Following a low-sugar diet is one of the fastest ways to improve your health. Sugar has been linked to inflammation, heart disease and many other serious conditions, in addition to being a significant cause of gut dysbiosis and Candida overgrowth. However, removing all those added sugars from your diet can be difficult unless you really know how to read those food labels carefully.
You may have read about a recent lawsuit brought against Coca-Cola for the alleged “deceptive labeling and marketing” of their Vitaminwater brand. In fact a couple of weeks ago, a US judge recommended that the lawsuit go to court as a class action.
In today’s post I’m going to take a look at what makes drinks like Vitaminwater so controversial, and what it means for those of us on a low-sugar diet.
No-one disputes that Vitaminwater has a high sugar content – it’s written right there on the label. Most of their drinks contain 31-32 grams of sugar (if you’re having trouble visualizing this, that’s 7 teaspoons and almost as much as a can of Coke).
How is the sugar added to Vitaminwater? A health-conscious manufacturer might include something like fruit juice concentrate to sweeten their drinks. But the sugar content in Vitaminwater comes from two refined sources – cane sugar and crystalline fructose.
Cane sugar is extracted from sugar cane, then refined and dried into crystalline form. It might contain a few extra vitamins and minerals from the cane sugar plant, but it is essentially just refined sucrose. Crystalline fructose is about 98% fructose, and is often used as an alternative to High Fructose Corn Syrup.
The effect of this high sugar content is to make you feel great – for a very short time! Relatively pure sugars like these are absorbed quickly by the body and spike your blood sugar. This gives you a temporary high but soon leaves you craving for more. I’ve mentioned the addictive qualities of sugar before – some studies have found it to be more addictive than cocaine, nicotine or alcohol.
Always read the label
‘Crystalline fructose and cane sugar’ are listed as ingredient #2 on the Vitaminwater label. If you’re familiar with labeling practices, you’ll know that the higher an ingredient appears on the label, the more of it the product contains. So these sugars are the second largest ingredient in Vitaminwater, besides water itself.
Yet Vitaminwater has consistently been marketed as a healthy alternative to other sodas and soft drinks. Their marketing has included phrases like ‘nutrient-enhanced water beverage’, but should that really read ‘sugar-enhanced water beverage’?
So what is Coca-Cola’s defense? You might think that they would pull out all the stops to show how healthy Vitaminwater really is. Well, no… In a recent court briefing the lawyer representing Coca-Cola claimed that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking Vitaminwater was a healthy beverage.” So despite all the marketing and packaging that implies otherwise, they have acknowledged that Vitaminwater was never designed to be healthy.
Sadly this is not the only example of added sugar being hidden in plain sight. Pasta sauce, ketchup, smoothies, salad dressings and processed meats are all places where you can find lots of added sugar. The only way to avoid it is to read labels carefully and make informed decisions about which foods to buy.
For Candida sufferers, following a low-sugar diet is one of the key elements in any good Candida treatment plan. In my Candida treatment program I include shopping lists, comprehensive tables of foods to eat and avoid, and lots of tasty recipes that won’t make your Candida worse.