“Health Drinks” Not So Healthy

A little label reading goes a long way in educating people about good choices for their health and for the environment.  Obviously, bottled drinks are wasteful, plastic pollutes water and soil and contains harmful chemicals.  But what about the ingredients inside the plastic bottle?  Bottled water or bottled tea can’t be that bad for you, can it?

Head into any grocery store, convenience store, or health food store and you’ll see “Health Drinks” selling by the gallon. Pick your poison, from Gatorade to Glaceau Mineral Water, you can rehydrate and “make yourself healthier.” Do these “health drinks” live up to their promises? Are they really a “healthy alternative?”

Soft drink companies know consumers have clued in to how “bad” soda is, so they’ve produced lines of new drink options ranging from vitamin waters to green tea to “juice drinks” to sport and energy drinks. Whether we’re talking Arizona Iced Tea or Red Bull, very few can be considered healthy for a person’s body.  In reality, the same old sugar and water and sodium have been given fancy labels that claim to “scientifically rehydrate and restore electrolytes” and “give a day’s supply of vitamins and minerals” and “restore muscle health.”

Let’s take a look at the aforementioned Glaceau Mineral Water. At 130 calories and 33 grams of sugar, this drink is on par with drinking a Coca-Cola. “Fat free” doesn’t really make a drink healthy for you either — cotton candy is fat free and contains the same amounts of sugar as many “health drinks” marketed with promises of providing your body with vitamins. A close look at the labels on these soda substitutes reveal that most bottles contain 2-2.5 servings per bottle, so you have to calculate the “nutritious value” accordingly. And while “energy drinks” will definitely get your heart pumping — with a combination of sugar and caffeine (as much as you’d find in an 8 oz. cup of coffee) — you’d be just as well off to get your heart pumping with adequate rest and exercise. Most of the “iced tea” beverages for sale by the bottle contain more sugar than tea, giving you few of the benefits of drinking real tea. Likewise, “juice drinks” usually contain only 10% real fruit juice, and a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup. Red Bull, Monster and Full Throttle differ only slightly from soda pop when you read their nutrition labels. Consider:

  • Full Throttle Blue Demon Energy Drink–16 oz. contains 110 calories, 29 carbohydrates and 80 mg of sodium.
  • SoBe No Fear Gold 130 calories, 35 carbohydrates and 115 mg sodium.
  • SoBe Orange Carrot Elixer 100 calories, 23 carbohydrates and 10 mg sodium.
  • Gatorade G Berry (16 oz.) 90 calories, 22 carbohydrates and 160 mg. sodium.
  • Nature’s Nitro2Go 20 calories, 5 carbohydrates and 180 mg sodium.
  • Lipton Brisk Green Tea 130 calories, 34 carbohydrates and 100 mg sodium.
  • Mountain Dew 110 calories, 31 carbohydrates and 40 mg sodium.

Whether you’re slurping soda, “green tea” or Gatorade, you’re not altering your calorie, carbohydrate or sodium intake. As you can see from this random survey of nutrition information gleaned from labels, they’re equally laden with unnecessary things. Sodium, sugar and empty calories are bad for your teeth, blood circulation, and maintaining a healthy weight.   The best option? Plain old water. It’s cheap and healthy for you. If you need a change of pace, Enviro Girl suggests the following less expensive and much healthier drinks to quench your thirst:

  • Water with a twist of lemon, lime or orange slice.
  • Seltzer with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
  • Home-brewed ice tea with sweetener you’ve added to taste.

That said, you can feel just as virtuous drinking a Cherry Coke as you would anything else offered at your local 7-Eleven! Or be like Enviro-Girl’s family — when they have to quench their thirst, they get a glass of ice water — the Real Health Drink of Champions.