Fruit juice and energy drink nutrition comparison

Beware Of The Label

If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.  Case in point:  product labels.

Take Simply Cranberry Cocktail and Kickstart, for instance.  The one on the left presents itself as a fresh, natural juice product while the one on the right appears to be a carbonated chemical concoction about as healthy as a hole in the head.  Both, however, are misleading.

Empy calorie fruit juice with hardly any vitamins.
A closer look at Simply Cranberry Cocktail reveals some surprising information.

Looking at the nutrition facts, Simply Cranberry Cocktail has 190 calories, 49 grams of carbohydrates and 48 grams of sugar (likely making up a lot of the carbs in this product).  The label also mentions the drink isn’t “a significant source of” vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron and it only consists of a paltry 27 percent actual juice for a product claiming to be “All Natural.”

To put this into perspective, let’s take a closer look at the Kickstart label.

Kickstart drink nutrition facts vitamins and low sugar
Surprisingly, the Kickstart label reveals a fair amount of nutrition.

First, Kickstart is only 80 calories, has 21 grams of carbs and just 20 grams of sugar in it–that’s less than half the sugar in Simply  Cranberry Cocktail.  Kickstart also provides 100 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin c, 80 percent of the daily value for niacin (aka vitamin b3), 80 percent of the daily value for vitamin b6, 60 percent of the daily value for pantothenic acid (vitamin b5) and 10 percent of the daily value of phosphorus (a required dietary mineral).  And that’s with only five percent fruit juice–22 percent less than Simply Cranberry Cocktail.

Let’s take a step back before continuing.  It should be noted that Simply Cranberry Cocktail has very low sodium–25 milligrams compared to Kickstart’s 180 milligrams.  It should also be noted that Kickstart contains a PLETHORA of ingredients including caffeine and a ridiculous amount of preservatives (see below). So Kickstart isn’t exactly a healthy choice either but at least you’ll get all the vitamin c you need in one day plus some extra vitamins and only intake half the sugar.  And that’s only with the orange flavor of Kickstart–the other flavors are fairly devoid of vitamins.

However, the question does arise:  If Simply Cranberry Cocktail only contains pure filtered water, cranberry juice, sugar and natural flavors, what happened to all the nutrients and vitamins?  What turned a natural fruit juice drink into an empty-calorie facade?  I haven’t been in contact with the company so I can’t say what the reason is, but I can say this:  Lakewood Juices Organic Cranberry Juice contains 30 percent of the daily value for vitamin c and even 350 milligrams of potassium, an important mineral and electrolyte.  So the vitamins are in those cranberries at some point, just not at the point of consumption.

Kickstart nutrition ingredients preservatives and caffeine
See? “Plethora” was the perfect word for the amount of preservatives in Kickstart.

So what’s the takeaway here?  Always check product labels before assuming something is healthy or unhealthy based on the packaging, branding and product itself.  The side of a Kickstart can clearly states it is a “flavored sparkling juice beverage blend from concentrate with other natural flavors” and the phrase, “energy drink,” never once appears on the can although that is what most people I’ve encountered assume it is.  And being a Mountain Dew/Pepsi product, I don’t blame them.  But we all know what happens when we assume and hopefully after reading this you’ll be less inclined to do so on your next trip to the store.

Keep a critical eye out for the smoke and mirror setup of product promotions–how we spend our dollars dictates what choices are available to us and the extent to which companies respect us through their merchandising.  And as always, stay thirsty for knowledge, my friends.

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