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Health and hydration

By Jane Dornbusch
Globe Correspondent / September 7, 2011

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The beverage aisle is astonishingly confusing and strewn with seeming contradiction. Take, as one small example, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s 2009 lawsuit filed against the Coca-Cola Co., calling the beverage giant’s marketing of its VitaminWater products as healthful “deceptive and unsubstantiated.’’ Coca-Cola’s surprisingly candid response was that, despite its “healthy hydration for every occasion’’ motto, “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking VitaminWater was a healthy beverage.’’ After all, it is just sugar water with a few synthetic vitamins sprinkled in.

Even label-reading consumers may struggle to make sense of it all. Most parents, for example, might reasonably expect a “100 percent juice’’ to be a better nutritional bet than a juice blend. But compare, for example, Capri Sun 100% Juice to Apple & Eve Fruitables; the latter cannot be labeled 100 percent juice because it cuts its fruit and vegetable juices with water - resulting in fewer calories, less sugar, and superior nutrition. The Capri Sun, though it is 100 percent juice, somehow provides no vitamins at all. You might expect something like Naked Juice Mighty Mango, listed in the “well being’’ category on the company website, to be a nutrition powerhouse. But it actually contains more calories and sugar than Pepsi (Naked Juice is a wholly-owned subsidiary of PepsiCo), and provides a skimpy 10 percent of vitamin C per serving.

No one should expect to get all or most of their nutrients from drinks; that’s what food is for. Drink milk for its protein and calcium, and juice for its vitamins (check the label first), but for truly healthy hydration, water is still the champion.

Drinks by the numbers

HOOD PREMIUM LOWFAT CHOCOLATE MILK

Per 8 oz. serving

Calories 170

Fat 3 g (saturated fat 2 g)

Sugar 26 g

Protein 9 g

Calcium 50%

Vitamin C 0%

CAPRI SUN 100% JUICE FRUIT PUNCH

Per 177 ml pouch (about 6 ounces)

Calories 80

Fat 0

Sugar 20 g

Protein 0 g

Calcium 0%

Vitamin C 0%

APPLE & EVE FRUITABLES FRUIT PUNCH (66% juice blended with water to decrease sugar and calories)

Per 6.75-ounce juice box

Calories 50

Fat 0

Sugars 12 g

Protein 1 g

Calcium 0%

Vitamin C 100%

NAKED JUICE MIGHTY MANGO, 100% juice

Per 8 ounce serving (there are 2 servings in a 15.2-ounce container)

Calories 150

Fat 0

Sugars 30 g

Protein 1 g

Calcium 2%

Vitamin C 10%