As Americans are increasingly buying organic foods and beverages, brands are rushing to crank out products bearing the USDA Organic seal to cash in. Now even Gatorade, the old neon-colored thirst quencher, is going organic.
Parent company PepsiCo recently announced that G Organic will hit store shelves this fall. The drink will come in three flavors and contain just seven ingredients: water, organic cane sugar, citric acid, organic natural flavor, sea salt, sodium citrate, and potassium chloride. According to the company’s website, “as athletes continue to evolve, we’re committed to introducing new product innovations to meet their varying needs.”'
Great, but is there any real difference here?
“It’s no healthier than regular Gatorade,” says Lindsay Moyer, senior nutritionist at the Center for Science in the Public Interest. “Organic cane sugar is no better for you than ordinary cane sugar — they’re both added sugars. G Organic is still, essentially, liquid candy.”
And a lot of liquid candy. Each 16.9-ounce bottle has seven teaspoons of added sugar, Moyer says, which tallies up to 75 percent of the maximum amount that the American Heart Association recommends men consume in a day. Which means, just like soda and fruit drinks, Moyer says the regular swilling of G Organic (without the workout) can contribute to an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and heart disease.
Moyer does think PepsiCo took a step in the right direction by dropping the artificial dyes found in almost all other Gatorade varieties, which are not allowed in organic products. “Some of these dyes pose a cancer risk or [can] trigger allergic reactions,” she says.
Along with being similar health-wise, the functionality of G Organic and traditional Gatorade is also the same. “From a nutritional perspective, either one will get the job done for an athlete who needs it,” says Toby Amidor, RD, MS, nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen.
That phrasing is key. For a long time, many considered “the athlete who needs it” to be anyone who’d just run a few blocks, raked his yard, or simply hadn’t had anything to drink in a while. In reality, unless you’ve knocked out a long, grueling, sweat-drenched workout, you don’t need a bunch of electrolytes swimming in sugar. “For most people, your best sports drink is water,” Moyer says.
To its credit, Gatorade has played a part in trying to spread this message to the masses — even at the expense of losing some sales. Last year the brand launched a series of ads showing J.J. Watt and the Manning brothers scolding kids for wanting to buy Gatorade without first earning it through sweat.
There is one more nod to G Organic — the fact that the USDA Organic label means much more than simply nutrition. The environmental and sustainability benefits of organic have been well documented. As Amador says, “If a consumer feels that the organic version of Gatorade better fits their beliefs and lifestyle, then they should choose it over regular Gatorade.”
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