If you’ve searched for low-carb alternatives to your favorite fruity soft drinks, you may have come across a variety of powdered drinks, including Crystal Light. Developed by Kraft Foods, Crystal Light is a low-calorie, gluten-free, powdered beverage targeted at people who are interested in weight loss and healthy living.
But is Crystal Light bad for you?
Like other processed foods, Crystal Light is not as beneficial as it may seem. Read on to get the facts about this popular diet drink.
What Is Crystal Light?
Crystal Light is a powdered water flavoring sold in different sizes: regular size, smaller variety packs called Crystal Light On The Go, and the more recent Crystal Light Pure, which is supposed to be lower in artificial ingredients.
This popular add-in for drinking water comes in artificial flavors such as orange, lemonade, cherry pomegranate, raspberry lemonade, and kiwi strawberry. The different flavors are part of the attraction since drinking nothing but plain water while dieting can grow old fast.
While it’s heavily marketed as a healthy beverage, it can be extremely sweet. Most varieties of Crystal Light contain artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, sucralose, and acesulfame potassium (Ace-K) — and may include regular sugar (depending on the specific product).
On the surface, the macros look impressive. Most Crystal Light flavors contain:
- 10 calories per serving
- 0 grams of carbs
- 0 grams of fat
- 0 grams of protein
It sounds too good to be true, right? Well, it is.
The Problems With Crystal Light
Unfortunately, artificial colors, preservatives, and sweeteners in Crystal Light can be damaging to your health.
For example, take a look at the ingredient label for Crystal Light Classic Orange: citric acid, calcium phosphate, maltodextrin, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), aspartame, maltitol, and less than 2% of: natural flavor, calcium carbonate, magnesium oxide, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), xanthan and cellulose gums, soy lecithin, artificial color, yellow 5, and red 40.
Those are a lot of ingredients in what’s supposed to be a healthy beverage mix. In this product alone, there are three different types of sweeteners.
Aspartame is one of the worst offenders.
A list of the most common symptoms associated with aspartame consumption includes headaches, dizziness, depression, fatigue, irritability, weight gain, rashes, anxiety, memory loss, joint pain, and even the possible loss of taste. A study also found aspartame to be carcinogenic in rodents[*].
Sucralose (also known as Splenda) is another sweetener found in some Crystal Light drink mix versions. Splenda was once considered a harmless sugar substitute, but now research has uncovered more about its damaging effects[*].
While it used to be marketed as a natural sugar alternative, it’s just chlorinated sugar. Some of the harmful side effects of excessive sugar consumption include digestion issues, disruption of your body’s ability to absorb medication, elevated risk of headaches, and increased risk of allergies[*].
Other Chemicals in Crystal Light
Some Crystal Light flavors include potassium citrate and sodium citrate.
Potassium citrate is most commonly found in citrus flavors like grapefruit, orange, and lemon.
Potassium citrate is used as a drug to help reduce calcium oxalate crystals in those who get gout and kidney stones[*].
Along with those benefits comes some risk of side effects, such as stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea — not counting the possible skin irritation.
Sodium citrate has the same benefits as potassium citrate but doesn’t have side effects at the levels found in soft drinks.
Some Crystal Light flavors have a warning for phenylketonurics that the drink mix contains phenylalanine. People with phenylketonuria (PKU) have an inherited inability to break down phenylalanine, which is an essential amino acid and also a precursor for tyrosine, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and melanin[*].
Found in just about everything that contains protein or aspartame, phenylalanine can cause brain damage or even death for those who have the disorder[*].
So, is Crystal Light bad for you? Well, it certainly isn’t good for you.
Does Crystal Light Fit Into a Ketogenic Diet?
When it comes to deciding whether or not Crystal Light is keto-friendly, there are a few factors to consider.
Given its nutritional profile, Crystal Light technically fits into your keto macros. Its lack of carbohydrates allows you to drink a typical serving and maintain a ketogenic state.
But is Crystal Light good for you? You can see it’s not a healthy option as far as keto-friendly drinks go.
Despite being low-carb, Crystal Light contains artificial ingredients that can harm your health.
Many people switch to a keto lifestyle to reduce inflammation, have higher energy, and experience weight loss. But low-carb foods filled with artificial ingredients (like aspartame) can hold you back from enjoying health benefits, since they can increase your risk of diseases, adverse reactions, and allergies.
So, even if this low-calorie drink is technically keto, it doesn’t fit into a healthy ketogenic diet.
Healthier Keto-Friendly Drinks
Water and sparkling water are obvious alternatives to Crystal Light, but there are more options than that.
You can drink coffee on keto, even if you love creamer. Simply choose a keto-friendly creamer or use something like Perfect Keto Base for creamer in coffee-complementing flavors like chocolate, coffee, vanilla, and salted caramel.
Green or black tea are other keto-friendly drink options. Iced green tea, sweetened with a stevia-based sweetener such as Truvia, can be refreshing when you’re overheated.
It can be difficult to hit your protein goals when on keto, especially when you’re just starting out, so a protein shake is good just about any time. You might think you don’t need much protein if you’re not building muscle, but it’s not true.
You need to eat adequate protein to increase the hormones that trigger satiety and reduce the hunger hormone, ghrelin[*]. Getting adequate amounts of protein increases the number of calories you burn around the clock[*][*].
The thermic effect of protein is higher than that of carbs or fat, which means your body must burn more calories to digest and metabolize it[*]. Additionally, consuming enough protein helps maintain your new body weight after fat loss[*].
If you work out, you’ll love the boost of a protein shake about 30 minutes beforehand. You’re not locked into a chocolate shake either (though they are good). Perfect Keto has protein powder in vanilla flavor too.
Is Crystal Light Bad for You? Yes, It Is
While most soft drinks available today are harmful and not keto-friendly, it’s still possible to find some that won’t kick you out of ketosis — Crystal Light is one of them.
However, this artificially flavored drink contains damaging ingredients that make it incompatible with a healthy diet. In other words, there are much better things you could be drinking.
So, although Crystal Light is keto-friendly, it’s not suitable for a healthy ketogenic diet.