Chánh đá—This iced lemon juice is a refreshingly tart change from nước mía —and is just as commonly sold on the streets! There is also a salted version, chánh muối đá. This “lemonade” of sorts includes sugar, but keep in mind lemon juice can improve digestive health (according to Doctor Oz). Not to mention you will be doing a lot of walking and/or balancing on a motorbike during your visit, so you’ll burn off the energy from any simple carbs very quickly.

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