Written by Lauren Panoff, MPH, RD on January 14, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Katherine Marengo LDN, R.D.

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Crystal Light is a powder meant to be mixed into water to give it a fruity flavor while keeping the drink low or zero calorie.

Prepared Crystal Light comes in a number of flavors, which are similar to fruit juice, sweet tea, or lemonade.

While similar powdered drinks are known to be fairly unhealthy, you may wonder whether Crystal Light is a better choice.

This article reviews whether Crystal Light is a healthy beverage, and what considerations should be made when deciding whether to drink it.


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Crystal Light has been available since the early 1980s and since evolved to be offered in several varieties. The current product categories include Classics, Tea, With Caffeine, and Pure.

While the names of most are self-explanatory, one major difference appears to be that Pure doesn’t use artificial sweeteners, flavors, or preservatives. Instead, it uses cane sugar, dried corn syrup, and stevia, as well as natural colors like turmeric or black carrot extract.

The basic ingredients in classic Crystal Light include:

Citric acid: a naturally occurring compound used for sour flavor and as a preservative Potassium citrate: a form of potassium that’s also used as a preservativeSodium citrate: a flavor enhancer and preservativeAspartame: an artificial sweetenerMagnesium oxide: a food additive used as a drying agent, as well as for color retention and pH modificationMaltodextrin: a sweetening, thickening, and stabilizing agent

Additionally, classic Crystal Light may comprise less than 2% natural flavorings, the artificial sweetener acesulfame potassium, the emulsifying agent soy lecithin, artificial colors, and the preservative butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA).

While the nutritional information can differ between varieties, a standard 1/2-packet (2-gram) serving of Crystal Light with the ingredients listed above has the following nutritional composition (1):

Calories: 5Protein: 0 gramsTotal fat: 0 gramsTotal carbs: 0 gramsTotal sugar: 0 gramsSodium: 35 mg

The calorie content of the four main Crystal Light varieties ranges from zero to 40 calories per packet. Most packets contain two to eight servings.

SUMMARY

Crystal Light comes in several varieties, including fruity flavors, teas, caffeinated options, and Pure, which uses sugar and natural flavors and colors in place of artificial ones. All varieties are nutritionally similar.


The artificial colors and sweeteners used in most varieties of Crystal Light, including Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, aspartame, sucralose, and stevia, have sparked some controversy among consumers.

While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) declares these ingredients generally recognized as safe, some health experts say there’s not enough long-term evidence to comfortably say they’re risk-free for everyone.

In fact, some studies have suggested that artificial colors in foods and drinks may be linked to allergic reactions, behavioral problems in children, and even autoimmune disorders (2, 3, 4, 5).

Aspartame is made of two main components, phenylalanine and aspartic acid, which are amino acids that occur in nature. Some studies suggest that people with a neurological movement disorder called tardive dyskinesia avoid it, as it could amplify their symptoms (6, 7).

Additionally, aspartame is not safe for people with phenylketonuria, a rare genetic disorder that causes phenylalanine to accumulate in the body, causing neurological damage if left untreated (8).

Sucralose, also known as Splenda, is made from sugar in a process that chemically replaces three hydrogen-oxygen groups with chlorine atoms.

While the long-term health effects of its use are unclear, some research indicates it may reduce insulin sensitivity and affect gut bacteria (9, 10).

Stevia is an herbal, zero-calorie sweetener derived from the stevia plant.

Some experts warn that excess stevia use could trigger low blood sugar and blood pressure levels, as well as that the sweetener should be used with caution among people with diabetes and those on blood pressure medication (11, 12, 13).

Finally, artificial sweeteners may trigger headaches and depressive symptoms and increase the risk of adverse effects on the kidneys or heart. Some scientists also suggest that more research is needed to confirm they don’t play a role in triggering type 2 diabetes (14, 15).

SUMMARY

The most controversial ingredients in Crystal Light are artificial colors and sweeteners. While the FDA generally recognizes them as safe, some claim aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and artificial colors lack long-term evidence and may have adverse effects.


Although Crystal Light offers a flavorful way to break up your day, it appears that most of its options contain various artificial sweeteners and colors that some people may want to avoid, especially in excess.

These beverages don’t quite fit the bill for being healthy drinks, as they don’t offer health benefits, but there are worse beverages out there.

The Crystal Light Pure option, which uses more naturally derived ingredients, is a better choice, though it does contain added sugar.

As such, Crystal Light could certainly be enjoyed on occasion, but plain water remains the best way to meet your hydration needs.

If you get bored with plain water, you can flavor it yourself naturally with fresh berries, slices of fruit, or cucumber. Alternatively, you could opt for naturally flavored seltzer water.

See more: How Many Carbs In A Teaspoon Of Brown Sugar : Are There Health Benefits?

SUMMARY

Crystal Light isn’t the worst offender when it comes to beverages, but it’s not exactly a health food either. Your best option for hydration is plain or naturally flavored water, leaving Crystal Light as an occasional option.


Crystal Light is a low or zero calorie powdered drink mix marketed as a convenient way to interrupt boredom with plain water and stay hydrated.

The ingredients in Crystal Light vary by variety but are overall a combination of alternative sweeteners, preservatives, and artificial colors and flavors.

However, Crystal Light Pure offers powders that use sugar and natural colors and flavors instead, without preservatives.

For the average healthy person, drinking Crystal Light occasionally is unlikely to be problematic. Still, the best way to stay hydrated is to drink plain water, flavor plain water yourself with a few slices of fresh fruit, berries, or cucumber, or choose seltzer water.