Thursday, May 01, 2008


May 1

I got a blurb from a publicist today about a new soda.

“It's an organic, healthy, energy drink made with Açaí and other Rainforest fruits and botanicals — absolutely nothing artificial! [This drink, whose name I have deleted out of the goodness of my heart] tastes and makes you feel great, and it’s perfect for all those energy drink lovers out there that are looking for something that actually tastes good and is good for you.”

Healthy? Good for me?
So I asked for the nutritional information.

Here are its ingredients: Carbonated water, organic evaporated cane juice, organic clarified açaí juice, organic acerola juice (water, organic acerola concentrate), natural flavors, citirc acid, organic guarana extract, yerba mate extract, green tea extract, and fruit and vegetable juice for color.

Its first ingredient is carbonated water, it’s second is sugar. I know it says it’s organic evaporated cane juice, but chemically that’s the same thing as sugar.

Here are the ingredients of a popular cola: carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, natural flavors, caffeine.

The cola (per 12 ounces): 140 calories, 39 grams of sugar.
The “healthy organic energy drink”: 120 calories, 30 grams of sugar (or possibly 28.5 grams — a serving size is listed as 8 fluid ounces, which has 19 grams, but did they round up or down?).
So it’s a little better for you than soda. But does that make it healthy? It's still sweetened water, and don’t let the “organic evaporated cane juice” line fool you. Fructose does break down a teeny, tiny bit faster than sucrose, which is the sugar in sugar cane, so it might have a slightly different effect on your metabolism if you happen to be diabetic (although probably not enough for even a diabetic to notice) but nutritionists have pointed out to me that the difference between the monosaccharide fructose and the disaccharide sucrose is precisely one molecular bond, and chances are pretty good that, after being in liquid suspension (a can of soda, for example) that bond is likely broken anyway.

But what really burns me up is the gall, the unmitigated gall, of a soda company pretending that its product is good for you, and obfuscating the details of what’s actually in its product. “Organic evaporated cane juice” is accurate, but what kind of cane do you suppose it is, rattan? Bamboo? Of course not, it’s sugar cane. Why not just call it that?

The new product also has 750 percent of the U.S. recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C, which is useless. Excess Vitamin C is merely flushed out of our system, thrown away, a waste of our precious rainforest resources.

I also got a press release about a premium ice cream from down under being launched in the United States. Everything in it is “natural,” a word that doesn’t mean what most people think it does. In fact, it doesn’t really mean anything concrete — just “of or pertaining to nature,” and what, exactly, is nature?
Still, it’s a good marketing buzz-word and I’d let it go. But then there’s this line in the release: “Customers are able to enjoy a healthy, premium ice cream without having to compromise on the exceptional taste and texture that are as natural and clean as the pristine land they come from.”

Healthy? Really?

Ice cream by definition is made from cream, which is loaded with saturated fat, and sugar. Is it evil to eat ice cream? Of course not. Do I recommend that people eat it? Sure, if they like it. Is it good for you? Perhaps in a spiritual sense — it makes you feel good, it makes you happy. But healthy? It's full of artery-clogging saturated fat and the tooth-rotting, empty energy of sugar. Eat it, enjoy it, but don’t believe for a second that it’s healthful.


Anonymous said...

Ah yes but it is a serving of dairy. I still prefer frozen custard it is way better than ice cream.

Jim Doak

Bret Thorn said...

Well, I would hope you prefer custard, Jim, being Culver’s executive chef. Even if you didn’t, you’re certainly smart enough to say that you do.

Nice to hear from you.