According to experts, drinking a glass of water is the best way to hydrate, but many people find the idea a bit boring due to the lack of flavor. That’s precisely why flavored beverages exist—to provide you with more than one option to hydrate yourself. Unfortunately for vegans, some of these beverages are confirmed to contain animal byproducts, while some brands have yet to tackle this particular issue.
Among these brands is Crystal Light—a beverage company known for its powdered drinks. And no, they have yet to disclose whether their products are vegan or not, but here’s what our research says.
Crystal Light contains no animal by-products and is therefore vegan. PETA thinks so, too, seeing as how Crystal Light is among the products in their Definitive List of Vegan Beverages.
Granted, PETA is a bit lenient when it comes to which is vegan and which is not, but their opinion on this matter does hold value. Besides, the ingredients in Crystal Light do point in the same direction.
What Are The Ingredients In Crystal Light?
Crystal Light has been around since the early 1980s, though at that time, there was only one variety which is now commonly known as Classics. As of today, the brand has four categories, namely:
- Classics is Crystal Light’s original product line. At the moment, their website has 10 flavors under this category, though there have been more than that throughout their history.
- Tea is essentially their beverages, but with tea. They have five flavors under this category.
- With Caffeine is Crystal Light but with caffeine. It only has two flavors.
- Pure contains no artificial flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. The Pure category has 3 flavors.
While these varieties may be different from one another in terms of taste or flavor, you’ll find that all Crystal Light beverages across four categories typically contain the same eight ingredients, and these are:
- Citric acid is a sour-tasting acid predominantly used as flavoring in candies and drinks.
- Potassium citrate acts as a buffering or emulsifying agent in foods and beverages.
- Sodium citrate has a similar function to potassium citrate, though it has higher sodium content which is ideal if the manufacturer requires more sodium on their products.
- Aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose are all sweeteners containing little to no calories but are sweeter than sugar. They’re often used in zero- or low-calorie foods and beverages.
- Magnesium oxide is a compound that adds the mineral magnesium to products.
- Maltodextrin is a tasteless and odorless sugar used as a stabilizing and thickening agent.
As one might expect, all these ingredients are vegan, and therefore, Crystal Light, in general, is vegan.
Do keep in mind that the Pure category does not contain artificial flavors, preservatives, or sweeteners. Since most of these ingredients are artificial compounds, Pure Crystal Light typically has an entirely different set of ingredients. For example, rather than artificial sweeteners, they use cane sugar or stevia instead. And in the case of coloring, Crystal Light uses black carrot or turmeric extract.
Is Crystal Light Healthy?
The term “healthy” implies that a food or beverage contains nutrients that can improve or support the physiological well-being of an individual. We call fruits and vegetables healthy because they provide nutrients the body needs, such as potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins, and folate. In other words, to be “healthy” means to contain nutrients that are necessary for the body to function.
Crystal Light does not fit this criterion. While the beverage does have potassium, it only contains it in such small amounts that its impact is negligible. So, if Crystal Light is not healthy, is it then unhealthy?
While it does contain chemicals that may or may not be harmful to the body when in excess, occasional drinking of Crystal Light shouldn’t lead to any issues. Besides, excessive drinking will always be a problem, no matter the beverage. Even water can be harmful if you exceed what your body can take. But in the case of Crystal Light, some ingredients have sparked some controversies among health experts:
As stated earlier, aspartame is an artificial sweetener that often replaces sugar in low-calorie products.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), aspartame is 200 times sweeter than sugar, which says a lot about the compound. However, it doesn’t cause any issue with diabetics, as regular sugar would.
Nevertheless, the FDA still suggests consuming aspartame in moderation. According to them, the human body can only take up to 50 milligrams of the substance per kilogram of your body weight.
Aspartame is also known to be a derivative of aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
Therefore, it isn’t suitable for individuals with phenylketonuria—a condition where the patient has too much phenylalanine in the body. That’s pretty much the only health concern with aspartame.
Sucralose, marked as Splenda, is yet another artificial sweetener that often replaces sugar. It contains zero calories but is around 600 times sweeter than sugar and three times sweeter than aspartame.
Unlike other artificial sweeteners, sucralose is derived from actual sugar.
For that reason, it often has a more desirable and authentic taste than other sweeteners. But beware, recent studies have shown that sucralose may eliminate good bacteria from your microbiome.
This is an incredibly detrimental effect since your gut microbiome thrives when there are more bacteria. This is, however, only speculation, as there has yet to be more evidence on this claim.
Stevia is yet another zero-calorie sweetener, except it is an herbal compound that comes from the stevia plant. It has no nutritional value and is known to be 200 to 400 times sweeter than regular sugar. It can cause nausea, gas, and inflammation in the liver and kidney when consumed excessively.
Apart from the specific effects of these compounds, artificial sweeteners are inherently known to trigger depressive symptoms and headaches. They can also increase the likelihood of kidney or heart issues.
If these health concerns are a bit too grim for you, it may help to know that some beverages that are likewise vegan contain different ingredients that are potentially healthier.
The following section should give you some ideas on which beverages you should try next.
PETA-Approved Beverages You Should Try
Note that this list will only contain beverages that PETA has approved in their Definitive List of Vegan Beverages. Hence, you can rest assured that all three are certified vegan.
1. Trader Joe’s Cold Pressed Pineapple Juice
Trader Joe’s is known for its wide-ranging variety of products. They’re also one of the very few brands that try to cater to the vegan market. That’s why it comes as no surprise that they made it on this list.
Their vegan beverage is Cold Pressed Pineapple Juice—a 12-ounce drink made purely of pineapples. The manufacturing process involves juicing the fruit in a hydraulic process. They then put the drink through high-pressure processing—a cold, water-pressure method that ensures the juice is safe to drink without eliminating any of its nutrients. This beverage is one of the healthiest drinks on the market.
2. Bolthouse Farms 100% Carrot Juice
Similar to Trader Joe’s pineapple juice, this particular beverage, Bolthouse Farms 100% Carrot Juice, is made purely out of carrot. Much like the previous product, it’s among the healthiest flavored drinks you can find on the market, as it contains every nutrient you’d expect from a carrot product. These include potassium, calcium, vitamin A, phosphorus, magnesium, and niacin (B vitamin).
3. Alpine Original Spiced Apple Cider Mix
Alpine Spiced Apple Cider is awfully similar to Crystal Light in that it contains meager amounts of calories and has a rather sweet taste. Moreover, it has similar ingredients as it uses the same sweetener as Crystal Light. It does, however, contain a considerable amount of vitamin C due to apple extract.
So, while it may not be as healthy as other beverages you can find on the market, such as the previous two, it’s at the very least healthier than Crystal Light as it actually contains nutrients.
Ingredient/s: Ascorbic Acid, Apple Juice Solids, Malic Acid, Maltodextrin, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Spice Extractive, Sugar, and Tricalcium Phosphate.
Crystal Light may be vegan, but that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy drink. So, while it may be the most delicious drink you’ve ever had, you should still limit your daily intake of this beverage, especially if you’re suffering from a health condition. Moreover, if you can, it would be ideal if you switch it up a bit by drinking healthier vegan beverages, like the ones mentioned in the last section.