Is Your Healthy Drink Really Healthy?
From social media to TV commercials and grocery store shelves to café menus, you’ll spot a variety of ‘healthy’ drink options. These are often advertised as being suitable for health-conscious individuals living a fitness-oriented lifestyle. You may have a couple of favourites as well, but is your drink really healthy? Despite the claims they make, some supplement drinks can contain dubious ingredients that are unnecessary, if not harmful.
What Makes a Drink Unhealthy?
At its core, the primary function of any drink is to provide some level of hydration. By this definition, the healthiest beverage is water, followed by unsweetened tea or coffee. After that, all other drinks contain additive ingredients and extra calories, no matter how healthy they claim to be. These ingredients can have different functions, like giving the drink a certain flavour or color or preserving its shelf life. Healthier drink options have a shorter shelf life, and are usually found in the refrigerated section.
Here are some of the ingredients in seemingly healthy drinks that you should be careful of.
While your favourite healthy beverage may not contain the word ‘sugar’ on the label, it doesn’t mean that they don’t contain some sweetener or the other. Artificial sweeteners are popular for being zero-calorie options, but some of them can be harmful as well.
⦁ Erythritol: You’ll often spot this in drinks that say ‘flavoured + other natural flavours’ on the label. While it can be naturally produced as well, it causes certain side effects, such as diarrhoea and digestive issues.
⦁ Crystalline Fructose: This is mostly pure fructose, and consuming it can lead to high blood sugar responses.
Some artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin, aspartame, and neotame are common ingredients in low-carb drinks. While they don’t increase blood sugar levels, they can have negative effects when used excessively. While they do help with a controlled weight loss eating plan in the short term, they could have potential health risks in the long term, such as cardiovascular disease.
A common ingredient in sports waters, artificial dyes like red and blue can be linked to behavioural concerns and psychological issues. Besides providing little nutritional value, artificial dyes can have potentially negative effects on health. In some cases, they can trigger an inflammatory response, which disrupts immune system functions.
Additionally, common food dyes like Red 40 and Yellow 5 and 6 are laden with carcinogens like benzidine, 4-aminoazobenzene, and 4-aminobiphenyl. These substances can increase the risk of cancers, and while regulatory authorities ensure that they’re in safe levels, it’s best to avoid them. Various animal studies indicate that some synthetic dyes lead to the development of certain tumours.
In children, synthetic dyes are linked to hypersensitivity and similar behavioural concerns. This is just the tip of the iceberg, because dyes are linked to a negative impact on vital organs such as the liver, intestinal permeability, and poor nerve cell development.
If you’ve spotted the label of your favourite beverage say ‘Enriched with Vitamin C,’ it almost always contains ascorbic acid, which is synthetically made. Moreover, ascorbic acid is actually an isolate – a distillate of natural vitamin C. Besides ascorbic acid, natural vitamin C contains various other components, which enhance its benefits and bioavailability.
Vegetable Oils or Fats
In supplement drinks that are marketed to help with weight loss, fats are added to enhance their richness, giving them a richer texture that makes you feel full. These come from processed sources loaded with trans fats, which are more harmful than saturated fats.
Even if you’re on a high-fat diet, this is bad news because trans fats aren’t helpful for ketosis. Often, the label may say that the supplement is keto-friendly due to the lack of caloric sweeteners and carbohydrates. However, trans fats are the worst source of fat while on a keto diet.
Skim Milk Powder
Low-quality protein powders may often contain skim milk powder as a bulking agent. They may even be on the ingredient label for weight loss shakes. Make sure to steer clear of these, especially if you’re on a high-fat diet, since milk solids are high in lactose sugar. Even if you’re not on the keto diet, you could risk experiencing gastrointestinal issues like constipation, loose stools, and flatulence.
Whey Protein Concentrate blends (WPC)
Also known as casein or caseinate, this substance is often found in protein powder blends as a source of protein. However, they can be high in lactose sugar, which can lead to side effects like bloating and flatulence. And if you’re on a high fat diet, high doses of lactose sugar can potentially knock you out of ketosis. If you’re lactose intolerant, a better option is to find a whey protein product containing hydrolysate or whey isolate.
These are usually added to increase bulk and help the manufacturer save on costs. They can add fillers like psyllium fibre or coconut flour, which can lead to gastrointestinal problems. These act as a source of extra carbohydrates as well, which can lead to weight gain.
Here are some of the most common drinks that are perceived as healthy, but aren’t really so.
The visual of having a glass of fruit juices gives off a clean-eating, health-conscious aesthetic, which explains why so many people consider it healthy. However, fruit juice is often loaded with concentrated sugar and calories that can contribute to weight gain, and a string of other problems like high blood pressure and diabetes.
While advertisements may show an image of a lean model sipping on an electrolyte drink during their workout, the ingredients in most sports drinks can be counterproductive. In fact, such drinks can often end up containing as much sugar as a carbonated beverage, which ultimately leads to weight gain.
If you’re not careful about which protein powder you buy, you could be purchasing an overpriced supplement that bulks up a glass of milk until it contains 1200 calories. Even if they don’t contain added sugar, other ingredients like whey protein concentrate and milk solids can end up increasing blood sugar levels. This is not to say there are not good supplements but understand your labels.
While an occasional energy drink isn’t particularly dangerous, having many at one time can increase blood pressure and heart rate.
Regardless of your diet, it’s best to have a minimalist approach towards the food supplements you buy: the fewer ingredients, the better. Also, make sure to learn about the different names of ingredients so you can spot when manufacturers have added potentially harmful ingredients to a food product. And if you’re on a high-fat diet, you’ll have to look beyond the ‘keto-friendly’ label and look at the ingredients yourself.