We want the best for our children. We want the best for their bodies. An organic sports drink makes sense, right? That’s what Gatorade would like you to think with their new organic “sports drink” G Organic. Organic products and ethically sourced products do have merit, but the idea of an organic sports drink may not be as healthy for your body as you’d think.
While the idea of organic sugarcane might be appealing as an environmentally-friendly sports drink, it is a mistake to think it is better for your body. The label “organic” has grown into a $43 billion dollar industry in the US alone in 2015, and the marketing surrounding “organic” has led many well-intended consumers to believe the “organic” also means “healthy”. Whether the source is organic or not, the body sees G Organic, Gatorade, or Moutain Dew simply as sugar water.
While we very carefully select which of our foods to ingest, our body is not so discriminatory. Once any sugar source arrives in your mouth, the process of digestion begins. The interaction of your spit and sugar initiates any sugar source to be broken down into the chemicals our body recognizes for metabolism. Any sugar begins to degrade and its slow acidic reaction begins as bacteria also ingest tasty sugar sources and wreak havoc on tooth enamel. These bacteria love all forms of sugar whether it is organic cane sugar, natural honey, certified organic sugar, or any of its genetically modified sugar cousins. All forms of sugar cause cavities, even organic sugar. The pancreas is also non-discriminatory and begins to produce hormones to regulate any sugar that it encounter. The insulin released from the pancreas causes the body to save the sugar calories in fat cells just in case food is scarce, or begins to lead to other health problems such as metabolic disease in the instance there is no true food scarcity encountered.
Most of us accept that sugar can cause cavities, and also that too much sugar can also lead to other health problems, including metabolic disease and diabetes. In the United States, two-thirds of adults are obese or overweight, and one reason that leads to this is ingesting empty calories in the form of sugar water. Since habits start young, promoting sugar water for routine exercise is where these empty calorie habits can begin. The promise of a “sports drink” however has led to people believing in a healthy form of sugar water. What would be a healthier approach to getting needed electrolytes for our children? It is a really simple solution: plain water and add in a whole fruit or vegetable.
And while most consumers are concerned about electrolyte replacement, this has also been partly due to smart marketing. For most people with a recreational-level of fitness, however, fluid and electrolytes can be replaced easily with having plain water and a fresh whole fruit after an hour at the gym. Not only is this easier on your teeth, but is not linked to adverse health effects. In a recent article in Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. David Ludwig of Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School explained why whole fruit consumption contains fiber for fullness and offers many other metabolic benefits. This is because the fiber helps store sugar in the fiber cells longer so they enter the bloodstream more slowly and gives the liver more time to metabolize them in addition to containing antioxidants and other properties. Fruits that are already pre-digested in an off-the-shelf form, however, do not contain as many benefits and also do not offer us the advantage of making us feel fuller longer.
So what should a endurance athlete do if enrolled in high intensity training, particularly during summer months? Plenty of balanced options exist such as balanced electrolyte replacement pills that can be purchased in organic varieties and consumed with water. Consult a nutritionist and consider alternatives that might be healthy for both body and teeth. In addition, let your dentist know what sports you are participating in and how you fuel your body to ensure that strategizing your nutrition does not also derail your oral health.
So, encourage your children to exercise and incorporate a balanced diet as well. As Hippocrates said, “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” Choose your foods carefully but consider all aspects of the nutritional content before proceeding, not just the organic label.