By Jean Tong, nutritionist, halley medical aesthetics
Vitamin drinks seem to be the new mania. The question is: are they as healthy as claimed? There are a couple of issues healthcare professionals are concerned about when it comes to vitamin drinks.
High sugar levels
These vitamins are generally classified into water-soluble ones like vitamin C, as well as fat-soluble ones such as vitamins A and E. One of the main concerns is the considerable amount of sugars in vitamin beverages.
On average, a bottle of vitamin water contains about six tablespoons of sugar. According to the Health Promotion Board of Singapore, a child aged between three and six years old should have no more than three tablespoons of sugar per day. Hence, by just drinking a bottle of vitamin water, a kid of this age group would double their recommended daily intake of sugar.
Other popular beverages such as commercial coconut juice and packed juice also contain a high amount of sugar. One of the concerns with the considerable amounts of sugars in these drinks for kids is weight gain leading to childhood obesity.
Findings from studies show an association between greater intakes of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) and weight gain and obesity in both children and adults.
Developing a palate for plain water
Notably, it is also important to shape the taste buds of the little ones to develop a palate for plain water instead of sweetened beverages. Feeding them with these SSBs may cause them to develop a sweet tooth. In turn, they may find drinking plain water a challenge as they grow.
Another issue with vitamin water is how well they are absorbed in our bodies. Research studies show that such vitamins are better absorbed from food sources than from supplements or drinks due to biochemical synergy, whereby vitamins in water behave differently when absorbed in the body than vitamins found naturally in foods.
The vast amounts of vitamins and minerals in foods occur naturally together, and they help one another in the absorption process. As such, they are more efficiently absorbed and function better in the human body.
On the other hand, vitamin water contains extremely low percentage of vitamins, and these vitamins are not as well absorbed as the ones taken from foods.
Dental health issues
Lastly, we should consider the dental health of these growing kids. Vitamin C (scientifically termed as ascorbic acid) is one of the commonly-added vitamins in vitamin water, and it is acidic. Studies reveal that acidic beverages may erode dental enamel and thus vitamin water may well harm your kids’ developing teeth.
Water is the best thirst quencher
Bearing all these in mind, SSBs such as vitamin water is best not to be consumed so frequently. Ideally, parents should start cultivating a lower preference for sugars for their kids from a young age by reducing their intake of SSBs.
Water is the best drink to help in hydrating the body at zero calories. Have your kids increase intake of plain water by limiting the availability of SSBs at home, and making sure water is readily and easily available at home and in school.
Flavoured but healthier beverages
If your little one does not like plain water, you can give them fruits-infused water made by adding natural fruits and/or vegetables with flavourings such as cucumber and lemongrass. This gives them the extra dose of flavour without added artificial sugars (hence calories) and a boost of vitamins and minerals.
There are healthier versions of SSBs in the supermarkets in Singapore. On special occasions such as birthday parties, parents can choose to buy beverages with less sugar, such as those labelled with the Healthier Choice Symbol (HCS). These drinks contain at least 25 percent less sugars than their other drinks counterparts so your kids can enjoy their special sweet treats the healthier way!