Monday, January 20, 2014

Sassy Water, Deconstructed

If you’ve got a Pinterest account, chances are you’ve heard of Sassy Water.  Every third pinner has a picture of it somewhere on her boards.  It’s sitting on a table made of repurposed—upcycled—wood, in a scene flooded with sunlight.  It’s a jug full of citrus and cucumber slices, floating in a sea of sparkling clear water. 

But here’s a dark secret.

Sassy water is gray.

While not technically upcycled, I did find this table on the street.

I’ve been doing the Sassy Water thing for the past few years.  Not religiously; just when I can summon the effort to slice cucumbers.  At first I was really averse to the name Sassy Water, until I found out its inventor is named Cynthia Sass.  That tidbit seriously flipped the script.  If my last name were Sass, I would preface the title of everything I owned with the word Sassy.  I would run that joke straight into the ground and kick it till it was good and dead.  So now I’m cool with the name Sassy Water.  Cool and a little envious.

Cynthia Sass is the nutrition editor at Prevention Magazine and author of the massively popular book The Flat Belly Diet.  Sass’s book (which I haven’t read and am not reviewing [which you would know if you could see my belly]) contains the recipe for Sassy Water, the bloat-busting refreshment of the gods.  It’s pretty simple stuff: one lemon, one cucumber, ten mint leaves and a tablespoon of ginger, slice into a jug of water and let sit overnight.  Bam.  Sassy.

So does it work?  OK, to be honest, I don’t know; my cucumber-slicing strength is intermittent.  But there is science behind Ms. Sass’s concept.  Lemon, cucumber, mint, and ginger all have properties that help digestion and fight bloat, so how do they do it?  I decided to do some research into the matter.

This is where it gets cool to blog about a subject that you’re wholly unqualified to discuss.  Each aspect of this research, which I expected to be fairly straightforward, hurtled me down a rabbit hole of information that blew my mind.  There is so much to know about lemon, cucumber, ginger, and mint that I can’t even begin to touch on all of it.  I decided that in order to keep this information palatable, I’d focus only on the digestive benefits of each element, and find out just how they do what they do.  Starting with...

Via here.  Do you think that girl has a really big lemon or a really small head?


It turns out that lemon is the Swiss army knife of the fruit kingdom.  It's good for your body in about a million different ways.  Lemon is an anionic food, which means that it is made up of more negative ions than positive ones.  It aids digestion by mirroring and enhancing the work of anionic fluids such as saliva, stomach acid, and bile.

Speaking of bile, lemon facilitates its production by stimulating the liver.  You want bile in your life, because bile is an emulsifier—a literal fat blaster.  When your liver function is on point, your body can more easily expel toxins through the bowels.  Since lemon is a diuretic, this also means you flush toxins via your urinary tract.  Lemon’s tagline is basically, “See you in the bathroom!”  But it’s good to get rid of toxins.

One thing I was not expecting to learn about lemon, but which literally the entire wellness community knew before me, is that a glass of warm water with lemon is just about the healthiest way you can start your day.  David Jockers helpfully breaks down the science behind this concept in Elephant Journal.  Essentially, the coffee you drink in the morning produces “dirty energy” in the form of blood sugar swings and adrenaline, which then can cause a crash at 10am when you are sitting in a very boring meeting.  But lemon water replenishes and hydrates the body (which, remember, doesn’t get watered for the eight hours that you’re sleeping), producing “clean energy” without any of the stress.

One thing I’ve personally learned about myself is that I have the ability to nod off in a very boring meeting even after drinking a full 4 cups of coffee.  That is not a sustainable caffeine threshold, so for the past two weeks I’ve been waking up to a glass of warm water and half a lemon.  I’ve cut down my coffee intake to one cup per day, and I've nixed the caffeinated tea.  I’m still in a bit of caffeine withdrawal, but I must say I love my new lemon habit.  It really does feel great first thing in the morning, and I haven’t nodded off in any public spaces in a full two weeks.

This takes us to…

The day spa of your nightmares. Via here.


Cucumber’s benefits are a little more straightforward.  Cucumber is 95% water and great for hydration and whooshing away toxins.  Plus it’s high in fiber, which aids digestion. 

That’s it.

So then we have…

Boobs.  I mean ginger.


Researching ginger was a lot of fun, mostly because it introduced me to my new favorite website,  (Tagline: “What causes flatulence and how to stop farting.”)  I love this.  I love this so hard.  I love that James, the proprietor of, sat down at his laptop one day with a vision.  He was going to research the living bejeezus out of flatulence and he was going to lay it out in layman’s terms for a million anonymous, gassy readers.  This website is epic in its no-nonsense, just-the-facts-ma’am, stunningly comprehensive guide to flatulence.  (Direct quote: “To put it really simply, people don’t like being around people that fart too much.”) This is exactly what Al Gore had in mind when he invented the Internet. 

So what does ginger do for us?  Well, it helps minimize flatulence, which I’m sure has never been a problem for you.  It also revs up all the same juices as lemon (saliva, bile, stomach acid) that facilitate digestion.  James says that “phenolic compounds, primarily gingerol and shagaol, and various other volatile oils are responsible for this beneficial effect on our digestive system.”  To put it a little more simply, ginger helps facilitate muscle contractions in the stomach, and moves food from the stomach to the small intestine. Herbs that alleviate gas and usher food into the intestines are called carminatives, and ginger is kind of like the King Carminative.  You want a flat stomach, you need ginger on your side.

Which finally brings us to…

There are no cool pictures of mint on Google images.
It took me much longer to figure that out than I care to admit.


Our friend James at addresses the power of mint (specifically peppermint) as well.  Peppermint is particularly effective in treating irritable bowel syndrome, because it has a antispasmodic effect on the digestive system and facilitates a smoother digestive process.  It also improves the flow of the aforementioned bile.

And that’s everything.  That is more information than you could possibly need about Sassy Water, and that's why science tells us that a couple jugs of the stuff can lead us to nirvana.  While I’ve never drunk it with enough regularity to vouch for its efficacy, I can say this, without reservation:

Sassy Water is delicious. 

That is a tall drink of water, right there.

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