Let’s face it, most of us like to reward ourselves with a treat once in a while. This may be a homemade chocolate chip cookie, a piece of pie, a few potato chips, soda, or maybe a handful of french fries. I don’t have a problem with the occasional (key word being occasional) treat of something that really brings a smile to my face. The trick however, is in understanding what goes in the treat pile and what belongs in the “good for me” pile.
Unfortunately, companies work very diligently to blur the line between what is and isn’t healthy and they try to convince us that their product belongs in the “good for me” pile. VITAMINWATER® is a classic example of this line blurring. The company claims it is healthy. They would like us to think it should be part of our daily routine to improve health because it contains vitamins. The facts show otherwise. Let’s undress this colourful product to see what it looks like naked.
Below I have compared VITAMINWATER®, Coca-cola, and Water.
VITAMINWATER® claims that we should drink their product every day to help ensure we get our daily vitamins. Here is what they say on their website about one of their products:
“In today’s multi-tasking world, it’s not easy getting all of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs. That’s why we created this product. VITAMINWATER® 10 multi-v is packed with vitamins a to zinc … and it’s naturally sweetened … and it’s great tasting. We like to think of it as the jack-of-all nutrients. And the best part is that it’s only 10 calories per serving…”
As I read this, the two things that jumped out at me as marketing mumbo-jumbo were “naturally sweetened” and “jack-of-all nutrients”. I decided to look further into what the company had to say about these claims. Here is what I found:
COMPANY CLAIM about being the “jack-of-all nutrients”: “It’s also packed with the vitamins and nutrients you need throughout the day. It is specially formulated with 11 essential vitamins and minerals, from vitamin a to zinc, to provide the body with nutrients needed to remain healthy and active.”
UNDRESSING THE CLAIM:
There is a lot of debate about how many vitamins we need to consume and whether or not we get enough from the food we eat. I won’t open up this can of worms today, but assuming we do need to take daily vitamins, let’s look at how many you really get in a bottle of VITAMINWATER®. For this comparison I used the VITAMINWATER® sold in Canada because it lists actual amounts instead of the percentages found on the USA bottles. Here is what I found when I compared some of the vitamins in VITAMINWATER® (which aren’t many) to the amounts offered in the daily serving of a high quality supplement.
To put things in perspective. If you wanted to get the same amount of B6 that is offered in the daily amount of the Douglas Laboratories supplement, you would need to drink 200 bottles of VITAMINWATER® per day. This would equate to 6,500 grams of sugar!!! I think I’ll stick to the supplements.
COMPANY CLAIM about their main “natural sweetener”, crystalline fructose: “Crystalline fructose is a pure, natural sweetener. It is the same as the sugar that’s found in many fruits, vegetables and honey, only in a crystallized form.”
UNDRESSING THE CLAIM:
In the USA, VITAMINWATER® is sweetened with crystalline fructose (as mentioned in the claim above). Although they make it sound healthy in their claim, the truth is that it is actually an “unnatural” and highly processed product made from fructose-enriched corn syrup, not fruit. In Canada, VITAMINWATER® is sweetened with cane sugar. Both are considered sugar and consuming too much of either overloads our system and our body turns the excess into fat. Yes folks, this eventually leads to weight gain, but more importantly it can also put you at risk for a number of serious diseases.
Here’s a quick sugar overview showing a key difference between crystalline fructose (used in the USA product) and cane sugar (used in Canada). It’s a bit ‘sciency’ but try to bear with me. Cane sugar contains 50% fructose and 50% glucose (same as the sugar found in your baking cupboard). Crystalline fructose on the other hand contains almost 100% fructose. Now I know I am throwing a lot of percentages at you and you are probably wondering what this all means? Well, glucose and fructose are processed differently by the body. Glucose goes into the blood stream, insulin jumps in to lend a helping hand and the glucose is turned into energy for the body. Fructose on the other hand can only be processed by the liver and requires the body to work much harder before turning it into energy. Although having too much of either glucose or fructose leads to the body creating fat, studies show that consuming too much fructose is harder on our systems than consuming excess glucose. This is one of the main reasons crystalline fructose is considered worse for us than traditional sugar.
With the above being said, it is important to note that this information does not mean fructose should be blacklisted. After all, many fruits and vegetables contain fructose and we know that we need both to live a healthy lifestyle. The trick is quantity, quantity, quantity. Consuming too much of either glucose and especially fructose, is hard on our system and leads to poor health. Drinking VITAMINWATER® too often will result in the consumption of too much sugar (aka fructose and/or glucose).
In conclusion, VITAMINWATER® should be placed in the treat category along with soda, cookies and french fries. It is a sugar filled drink with very small quantities of very few vitamins. It should not be part of a daily routine to boost health because in fact, it does just the opposite.
The good news is that water is cheap and VITAMINWATER® is expensive. Not only will drinking water be healthier for us, it will also put money back in our pocket. Cheers to being healthy and saving money!
Note: This post idea came from one of The Naked Label Members. Thanks for the great topic suggestion!