How often do you read ingredient labels? When my oldest was suffering from food intolerances, I learned to read the label of everything I put in my grocery cart. I am sometimes asked my opinion on groceries I don't normally buy, like Propel for instance. Which begs the question, "Have you read the ingredients?" Let's look together - there are a few I want to focus on.
According to PropelWater.com, the ingredients in Propel Electrolyte Water are: WATER, CITRIC ACID, SODIUM HEXAMETAPHOSPHATE (TO PROTECT FLAVOR), NATURAL FLAVOR, SALT, POTASSIUM SORBATE (PRESERVES FRESHNESS), POTASSIUM CITRATE, SODIUM CITRATE, ASCORBIC ACID (VITAMIN C), SUCRALOSE, ACESULFAME POTASSIUM, CALCIUM DISODIUM EDTA (TO PROTECT FLAVOR), CALCIUM PANTOTHENATE (VITAMIN B5), NIACINAMIDE (VITAMIN B3), VITAMIN E ACETATE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6).
Ingredients are listed on the label from most to least. Which means Propel has more citric acid than potassium or sodium. If this is an ELECTROLYTE water, why is citric acid listed second? Electrolytes are calcium, chloride, magnesium, sodium, chromium, potassium, and phosphorus. So where is the magnesium? Where is the chloride? What about chromium?
Third on the list is the flavor protector. Sodium Hexametaphosphate. This is a chemical combination of salt, phosphorus, and oxygen. It is often found with other sodium phosphates in the processing of seafood as a flavor enhancer and preservative. In beverages like Propel, it is used to enhance the flavor, extend the shelf life, and helps with the clarity of the beverage.
Sucralose - this is Splenda. It is a zero calorie artificial sweetener that actually tricks the body into thinking it is getting sugar. According to webmd.com, in addition to being changed for taste (it is chemically changed to be 600 times sweeter than sugar), sucralose is also altered so that most of it passes through your body instead of being stored to later use as energy. To make sucralose almost calorie-free, some naturally occurring parts of the sugar molecule, called hydroxyl, are swapped out for chlorine. CHLORINE.
Acesulfame Potassium may be listed as Ace-K or Acesulfame-K on the label. This artificial sweetener is often combined with sucralose, or aspartame because it has a bitter taste when used by itself. It is one of eight artificial sweeteners that have been approved by the FDA, and is marketed as being safe for diabetics because it doesn't cause a release of insulin or spike glucose levels. Although Ace-K has been used in the United States since 1988, experts disagree about its safety. Some studies suggest that, along with other artificial sweeteners, Ace-K can disrupt gut bacteria which can cause an adverse affect on the gut microbiome and may contribute to insulin resistance, higher risk for type 2 diabetes, and weight gain.
Calcium Disodium EDTA is a chelating agent added to canned food to keep the food from reacting to the metal ions in the cans. It is also added to beverages to retain the flavor and color.
Potassium sorbate is added as a preservative. This is the third preservative found in Propel.
And finally we get to Potassium citrate - a buffering agent, flavoring agent, preservative, emulsifier, AND a potassium supplement.
Sodium citrate is usually mixed with citric acid to enhance flavor by adding a salty and tart taste. This is also an emulsifier, chelating agent, buffer, and preservative. It is added to many processed foods including frozen fruit and vegetables. And speaking of citric acid, the form of citric acid found in processed foods and beverages does not come from citrus. It is usually made in a lab, from corn.
And let's not forget about natural flavors. Natural flavors, according to the FDA, means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional. While this sounds great, what they don't tell you is the process in which these natural flavors are created. These flavors are often made in the lab and may contain various chemical solvents. I learned several years ago, they can even be derived from corn. When I think of natural flavors, I think of flavors I would use if I made something at home. But that is rarely the case with processed food. So that berry flavored propel electrolyte water may not actually have berries in the flavor mix after all.
One last note. The vitamins added to Propel are more than likely a cheap synthetic source of vitamins. This is a drink company, not a nutraceutical company. They aren't too concerned with the added vitamins and minerals being well absorbed and useful to one's body. They know flavored water is big business.
If you want a healthier version of electrolyte water or flavored water, why not add some fresh lemons or limes, cucumber slices, or a variety of fresh or frozen fruit to your water for a refreshing, hydrating beverage.