Sadly, there is this idea that as long as labels don’t contain bolded, animal ingredients, a product ought to be vegan-friendly. However, the truth isn’t that simple, and there are actually certain ingredients that aren’t explicit, so you never know whether they’re plant or animal-based.
Powerade is generally considered vegan. However, it contains a few ingredients that are deemed controversial by more strict vegans. This makes it difficult to state whether Powerade is truly vegan because some vegans will avoid it based on these controversial ingredients.
In this article we’re going to cover the following points in a bit more detail:
- The questionable ingredients within Powerade;
- Better alternatives to Powerade;
- How you can make a healthier Powerade at home;
If you’re interested in learning more about Powerade, feel free to continue reading.
Powerade: Understanding Ingredients
Apart from certified vegan products, there are products that contain ingredients that may be animal-based or tied to animal cruelty, but are neatly hidden under a different name.
By learning about these different ingredients, you can better identify ‘truly’ vegan products, and really make choices that minimize the suffering animals have to go through. Once you know what those ingredients are, then it’s your decision to purchase them, based on how comfortable and accepting you are about that newly-obtained information.
That said, keep in mind that consuming questionable ingredients doesn’t make you more or less vegan than anyone else. Typically, people that avoid “questionable ingredients” are stricter vegans, but I’m confident saying that most vegans stick to the “no obvious animal ingredients” philosophy.
Powerade, although it doesn’t have “obvious” animal ingredients (i.e: milk, eggs, meat, honey), it contains some of the questionable ingredients I’ve referred to in this section.
Questionable Ingredients in Powerade
Before we identify these questionable ingredients, let’s first have a quick look at the list of ingredients in the Original Powerade Energy Drink:
- High Fructose Corn Syrup
- Citric Acid
- Magnesium Chloride
- Calcium Chloride
- Monopotassium Phosphate
- Natural Flavors
- Modified Food Starch
- Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect color)
- Medium Chain Triglycerides
- Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate
- Vitamin B3
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin B12
- Blue 1 (or artificial colors)
Any brand-new vegan looking at this label will not find obvious animal ingredients. Still, there are a lot of weirdly named ingredients in this list, which people label off as being artificial or man-made. However, there’s more to them than what meets the eye.
Some questionable ingredients in Powerade are:
- Natural flavors
- Blue #1 (and other artificial colors)
These ingredients keep Powerade from being 100% vegan for the most strict vegans.
Natural flavors are a tricky subject because they may be derived from either plant or animal-based ingredients, which is confirmed by the official definition stipulated in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) website:
“Natural flavor or natural flavoring… 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.”
Natural flavors are viewed as a way for companies to preserve the identity and uniqueness of their products and keeping them from being duplicated by copycats.
However, vegans risk consuming animal ingredients unknowingly because companies are not required to disclose the origin of their natural flavors unless it’s a major allergen.
While it’s not that common in foods, castoreum is classified as a natural flavor.
Castoreum is a substance extracted from the anal glands of beavers and is sometimes used to substitute vanilla, as well as enhance strawberry and raspberry flavors.
How to know if natural flavors are vegan
While it’s true that companies have no obligation of revealing their natural flavors, that doesn’t mean they’re prohibited from doing so.
As a customer, you have the right to inquire, which is why I often recommend people to:
- Visit a company’s website and check the product and FAQ pages to see if there is any information on whether the “natural flavors” are considered vegan;
- Or directly contact the company through phone or email.
Now, you either are dealing with a company that is transparent and willing to give you the information you’re looking for, or you’ll run into scripted answers that don’t really answer your questions — and the latter happens more frequently.
Artificial Colors and Animal Testing
There are lots of Powerade flavors/variations and virtually all of them contain artificial colors, minus a few colorless exceptions.
While artificial colors are man-made, they’re also a byproduct of animal testing.
The problem with animal testing – besides the lack of freedom and choice animals are given – is that they are also subjected to physical or mental pain.
For a lack of a better expression, animals in labs are slaves.
Here is an illustration of how a mouse’s life goes inside laboratories:
I’ve also learned that artificial colors are periodically tested, because they still have potential health risks, even despite all the testing and adjustments made.
Even if you don’t avoid artificial colors, it’s easy to understand why stricter vegans do.
Sucralose is a synthetic sweetener made of modified sucrose (table sugar).
From a technical point of view, sucralose is vegan because it doesn’t contain any animal ingredients. But there are two potential issues that some people may overlook:
1 – Sucrose is essentially refined sugar. This means that sucrose may or not be vegan depending on the source of the sugar (sugarcane vs beets) and its refining process. Oftentimes, cane sugar is processed using bone char, which would make sucrose a non-vegan ingredient. (Read more on refined sugar here)
2 – Because it’s synthetically made, it must first be approved for consumption. To obtain that approval, sucralose was tested on animals, becoming a byproduct of animal suffering. Unlike artificial colors, I couldn’t find recent animal tests on sucralose.
These are the main two reasons why stricter vegans avoid sucralose.
Are There Better Alternatives to Powerade?
Here are some of the alternatives I’ve found:
Unlike Powerade, these energy drinks do not contain questionable ingredients such as refined sugar, hidden natural flavors, or even artificial colors.
Most of the brands advertise themselves as being vegan-friendly, unlike brands like Powerade, Gatorade, Monster, Red Bull and so on.
Plus, they contain little or no sugars, are GMO-free, have no preservatives, and don’t rely on high fructose corn syrup for sweetness. In other words, they’re generally healthier.
Make Your Energy Drink At Home
If you find yourself some free time, you can actually create a homemade energy drink that is 100% vegan and healthier than the standard energy drink.
I’ve found an awesome recipe on Youtube that I want to share with you:
However, be sure to swap the honey for a plant-based sweetener. There are several ones you can try out, including maple and agave syrup, monk fruit, stevia and a couple more!
It’s delicious, it will provide you with the energy you need, and it’s fundamentally healthier.
The bottom line is that Powerade is technically a vegan-friendly drink because it does not contain any “obvious” animal ingredient (i.e: honey or milk).
However, there are some points we need to keep in mind (especially if you’re a stricter vegan):
- Powerade contains natural flavors, or in other words, hidden ingredients that may or not be vegan, which may also vary based on the type of flavor you choose;
- It has artificial colors (with the exception of some flavors), which are known to be periodically tested on animals due to their potential health problems. (find examples above)
- According to Powerade.com, some of the drinks contain sucralose (made from sugar), which depending on the source of the sugar and its refining process, may or not be vegan.
This being said, if you’re like most vegans and are not concerned with these ingredients because they’re not listed as animal ingredients, then feel free to consume Powerade.
There is still an ongoing debate in the vegan community on complicated ingredients like the ones above, but it’s up to you to decide what’s best for you and your (physical and mental) health.
In my opinion, you’re not less vegan for drinking Powerade, although you may find others that disagree with this opinion. Thank you for taking the time to read this post!