With the growing popularity behind the health food movement, there has been an explosion in products promising the best health. New drinks, elixirs, and shots stock the shelves, each with their own pitch – some focus on the health of the planet, others on the health of the people, and often both. While taking care of our bodies is essential, many of these products don’t follow through with their promises. In fact, some of these products can actually be bad for you (and the planet).
Let’s take a look at some commons claims and beliefs behind these types of products and see what they really hold for us.
What exactly makes these “healthy” alternatives?
This claim is particularly difficult to digest – a healthy alternative to what?
A healthy alternative will always be relative to the person, so it’s unclear what drinks these beat out in the field of health – surely they’re better than soda, alcohol, and motor oil (we hope)! Truth is, though, regardless of the lack of clarification, many of these drinks are not “healthy” alternatives at all. Relative to each other, they may be healthier, but by an large, drinking water and eating healthy fruits and veggies will the best choice for the hydration, vitamins, and minerals you need.
So what makes these drinks unhealthy? Here are some ingredients you might find in your drink:
- Sugar: Unfortunately, many of the health drinks you find on the shelves are actually most rich in something you don’t need. Sugar. And tons of it. Sugar is considered to be the source of several common American afflictions when it is consumed in excess, including diabetes and obesity. It’s not uncommon to find teas, juices, and extracts that are rich in sugar. Vitamin Water, perhaps the biggest facade of all, has varieties with as much as 33 grams of sugar and 130 calories. Essentially, it’s the same as a can of coke.
- Aspartame: This one is a mixed bag, due to the mixed signals regarding it’s safety. Professor David Schlundt, PhD., does a nice job of explaining the controversies and common findings regarding the sweetener. According to Sweet Deception: Why Splenda, Nutrasweet, and the FDA may be hazardous to your health, by 1988, 80 percent of complaints to the FDA about food additives were related to the sweetener aspartame. To others though, this serves as a safe alternative.
- Artificial Food Coloring: Even today, there remains to be arguments regarding the safety of artificial food colors. Among the concerns is the carcinogenic of the chemicals used, as well as the promotion of hyperactivity and allergies.
- Vitamins, Amino Acids, Proteins, etc: These are, of course, good things for the body. The caveat here is that ‘added nutrients’ of these health drinks that contain tons of sugar, artificial food colorings, and/or worse, don’t really do much for the body. Unlike the nutrients you might get from fresh fruit, these nutrients are often synthetic.
So what about “Natural” Flavors
The main thing to keep in mind with this claim is that the word “natural” is not regulated. So, while that apple flavor may be a flavor that exists in nature, it could have been created in a laboratory under the control people wearing lab coats. The main concerns here are related to allergies and long-term health. The “natural” flavors, which really should be called artificial (at least most of the time), contain a hundred different chemical compounds. Whether these are good or not is hotly debated, but our guess is that the real thing can’t be beat.
Unveiling the Guise
So what to do? Avoid the lot of ‘em. Or at least check out the ingredients first.While many of these drinks have something to offer, there may be half a dozen other things you really don’t want (and neither does your body). The best bet is to drink the juice you squeeze off the tree you planted. That’s an ideal, but there are plenty of other in-betweens.
So remember, even if it claims to be a health drink, be cautious. You’re probably better off drinking down some water and eating a piece of fruit and a few veggies.