If your New Year’s Resolution is to consume fewer energy drinks, you may be looking for some healthy swaps. How healthy is fruit juice, really? Obviously, it’s not as healthy as whole fruit, but usually healthier than soda. This energy drink (alternative) of the month is a healthy alternative to the stereotypical energy drink, but it is also an example of how “healthy” and “good for you” is a matter of context and perspective.
The Energy Drink of the Month is Cran-Energy Cranberry Energy Juice Drink.
On their own page, Ocean Spray’s clever distinction, “energy JUICE drink” highlights the ambiguity of how to classify this product. Since this product walks the line between the JUICE category and the ENERGY DRINK category, we’ll compare how healthy this product is relative to other products in each category.
Is it Juice or an Energy Drink? Product Category Confusion
If it was your job to tally the annual sales of different types of beverages, would you put this in the “energy drink” category or the “juice” category? In their article “Juice Gone Wild”, the Center for Science in the Public Interest has effectively put this in the juice category. However, on their own site, Ocean Spray compares this product to “other energy drinks”. Furthermore, BevNet’s product assessment definitively puts this drink in the energy drink category as this product was specifically designed to give people energy.
Cran-Energy versus the stereotypical ENERGY DRINK
Since Red Bull is the number one selling brand in the ENERGY DRINK product category, we’ll compare Cran-Energy to Red Bull.
Against a stereotypical energy drink, Cran-Energy IS a healthy swap. The 2015-2016 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) recommends sodium intake not exceed 2300 mg per day. With such a low limit, the lower sodium of Cran-Energy is a healthier option than Red Bull.
Furthermore, the 2015-2016 DGA recommendation is to limit intake of added sugars (like those in the Red Bull) to less than 10% of total calories per day [Source – FoodInsight.org]. It’s also important to note that since the sugars in the Cran-Energy come from grape and cranberry juice, they’re not TECHNICALLY “added sugars” because they’re natural in grape juice. (Though grape juice isn’t naturally added to cranberry juice, is it? Hello, loophole!)
But what about the Sucralose in Cran-Energy? The 2015-2016 DGA agrees with leading global authorities including the European Food Safety Authority that sweeteners like sucralose are safe to consume, though the DGA does note that “replacing added sugars with high-intensity sweeteners may reduce calorie intake in the short-term, yet, questions remain about their effectiveness as a long-term weight management strategy.” [Source – FoodInsight.org].
Cran-Energy versus Cranberry JUICE
To the rushed shopper, Cran-Energy might pass as fancy cranberry juice. Comparing Ocean Spray’s Cran-Energy to Ocean Spray’s Cranberry 100% Juice, Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap.
While the Cran-Energy offers a cluster of B-vitamins, it also contains artificial colors and sweeteners that aren’t in the Cranberry 100% juice. Furthermore, consider the juice content itself! Looking at the front of the label, you might think Ocean Spray Cranberry 100% juice is 100% cranberry juice when in fact other fruits like grape, apple, and pear are also used to make this 100% juice. (When you can’t add plain sugar, grape juice is a very sweet natural source) Cran-Energy is only 23% juice and is mostly filtered water. If you wanted to reap the benefits of cranberry juice, Cran-Energy is not going to help you.
It’s short-sighted to call anything (even 100% juice) healthy because a term like this deserves context. With proper context, we can see that Cran-Energy IS NOT a healthy swap for 100% juice (let alone whole fruit), but it IS a healthy swap for the stereotypical energy drink.
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