Following your passion requires vision, commitment, persistence, and long hours. October challenges your vision and commitment because it brings shorter days, midterms, the distractions of a looming Holiday Season, and the time crunch to meet End of the Year company objectives. This month, we review an energy drink-in-disguise designed to “complement your work hard/play hard lifestyle” with green coffee beans, monk fruit, erythritol, and coconut water. Read more
The year I started college, Monster and Rockstar were just hitting US markets. Welcome to September 2017, where Red Bull is older than the people entering college this fall. Whether you’re a student, a parent of school-age kids, or an adult savoring the last days of summer, September can bring changes that drain your energy. It’s a great time to consider a new energy drink, but one that won’t blow your summer body, one that keeps you hydrated and refreshed through the summer heat, and one that isn’t too strong. After all, you want to save those strong energy drinks for finals week and Black Friday shopping. Read more
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.
- 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:
- 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)
- You are avoiding artificial sweeteners – This drink is sweetened with Stevia and Organic erythritol (we’ll review this below)
- 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
- 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
WHAT’S IN IT
- 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.
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 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.
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!
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.
- Explore the CAFFEINE INFORMER database
- Need help with quitting caffeine? I HIGHLY recommend this guide: Awake: How to Quit from Caffeine for Good
- Want MORE GreenEyedGuide?
- Get your copy of “Are You a Monster or a Rock Star: A Guide to Energy Drinks — How They Work, Why They Work, How to Use Them Safely”
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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