Cranberries are a healthy fruit, packed with antioxidants that may help reduce inflammation, prevent urinary tract infections, and even prevent cavities. But what about Ocean Spray cranberry juice? Does it come with the same benefits? Or is it mostly sugar?
Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Bad for You?
1. What Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Made Of?
Here are some of the common types of Ocean Spray, and what they’re made of:
- Classic Juice Drinks: These include the original Cranberry Juice Cocktail, and basic flavors like Cran Apple. They have some real juice, but most of the sweetness comes from added sugar. Vegetable concentrates are used for coloring.
- 100% Juice: These are made with only real juice—no added sugar, and no artificial sweeteners. Vegetable concentrates are used for coloring. These are mostly “natural,” but they are still high in natural sugar and calories.
- Diet: These only have 5 calories per serving. They have some real juice and two artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium. They also have artificial colors. These are the most “artificial” drinks, but also lowest in calories.
- Light: These have 50 calories per serving. They have a mix of real juice, fructose, and the artificial sweetener sucralose. No artificial colors. These are kind of a half-way compromise between the “Diet” and Classic sweetened drinks.
- Pure: These are pure 100% unsweetened cranberry juice (or other pure juices). No juice blend, no preservatives, no sweeteners or dyes at all. These are the simplest (just one ingredient) and maybe healthiest, depending on your goals.
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2. How Much Sugar Do Ocean Spray Drinks Have?
But there’s an important follow-up question: What about “added sugar” vs “total sugar”? Most Ocean Spray drinks are sweetened primarily with added sugar. For example, the normal “Cran Apple” flavor has 26g of total sugar, and 23g of it is added sugar.
But what about the “100% Juice” Ocean Spray flavors? What about their “natural sugar”? Let’s address whether those are healthy in the next section.
3. Is Ocean Spray “100% Juice” Healthy?
We’ve seen that most Ocean Spray drinks are high in sugar. But some Ocean Spray drinks have added sugar, while others have only real fruit sugar. So, are those “100% Juice” flavors healthy?
I remember as a kid, I thought of “100% juice” as really healthy. It’s made from real fruit, after all—and fruit is healthy, right? Well, yes. But unfortunately, drinking fruit juice is not completely the same as eating fruit.
There are two big downsides of drinking “100% juice,” compared to eating whole fruit:
- 1. Juice doesn’t have the fiber of whole fruit. Fiber is very healthy, and it helps slow down your digestion of the natural sugars in fruit. But juices don’t have much, if any, fiber. So, the sugar in juice is digested more quickly, and it may spike your blood-sugar levels more than whole fruit.
- 2. You can drink juice much faster than you can eat fruit. And this means you can drink many more calories of fruit juice than you’d typically eat from whole fruit. So juice can cause you to consume excess calories, potentially causing weight gain.
For these key reasons, Ocean Spray 100% Juice drinks should not be considered as healthy as eating whole fruit. That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean they are completely “unhealthy.”
Many of the real juices in Ocean Spray drinks are rich in antioxidants and vitamins that have health benefits. If you drink a small serving of Ocean Spray 100% Juice, along with fiber-rich whole foods, it could be pretty healthy.
And in fact, if you choose the “Pure” Unsweetened Cranberry Juice from Ocean Spray, it is relatively low in sugar. That’s because cranberry juice itself is naturally lower in sugar than grape juice and apple juice, which are used in many of Ocean Spray’s juice blends.
So, if you drink a small portion of Ocean Spray Pure Cranberry Juice, along with other healthy foods, it could be quite healthy, indeed.
4. Does Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Have Artificial Sweeteners?
Ocean Spray “Diet” drinks have two artificial sweeteners, sucralose and acesulfame potassium, combined with some real juice. Ocean Spray “Light” drinks have one artificial sweetener, sucralose, combined with fructose and some real juice.
Both of these artificial sweeteners in Ocean Spray drinks are FDA approved and generally recognized as safe. However, there remains some controversy around the long-term health impacts of each.
The most controversial artificial sweetener is probably aspartame. Personally, I avoid aspartame because of the research showing possible connections to depression. Ocean Spray drinks do not have aspartame.
So let’s look at the health concerns around the sweeteners in Ocean Spray Diet drinks—sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
First, let’s cover sucralose:
- Sucralose seems to be a migraine trigger for some people. (source, source)
- Sucralose may cause insulin resistance through multiple mechanisms (more on that below).
- Sucralose seems to have a surprisingly minimal effect on weight loss.
What about acesulfame potassium (also known as acesulfame K)?
- Studies in the 1970s suggested acesulfame K may cause cancer—but the studies were not of good quality. (source)
- One breakdown product of acesulfame K—acetoacetamide—may cause damage to the thyroid. (source)
- In a study of lactating women, acesulfame K was the artificial sweetener most found to make its way into breast milk. (source)
Most of the health concerns around artificial sweeteners are not well proven. But for some people, the risk feels scary nonetheless.
There is still some uncertainty about how the human body reacts long-term to any artificial sweeteners. Here’s a video that covers more on the science around artificial sweeteners.
5. Does Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Have Caffeine?
Ocean Spray’s normal cranberry juice does not have caffeine. However, Ocean Spray’s Cran-Energy product line has 75mg of caffeine per 10 oz bottle, from added green tea extract.
How does Cran Energy’s caffeine compare to coffee, energy drinks, and popular soda brands? Here is a comparison table:
|Bang Energy Drink (16 oz)||300 mg|
|5-Hour Energy Regular Strength (1.9 oz)||200 mg|
|Folger’s Classic Roast Coffee (12 oz)||120-160 mg|
|Red-Bull (8.4 oz)||80 mg|
|Monster Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|V8 Energy (8 oz)||80 mg|
|Ocean Spray Cran Energy (10 oz)||75 mg|
|MiO Energy (1 squeeze)||60 mg|
|Lipton Black Tea (1 bag, brewed)||55 mg|
|Coca-Cola (12 oz)||34 mg|
|Barq’s Root Beer (12 oz)||22 mg|
As you can see, Cran Energy has moderate caffeine, around the middle of the list. It has slightly lower caffeine content than Monster Energy or V8 Energy, with a slightly bigger serving size to achieve it.
But other Ocean Spray juices should not keep you awake. There is no caffeine in Ocean Spray’s normal cranberry juice, Diet and Light juices, or Sparkling product line.
6. Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice High in Sodium?
If you want to choose the lowest sodium flavor, consider the original Cranberry Juice Cocktail, with only 5mg per serving. Or choose Pure Unsweetened Cranberry Juice with 15mg of sodium—it still has less than 1% of most people’s daily sodium limit, and no added sugar.
7. Does Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Make You Gain Weight?
Ocean Spray’s “Diet” drinks may be a better choice for weight loss, as they are much lower in calories. However, as noted above, some studies show artificial sweeteners don’t result in the weight loss you might expect. So, don’t expect it to be a magic solution.
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8. Are the Artificial Colors in Diet Ocean Spray Safe?
Ocean Spray Diet drinks have artificial colors like Red 40 and Blue 1. Research suggests these artificial colors cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children. There are also concerns around possible carcinogens in the artificial colors in Ocean Spray Diet drinks.
Some research has suggested as little as 50 mg per day of artificial colors could cause behavioral changes in children. In fact, the EU requires foods with Red 40 to have a warning saying it “may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
In 2004, researchers from Harvard and Columbia University estimated that removing artificial food coloring from the diets of children with ADHD would be about one-third or one-half as effective as treating them with Ritalin.
There may also be cancer risks from some of these artificial colors, but the evidence is not solid:
- Red 40: Red 40 has small amounts of benzidene, which is a known carcinogen. It’s legally allowed because the amount is small enough to have no presumed effect.
- Blue 1: An unpublished study on Blue 1 suggested that it may cause tumors in mice. In addition, a test-tube study found that Blue 1 inhibited nerve cell development. So the effect on unborn fetuses may be of concern. (source)
All artificial colors are still being tested on animals to determine their safety. The most established problem is hyperactivity in kids.
From what I could tell, the only Ocean Spray product line with artificial colors is the “Diet” products with 5 calories per serving. All other Ocean Spray drinks I checked had natural coloring from vegetable concentrates, or no coloring at all listed in the ingredients.
9. Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Healthier Than Soda?
Generally speaking, Ocean Spray cranberry juice is healthier than soda, at least a bit. But it depends on the specifics. Let’s start by comparing Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail to the most popular soda in the world, Coca-Cola.
First, let’s look at some basic nutrition facts:
|Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail||110||25g||5mg|
In an 8 oz serving, Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice and Coca-Cola have similar sugar content, and the Ocean Spray has even more calories. Most of the sugar in Ocean Spray comes from added sugar, while all the Coke calories are from added sugar.
Ocean Spray is lower in sodium, but that’s only a minor benefit—neither drink is dangerously high in sodium to begin with.
When you look at the other ingredients, Coca-Cola does have a few extra bad ingredients—phosphoric acid and caramel color. Meanwhile, Ocean Spray has some antioxidants from the real fruit and vegetable juice concentrates.
Ocean Spray is a bit healthier than Coca-Cola overall, due to the healthy antioxidants from real juice in Ocean Spray, and the potentially harmful caramel color and phosphoric acid in Coke. But neither Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Cocktail nor Coke are healthy drinks overall—they are both too high in sugar.
If you want to compare other Ocean Spray drinks with other sodas, the comparison may look different. For example, what about comparing Ocean Spray Diet drinks to diet sodas like Fresca?
When looking at Ocean Spray Diet drinks vs Fresca, the main issue with both is that they have artificial sweeteners that may worsen gut health or lead to other long-term health risks (covered above). Ocean Spray has the advantage of containing some antioxidants from real fruit juice, as well, though. So, probably Ocean Spray is better.
10. Is It Bad to Drink Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Every Day?
11. Is Ocean Spray Cranberry Juice Vegan?
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