Energy Drink of the Month – December 2016: Core Organic

How do you describe a beverage that is a hybrid of juice, water, and tea? This month we’ll review a beverage that aims to give you the health benefits of tea, the hydration of water, and the flavor of fruit juice. While the caffeine content is negligible, there is tea in it, and Fatigue Level 1 is dehydration! We’ll review WHO IT’S FOR (per diet/lifestyle and ingredient preferences), WHAT’S IN IT (key ingredients), and WHEN TO CONSUME IT (per caffeine content and the 5 Levels of Fatigue).

*Spoiler Alert* I’ve got three minor Food Scientist pet peeves with this beverage, and I would love to hear your thoughts on these observations.

The Energy Drink (alternative) of the Month is Core Organic Pomegranate Blue Acai.

Other flavors available include Peach Mango, Watermelon Lemonade, Orange Clementine, Coconut Colada, and Orchard Pear. If you’re familiar with my Energy Drink of the Month series, you know I almost always pick the pomegranate blueberry flavors.

WHO IT’S FOR

This Core Organic “fruit infused beverage” is certified Organic, non-GMO, gluten-free, low glycemic, and Vegan.

20161213_232927

  • PET PEEVE #1: Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye.
    • Why would any of those be in a fruit-infused beverage? Does anyone else feel like Core Organic is trying to win consumers by tapping into that fad?

This beverage could appeal to you if:

  1. You are limiting your sugar intake and your “liquid calories” – This drink has less than 1 gram of sugar per serving and only 5 Calories per serving (10 Calories per bottle)
  2. You are avoiding artificial sweeteners – This drink is sweetened with Stevia and Organic erythritol (we’ll review this below)
  3. You are avoiding artificial colors and/or flavors – The color comes from Organic vegetable juice and fruit juice, and the flavor comes from a combination of natural flavors
  4. You are not really a tea drinker but still want the benefits of drinking tea – This drink has 75 milligrams of polyphenol antioxidants, which is “the antioxidants of half a cup of blueberries or cherries” according to the press release in BevNET

core-organic-pomegranate-blue-acai-ingredients

WHAT’S IN IT

Fruit Juice

  • PET PEEVE #2: This is a “fruit infused” beverage but the fruit juice doesn’t play a very big role. 

There’s only 4% juice per serving. The FDA does consider coconut water a juice, but since it’s behind erythritol in the ingredient’s list, we know there’s more erythritol than coconut water in this drink.

The Organic lemon juice is behind the Stevia extract, which is very telling! Since Stevia is something you can’t use in large amounts, there can’t be more than one lemon’s worth of lemon juice in here. Since the lemon juice comes before citric acid, it seems both the lemon juice and the citric acid are in this drink to control acidity. If you want to keep mold out of your fruit juices, you have to either control the acidity or use preservatives.

The last two fruit juices are the last two ingredients in the list, meaning they’re the smallest portions of the recipe. There’s fruit juice used for color, and Maqui berry juice powder used to deliver antioxidants.

5-in-1 weight loss supplement combo IS effective, but thanks to WHICH combo?

White Tea, Maqui Berry, and Polyphenol Antioxidants

The good news is consumption of polyphenol antioxidants is associated with improved cardiovascular health and reduced risk of cancer. Consumption of green and white tea is associated with lower risk of cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. The bad news is white tea is such a small portion of this recipe, and Maqui berry is literally the last/most sparse ingredient!

Maqui berry is a “Chilean blackberry”, according to a paper in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. It might have a lot of antioxidants in nature but one paper suggests the juice making process results in a “substantial loss” of the polyphenol antioxidants in Maqui. If you can figure out how to minimize these losses, there are some encouraging (but still uncertain) health benefits. A group of antioxidants called “anthocyanins” extracted from Maqui berry improved fasting blood sugar levels in (wait for it) obese diabetic mice.

“Animal research can be useful, and can predict effects also seen in humans. However, observed effects can also differ, so subsequent human trials are required before a particular effect can be said to be seen in humans. Tests on isolated cells can also produce different results to those in the body.” – see the Compound Interest infographic on Scientific Evidence

Erythritol

Erythritol is one of my favorite sweeteners, and we’ve talked about it before in other reviews. 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. Erythritol is 60-70% as sweet as sucrose and has a very similar taste. It does not raise blood glucose levels and it delivers a cooling effect. While it’s non-caloric like Stevia, it has a molecular size that gives it more mouthfeel. Think fruit juice versus fruit smoothie: the fruit smoothie has a heavier “mouthfeel”.

Erythritol occurs naturally, like monk fruit and Stevia. 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. Additionally, erythritol has been proven through clinical studies to reduce plaque build-up.

Core Organic beverage nutrition facts ingredients caffeine content
Caffeine content is “about the same as a cup of decaf coffee”, so does that mean 45mg? There is no standard for this!

WHEN TO CONSUME

  • PET PEEVE #3: There is no such thing as a standard cup of coffee or cup of tea.
    • It’s not clear how much caffeine is in this product, but we should assume the content is negligible. The white tea is the only source of caffeine, and white tea is not a very prominent ingredient.

Core Organic is not promoting itself as a drink that would give you energy, but since it includes white tea extract, I wish they could include some caffeine information on the label.

Dehydration is Fatigue Level 1, so picking a beverage with negligible caffeine content is a great way to ensure you don’t reach for the caffeine too soon. If you always reach for the same caffeinated beverage, and if caffeine is always your first solution when you’re tired, there will come a day when the caffeine no longer works for you. This is precisely why I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue!

Bottom Line

This water/juice/tea hybrid is not marketed as an energy drink, but it’s a good solution (pun intended) for beating the fatigue that comes with dehydration. While you will not get the full benefits of drinking plain tea, you still get the benefits of the 75 milligrams of polyphenol antioxidants per serving.

Core Organic main site

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ENERGY DRINK OF THE MONTH YEAR IN REVIEW (YEAR 1 AND YEAR 2…year 3 coming soon…)

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Energy Drink of the Month – February 2016: Bai Antioxidant Infusion

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.

Read more

Energy Drink of the Month – Jan 2016: Cran-Energy

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.

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Click here to open and download the Cran-Energy vs Energy Drink DATASHEET

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.

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Click here to open and download the Cran-Energy vs Cranberry 100percent Juice DATASHEET

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.

BOTTOM LINE

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.

~GreenEyedGuide

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Energy Drink of the Month – December 2015: Mate Bros

What if you had the power to forge connections? I’m not talking “mad networking skillz” or a love potion. I’m talking about that feeling you get when the person you’re talking to gets you, like ‘YES, we are on the same page’ and seeing eye-to-eye. This month’s pick offers “connective energy”, which seems appropriate for the holiday season.

The Energy Drink of the Month for December 2015 is Mate Bros Yerba Mate.

Mate Bros Yerba Mate
[ Mate Bros Yerba Mate
This is the Energy Drink of the Month because of the expression “connective energy” on the label. I don’t know what that is, or what it means, but it’s a nice concept for the Christmas spirit. It’s another “energy-drink-in-disguise” because it could also pass for tea due to the label claim “Natural Energy Brew” and the fact that it’s yerba mate.
[Where to find it – click here]

Inspecting the Ingredients

20151213_100642This product has only six ingredients. SIX! That should certainly win some people over. These six ingredients are water, sugar, lemon juice from concentrate, yerba mate leaf extract, reb A (stevia), and natural flavor.

  1. Water – Note this is a non-carbonated product, which is more akin to tea than the stereotypical energy drink. This also knocks it down a rung in the 5 Levels of Fatigue system.
  2. Sugar – Only 6 grams, and just plain sugar, not any of its acronyms.
  3. Lemon Juice from Concentrate – This is the source of the 10% vitamin C and the 8% juice on the facts panel. In this case, lemon juice is not just for flavor, it’s a natural preservative. The acidity of the lemon juice makes it hard for bacteria and mold to grow. Note the absence of any other preservative in the ingredients list. [For food science of other preservatives, see the KNOW-No List Part IV]

    Caffeine Informer Mate Tea
    CaffeineInformer.com
  4. Yerba Mate Leaf Extract – It’s a good thing this is a leaf extract. Leaf extracts tend to have less microbial and heavy metal contents than their leaf powder counterparts.
    The Yerba Mate provides 99 mg caffeine per serving (per can) according to the label. This is in line with the content of Mate Tea, according to Caffeine Informer’s massive databaseTo learn more about Yerba Mate and why traditional consumption is linked with throat cancer, check out the Energy Drink Guide:
    Yerba Mate from the Energy Drink Guide by Danielle Robertson
  5. Reb A (Stevia) – Stevia is a natural sweetener, and Reb A is the actual molecule extracted from the leaf of the Stevia plant that delivers the sweetness. Stevia can be tricky for product developers because it’s critical to find a good source. Not all Stevia tastes the same, and a poor quality source may leave some people with Stevia’s characteristic bitter-metallic aftertaste.
    To many people, including yours truly, Stevia is preferable to alternative sweeteners like Acesulfame Potassium (“Ace-K”) or Sucralose. Not that there’s anything wrong with those sweeteners, as we’ve reviewed the food science behind them in the Panera Project KNOW-No List. If you’re trying to limit exposure to artificial ingredients, this drink will help you do that.
  6. Natural Flavor – Since there is no indication on the label what flavor this product is supposed to be, I have no idea what this natural flavor is…maybe lemon?
    When BevNet reviewed this product, they gave it 3 out of 5 stars and expressed disappointment that there was only one (ambiguous) flavor variety available.

BOTTOM LINE and Final Thoughts

With the amount of caffeine in this product and the very simple ingredient list, this is a very nice substitute for a weaker energy drink. Note, Red Bull has 80 mg caffeine per 8 oz can, and this product has 99 mg. What a nice healthy swap, right?

I like the Mate Bros logo with the hand-holding and the resemblance to the recycling logo, superimposed over a leaf that looks like a Celtic knot trinity symbol. It plays perfectly with the notion of “Connective Energy”. So my advice to this brand is run with THAT.

This is NOT a performance drink so, in my opinion, they should get rid of any performance-enhancing implications. Change the Beachbody-esque tagline (which is “Decide. Commit. Succeed.”) to just say CONNECT, and change,  “Healthy and great tasting energy tea to fuel performance connection.” I LOVE the notion of empowering connection, and I feel like this drink should be the official sponsor of SDI Training:

Related Links:

Mate Bros main site: http://matebros.com/

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Energy Drink of the Month — June 2015: Spider Energy Mimic

I’m a sucker for puns, platitudes, alliterations and bold, symmetrical logos. This month’s pick has it all. Moreover, summer is the best time to try new things, whether it’s exploring a new city or sampling new food. This month’s pick is a drink I wouldn’t normally choose, for reasons I’ll explain later, but I just HAD to try it, for reasons I’ll explain later.

The Energy Drink of the Month for June 2015 is Spider Energy Mimic.

It’s just hitting stores now, June 2015, and a sugar-free version will be released later this year. (Check out this bold label – I can’t wait! I love the graphics!) No, this drink is not called Mimic because it is trying to mimic another energy drink that starts with letter M. If anything, the taste is closer to original Red Bull than original Rockstar or original Monster, but Spider Mimic is more tangy-fruity than either of those.

First, why I just HAD to try this drink:

Green and black is my ultimate favor color combo, and this spider logo brings up some very strong memories of a very important day for me (See box for tangent).

GREEN-EYED INSIGHT on SPIDER ENERGY MIMIC

What’s In It and Why?

This energy drink has no artificial colors or flavors, no high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. It is sweetened with sucrose and glucose only, which accounts for its unique tart sweetness. If you are less concerned with overall sugar intake and more concerned about HFCS, and artificial colors/flavors/sweeteners, Spider Energy is more favorable than many other similar energy drinks. (No judgments – we all have different diet goals and needs)

Spider Energy Mimic Fact Panel
Spider Energy Mimic Fact Panel

The B-vitamin complex is represented, but thankfully Spider does not go crazy with the amounts. Yes, B-vitamins are water-soluble but more isn’t always better (I’ve discussed the consequences of too much niacin or vitamin B6 elsewhere).

From a quality assurance/food safety perspective, I’m glad Spider Energy Mimic uses extracts (Panax Ginseng Extract, Guarana Seed Extract, Green Tea Extract). In general, extracts contain more of the active and less of the background (inherent microbial growth and heavy metal content).

I also love that this label opted to include a chart of the actives. That’s a great way to empower your consumers, letting them know exactly what actives are in your product, at what amounts. Speaking of empowering consumers, the details about what all these actives do is captured in the Energy Drink Guide; to avoid repeating myself or minimizing the years of work that went into said guide, I’ll just encourage you to check this guide out. It is the ultimate resource to all things energy drink and caffeine safety.

Who and What is This For?

This whole can provides 55 grams of sugar, which is too much for many people (including myself). There’s an easy way around this, as demonstrated in this video.

This whole can provides 240 milligrams of caffeine so, with the sugar content and carbonation, by the 5 Levels of Fatigue system, this product is a Level 4: a serious boost that’s best reserved for energy emergencies than for everyday consumption. If you’re working two jobs, if you’re pulling all-nighters to move out of your apartment by the deadline, or it’s your turn to stay up all night scouring the city and fighting crime, this drink is appropriate. If you consume this drink multiple times a week you may be getting your body too used to large amounts of caffeine.

NOTE – According to the European Food Safety Authority, a single dose of 200mg caffeine, with a daily maximum dose of up to 400mg caffeine is considered safe. But I personally recommend that caffeine consumers try to get by on as little caffeine as possible, so that when you REALLY need it, the caffeine will be able to do its job. This is what the 5 Levels of Fatigue is all about – finding the drink with the attributes that match how tired you are, preventing over-consumption and dependence.

Meet Your Friendly Neighborhood Spider Energy

Founded in 2009 under The Masters of Beverages, Spider Energy strives to be better than the “Big 3”. With a specific call-out to each on their main page, the main mission of Spider was captured perfectly in the following announcement from BevNet:

http://www.bevnet.com/news/2009/10-19-2009-spider_energy
http://www.bevnet.com/news/2009/10-19-2009-spider_energy

 Bottom Line

Spider Energy Mimic is not for everyone. Energy drinks, in general, are not for everyone, but even this particular energy drink is not for all energy drink consumers. It has a cleaner ingredient line than many of its competitors, so if the sugar is too much for you (and my nifty little trick in the video above doesn’t appeal to you), I HIGHLY recommend seeking the Sugar-Free Mimic, coming soon.

REFERENCES AND RELATED LINKS

Spider Energy Home

From: http://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-content/spider-energy-drink
From: http://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-content/spider-energy-drink

Caffeine Informer on Spider Energy (click the image)

The Energy Drink Guide — your one-stop reference for the common energy drink ingredients: what they are, where they come from, what they (are supposed to) do, and how much is too much