Is Kool-Aid vegan?

Kool-Aid is one of the most famous brands of artificial fruit drinks in the US. It is available in both powder and liquid forms. The powdered ones are mostly unsweetened and, therefore, prepared by mixing with sugar and water. There are several different flavours and varieties of Kool-Aid drinks and mixes to suit every taste bud.

Most of us grew up drinking this synthetic beverage and are now wondering whether you should include it in your current diet. Well, stay with me as I cover all the necessary information you need to know about Kool-Aid to help you make an informed decision.

Is Kool-Aid vegan? Yes, Kool-Aid is mostly synthetic and doesn’t contain any real fruits. Even so, all the flavours and varieties of Kool-Aid mixes and drinks are free of animal-derived ingredients, which mean it’s completely vegan. It was earlier believed that such drinks contain gelatine, but nothing could be further from the truth as we are going to see later on.

Being vegan doesn’t mean one has to write off every indulgence. And, with the growing wave of vegan junk food, you’ll be surprised by the number of options still available to you as a vegan. However, determining vegan junk foods is not an easy task as many of them contain questionable or controversial ingredients in the vegan world.

If you’ve read some of my other articles on veganism, I’ve always said that you should never eat anything that you don’t recognise all of the ingredients in it. Therefore, in this text, I will be decoding what is contained in Kool-Aid so you can determine whether it is good for you or not.

The Vegan Status of Kool-Aid

People become vegans for different reasons, so let’s see if Kool-Aid ticks all the brackets for different types of vegans. Kool-Aid is considered vegan because:

It doesn’t contain gelatine

A common misconception is that Kool-Aid contains gelatine. This is partly because the popular strawberry Kool-Aid dessert contains gelatine. Also, there’s a more insidious use of gelatine in the manufacture of soft drinks and fruit juices to clarify them or added to the final product to stabilise beta-carotene, which is then used as a colouring agent.

Gelatine is unacceptable in the vegan world as it’s derived from prolonged boiling of animal skin, bones, cartilage, and other stuff that the meat industries have leftover. Luckily, Kool-Aid mixes and drinks don’t contain this non-vegan ingredient.

It contains vegan-friendly additives

Like any other highly processed food, Kool-Aid contains a number of additives to improve flavour, texture, and nutrient value. The most common additives contained in Kool-Aid products include:

  • Citric acid: While this is naturally found in citrus fruits, the synthetic version that is commonly added to foods is produced from a type of mould fed on glucose or molasses, hydrolysed corn starch, corn steep liquor, and more.
  • Calcium phosphate: Even though it’s present in animal bones, calcium phosphate is mainly sourced from the phosphate rocks.
  • Ascorbic acid: This is simply another term for vitamin C, which is made industrially through fermentation.
  • BHA (Butylated Hydroxyanisole): This is synthetically made without the use of any animal-derived ingredients.

It contains vegan-friendly food dyes

The food dyes found in Kool-Aid are Blue 1, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, and Red 40 (not to be confused with Red 4 or carmine, which is a non-vegan food colour as it’s derived from beetles). These food dyes are either made synthetically or derived from petroleum by-products without the use of any animal-derived ingredients.

That being said, vegans tend to consume products that contain natural and non-GMO ingredients; as such, these artificially made food colourings may not sit well with some vegans. Keep reading to find out why!

From the ingredients list above, none of the ingredients contained in Kool-Aid is derived from animals, making it a completely vegan-friendly product. As I had mentioned earlier, Kool-Aid is mostly available in powdered form but you can also find it in liquid form. This is basically concentrated syrup that can also be added to water just like the powder mix. Other types of this product are the Kool-Aid jammers and Kool-Aid bursts. Are they all vegan-friendly?

No matter the type, all Kool-Aid varieties can be included in a vegan diet. The ingredients may vary depending on the flavour but they are all vegan-friendly.

Is Kool-Aid Healthy

The vegan diet emphasizes on a plant-based diet, which is more beneficial to our bodies. In fact, some people go vegan for its health benefits. For this reason, it’s only fair that I cover whether or not Kool-Aid is good for your health.

Kool-Aid offers next to no beneficial micronutrients as it’s simply sugar, flavouring, and water. But perhaps the biggest health concern is it contains a considerable amount of sugar, about 20g in an 8-ounce serving. Even though the unsweetened Kool-Aid mixes list zero calories, it doesn’t account for all the sugar you have to add during preparation, which is recommended at 1 cup of sugar for 1 packet of Kool-Aid.

This is a lot of sugar to consume in just one drink considering the recommended daily intake is 25g for women and 36g for men. Too much sugar increases blood sugar levels and the risk of developing diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other serious ailments.

Secondly, the artificial food dyes in Kool-Aid can cause hyperactivity in kids and some like Red 40 have been linked to certain cancers.

There’s no denying that Kool-Aid is not the healthiest food choice. So, if you have to take it, do it in moderation. Alternatively, you can try vegan juices that are free of artificial ingredients and preservatives or better yet, make fresh juices at home.

Other Related Vegan-Friendly Drinks

Personally, when I drink juice, I prefer to have as many real fruits and/or vegetables as possible with little to no added sugars. That way, I get all the vitamins and necessary nutrients that these foods have to offer without any extra calories. Needless to say, I think everyone should strive to have natural juices more than the artificial kind.

But as we’ve seen above, artificial juices like Kool-Aid are not as bad when taken in moderation. This sweet beverage can’t be beaten on a hot day, especially if you’re trying to please vegan taste buds. With that being said, are there any other great vegan replacements?

Well, pretty much everything in the drinks aisle is vegan-friendly. Of course, anything that contains dairy or other animal-derived ingredients should not be in your vegan shopping list. You’ll discover more delicious animal-free drink options with continued research but here are a few great choices to get you started:

  • Whole Foods Strawberry Banana Smoothie Mix
  • Naked Juice products except for those in the “Protein Zone” line as they contain whey
  • Capri Sun juices
  • Crystal Light powdered mixes
  • Simply Orange juices
  • Original V8 Juice

Be sure to get vegan-friendly energy drinks, smoothie mixes, hot chocolate mixes, teas, soft drinks, and more for completely delicious animal-free beverages.

Vegan Concerns in Kool-Aid and Other Related Vegan-Friendly Drinks

While it’s true that Kool-Aid and the other drinks I mentioned earlier don’t contain the most obvious animal-derived ingredients, they do contain some ingredients that are controversial in the vegan world. This includes:

Sugar

Sugar in itself is vegan as it’s derived from sugar cane, sugar beets, as well as from the sap of certain species of maple trees. However, it’s often processed using bone char, which is derived from charring animal bones, to give it a pure white colour. What’s more frustrating is there are vegan-friendly ways of processing sugar, which a lot of manufacturers are adopting, but there’s no way of telling what filtering agent was used in the sugars contained in your drink of choice. You can try reaching out to the manufacturer to find out where they source their sugar from if you don’t mind the hassle, of course.

Natural flavours

This is a general term for flavours derived from both plants and animals. In other words, it’s nearly impossible to determine whether they are 100% animal-based or plant-based.

Artificial colours

While it’s true that artificial food dyes are made in a synthetic manner or derived from petroleum by-products without the use of any animal-derived ingredients, they are often tested on animals to know if they are safe for human consumption. This might not sit well with some vegans given all the animals that often die as a result of such testing.

Vitamin fortifications

Certain vitamins like Vitamin D can be derived from plants like lichens or wool.

A lot of vegans don’t dismiss vegan products based on these controversial ingredients due to the lack of practicality. It’s nearly impossible to find foods, especially processed ones, which haven’t contributed to animal suffering in one way or the other. But for stricter vegans, anything that makes use of animal products and by-products –whether directly or indirectly –is marked off their shopping list. There’s no set direction for being vegan, so whether or not you should consume Kool-Aid will depend on why you are vegan and your level of strictness.

Robert Van De Ville

Robert Van De Ville is a registered nutritionist, he earned his degree in nutrition from California State University. Now based in London UK. An author of the upcoming book, researcher and dedicated vegan activist.

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