Say no to the sweet stuff when quenching your thirst

Ayran is an all-natural drink made with Greek yogurt, salt, dried mint and water. Photo courtesy Claudia Hanna Ayran is an all-natural drink made with Greek yogurt, salt, dried mint and water. Photo courtesy Claudia Hanna

We’ve all heard it before: We need to replace all those lost electrolytes with…a sugar-infused “sports” drink (whatever that means)? But there is a healthier alternative to that sugar-laden drink that those in the West consider critical in replacing all those lost electrolytes.

Before we begin, though, let’s break down the story of electrolytes. According to WebMD, electrolytes are minerals in your body that regulate blood pressure, the body’s water content and our nerve and muscle function. We lose electrolytes through normal, daily activities. However, when we perspire, we lose electrolytes at a faster speed. Now, here’s the fun part: which minerals in our blood system makeup these oh-so-important electrolytes? Sodium, potassium, calcium and bicarbonate.

Notice that sugar is missing from that list. So, can someone please explain to me why we give our kids a whopping 56 grams (or 20 percent of the RDA) in a 32-ounce bottle of Gatorade? (Sucrose syrup and glucose-fructose syrup are two of the three first ingredients.) May I suggest an alternative thirst-quencher, with organic, healthy roots that is easy to make and involves only a handful of ingredients?

For my family, summertime in the Mediterranean means long, hot summer days at the beach or pool, cooling off with a tall glass of homemade ariani (Greek) or ayran (Turkish).

What is ariani/ayran? 

I learned about ariani while living in Cyprus. When the heat soars, the younger generation of moms reach for juice boxes and ice cream to hand to their kids. However, the older generation pulls out the yogurt and the blender. They know how to quench their thirst naturally and organically using an age-old method.

Ariani is a refreshing summer drink made from diluted Greek yogurt, salt and dried (or fresh) mint. It originated in Turkey and is served all over the country. From five-star hotels to fast-food restaurants and everything in between, ayran is a national drink in Turkey. During the Ottoman Empire, the drink was introduced to other lands, and is now widely consumed in Greece, Lebanon, Iran and beyond.

Slightly salty rather than sweet, it may take some getting used to. But it’s worth it. Here’s a comparison of Gatorade versus ayran:

Nutritional/mineral content Gatorade (8 ounces) Ariani/Ayran (8 ounces)
Calories 50 42
Sugar 14 grams 3.2 grams
Sodium 110 mg 191 mg
Potassium 30 mg 141 mg
Calcium 106 mg
Protein 10 grams

Notice any differences? Aside from calories and sugar content, Gatorade falls far below Ayran’s nutritional/mineral content. Please note: This is only for an 8-ounce bottle/glass of both Gatorade and Ayran. Most Gatorade bottles come in 20-plus ounces, so please do the math.

There’s no comparison: Ayran is a natural, healthier alternative to Gatorade—it’s also super simple to make.

Recipe: Make your own Ayran


  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • Dried mint, if desired

Add ingredients in a blender and mix together for a couple of seconds. Serve over ice.

Kefir versus ayran/ariani

Some often confuse the recently “discovered” super-drink kefir with ayran. However, they are not the same. Ayran is made from Greek yogurt that has been diluted with water, add a touch of salt (to taste) and blend. It is generally served chilled or over ice. Kefir, on the other hand, is made from kefir “grains” (a yeast/bacteria starter) that resemble tiny cauliflower. Kefir is made from milk rather than yogurt. Personally, I find ariani easier to drink than kefir. In the West, many people add sugar or fruit syrups to the kefir. Otherwise, kefir may be considered a bit too sour, bitter and strong. Ayran, alternatively, has a diluted yogurt taste. If you like yogurt, you will probably likely like the taste of ayran.


Claudia Hanna earned a bachelor of arts in economics and foreign affairs from the University of Virginia and an MBA in corporate finance from Emory University. She was a management consultant for years before trading power suits for flip-flops and beach sarongs for a simpler, healthier life in Cyprus. She now writes her own blog, Live Like a, and is working on her book, Live Like a Goddess: Discover Your Inner Aphrodite.