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The Worst Drinks on the Planet

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Soda has been named public enemy No. 1 when it comes to an easy change you can immediately make in hopes to lose weight and shed belly fat. So it’s only logical to assume if we all stay away from Coca-Cola, Sprite, and Dr Pepper, the pounds will melt away. However, there’s one big problem: Very few people are swapping soda for plain ol’ H2O. Instead, they’re looking to other beverages like juices and flavored waters to fill the void.

And while many of these soda alternatives market themselves as the “healthier choice,” that’s not always the case.

That’s why we ventured to beverage aisles, restaurants, and coffee shops near and far, with the goal of uncovering the unhealthiest drinks on the planet. Read on to get in the know, as we rounded up popular drinks that are truly the worst for your health. Be sure to toss out any junky drinks that are lingering in your kitchen! And while you’re at it, be sure to always avoid the 100 Unhealthiest Foods On the Planet.

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Did you know that cranberries are the fruit that is lowest in sugar? It’s true! So how can something so good for you turn bad? Easy. Let the juice industry get a hold of it. Because cranberries are so tart, Ocean Spray (the cranberry juice company) even wrote in an official letter to the FDA that, “cranberries … are naturally low in sugar, giving them a distinctly tart, astringent, and even unpalatable taste.” Because of their “unpalatable taste,” companies load up their cranberry juice with sugar—and lots of it. One cup of Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail contains 25 grams of sugar.

Drink This! Instead: The 100% Cranberry Juice from Ocean Spray isn’t much better (it has 28 grams of sugar per serving), the only difference is that cocktail is sweetened with cane sugar and the other is sweetened with fruit juices. To really cut back on the sweet stuff, we recommend diluting your serving with an equal amount of water.

Chocolate milk
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Unless you’re downing a glass of chocolate milk as a post-workout drink after a heart-thumping, sweat-inducing workout, be aware that chocolate milk isn’t the innocuous lunchbox treat we came to love as kids. One 8-ounce bottle of Nesquik has 21 grams of sugar (plus artificial flavors).

Sunny d tangy original
Courtesy of SunnyD

Just how Velveeta isn’t real cheese, Sunny D isn’t actual juice; it’s just a mix of water, high fructose corn syrup, and a few token dribbles of juice concentrates, canola oil, and chemicals. Their tagline may be “When life gives you oranges, make Sunny D,” but don’t be fooled, there’s hardly any oranges in the bottle—which is why it has zero nutritional benefits.

Tomato juice
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Tomatoes may be an antioxidant-rich fruit, but any benefits they may provide to you are lost once they’re juiced and bottled. Regular tomato juices aren’t really flavorful on their own, so brands have to load them up with sodium—680 milligrams worth in every Campbell’s cup. That’s 30 percent of your daily value of sodium in just one glass.

Juice cleanse plastic bottles
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Why are cold-pressed juices so cherished? It’s because the cold-press process preserves the delicate, good-for-you antioxidants and micronutrients found the fruits and vegetables you’re pulverizing. Juices are already on our naughty list, as they tend to be high in sugar and low in digestion-slowing, blood-sugar-balancing fiber; however, juices get even worse when they’re shelf-stable. To make juices shelf-stable, companies pasteurize the product, which kills off any remaining semblance of a healthy drink.

Yoo hoo chocolate drink
Courtesy of Yoo-Hoo

You might think, “hey, isn’t that the same as chocolate milk?” But the answer, dear reader, is no. Brands like Yoo-Hoo are not chocolate milk by the FDA’s definition of the term because it’s not really milk. The first ingredient listed is water, followed by high fructose corn syrup and then isolated whey protein (from milk). The rest of the shelf-stable drink is some cocoa powder, dry milk powder, artificial flavors, corn syrup solids, and palm oil. If you’re not turned off by the ingredients, maybe the 19 grams of corn syrup (in a smaller-than-average 6.5-ounce serving) will deter you from sipping one of these drinks again.

Kombucha
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Kombucha is a probiotic drink that’s teeming with live probiotic cultures that are beneficial for gut health. But if you buy your kombucha off a shelf—and not from the refrigerator—that’s a sign that what you’re about to drink isn’t the real stuff. These pasteurized drinks, like those from búcha, kill off all those naturally-occurring beneficial bacteria, and then further dilute the fermented drink by adding carbonated water.

Drink This! Instead: For the best brews, don’t miss our list of the best kombuchas.

Arnold palmer
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Word to the wise: if a drink has the word “sweet” in its name, it’s probably not going to be great for you. Some bottled sweet teas, like Gold Peak’s Sweet Tea, contain 48 grams of sugar (or 96 percent of your daily value of added sugars) in one bottle. Meanwhile, grab a Large Sweet Tea at Sonic, and expect to slurp down 78 grams of the sweet stuff. Your blood sugar will be through the roof after downing that.

Sugar free coffee
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While a cup or two of coffee can do your body good, you may want to think twice before sizing up to a large or indulging in a fourth cup of Joe. The reason: Doing so may make your bone brittle. “I try to avoid excessive caffeine,” says Dr. Mamta M. Mamik, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. “An adult can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day (which is equivalent to four 8-ounce cups of coffee), but drinking any more than that can cause calcium excretion, which, over time, may lead to osteoporosis. Avoiding excess caffeine also helps to ward off uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms like lethargy, insomnia, headaches, and irritability,” she adds.

Diet coke on ice
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What do cancer-causing artificial colors, flame retardants, and fat-causing fake sugars all have in common? They’re all in your favorite diet fizzy drinks. Shove all that into a bottle laced with BPA, a chemical that’s been linked to obesity, and you’ve pretty much got one of the worst drinks ever. Nearly all popular diet sodas contain aspartame, an artificial sweetener that was initially developed to aid weight loss, but that has recently been found to have the opposite effect.

“Sugar substitutes like aspartame are designed to promote weight loss and decrease the incidence of metabolic syndrome, but a number of clinical and epidemiologic studies have suggested that these products don’t work very well and may actually make things worse,” says Richard Hodin, MD, lead author of a recent study on the matter. So what should you be sipping instead?

Drink This! Instead: Water is always a safe choice, as are these healthy soda alternatives.

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low cal cocktails moscow mule
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Sorry, but ginger beer isn’t good news for your waistline. In fact, it’s one of the most calorie-dense carbonated drinks on the market. An average 7-ounce serving has 171 calories, which breaks down to about 24 calories per ounce. For comparison, a typical vending machine soda has 14 calories per ounce. To learn more about how all your favorite colas stack up, don’t miss our report, most popular sodas ranked.

Drink This! Instead: Looking for ginger? Try ginger tea! Boil a cup of water with an inch of sliced ginger. You’ll reap the digestion-boosting benefits of ginger without the sugar.

Bottled orange smoothie
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Busy mornings and grab-and-go breakfasts are practically synonymous—so it’s easy to see the appeal of store-bought smoothies. They seem like the best way to get what you crave in a pinch. But the timesaving drinks have a downside: Compared to fresh-made drinks, most of them fall short on nutrition and are so calorie- and sugar-filled that you’d have to spend hours on the treadmill to burn them off.

Drink This! Instead: Play it safe by blending up one of these best smoothie recipes for weight loss instead—all of them can be made in 5 minutes or less, compliments of Zero Belly Smoothies. Test panelists lost up to 16 pounds in 14 days!

Starbucks pumpkin spice latte
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That’s right—you’re not only basic, but you’re also sipping on an unhealthy drink. Starbucks may have pioneered the pumpkin spice latte, but they’re not the only culprit of these sugar bombs. Their grande size has a staggering 50 grams of sugar when you order it with whipped cream, and copycats from other brands aren’t much better.

Pina colada
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If you like Piña Coladas, you must like sugar-heavy frozen cocktails that aren’t doing your waistline any favors. Piña Colada mixes, like those from Mr. and Mrs. T, have a gut-busting 42 grams of sugar in just 4 ounces. That’s the sugar equivalent of eating 9 Oreo cookies.

Icee drinks in snow
Courtesy of ICEE

You know a beverage is bad if the first ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, followed by water. If you’re unfamiliar, ICEES are frozen, carbonated beverages in fruit and soda flavors. The infamous Blue Raspberry flavor has 24 grams of sugar in 6 fluid ounces (or 32 grams of sugar in the more standard 8-ounce serving).

Root beer float
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Soda is one thing, but then you go ahead and add a scoop of sugary ice cream on top? Thank you, next. This drink is best left for a unique treat. Let’s just say we’re not too upset that old-school Stewart’s drive-thrus aren’t around much anymore.

Red bull vodka cocktail
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If you’re feeling too tired to drink, take a hint from your body and maybe take the night off. What you don’t want to do is try to rally by combining caffeinated energy drinks with booze. According to the CDC, “when alcohol is mixed with caffeine, the caffeine can mask the depressant effects of alcohol, making drinkers feel more alert than they would otherwise. As a result, they may drink more alcohol and become more impaired than they realize, increasing the risk of alcohol-attributable harms.” That Red Bull and vodka doesn’t sound so good now, does it?

Bubble tea caramel
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Bubble tea is a popular drink that’s popping up in stores across the country. It’s typically a sweetened tea with popping tapioca balls, called “boba,” that rest on the bottom. While the good news is that each tea can be personalized to your taste, the default order is often high in sugar, which you should be cautious of if you’re already following a high-sugar diet. Too much sugar in your diet can lead to metabolic disorders and weight gain.

RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.

Bloody mary
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They might be a brunch staple, but beware of making your hair of the dog a Bloody Mary. Like tomato juice, bloodies are often soaked in sodium, climbing upwards of 1,000 milligrams per large glass. Because hangover symptoms are often amplified when you’re dehydrated, consuming a sodium-heavy drink isn’t going to do your body many favors.

Pouring orange juice
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High-sugar diets are consistently associated with a high ratio of bad bacteria to good bacteria, as shown in a Neuroscience study. That means that if you want to improve your gut health, you’ll have to cut back on sugar first, as well as add probiotics to your diet. Unfortunately, many probiotic drinks are actually loaded with sugars, which defeats the benefits of probiotics. For example, a single serving of Tropicana Essentials Pineapple Mango Probiotics juice has a staggering 29 grams of sugar. And while that sugar isn’t from any added sources, fruit sugar will act the same way as cane sugar in your body.

Drink This! Instead: If you want probiotics, your best bet is to get them from natural sources such as kombucha, yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi.

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Long island iced tea
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If you ever try to read a recipe for a Long Island Iced Tea, you’ll soon realize it’s just a list of every alcohol you find on your bar cart: vodka, tequila, light rum, triple sec, and gin. It’s all topped off with a splash of soda (not tea). And while we’re typically concerned with the amount of sugar in soda, in this case, it’s really just a splash. Long Island Iced Teas are on our list of unhealthiest drinks because the glass gives the appearance that you’re drinking tea when you’re really just drinking a tall pint of alcohol, making it easier to overdo it.

Apple cider jugs in a tub
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Nothing says fall like a doughnut and apple cider, right? The only problem is that this ritual involves sipping on at least 28 grams of sugar—and that doesn’t include the sugar-dipped doughnut. Like our usual advice, limit your serving size of cider to half a cup or dilute it. Better yet, grab an apple and munch on that instead. The water and fiber from the whole fruit will help keep your blood sugar levels stable, keeping you fuller longer.

Bottled iced coffee drink
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Allow us to state the obvious: you should always read the label of any bottled drink before you buy it. In the case of cold-brew coffees, many companies will load up their bottles with milk and sugar to cut the bitterness of the antioxidant-rich brew. What you’re left with is a bottle of 20 grams of added sugars, mostly milk, and a little bit of coffee.

Drink This! Instead: To find our favorite bottled cold brew, check out our guide to the best and worst bottled coffees.

Red wine fruit sangria
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While drinking red wine as part of a Mediterranean diet has been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and some cancers, according to an Advances in Nutrition study, don’t expect to get the same benefits if you’re sipping on sangria. This fruity beverage is a classic summer hit, but the added sugar isn’t going to do your next-day hangover any favors.

Drink This! Instead: Forget the extra sugar and opt for one of these wines for weight loss.

Thai iced tea
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We’re big fans of tea, but this drink isn’t what we had in mind when we touted the benefits of an antioxidant-rich beverage. Thai iced teas are typically sweetened with condensed milk, which may taste great, but just a quarter cup of it contains a whopping 44 grams of sugar.

Liquid water enhancer
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Considering most of these beverage-flavoring agents are made with sketchy artificial sweeteners like acesulfame and sucralose, we advise you to stay away. While acesulfame is believed to have carcinogenic properties, sucralose is a sweetener that’s been found to mess with your body’s satiety signals. What’s more, they’re filled with potentially harmful dyes like red 40 and yellow 6, which are contaminated with known carcinogens—no wonder they’re considered to be some of the 23 Worst Food Additives in America!

Crushed vitaminWater
Eat This, Not That!

While they may have “water” in their name, these bottled beverages are 120 calories each, and every single one of those calories comes from sugar. And it’s not just a little bit of sugar, either. There are 31 grams in a 20-ounce bottle of Vitaminwater, which is 7 and ¾ teaspoons of the sweet stuff.

Drink This! Instead: If you want to infuse some flavor and nutrients into your water, ditch the bottled stuff and make one of these 50 Best Detox Waters for Fat Burning and Weight Loss instead.

Iced tea
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Spiked with propylene glycol alginate, fast food iced tea is a definite no-go in our book! Propylene glycol alginate is a food thickener, stabilizer, and emulsifier that can cause cardiovascular or neurotoxic issues. (It’s also not too far off from propylene glycol—also known as automobile antifreeze.) But that doesn’t stop Dunkin’ Donuts and other fast food joints from adding it into their iced tea.

Drink This! Instead: Our suggestion: Whip up a pitcher of the stuff at home, using one of these best teas for weight loss.

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Coffee creamer
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Coffee creamer and sunblock have more in common that you might think. They both contain titanium dioxide, an ultraviolet radiation blocker that doubles as a whitening agent. The additive has been proven to cause liver and tissue damage in mice, and may also have health implications in humans, according to a recent review of the chemical. Coffee creamer is also typically sprinkled with trans fats, often hiding under its lesser-known name: mono and diglycerides. Aside from its connection to compromised heart health, the ingredient that has been shown to diminish memory in adults under 45 years old. Many brands also use TBHQ in their recipes, which is a form of butane. Yuck!

Drink This! Instead: So what should you put into your morning cup instead? Plain ol’ cow’s milk, or if you’re looking for a hint of flavor, stick with a tablespoon of one of Coffee Mate’s Natural Bliss creamers. Unlike conventional brands, they’re all made from nonfat milk, heavy cream, sugar and natural flavors.

frozen margarita
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While whipping up a frozen marg at home isn’t quite as bad as getting it from a bar (400 calories vs. 700), it’s still the worst cocktail for your waistline. Made with a sugar-spiked neon mix and tequila, the summer staple will overload your system with more sugar than you’d find in nine Dunkin’ Donuts Apple n’ Spice Donuts! Other frozen beverages aren’t much better, either. The average strawberry daiquiri, for example, has about 280 calories and 44 grams of sugar per serving. Not to mention, it’s also 99 percent high fructose corn syrup.

Drink This! Instead: Switch to a glass of bubbly with muddled strawberries and lemon slices to get your fruity fix for a fraction of the waist-widening calories.

orange juice
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Sure, it’s natural and overflowing with vitamin C, but it’s loaded with sugar—and totally void of any nutrients like fiber or protein to help slow the sugar spike. An average glass packs 36 grams of sugar —or about what you’d get from popping 4 Krispy Kreme glazed donuts into a blender and hitting frappe. What’s more, most of the sweetness in orange juice comes from fructose, a type of sugar associated with the development of belly fat.

Drink This! Instead: A better drink for citrus lovers? Water flavored with fresh slices of oranges, lemon, and grapefruit. For added benefits, keep the peels on. Citrus peels contain the antioxidant d-limonene, a powerful compound that helps flush out stored visceral fat.

milk
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While skim milk may be lowest in calories, many of its vitamins are fat-soluble, which means you won’t get all the benefits of the alphabetical nutrients listed on your cereal box unless you opt for at least 1%. Why’s it important to opt for grass-fed, organic cartons over the conventional stuff? Not only does it taste better and stay fresh longer, when the herds graze on grass instead of feed, but their milk also has higher levels of omega-3s and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a nutrient that boosts immunity, improves bone mass, and even reduce body fat—gotta love that!

Drink This! Instead: To learn more about the best cereal and coffee additions for your health, don’t miss our report, best and worst milk and milk alternatives.

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Red bull energy drink
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These overpriced chemical cocktails may give you a surge of energy, but they’re riddled with harmful sweeteners (many of which made our list of these Best and Worst Popular Sweeteners) and are even more corrosive to your teeth than regular soda. Just say no to these icky drinks!

5 hour energy
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The majority of these little shooters are made up of chemicals, one of which is sodium benzoate. In one study of the effects of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells, researchers found benzoate to be damaging to mitochondria, an important area of DNA. Eek! What’s more, these bad boys rely on waist-widening artificial sweeteners to achieve their sweet flavor.

Drink This! Instead: To amp up your energy the healthy way, stock your kitchen with these healthy energy drinks.

starbucks frapps
Courtesy of Starbucks

In terms of sugar, a 12-ounce can of Coke = 16 Hershey Kisses. Think that’s bad? The majority of your favorite coffee drinks are far sweeter. Take Dunkin’s frozen french vanilla swirl coffee Coolatta, for example. Even if you request it with skim milk, it still packs 300 calories and 70 grams of sugar—in a small! Warm drinks are just as bad. McDonald’s McCafe mocha has 340 calories and 42 grams of the sweet stuff while Starbucks’ eggnog latte has 450 calories and 52 grams of sugar. And in case you were curious, that’s the equivalent of 16 mini candy canes! To see how even more specialty drinks stack up in terms of nutrition (so you know which ones to stay away from!), don’t miss our report coffee drinks with more sugar than a soda.

slushies
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You probably already know that slushies were sugar mines, but we bet you had no clue they’re often filled with mold! Totally gross, we know, yet totally true! According to numerous fast food and convenience shop workers, the machines that store and blend slushies are rarely—if ever—cleaned. “The amount of mold in those machines would crush your childhood into a pulp,” a former gas station worker admitted on Reddit. If the calorie and sky-high sugar counts weren’t enough to turn you off of the sips, maybe those bits of information will.

Drink This! Instead: To whip up a homemade version at home, freeze, then blend watermelon chunks into a sweet and satisfying slushy.

sports drinks
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Whoever invented the Gatorade Dunk—the tradition in which winning sports teams dump coolers of the stuff on their coaches—was really on to something. One scan of the nutrition label and it’s clear: The sports drink is better off seeping into the sidelines than your stomach. (Yes, even their reformulated ones.) Sure, it provides critical post-workout electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, but it also serves up a hearty helping of calories and sugar. In fact, there are 56 grams of the sweet stuff (which is more than a day’s worth) in a 32-ounce bottle. What’s more, the beverage is teeming with stomach-churning additives like wood rosin and artificial dyes.

Drink This! Instead: A better—and safer—way to replenish the electrolytes and water lost after a tough workout: coconut water or any of these healthy sports drinks.

milkshake
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A long time ago, milkshakes had two ingredients: milk and ice cream. But as time went on, restaurants starting filling their shakes with everything from candy to chemicals, transforming them into potentially dangerous 1,000+ calorie concoctions! In fact, some of the lowest-cal restaurant milkshakes still have over 800 calories—in a small!

Drink This! Instead: If you want something cold and sweet, you’re better off indulging in a scoop or two of actual ice cream or making a chocolate- or peanut butter-filled smoothie.

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Premier Protein
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The bulk of bottled protein shakes are bad news for your body—despite the fact that are they are advertised as being the exact opposite. If they’re not sugar mines, they’re doused with artificial sugar and likely colored with carcinogen-containing chemicals, too.

Drink This! Instead: Are there grab-and-go protein shakes that contain no artificial sweeteners, high-fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated oils? Sure! (And you can find them in our report on the best and worst protein shakes.)

bottle water
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The water isn’t the problem here; it’s the BPA in the bottle. BPA is a hormone-mimicking chemical found in nearly all food packaging plastics, and it’s potentially bad news. According to some pools of research, the chemical may promote cancer and render people infertile. To stay hydrated on the go, buy a BPA-free refillable bottle.

Drink This! Instead: We’re big fans of S’well bottles, which come in a wide array of fashionable patterns and colors.

coca cola soda ice
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Eat This, Not That! has been after Coca-Cola’s chemical- and sugar-filled colas since our inception. Not only do they contribute to weight gain and obesity-related diseases like diabetes, but their acidity is also bad news for your digestive system and tooth enamel. The bad news keeps on coming: The caramel color in soda contains an artificially-created phosphorus that can be bad for long-term bone health, cautions Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, of Isabel Smith Nutrition. Plus, caramel color has been found to contain carcinogens, according to Johns Hopkins researchers.

citrus soda
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It may have images of brightly colored fruit on the can, but that doesn’t mean it carries any health benefits or actual fruit. What they do contain, however, is as much sugar as three Snickers Ice Cream bars and stomach-churning chemicals like red 40, sodium benzoate, and BVO, a chemical used in rocket fuel and flame retardants that can negatively affect thyroid hormones. Curious what other strange things may be messing with your body’s ability to trim down? Don’t miss our special report, ways you messed up your metabolism today.

Almond milk
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Sweetened milk alternatives aren’t just spiked with additives like stomach-irritating carrageenan, they’re typically low in protein and a concentrated source of sugar. (A combination that will leave your stomach rumbling!) An 8-ounce serving can easily carry as much of the sweet stuff as a half a can of soda, none of which is naturally occurring. Cow’s milk, on the other hand, gets all of its sweetness from naturally occurring lactose, a sugar present in milk.

sugary mixers
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Most people mix up a cocktail to boost their mood and cut loose. But if you typically combine the stiff stuff with a bottled mixer you may be doing more hard them good—and not only when it comes to your waistline. “[Cocktail mixers are] a lot like soda drinks when it comes to their sugar content,” celebrity nutritionist and health consultant Mikaela Reuben tells us. “The effect of their high sugar content is the same; the sugars will be released into the bloodstream, allowing an energy boost to take place but ultimately ends in a low point, leaving one to feel fatigued, irritable, and depressed.”

Drink This! Instead: To mix a better-for-you cocktail, stick with things like flavored seltzer and freshly squeezed lime juice. Prefer something store-bought? These healthy low-calorie mixers are about to become your new favorites.

holiday eggnog

With or without added liquor, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that traditional eggnog is on the “naughty” list: the primary ingredients are milk, cream, and eggs. To save 200 calories make yours with organic unsweetened almond milk instead of milk and cream. For even more ways to nix unnecessary cals from your diet, don’t miss these ways to cut calories.

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hot chocolate

While it’s true that packets of hot cocoa are all “meh” in terms of nutrition, the kind you get from restaurants and coffee joints are far worse. A 16-ounce Starbucks hot chocolate with 2% milk, for example, has half a day’s saturated fat, 400 calories, and 43 grams of sugar which is two and half times as much as you’ll find in the brand’s make-at-home packets.

Drink This! Instead: Because no matter what we say you’ll likely still indulge in the drink on occasion, at least use our trusty report, best and worst hot cocoa mixes so you can make an educated choice about your indulgent drink.

Mudslide cocktail
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Vodka, Kahlua, Baileys Irish Cream, milk, and chocolate syrup, combine together to create this fatty concoction that’s bound to not only leave you “chocolate wasted,” but severely bloated, too. An average cocktail has a staggering 750 calories!

Glasses of lemonade
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For many of us, lemonade evokes memories of cute kids sitting at a stand the end of their driveway. And while the littles pushing the drink may be innocent enough, the beverage itself is not. Teaming with 120 calories and nearly 30 grams of sugar per cup, the only thing we like about this drink is it’s fairly harmless list of ingredients. While water, sugar, and lemon juice won’t make you sick, drinking it in excess could bring on a metabolic condition that will.

Drink This! Instead: Throw a couple of lemon slides in some water for a refreshing sip.

Bottled iced tea
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In its purest form tea is one of the best weight loss allies you’ll find. It contains antioxidants which have been found to help rev your metabolism, block the formation of new fat cells, fight off diseases, and lower risk of stroke. But not all teas are created equal—especially those sold in bottles. In fact, a recent study found that you’d have to drink 20 bottles of store-bought tea to get the same amount of antioxidants present in just one home-brewed cup. Plus, the bulk of the bottles brews get their brown hue from caramel color (instead of actual tea) and are packed with more sugar than you’d find in a handful of Chips Ahoy cookies.

Drink This! Instead: To learn which ones are safe to sip and which are better to skip, skim our report, worst bottled tea products.

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Powdered fruit drink mix grape kool aid
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Tang, Kool-Aid, and other drink powders are little more than a mix of sugar and artificial coloring. If you wouldn’t pour food dye and cups of sugar straight into your mouth, you’re better off saying “no” to these waist-widening drinks.

Healthy diet

This Popular Supplement Falls Short on Health Claims, Says Report

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apple cider vinegar acv vitamin gummie

It’s one of the most well-known wellness trends there is: taking apple cider vinegar, or ACV, shots. Experts, influencers, and everyday people claim that this living vinegar can provide countless benefits, from regulating blood sugar, to supporting weight loss, to even lowering cholesterol levels. So it’s no wonder that companies would want to capitalize on these health claims and find ways to make it easier for consumers to get apple cider vinegar into their diets.

One way companies came up with is through apple cider vinegar supplements, with one brand, Goli, bursting onto the scene in 2019 with an Apple Cider Vinegar gummy.

But today, the National Advertising Division (NAD) released their recommendation that Goli “discontinue or modify its advertising to avoid conveying the unsupported message that the amount of ACV contained in its gummies is associated with the health benefits of traditional liquid ACV.”

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The National Advertising Division (NAD) of the non-profit BBB National Programs provides independent self-regulation of product marketing claims to “guide the truthfulness of advertising across the U.S.”

What are the benefits of apple cider vinegar?

Anecdotally, many people find ACV to be a beneficial supplement, and there are countless studies that support certain benefits.

“There is some data that suggests ACV, when taken in an appropriate quantity, can offer some health benefits, including improving insulin sensitivity. However, more high-quality studies are needed in order to make specific claims. Some studies suggest that vinegar, and not apple cider vinegar specifically, offers some potential health benefits,” says Lauren Manaker, MS, RD, CDN, a registered dietitian on our medical expert board.

As Manaker notes, because the current studies are small or performed in animal models, current research does not conclusively support ACV’s health benefits.

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Why does NAD recommend Goli stop marketing its gummies as having the same health benefits as ACV?

NAD has been reviewing many of Goli’s marketing claims for about a year, dating back to March 2021 when the division recommended that Goli discontinue its skin health claims.

In its recent report, NAD determined that Goli’s use of the terms “Apple Cider Vinegar” and “ACV” in its advertising “reasonably conveys the message that the product provides the nutritional and health benefits of traditional apple cider vinegar.”

However, NAD claims that this message is not supported due to the fact that “the health benefits associated with apple cider vinegar are tied to a much higher amount of acetic acid, the ‘active’ ingredient in ACV, than is present in the suggested intake for Goli’s ACV Gummies.”

READ MORE: Supplements You Should Give Up in 2022, Say Dietitians

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How does liquid ACV differ from ACV gummies?

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The decision by NAD is based on the fact that ACV gummies are very different from liquid ACV in both form and function.

Most ACV gummies do not contain a high enough concentration of apple cider vinegar as a liquid dose.

For example, one two-gummy serving of Goli ACV gummies is said to contain 1 gram of ACV, which the company claims is the equivalent to one dose of liquid apple cider vinegar. However, this concentration is significantly less than what studies on ACV typically involve, and those studies only use liquid ACV.

Following the recent proceedings, Goli has agreed to permanently discontinue the claim that two gummies are equivalent to a dose of liquid ACV, and the company will also cease to claim that these gummies contain “All of the Age Old Benefits of Traditional ACV.”

Another big difference between gummies and liquid ACV is the presence of “the mother.”

Liquid apple cider vinegar can come with “the mother,” which is the combination of yeast and bacteria formed during fermentation. This is the cloudy substance you may see in your bottle of ACV. This substance contains polyphenols (plant-based antioxidants) and other potentially beneficial compounds; however, ACV gummies may not necessarily contain the same compounds.

“Certain gummies claim to contain the mother in their composition. However, it is unclear what effect the processing of the supplement has on the function of ‘the mother,’” says Manaker.

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For example, Goli says that they “source a top-quality Apple Cider Vinegar powder for our product, made with real apple cider vinegar that contains the mother at time of manufacturing,” and they are careful to avoid saying that the mother is present in their processed supplement.

At this time, there are no studies on the efficacy of ACV in gummy form.

While there are small studies that examine the benefits of liquid ACV, there are currently none on a gummy version.

“Unfortunately, there are no studies evaluating the effectiveness of ACV gummies. Assuming taking this ingredient in gummy form can have the same health effects as taking it in liquid form may be over-reaching. We can’t say for sure until we have quality clinical trials to evaluate the effects,” says Manaker.

If you want to reap the benefits Goli claims, there are ways to do so without taking this supplement.

“People may take Goli AVC gummies for a healthy immune function, heart health, and antioxidant support (all benefits listed on their website), but these benefits may not be because of the vinegar,” says Manaker. “In addition to ACV, these gummies are made with synthetic forms of vitamin B12 and folic acid, so people may experience outcomes like more energy because of the additional vitamins they are putting in their body.” In other words, you’re basically taking a B-complex vitamin when you have Goli ACV gummies.

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Manaker recommends that people lean on products that have adequate evidence to support their use, but more importantly, you should focus on your diet to improve your health.

“People can easily take in antioxidants by making a point to consume a balanced diet filled with fruit, veggies, nuts, and beans. For heart health support, evidence-based solutions like sipping on green tea may be a more effective solution. And for weight management goals, there is nothing quite like following a balanced diet and including physical activity in your day to help maintain your ideal weight,” she says.

“Another option is to explore a high-quality multivitamin that not only contains B vitamins (like Goli provides), but also other nutrients that people are oftentimes deficient in, like vitamin D to support a slew of health goals. There are plenty of solutions out there that have quality data to support its use and they can be fantastic options to lean on instead of taking an ACV gummy every day,” says Manaker.

Editor’s Note: Although Goli reached an agreement with NAD on certain points, the supplement company will be appealing the decision, “because it ‘disagrees’ with NAD’s findings that its advertising conveys unsupported implied messages, that its recommended dosage claim is in dispute before the NAD, and with NAD’s exercise of jurisdiction ‘over these issues and over other advertising that is at issue in pending federal litigation.’”

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Healthy diet

The #1 Worst Food for Arthritis, Says Dietitian

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Additional reporting by Leo Andreoli.

Picking out the #1 worst food to eat if you have arthritis isn’t easy, and that’s because an arthritis diagnosis comes with a lot of variables.

For one, what makes one person’s joint pain worse may be totally different from what exacerbates another’s, according to Heidi Turner, MS, RDN, CD, an integrative registered dietitian nutritionist with Food Logic, who specializes in autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.

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Secondly, there are various types of arthritis, each of which may be made worse by something different in the diet. Four common forms of arthritis are osteoarthritis, which is a wearing down of the cartilage in the joints due to aging; rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks healthy cells and causes inflammation typically in the hands, wrists, and knees; gout, which usually affects one joint at a time, often starting with the big toe, and ankylosing spondylitis; or ankylosing spondylitis (AS), which reduces the flexibility of the spine.

RELATED: Telltale Signs You Have Arthritis

“Everybody’s different; one person with osteoarthritis can eat a food (and feel fine) while another can have a really bad reaction to it,” says Turner.

With that in mind, to find the #1 worst food for arthritis, the solution is to try an “elimination diet,” that is, eliminating foods to identify those that make you feel better when you stop eating them. Read on to learn more about how to try an elimination diet to pinpoint the foods that worsen arthritis symptoms as well as the most likely culprits, and for more on how to eat healthy, don’t miss The #1 Best Juice to Drive Every Day, Says Science.

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While an elimination diet will help you find the worst foods for your arthritis, Turner says processed and high-sugar foods are generally the worst foods for sufferers of any type of arthritis for the same reasons they are harmful to your overall health. “Foods that contain a lot of chemicals and preservatives, high-starch foods, sugars, highly-processed grains, things like that will encourage inflammation and are what you want to get out of your diet first and replace with whole foods,” she says.

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New research from Mayo Clinic’s Center for Individualized Medicine suggests a connection between an unhealthy gut microbiome and rheumatoid arthritis. The trillions of bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract are impacted by what you eat, and an imbalance of healthy and unhealthy bacteria may make RA symptoms worse, according to the study.

What are those foods that cause an unhealthy gut? Inflammatory foods like saturated and trans fats, fried foods, corn oil, and baked goods. “If you’re working with a lot of gut issues, then you might try to take out those known inflammatory foods, including gluten and dairy,” says Turner.

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Some people with arthritis find that eating tomatoes, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers trigger arthritic swelling and stiffness. “Eating nightshade plants can irritate the joints; I see that quite a lot in my practice,” says Turner.

The inflammatory reaction may be due to a buildup of a bitter-tasting chemical found in nightshade plants called solanine, according to the Cleveland Clinic. However, giving up nightshades come with a downside: you’d miss out on some highly nutritious foods, the Cleveland Clinic notes.

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The form of arthritis known as gout occurs when there is too much uric acid in the body and crystals of uric acid accumulate in the joints, causing swelling and pain. Uric acid is the result of the breakdown of chemical compounds in certain foods called purines. “Gout is its own little beast,” says Turner. The worst foods to eat if you have gout are “foods high in purines like organ meats, alcohol (especially beer), sardines, and sweet beverages like soda and juices with high fructose corn syrup,” she says. Even certain vegetables, like cauliflower and asparagus, are higher in purines than others and may cause inflammation in a joint.

Because foods can affect people so differently, eliminating certain inflammatory foods and monitoring how your body reacts may be the best way to identify those that worsen your arthritis symptoms, says Turner. Other tactics to try, she says, are adopting a paleo diet or Mediterranean-style diet. Both include fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean meats, and fish and shun added sugars and processed grains. To learn more about the health benefits of this style of eating, read What Happens to Your Body on the Mediterranean Diet.

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