Is Vitamin Water Good For Me?
September 15, 2008 3:04 AM   Subscribe

Is Vitamin Water actually good for me, or am I fooling myself?

Beyond avoiding High Fructose Corn Syrup and anything partially hydrogenated, I don't really know how to read a nutrition label intelligently. I drink a lot of Glaceau brand Vitamin Water because I don't like drinking plain water, but I wonder if it really has any benefit for me at all.

The ingredients on the label of my "xxx" flavor Vitamin Water are the following, in order:

-vapor distilled, deionized, and/or reverse osmosis water
-cane sugar
-crystalline fructose
-citric acid
-vegetable juice (color)
-ascorbic acid (vitamin c)
-natural flavor
-berry and fruit extracts (acai, bluberry, pomegranate and apple)
-magnesium lactate (electrolyte)
-monopotassium phosphate (electrolyte)
-niacin (B3)
-pantothenic acid (B5)
-pyridoxine hydrochloride (B6)
-cyanocobalamin (B12)

I see some vitamins towards the end there. I know cane sugar is better than HFCS, and I know crystalline fructose is just another type of sugar.

So am I just drinking a fancy version of Crystal Light or Kool-Aid, or is there any benefit to drinking this stuff over plain water?
posted by Locative to Food & Drink (31 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: IANANutritionist, but as far as I can gather, that stuff is just fancy pants Kool-Aid and has about 12 teaspoons (yes, I said 12 teaspoons) of sugar per bottle. Avoid it, and get your vitamins elsewhere.

That stuff is quite tasty & handy as a quick hangover pick me up
posted by goshling at 3:13 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

I've noticed in the UK they show the percentage of daily sugar intake on the bottle, whereas in the USA they don't. This may be a factor to it being perceived as a healthy drink in the states - and it's certainly marketed that way there.

(I don't have the amounts and percentages to hand, I'm sure someone will come up with them).
posted by Augenblick at 3:24 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: It's actually quite a bit worse than regular water because, as mentioned, it has 12g of sugar per bottle.

If you want vitamins + water = take a multivitamin and drink lots of water.

I love Vitamin Water and think that it is highly delicious, but no, it's not "good" for you.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 3:25 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Okay, so I may have been totally wrong about the 12 teaspoons of sugar - it may just be 8 teaspoons.

This site says your Vitamin Water has the same sugar content as a Snickers bar.
and this site also says 8 teaspoons. Maybe American teaspoons are bigger than Australian teaspoons. Regardless, that's a hell of a lot of sugar in one drink.
posted by goshling at 3:35 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Looking at this, it's actually 32g per bottle (note the 2.5 servings per bottle bit: you have to multiply 13g * 2.5 to get the actual amount).

Yeah, it's a lot.
posted by alexei at 3:37 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: *sigh*
This site says your Vitamin Water has the same sugar content as a Snickers bar.

Since I'm here again, have this link too.
posted by goshling at 3:42 AM on September 15, 2008

if you want flavor and lower calories, try crystal light. it's actually not bad. definitely not natural, but it tastes pretty good.

alternatively, you could try iced herbal teas sweetened with honey or sugar. or artificial sweetner, if calories are an issue.
posted by thinkingwoman at 4:22 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: What you need is a nice cup of tea.
posted by seanyboy at 4:32 AM on September 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I actually tend to look at the nutrition information per serving before I look at the ingredients. If you look at that, you find out that Vitamin Water actually has TWO servings per bottle -- by their reckoning, that is, because who the hell actually only drinks half the bottle -- but they do also give the nutrition breakdown for the whole bottle as well. And that's where you find out that they do give a decent percentage of the vitamins you need in the day, but also rather a lot of calories as well. Frankly, I'd like to get my calories from food instead.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:37 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: The Center for Science in the Public Interest puts out a newsletter called "Nutrition Action," and they had an article about enhanced waters in June.

They weren't impressed.
posted by amarynth at 4:39 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It is Kool-Aid, with one third a cheap mult-vitamin dissolved. It's a good alternative to a soda if you MUST have something sweet, or works well for hangovers, but apart from that.. It's Kool-Aid with table sugar.. the only benefit being it doesn't have High Fructose Corn Syrup..
posted by mediocre at 4:40 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Seconding tea. Generally beware of these engineered 'medicinal foods' that claim to provide added nutritional benefit through vitamin supplements etc.

As Michael Pollan says, beware of foods your grandparents wouldn't recognize. Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.
posted by mattholomew at 5:16 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: I'm a nutrition student (4th year) and I work in clinical nutrition, so I have some...opinions.

My general line on these things is, if you're eating you probably aren't getting much benefit from the vitamins in your drink. If you are concerned about not getting enough, then a multivitamin/mineral might be a better choice. The vitamin water might provide a placebo effect (and don't knock the placebo effect! If it works for you, whatever.) You don't give amounts (and I am frankly too lazy to look them up, hah) per serving, so who knows how much of an impact they even have on your overall vitamin intake.

I'm a bit wary of labelling sugar as *bad bad bad* right off the bat -- I mean, if you enjoy it and you're not abusing it or something, drinking like 12 bottles of sweetened drinks a day, teeth rotting out of your head, and snorting crushed M&Ms up your nose, then I really don't think there's a big deal with the sugar. (If you have medical problems metabolizing sugars, that's a different ball of wax.)

And, I'm not like An Authority on the HFCS conspiracy theories, but really? Fructose-6-phosphate is like the second chemical intermediate of glycolysis (that is, the metabolism of glucose.) What I'm trying to say here is: when your body metabolizes glucose, it turns it into fructose as one of the steps. From what I understood in biochem, fructose feeds directly into this step of glycolysis and gets metabolized the same way as glucose, in the end. So, unless fructose has some devastating effects on the body before it gets metabolized, I really have a hard time believing all the scare stories. (I have heard some noise about it not triggering satiety in the same way as other sugars, but I'm not sure if the evidence is really hard on that.)

ANYWAY. Back to the topic at hand: the vitamin water is likely not much more than marketing. If you like it, and if you don't feel it's having some bad effect on your health (mental or physical) -- then it's a treat you enjoy, and you are allowed to have treats you enjoy. You are a big, grown-up person who gets to choose what to eat and drink, even if the reason is not anything more than you just like it. Yay. But as far as comprising a significant portion of your vitamin intake or having some super-beneficial effects on your health -- I seriously doubt it. But I also seriously doubt it's harmful in normal amounts.

One interesting thing about these vitamin waters: as far as I can tell, they seem to truck mainly in water-soluble vitamins -- which means they are covering their butts against toxicity. The vitamins they use, the Bs, C, etc. will get peed out if you drink too much. If you find a vitamin water with, like, retinol in it, I'd be interested to see if they include a warning on the label.
posted by peggynature at 5:23 AM on September 15, 2008 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Don't let the name fool you. VitaminWater is a brand and not a product. It is no more water than a soda.
posted by phil at 6:37 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Vitamin water, gatorade, et al are good if you need a little sugar to keep from crashing during a workout, playing sports etc, but are mostly useless otherwise.
posted by electroboy at 6:41 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Took me a minute to find a bottle but if you read the fine print you are actually drinking a "nutrient enhanced water beverage". Not to be nit picky but VitaminWater is one word as it is a brand, not a type of water.
posted by phil at 6:48 AM on September 15, 2008

I hate the stickiness of HFCS-sweetened drinks, so if I want to splurge and have something besides water, I sometimes reach for the VitaminWater.

Also totally vouching for it as Hangover-Aide.
posted by desuetude at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: I like how people are deriding the drink for having 32 grams of sugar, but advocating its use as a hangover cure. If you are hung over so often that you have a favorite cure, don't you think that's worse for your health than a soda's worth of sugar?
posted by jrockway at 6:55 AM on September 15, 2008 [4 favorites]

I know you're more concerned about nutrition, but this is why I don't drink VitaminWater anymore (besides all the sugar).
posted by polexa at 7:53 AM on September 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

As Michael Pollan says, beware of foods your grandparents wouldn't recognize. Eat food, mostly plants, and not too much.

My grandfather loved KFC and supermarket brand neopolitan ice cream. Just saying.

To me, vitamin water seems not much different from orange juice: slightly better than soda because it has at least some nutritional value, even if its small. If you're drinking it in moderation, though, why worry? Listen to what peggynature is saying, because it sounds danged smart.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:54 AM on September 15, 2008

There was talk of crystalline fructose re-crystallizing in the liver and causing scarring some time back. That could have been a total scare monger, unfounded accusation, but it was enough to get me to go back to regular water.

It's better than Coke, but you're not really doing yourself any favors.
posted by GilloD at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Look at it this way, 24-32 Grams of sugar is alot of sugar for one bottle. This stuff is not water but flat pepsi. Grant it, it has vitamins in it but if you really want health benefits out of a drink, make green tea, or drink plain water. There are a lot of other better sources for vitamins than this stuff. However, I have a friend that swears by the stuff. He drinks beer, smokes, never works out, rarely either eats anything green, and actually thinks that the meataterian diet is really really funny and cool idea. Before discovering vitamin water he drank that red and orange mt dew garbage. I encourage him to drink vitamin water... so I guess if you have a bad diet to begin with drink vitamin water because it is more than likely your only source for vitamins. On the tails side, however, if you exercise, eat your veggies, and generally take care of yourself then stick with water or a tea. You are more than likely already getting enough vitamins from your diet and don't really need the sugar.

My two cents... take it for what it's worth.
posted by Mastercheddaar at 8:05 AM on September 15, 2008

The main benefit of these drinks are the little bit of salt they have that helps replenish that which is lost when you sweat. If you just drink water you can sweat out too much salt and not have enough to store more water (salt is used by your body to store moisture), which makes you more miserable (and sweat more).

However, unless your exercising/sweating a lot for a really long time you really don't need a drink with these salts (also called electrolytes) because they are (probably) already in your diet. There are exceptions though, like when I am hitchhiking during the summer and am out in the sun constantly. I don't eat very much due to decreased appetite due to the heat, but I drink a lot of water, so I do have a powerade about once a day to keep myself in check.

Here's a little more info.
posted by symbollocks at 9:17 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: Its 100+ calories you dont need. Just drink water.

Vitamin Water is Coke's attempt to compete with Gatorade. I recently had an opportunity to speak to an ex-Gatorade exec and he told me that there's no reason non-linebackers should be drinking this stuff. Unless youre burning 500+ calories in strenuous workouts and honestly are depleting you body then you dont need this stuff either.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:24 AM on September 15, 2008

Speaking of electrolytes...
posted by dbiedny at 9:29 AM on September 15, 2008

(At least your UK version has cane sugar. Italian Gatorade has sugar, too. I love it.)

Like you, I hate drinking water after I run.

There are too many calories in Vitamin Water (and Gatorade). When I am in the states, I with the lower calorie Gatorade (G2) or Propel. The lemon is good.
posted by Zambrano at 10:01 AM on September 15, 2008

I drink Vitamin water as a substitute for Coke.

8 teaspoons of sugar in a bottle of Vitamin water may be a lot, but thats 1/2 the amount of sugar in a same sized bottle of Coke (16.25 tsp).

I would say the Vitamins are there for marketing more than for health benefits.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:42 AM on September 15, 2008

FWIW, teas can have quite a bit of caffeine, and green tea can cause low blood pressure. Be careful of drinking it in large amounts.
posted by wongcorgi at 11:44 AM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: For the vitamins-does the label give % recommended daily intake? I doubt they have substantial amounts. Vitamin waters don't meet daily intake recommendations, experts say. If you want some flavor with your water, you might like Emergen-C packets. They do have some sugar (about 5g), but loads of Vitamin C (1,000mg), minerals and B-vitamins. And, special blends like for joints, bones, immunity.
posted by hazel at 8:24 PM on September 15, 2008

Best answer: That's a scary amount of sugar!

I take multivitamins and squirt a bit of lemon or lime juice into my drinking water. I recommend it heartily.
posted by rhinny at 11:30 PM on September 16, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice, everyone. If anything, I'm more turned off knowing about the racist phone message than anything else. I think I'm done with the VitaminWater!
posted by Locative at 12:35 PM on October 16, 2008

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