Bai Antioxidant Infusion is one of those “energy drinks in disguise” I love reviewing because it breaks the norm AND withstands a food scientist’s ingredient scrutiny. Bai Antioxidant Infusion (HENCEFORTH ‘B.A.I.’) is an “energy drink in disguise’ with only 35 mg caffeine, and a novel blend of white tea, polyphenols, and coffeefruit extract. Coffeefruit is not an ingredient many people have heard of, but its story of discovery is a shining example to those concerned about food waste. After reviewing the food science of B.A.I.’s most interesting ingredients, we’ll compare the “healthiness” of this product to other tea-based beverages and similar energy drinks.
The Energy Drink of the Month for February 2016 is Bai Antioxidant Infusion®.
Though other flavors are available, “Brasilia Blueberry” is my favorite (shocker to those of you who have noticed the predominance of blueberries in the other Energy Drink of the Month posts).
Nowhere on the label will you find the words “energy drink”, and yet this self-proclaimed “Antioxidant Beverage” is not quite a tea, nor juice. This product exemplifies why I get so upset when people talk about how unhealthy energy drinks are.
This product contains 35 milligrams of caffeine per 8-ounce serving, and with an unusual 18-ounce bottle, there are 78 milligrams of caffeine per container. In other words, this product contains only 2 milligrams less caffeine than a standard (8.4 ounce) can of Red Bull! Ounce-per-ounce, Red Bull is more concentrated, but I compare the content of the whole container because that’s the amount people actually consume. Brian Wansink and the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab have repeatedly shown that the amount of food people consume is more influenced by the size of the container than the size of their appetites.
Before we discuss two of the most interesting ingredients in B.A.I, I give a respectful nod to Bai for explaining the science behind their products in such detail on their site. They are not ashamed of food science, and answer some common questions about antioxidants and other ingredients in a way that is both entertaining and informative.
Coffeefruit extract – a food waste triumph
Coffeefruit, as explained beautifully by BevNet, is “…that part of the coffee plant that, much like other fruit, surrounds, nourishes and protects the coffee bean. While the shape, look and size of the fruit are reminiscent of a cranberry, it has a flavor that is sweet and rather non-descript, perhaps one of the reasons that unlike most other fruit, it is most often discarded in favor of its seed.”
The fruit of the coffee plant has always been considered waste because it spoils so quickly. However, a team from Futureceuticals developed methods for preserving and processing the fruit before it spoiled. Futureceuticals patents cover this method, as well as the production of products from the whole coffee fruit and powders/extracts/concentrates thereof. One gram of the whole coffee fruit (including the coffee bean inside) contains about 5 milligrams of caffeine, plus a variety of plant antioxidants often called “polyphenols”. If you thought green coffee beans were loaded with great plant nutrients, the coffee plant is even better.
Erythritol – it’s better than stevia
Pronounced “irr-ith-rit-all”, erythritol is even better than stevia because erythritol makes stevia better when they’re combined. Some people get a bitter-metallic sensation with stevia extract, but erythritol masks the unfavorable attributes of stevia and other sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame potassium (“Ace-K”), and saccharin.
Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as sucrose and has a very similar taste profile. While it’s non-caloric like aspartame, stevia, and Ace-K, it has a molecular size that gives it more mouthfeel. Think fruit juice versus fruit smoothie: the fruit smoothie has a heavier “mouthfeel”.
It occurs naturally, like monk fruit and stevia, but it’s made through natural fermentation. It’s a sugar-alcohol, like the Xylitol often used in sugar-free gum. With xylitol, however, too much of it can really upset a person’s stomach. With erythritol, a person could consume twice as much – at least 0.66 grams per kilogram of body weight – before they started getting same stomach issues.
Not all energy drinks are created equal, and whether an energy drink is right for you depends not just on your level of fatigue, but on your diet goals and lifestyle choices. For example, some people are more concerned about artificial ingredients than their sugar intake, while others would rather have stevia or artificial sweeteners and a zero-sugar, zero-calorie beverage.
B.A.I. v Similar Energy Drinks
B.A.I. has no artificial colors or preservatives, and each serving bears 5 Calories, 1 gram of sugar. There are 9 grams of carbohydrates per serving, but 8 of those 9 grams are from erythritol. Since erythritol is not metabolized, those 8 grams don’t count. Even if you drank the whole bottle, the sugar and Calorie impact is still minimal, which makes this energy drink a great healthy swap for some of the strictest diets. If we compare B.A.I. to some of the other energy drinks in disguise reviewed on this site, we’ll find it has more polyphenols and caffeine than Starbucks Refreshers (made with green coffee beans), and less sugar than V8 V-fusion + Energy (made with green tea).
B.A.I. v White Tea and White Tea-based beverages
Green tea is the second-healthiest beverage on the planet (second only to water), but there are a few tea-based beverages that abuse this reputation to make them seem healthier than they really are. Now, assuming that white tea is as healthy as green tea (which is not a proven fact), take for example the Blueberry White Tea from Arizona Beverage — a whopping 18 grams of sugar! And Blueberry Pomegranate White Tea from Lipton – no sugar, no calories, but it’s a tea-bag, which means you’ll only be digesting a fraction of the polyphenols because they’re not very soluble in water. Plain green tea is a healthier option than B.A.I., but B.A.I. beats both of these white tea-based beverages.
Bai Antioxidant Infusion is yet another reason why you should never accept the implication that energy drinks are unhealthy. With almost as many milligrams of caffeine per container as a Red Bull, Bai is a phenomenal healthy option acceptable for those concerned about sugar content and artificial ingredients.
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