Is Crystal Light Healthy to Drink?

Staying hydrated is important for good health, but drinking glass after glass of plain water every day gets boring. Adding Crystal Light to water is one way to switch things up, and your taste buds will thank you. Drinking Crystal Light in moderation won't hurt you, but there are healthier options.

Crystal Light can't be considered healthy, but it's not unhealthy when consumed in moderation.
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Crystal Light can't be considered healthy, but it's not unhealthy when consumed in moderation.

Is Crystal Light Healthy?

"Healthy" means a food or beverage provides nutrients that support and/or improve factors of physiological well-being. Fruits and vegetables are healthy because they provide vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients that your body needs to function. Other compounds found in plant foods, called phytonutrients, aren't required by the body but may be effective in preventing disease, according to a research review in the Journal of Complementary & Integrative Medicine in September 2014.

Crystal Light contains the mineral potassium, but in such small amounts that it can't be considered health-promoting. Therefore, it can't be considered "healthy." But is it unhealthy? A closer look at the ingredients can help determine this.

There are many varieties of Crystal Light, but the basic ingredients are citric acid, potassium citrate, maltodextrin, calcium phosphate and aspartame. It also contains small amounts of natural and artificial flavors, soy lecithin, acesulfame potassium and artificial color.

Here's a brief explanation of each of the main ingredients:

  • Citric acid: A naturally occurring substance used as a preservative and as a sour flavoring agent.
  • Potassium citrate: A form of the mineral potassium used as a preservative.
  • Maltodextrin: A polysaccharide used as a thickening, stabilizing and sweetening agent.
  • Calcium phosphate: A food additive used in drinks to keep ingredients from separating, to prolong shelf-life and to regulate acidity.
  • Aspartame: An artificial sweetener.

All of these ingredients are approved for use in foods and beverages by the FDA and all are considered GRAS — generally recognized as safe.

Read more: What Are the Dangers of Splenda, Sucralose and Aspartame

Artificial Sweeteners and Your Health

Adding sweetness with few or no calories, artificial sweeteners seem like a gift from the gods. In many cases, they are. However, they remain controversial for a couple of reasons:

1. Aspartame was long maligned as cancer-causing, but that claim has been debunked. The American Cancer Society reports that research has not conclusively linked aspartame to any diseases. According to the International Food Information Council Foundation, "Aspartame is one of the most exhaustively studied substances in the human food supply, with over 200 studies supporting its safety."

2. Theoretically, replacing caloric sweeteners with artificial sweeteners can help people reduce their calorie intake and lose weight without having to starve their sweet tooth. However, some experts claim this may not have the desired effect.

Obesity and weight-loss specialist at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children's Hospital Dr. David Ludwig told Harvard Health Publishing that people using artificial sweeteners may fool themselves into believing that — since they are enjoying diet drinks — they still have room for other high-calorie foods such as cake. This cancels out any calorie reduction, and could lead to a calorie surplus.

The other concern, according to Ludwig, is that artificial sweeteners alter the way people taste food. The intense sweetness of artificial sweeteners can make naturally sweet foods, such as fruit, taste less sweet in comparison. Vegetables may become very unappealing. This can lead you to eat less of these nutritious foods and reach for more nutrient-deficient artificially flavored foods instead.

Read more: Is Drinking Diet Soda Bad for You? Here's What You Need to Know

Healthier Crystal Light Alternatives

If you end up drinking more fluids, adding Crystal Light to water every once in a while to spice things up isn't a bad thing. But drinking it all day long isn't good; consuming anything in excess isn't healthy.

If you do a little research, you can find healthy alternatives to Crystal Light free from artificial sweeteners, flavors, coloring and preservatives. One brand contains all-natural ingredients, including stevia and erythritol, which are natural calorie-free sweeteners made from plants. They also provide nutrients and other healthful substances, such as vitamin C, probiotics and electrolyte minerals.

In addition, there are other Crystal Light alternatives that don't involve paying for powders. Combine fresh fruits such as raspberries, peaches, lemons, pineapple and oranges and some erythritol simple syrup in a glass or jug and stir. Voila — a zero-calorie, sweetened fruit drink with all-natural ingredients. And, you can eat the fruit at the bottom when you're done — now that's healthy.

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