Thirsty? Think Again: The World of Unhealthy Beverages
In the aftermath of the health-awareness frenzy of recent years, companies have attempted to adapt to the demands of nutrition-seeking Americans by providing “healthier” beverage options. Many advertise drinks enriched with vitamins, minerals, and natural fruit flavors, but almost every product you buy on the market these days is designed to deceive. The upper limit for added sugar consumption – sugar that does not naturally occur in the product – supposedly falls somewhere around 40 grams per day. With on-campus dining, students are presented with a wide variety of drinks to choose from. Coca-Cola remains the product powerhouse here at The Ohio State University, thus many shelves are lined with Vitamin Water, Fuze, and Minute Maid, all of which are not as healthy as they may seem. The two non-Coke products under critique may also surprise you.
For comparative purposes, here are some of the nutritional facts for 20-oz bottle of Coke:
Sodium: 75mg (3%)
Vitamin Water (owned by the Coca-Cola Company)
Last year, I decided to completely forgo soda in an attempt to cut down my sugar consumption and selected Vitamin Water as a seemingly healthy alternative; after all, what could possibly be unhealthy about a drink that contains the words “vitamin” and “water?” The answer is surprising. After “reverse osmosis water,” the two main ingredients are crystalline fructose and cane sugar, meaning that Vitamin Water is essentially sugar water.
In addition, the “vitamin” supplements are actually synthetic chemicals that are not synonymous with the natural nutrients our bodies know and love. Vitamin Water primarily contains Vitamin C and various B vitamins, which, according to alternative physician Joseph Mercola, are “water-soluble and not stored in your body; once you go beyond what you need, you urinate it out.”
During a class-action lawsuit in 2010, the Coca-Cola Company themselves affirmed the dubious health benefits of their product, infamously stating that “…no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.” Needless to say, I no longer drink Vitamin Water; or at least, when I do, I don’t fool myself into believing I made a good life decision.
Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin B3, Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, Vitamin B5
Main ingredients (other than water): crystalline fructose, cane sugar, citric acid, fruit and vegetable juice
Fuze (owned by The Coca-Cola Company)
In terms of both calories and sugar, Fuze is comparable to a 20-ounce bottle of soda. While the main ingredients include skim milk and several vitamins, the frontrunners are always sugar and crystalline fructose. Even though the Fuze Peach Mango label boasts that it is a “naturally flavored beverage with other natural flavors,” the drink itself is only composed of 5% juice. In the end, Fuze is just another sugary, low-nutrient drink being passed off as fruit juice.
The Coca-Cola Company also promotes Fuze Slenderize, a subset of the Fuze beverage line, as ideal for weight loss. In addition to containing 200% Vitamin C, Fuze Slenderize is very low in calories and sugar. However, Fuze Slenderize shares one detrimental quality with its Vitamin Water and classic Fuze counterparts: artificial sweeteners. If losing weight is your intention, artificial sweeteners will only create more obstacles in your diet plan. Drinking overly sweet beverages causes your taste buds to forget the joy of naturally sweet foods, thus you will be less inclined to eat fruits because they no longer satisfy your flavor cravings.
Fuze Peach Mango (16.9 fl oz bottle) – 5% juice
Sodium: 50mg (2%)
Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin E, Vitamin C, Niacin
Main Ingredients (other than water): sugar, crystalline fructose, skim milk
Minute Maid Juice (owned by The Coca-Cola Company)
The Minute Maid apple juice and orange juice products are perhaps the healthiest options among the wide flavor selection the company offers. Their fruit punch, strawberry passion, cranberry apple raspberry, and cranberry grape flavors, on the other hand, sadly do not fall under the category of “nutritious.”
Most brands of fruit juice are guilty of containing incredible amounts of sugar, often ranging from 40g to 70g per serving. Many doctors disapprove of juice consumption because of this high sugar content, pointing out that the juicing process removes the natural nutrients of fruits and concentrates the sugars. However, the general consensus seems to be that fruit juice can be highly nutritious, but only if you carefully read nutritional labels. While time consuming, squeezing your own juice from fresh fruits and vegetables is always the healthier alternative.
Minute Maid Cranberry Apple Raspberry (15.2 fl oz bottle) – 25% juice blend
Sodium: 40mg (2%)
Vitamins: 100% Vitamin C
Main Ingredients (other than water): sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, sugar), juices from concentrate
V8 (owned by the Campbell Soup Company)
The sodium content in one eight-ounce can of V8 vegetable juice is enough to induce hypertension. Although Campbell now provides lower sodium options for their V8 drinks, the ingredients still include reconstituted vegetable juices, meaning that much of the fiber from the vegetables may have been removed during the manufacturing process. Some types of V8 have also been pasteurized, leading to the destruction of some of the natural vitamins and minerals. The fruit juice version of the brand, V8 Splash Berry Blend, has also been heavily criticized for containing large amounts of high fructose corn syrup.
Sodium: 420mg (18%)
Vitamins: Vitamin A, Vitamin C
Main Ingredients: reconstituted vegetable juice blend (water and concentrated juices), contains less than 2% of salt
Milk (owned by cows)
According to Doctor Anthony Komaroff of Harvard Medical School, drinking frequent servings of milk can cause dangerously high blood calcium levels and can potentially increase the risk for certain diseases, such as Type 1 diabetes and ovarian cancer. Some studies even claim that milk can cause higher rates of calcium loss. The excess fat and calories in milk can also lead to heavy weight gain. All of these disadvantages may portray milk as a poisonous substance, but milk is one of the healthiest beverages when consumed in moderation.
Lactose intolerance and irritable bowel syndrome are some of the other problems commonly associated with milk consumption, but just because some individuals have trouble digesting milk does not mean that it is unhealthy. Milk is not only a great source of protein, but it is also high in calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. Milk is a natural product for the most part, which is more than can be said for the other drinks on this list.
Countless articles will conclude with the same message time and time again: water is the only truly healthy beverage. But let’s be realistic here: water does not please the taste buds. Personally, I hate water because I do not enjoy running to the bathroom every twenty minutes, and a bland beverage genuinely lessens the pleasure of eating; I would rather play blood calcium level roulette. When in doubt, choose the lesser of two evils.
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