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.

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  • 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 — Jan 2015: Steaz Organic Iced Green Tea

Do you believe in destiny? I’m not talking about “That wizard came from the moon” Destiny; I’m talking about strange coincidences that catch you by surprise and make you smile. This month’s pick happens to be the source of such a surprising coincidence. It’s a product I’ve wanted to talk about for a while, but was waiting for the right opportunity. Little did I know the stars would align when that opportunity came along.

The Energy Drink of the Month for January 2015 is Steaz Blueberry Pomegranate Organic Iced Green Tea.

Steaz Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Iced Tea Energy Drink of the Month
Steaz Organic Blueberry Pomegranate Iced Tea Energy Drink of the Month

Other flavors are available, but I’m always a sucker for the blueberry and pomegranate flavors. Steaz also makes an unsweetened iced tea, but I prefer a little sweetness to cover the bitter tannin tea notes.

NOTE – this product only has about 15 milligrams of caffeine, so it’s a very weak energy drink, Fatigue Level 1 for sure. Steaz also has an energy drink line (100 mg caffeine per 12 oz can), but I’m not a huge fan of their energy drink line and I’ll explain why later.

5 Reasons to Love Steaz Iced Green Tea

ONE- When the Stars Align

Aside from being a potentially great tattoo or necklace charm, the Steaz logo has an intriguing story. See for yourself.

Steaz LogoSince I write the Energy Drink of the Month blogs the weekend before the 13th, I just happened to be watching the NFL Division Playoffs all weekend. That’s when I saw it:

Three quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs are #12!!!
Three quarterbacks in the NFL 2014-15 playoffs are #12!!! From http://www.nobodywinsontheblue.com/2012/12/121212-brady-rodgers-luck.html

Since three of the four quarterbacks playing for a spot in Superbowl XLIX wear number 12, I find the significance of number twelve in the Steaz logo highly amusing. But there are other, more significant reasons to like Steaz.

TWO-Green Tea-based Beverages

Chemically speaking, caffeine is caffeine is caffeine. The molecule itself and the effect this molecule has on the body does not change based on the source of that molecule. However, there are “food matrix effects” that can have their own influence on the body. Think of all those little creatures that attach themselves to sharks and whales. Like the shark, certain molecules don’t just float around all by themselves, they form attachments to other molecules, which can change the behavior of each. This is one reason it’s so hard to prove the health benefits of antioxidants – take them out of a food and it’s rare to see the same physiological effect. Eating concentrated blueberry powder is just not the same as eating whole raw blueberries.

The food matrix effect is why I prefer to get my caffeine from green tea. Of course, coffee provides a plethora of health benefits, but tea is the second healthiest beverage on the planet, second only to water. The health benefits of coffee and tea are beyond the scope of this post, but you can learn more about these health benefits and read the “Coffee Vs. Tea” comparison in the Energy Drink Guide.

THREE-Organic, Natural Ingredients

FACT: Every ingredient put into a food or beverage product must be GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”) or an approved dietary additive. I don’t believe a lot of the fear campaigns about artificial ingredients, but I choose to limit them in my diet. Steaz does not use artificial ingredients, which earns them a point.

FOUR-Body, Mind, and Soul

FairTrade SteazySometimes when I travel for work, my options for caffeine are limited, and I feel compelled to say an apology to my body for what I’m about to put in it. I hate when the only energy drinks available are the super-sugary ones, or when the only freggie smoothies available have more sugar than a half-pint of ice cream.  I feel good when I drink Steaz, not just because of its ingredients, but because of the company’s commitment to its farmers, its CO2 footprint, and to Fair Trade.

FIVE-Flavor and Sugar

Steaz Nutrition Facts and IngredientsI can’t deny my sweet tooth, but I try to limit added sugars wherever and whenever I can. I don’t like to drink my calories unless it’s a protein shake for breakfast en route to the gym. The blueberry pomegranate iced tea product has only 10 grams of sugar per serving, or 20 grams of sugar per can. That’s the perfect range for me, just enough sugar to make it enjoyable to drink, but not so much sugar I feel guilty about it. Plus, I make it a point to never finish a whole can in one sitting.

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The Less-Than-Stellar Side of Steaz

There’s a reason why “marketeers” and food scientists can’t always get along. Marketing will want to say what the consumers want to hear, and scientists often don’t speak the same language as everybody else. Now if we could all just embrace a little more science (and the metric system?), what a wonderful world it would be.

ISSUE A: Steaz energy drinks have 23 grams of sugar per 8 ounces. For a lot of consumers, that’s too much. There is a zero-sugar energy drink, but I have yet to find it anywhere I’ve found the other Steaz teas. When I’m anything more than Fatigue Level 1, the Steaz teas aren’t going to cut it.

ISSUE B: Meaningless marketing claims drive me crazy! “Clean energy”? Just say “sustainably sourced”. As a Quality Assurance professional for a billion-dollar supplement line, I’ve rejected too many green tea leaf powders for heavy metal and food micro issues to swallow the “clean” claim. Sustainability means much more to me, and I can’t be the only consumer who feels this way.

Chemical Free with IL

ISSUE C: Fear-mongering marketing claims also drive me crazy. “Chemical free”? Everything in the Ingredient Line has a chemical bond, and doesn’t Sodium Citrate sound like a chemical to most people? Spreading fear of chemicals is a slippery slope that puts the emphasis on the wrong arguments. A claim like “no artificial ingredients” seems much more meaningful to the average consumer. (related post: Fear and FACTS)

BOTTOM LINE

If finding healthier sources of energy is part of your New Year’s Resolutions, give Steaz a try. Oh, and don’t be afraid of “chemicals” because your entire body is naturally comprised of them.

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REFERENCES AND OTHER RESOURCES 

Healthy Energy Drinks — Is Organic or All-Natural Really Better? By Caffeine Informer

Steaz About Us

Steaz FAQ – including caffeine amounts, store locator, ingredient concerns and more

Caffeine Pop Quiz — YouTube

How to Spot a Bad Product – 5 Signs