For the majority of us who live in the U.S. shopping for food and beverages by and large consists are pre-processed, excluding of course fresh fruits and vegetables. This means, and you can verify, that most of what we purchase off the shelf contains many unhealthy additives.
food and beverage industry
is profit driven
And there is a never-ending barrage of products claiming added health benefits; higher fiber, more protein, less this more that. The important thing to realize is the food and beverage industry is profit driven. So everything comes with an added cost, either for our wallets or our health, but usually both.
So as consumers we must educate ourselves. Just because there is, for instance, added calcium or vitamin C does not mean the overall product is a healthy choice.
Let’s focus our attention on beverages that claim to be a healthy alternative to soda. It is widely acknowledged that carbonated sodas, like but not limited to colas, contain very large amounts of sugar. In fact, as much as double the daily amount recommended by the American Heart Association. For women that number is six teaspoons, for men, nine.
A simple search reveals that carbonated beverages contain on average twice that recommended number per liter, the size commonly sold. A liter is 4.23 cups, or a little over a quart. A die-hard soda junky can easily do a couple of those a day. In a 12oz can of soda there are over 9 tsps. of added sugar.
But let’s consider options other than typical soda that are touted as healthy alternatives.
Healthy Alternatives with Possible Health Risks
We’ll start with readily available and advertised as healthy alternatives: Energy drinks, vitamin water, juices, and teas.
What about vitamin water?
That sounds like a product with a chance of being uncontroversial and healthy. And of course everyone knows that fruit juice contains a great deal of healthy goodness like anti-oxidants and vitamins.
Could any of these immensely popular products contain no more than the recommended 6-9 teaspoons of sugar daily?
The following is based on the manufacturer’s product size. On average the products serving size is based on 8 oz.
Rock Star –15.5 tsps. per 16 oz. can.
Red Bull – 6.75 tsps. per 8.3 oz. can.
Vitamin Water, Jackfruit and Guava Flavor –8.12 tsps. per 20 oz. bottle.
Arizona Lemon Ice Tea –18 tsps. per 24 oz. bottle.
Snapple Lemon Iced Tea –11.5 tsps. per 16 oz. bottle.
Sobe Mango Mellon –17.5 tsps. per 20 oz. bottle.
Minute Maid Lemonade -16.75 tsps. per 20 oz. bottle.
Minute Maid Orange Juice-12 tsps. per 16 oz. bottle.
CapriSun Pacific Cooler-4.5 tsps. per 6.75 oz.
The least amount of added sugar is per 8 oz. serving is vitamin water.
Most of these products, with the exception of Red Bull and Capri Sun, contain two servings per bottle or can.
The problem for consumers who are concerned about added sugar; it is not so easy to drink just ½ of a bottle of, say, Sobe or Arizona tea. And ½ of an energy drink that comes in a 16 oz. can? I know people who don’t stop at one or two. The real winner here is the CapriSun pouch which contains less than a cup of liquid and only 50% of the daily recommended allowance. But you have to ask; who drinks just one CapriSun?
The truth is all of these other so-called “healthy” options mentioned above contain almost the same amount of sugar or more than a can of soda. So, finding a healthier option than drinking soda boils down to what we get for almost for free from our faucet: H2O.
The problem some have with common tap water is it does not always taste or smell good. If buying or having bottled water delivered is not an option, consider adding a little lemon or orange wedge. Buying a water filter could also be an option. Either way, if we are looking for an inexpensive, and healthy, alternative to store bought drinks water is it.
Possible Healthy Alternatives
I say possible because if you drink more than 8 oz. of these juices, you’re raising the amount of sugar and lowering the benefits.
Acerola Juice – 2.75 tsp.
Unsweetened Apple juice – 6 tsp.
Orange Juice – 5.25 tsp.
Tomato juice – 2.25 tsp.
In the above examples, no brand is mentioned. So, you’ll want to pay special attention to the manufacturers label to determine the amount of sugar per 8 oz.
Remember, 6 teaspoons is 24 grams. So, if the bottle or can contains 24 grams per serving, you know that each serving contains your entire day of recommended allowance for sugar intake (9 tsps. or 45 grams for men.). Wouldn’t it be nice to be either metric or standard?
If it is juice we are craving, using a home juicer offers the best health benefits. The sugars from natural fruits and vegetables are far better digested and do not affect the pancreas in the same way corn sugar or other forms of processed sugars do.
Let’s Recap the Scary Facts
#1. Removing soda from you diet only hurts the “profit-driven” beverage industry. You will feel much better overall. However, will replacing soda with bottled energy, vitamin or juice drinks and even teas be a healthier option?
Although many of the products are marketed as healthy alternatives to soda, most contain comparable amounts of added sugar.
#2. Bottled juices, teas, and even some water contain processed sugar. Home juicing includes natural sugars which are far easier for our bodies to process. Brewed or iced tea that we make allows us complete control over the amount and even the type of sugar added.
If good old water is our thing we can do a lot to make it a little more exciting by adding, not alcohol, but fruit wedges.
Conclusion – buyer beware!
While eliminating soda is a good step towards reducing unwanted sugar in our diet, we must remember that the alternatives are not always as advertised. In fact, many of the so-called healthy alternatives to soda are brought to us by the very makers of soda.
If we like to be informed it should come as no surprise that the food industry is not looking out for our health, but rather their bottom line. We may not be able to completely eliminate all the processed sugar in our diet, but we can be proactive in how much we take in daily.
If our daily amount of sugar should not be more than 6 teaspoons doesn’t it make sense that our bodies will fair better if that sugar comes from the natural sugars we get from eating an apple, orange, banana, or some other fruit?
Water, coffee, and tea without sugar added are much better alternatives for our bodies and they are truly much easier on our budgets as well.