Thursday, July 17, 2008

What to drink, take 2

How much sugar, what kind of sugar, fuck it, it's too confusing.

Let's get started then, it was brought to my attention that a very popular drink block is vitamin water/tea drinks.  First, to clear up some sugar mysteries:  

1 teaspoon sugar = about 4 grams.

So if you are drinking a 6 oz. cup of tea with milk (about 2 oz.) and 1 teaspoon of sugar, you are getting 4 grams of refined sugar and 3 grams of milk sugar.  7 grams total.   Add another teaspoon of sugar and you are looking at 8 grams + 3 grams for the milk.   Bear in mind however, that the milk sugars are not nearly as troublesome as refined sugars.  If you eat raw cane sugar, or use honey or agave nectar and the like, you are far better off.

Now, lets compare that to some popular beverages:

Snapple Iced Tea, lemon.   25 grams sugar, all of it High Fructose Corn Syrup.  The green tea is little better, with 24 grams of sugar.  (Only six cups of tea in one!)

Vitamin Water Multi-V.  13 grams.  Crystalline fructose and cane sugar.  (3 cups of tea here)

I really like Inko's White Teas, the maximum sugar content of their teas is 7 grams, crystalline fructose.  But I actually drink their sugar free drinks now more often then the others. (almost 2 cups of tea, or one cup a heaping teaspoon)

I also like the Honest Tea brand, most of their teas have 5 grams of sugar.  Their Mango tea has 10.5 grams per 8 oz serving, the highest sugar content of their drinks.  

Coca Cola is only a bit worse then Snapple, with 28.5 grams per 8 oz serving.  (almost 7 cups of tea!)

What about the Vitamins?

The beverage companies have been throwing vitamins and minerals back in their drinks for a while now.  Smart Water, Vitamin Water, etc, whenever you see "electrolytes", "anti-oxidents" etc, this is code for, "we put some good stuff back in the drink".  

Vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, what are they all?  Well, we know vitamins pretty well.  We put Vitamin D in milk (though the most important source of Vitamin D is sunlight!), we love our OJ for its vitamin C.  These things we know about.  But what of the others?

Electrolytes - Ions that are important to homeostatic balance.  Sodium is an electrolyte, so are potassium and magnesium.  All of which can be found in a good mineral-rich water source.  My favorite water, Gerolsteiner is mineral rich, containing, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and calcium. 

However, if you look at the ingredients for Multi-V Vitamin Water you find that the water has been de-ionized.  Why would we de-ionize our water?  The answer is likely that the source water is not as high in quality as the Gerolsteiner source.  Perhaps containing too much flouride, or trace amounts of arsenic or anti-depressants.  So the companies purify the water (a very popular practice here in America) then add vitamins and minerals back in.  This does not occur much with american seltzer brands, as adding sodium back in to the water is anathema, due to the mythology that sodium causes hypertension.  

This is the same hoodwink that "enriched flour" embodies.  Food producers strip flour of all its nutrients (white flour) largely because it looked pure and lovely,  (this was primarily a european affectation, white sugar has the same reasoning at its origin), then we find that this is not a great idea, so we put nutrients back in.  Of course we could just use wholemeal flour and none of these shenanigans would be necessary.

Antioxidants - The key to anti-oxidants is what they seem to inhibit, which is oxidation.  Oxidation in the body is primarily important because it hardens (actually closer to the rust process) very low density lipo-proteins (VLDL or triglycerides) as they get themselves stuck to artery walls.  This is a primary patho-mechanism of atherosclerosis.  Oxidation can also produce large numbers of free-radicals,  or Oxygen ions which damage cells and generally wreak havoc on the internal milieu.  
Most Vitamins are antioxidants, as are polyphenols (found in red-wine, from the skin of the grapes), Co-enzyme Q10, Lutein (found in dark green veggies), and Lignan (found in flax, oat, barley and rye).

Hope this helps.

Be Well.

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