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Wednesday Wonders: Vitamin Water

December 30, 2009

Q: Dear Nutritioulicious,

I know that I don’t drink enough water, so I’ve been trying to drink more. In addition to plain water, I’ve been drinking bottles of vitaminwater10, which is sweetened with Truvia instead of sugar. Are these as hydrating as regular water? And what do you think of the added vitamins — are they beneficial? — Molly

A: Dear Molly,

I think it’s great that you’re starting to drink more water — it is, after all, one of the 6 essential nutrients that your body needs to survive! Plain tap water or bottled water without minerals added are your best sources of water. Some bottled waters add minerals, such as calcium and sodium, so read the labels and be careful not to choose the ones with added sodium.

As for those vitamin waters, well, let’s just say I’m not a fan. Let’s take a closer look at the vitamin water to see why:

  • Calories: Yes, vitaminwater10 does contain fewer calories than other vitamin waters, but it still contains 10 calories per 8 ounce serving, and when a whole bottle has 2.5 servings (20 ounces) that means you’re getting 25 calories from water — that’s 25 calories more than you would get if you drank plain water.
  • Sugar: While vitaminwater10 has less sugar than the original vitaminwater (3 g vs. 13 g per 8-ounce serving), it is certainly not sugar-free like plain water is. Most people take in a lot more sugar from other sources, but getting extra sugar from water just seems, well, unnatural.
  • Ingredients: In plain water the only ingredient you will find is pure, simple H2O — water. The ingredient list of vitaminwater10 is way too long to reprint here (sign #1 that something’s not right), but if we take a look at the first 10 ingredients in the vitaminwater10 low cal xxx (açai-blueberry-pomegranate) flavor this is what you’ll see:
    • Reverse Osmosis Water, Crystalline Fructose, Erythritol, Natural Flavor, Citric Acid, Vegetable Juice (Color), Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Berry And Fruit Extracts (Acai, Blueberry, Pomegranate And Apple), Magnesium Lactate (Electrolyte), Rebiana (Stevia Extract)

    Do you recognize these ingredients? Some of them I have never heard of, but I can tell you that “crystalline fructose” is a form of sugar and “erythritol” is a sugar alcohol — not so natural.

    The antioxidants in the water come from the “berry and fruit extracts” — not really a great source when you can get more antioxidant benefits from eating the fruit itself.

    Rebiana, the stevia extract, is a natural sweetener that finally got FDA approval and is fine as long as you can tolerate the bitter taste.

    The minimal benefit of the added vitamins from the water are not worth the calories when you can get plenty of vitamins from food itself.

    And as for all those electrolytes, unless you’re an athlete or are running marathons, chances are you don’t need to replace them.

The bottom line: As I always say, get your nutrients from food first. If you need some help getting more water in, try adding your own fruit to tap water. For example, add sliced orange, lemon, or lime for a citrus twist, or add cucumber for a cool, refreshing change of pace. Don’t rely on vitamin waters to get your nutrients — you’ll get plenty from a well-balanced diet alone.

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  1. Hello Jessica, I agree with your bottom line comment about getting your nutrients from foods first. The problem is our farming soils are ~ 85% depleted of minerals which are essential for the body to use the vitamins it does take in.
    I have been taking a liquid whole food supplement called Body Balance for over 5 years now with some remarkable health responses. You can read more about Body Balance on my blog at http://www.johnslfi.wordpress.com and you can always email for more info at healthy_lifestyle@roadrunner.com

    Thank you Jessica,
    Be Well and Happy New Year,

    John

  2. It was mentioned that it was sweetened with Truvia, which is probably where the erythritol came from, as Truvia is 99.1% erythritol, a sugar extracted from corn. Cargill admits that 30% of their corn genetically modified organisms ( GMOs). Also, Rebiana is not the Rebaudioside A that is naturally in the stevia leaf. Rebiana is a chemical derivitive of stevia. Truly, Truvia is mostly sugar.

  3. I am an organic farmer in Pennsylvania (total disclosure here, Jessica is one of my CSA customers) and although some soils in the U.S. are depleted of some nutrients, John’s blanket statement that “85% of our farm soils are depleted of nutrients” is not quite accurate. Not all minerals in soils contain nutrient elements and soils vary widely in thier nutrient content.

    A recent study of 1.8 million soil samples from the University of Illinois, reported 46% tested below in phosphorous content and 44% tested medium or below in potassium. The northern Great Plains had the highest frequency of medium or below in phosphorous levels (in the 60-80% range) while a few states scattered around the U.S fell in the 20% range. The summary also showed that significant numbers of soils have pH levels too low for optimum crop production. The “challenged soils” still provide nutrition, they just produce lower yields.

    However, the main chemicals in soil (as far as plants and their ability to produce nutritional fruits and vegetables) including nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium, calcium, magnesium & sulpur, vary widely from region to region and can even vary from field to field on the same farm, but we are in no danger yet of not supplying the right nutrients to the American consumer.

    Furthermore (and this is the good news) many American farmers are increasing their crop yields through better farming practices (organic, no till planting, less dependence on artificial fertilizers, etc.) and it is still better to ingest most of your important nutrients from natural foods. The less words in your ingredients list, the better.

    John can still get his SUPPLEMENTAL nutrition from a vitamin water, but if he eats enough American grown fresh fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, he won’t need it!!

    Keep up the good work and I enjoy your blog.

    Cheers!
    Farmer Phil