Is Kool-Aid Healthy? 13 Things You Should Know - I Am Going Vegan (2024)

Is Kool-Aid Healthy? 13 Things You Should Know - I Am Going Vegan (1) Tyler McFarland on August 21, 2022

Updated on December 13, 2023 Reviewed and fact-checked Found a mistake? Let us know!

Is Kool-Aid a healthy beverage option?

No, Kool-Aid is not a healthy beverage option as it contains a significant amount of sugar and artificial dyes that can have negative effects on health.

Continue reading to find out more and check your knowledge!

Ingredients to be cautious aboutShort-term side effectsLong-term side effectsHealthy alternativesKnowledge testRelated videos

Ingredients to be cautious about

  • Sugar
  • Citric acid
  • Calcium phosphate
  • Artificial flavor
  • Red 40
  • Blue 1

Possible short-term side effects

  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Dyes may turn stool green
  • Spike in blood sugar level

Possible long-term side effects

  • Inflammation
  • Obesity and related effects
  • Diabetes
  • Cancer

Healthy alternatives

  • Water
  • Herbal tea
  • Fruit-infused water
  • Sparkling water
  • 100% fruit juice (in moderation)

Did you know...? 🤔

Is Kool-Aid a healthy beverage option?

Does Kool-Aid contain a significant amount of sugar?

Does Kool-Aid contain artificial dyes?

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Sometimes as a kid, I would make Kool-Aid with 3x the recommended amount of sugar. Looking back, that was awful for my body. But what about normal Kool-Aid, with the normal amount of sugar? How bad is Kool-Aid? Let’s talk about that today.

Kool-Aid is not very healthy, as it is high in sugar but low in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Depending on the exact Kool-Aid product, it may also have other processed ingredients like sucralose, artificial colors, and controversial preservatives like sodium benzoate.

Below, I’ll discuss each of these questionable ingredients. I’ll also address whether Kool-Aid is fattening, how it compares to soda and Capri Sun, and much more!

Is Kool-Aid Bad for You?

Here are the 13 specific questions I’ll be answering about Kool-Aid nutrition.Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:

  1. What Is Kool-Aid Made Of?
  2. How Much Sugar Is in Kool-Aid?
  3. Does Kool-Aid Have Artificial Sweeteners?
  4. Does Kool-Aid Count as Water Intake?
  5. Are the Artificial Colors in Kool-Aid Safe?
  6. Does Kool-Aid Have Caffeine?
  7. Is Kool-Aid High in Sodium?
  8. Does Kool-Aid Make You Gain Weight?
  9. Is Kool-Aid Healthier Than Soda?
  10. Is Kool-Aid Healthier Than Capri Sun?
  11. Is It Bad to Drink Kool-Aid Every Day?
  12. Is Kool-Aid Bad for You Without Sugar?
  13. Is Kool-Aid Vegan?

1. What Is Kool-Aid Made Of?

There are many Kool-Aid products and flavors. Let’s look at a few of the most popular products. I’ll share my takeaway points below the table:

Kool-Aid ProductIngredients
Kool-Aid Powder Packet (Orange)Citric Acid, Maltodextrin, Salt, Natural Flavor, Calcium Phosphate, Contains Less Than 2% Of Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Artificial Flavor, Artificial Color, Red 40, Yellow 5, BHA (Preservative).
Kool-Aid Jammers (Tropical Punch)Filtered Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains 2 % Or Less Of Citric Acid, Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C), Natural And Artificial Flavor, Sucralose (Sweetener), Blue 1, Calcium Disodium EDTA (Preserve Freshness).
Kool-Aid Bursts (Grape)Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Contains Less Than 2% Of Artificial Flavor, Sucralose (Sweetener), Citric Acid (For Tartness), Sodium Citrate (Controls Tartness), Red 40, Blue 1, Sodium Benzoate And Potassium Sorbate (To Preserve Freshness), Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Protect Flavor).
Kool-Aid Liquid Drink Mix (Cherry)Water, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Sucralose (Sweetener), Contains Less Than 2% Of Artificial Flavor, Acesulfame Potassium (Sweetener), Sucrose Acetate Isobutyrate, Red 40, Blue 1, Potassium Sorbate (Preservative).

Here’s what I notice about these ingredients:

  • Kool-Aid has artificial colors. Depending on the flavor, Kool-Aid has Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5, and other artificial colors. These dyes are controversial for causing hyperactivity in some children, and for possible connections to cancer. You can read more below.
  • Some Kool-Aid products have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Kool-Aid Jammers and Kool-Aid Bursts are sweetened with HFCS. Below, we’ll explore whether HFCS is worse than normal sugar or not—but in any case, it’s not any better!
  • Some Kool-Aid products have sucralose.Sucralose is a somewhat controversial artificial sweetener. It reduces the calories and sugar in Kool-Aid Jammers and Kool-Aid Bursts, but it may come with downsides for gut health. Kool-Aid Liquid also has acesulfame potassium. More details on these artificial sweeteners below.
  • Kool-Aid Bursts have sodium benzoate and potassium sorbate. These preservatives are a bit controversial for potential cancer risk. Sodium benzoate can potentially turn into benzene, which is a carcinogen. In addition, potassium sorbate (found in Bursts and Kool-Aid Liquid) has been shown to have mutagenic effects in human tissue.
  • Kool-Aid packets have BHA.BHA is a preservative that may be carcinogenic. Multiple credible health organizations have concluded that BHA could be “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen,” and that it is “possibly carcinogenic to humans.” (source)
  • Kool-Aid powder packets don’t have sugar (or any sweetener). When you make Kool-Aid from a packet, you have to add the sugar yourself. That means the packets are sugar-free. And that means you can potentially sweeten the Kool-Aid with something healthier besides sugar. We’ll explore these options more below.

As you can see, there are many potential negatives in Kool-Aid’s ingredients. But the biggest concern for most people will be sugar. So let’s look at sugar content in the next sections below.

2. How Much Sugar Is in Kool-Aid?

Kool-Aid has less sugar than soda, but it still has a lot. Just 12 fl oz of most Kool Aid drinks is enough to put you near the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sugar limit. However, Kool-Aid Bursts seem to be unusually low in sugar.

The American Heart Associationrecommendsa limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. Two servings of Kool-Aid would put you at 28g, which is above the limit for women and near the limit for men.

Keep in mind: No added sugar is needed for human health. Really, the healthiest diet would likely just have natural sugar from fruit and whole foods. So in a sense, any “added sugar” is already a negative.

Here’s a table showing how the sugar content of Kool-Aid compares to other sugary drinks:

DrinkTotal Sugar (in 12 fl oz)
Kool-Aid Bursts9g
V8 Tomato Juice10g
Vitamin Water15g
Sunny D21g
Kool-Aid Powder (Canister)26g
Kool-Aid Jammers32g
Simply Orange Juice34g
Dr Pepper39g
Monster Energy40g
Barq’s Root Beer45g
Mountain Dew46g
Welch’s Grape Juice52g

Why are Kool-Aid Bursts so much lower in sugar? Likely they contain higher amounts of the artificial sweetener sucralose. Read more about sucralose below to see if this is actually a good thing or not.

Related question:

  • Can you drink Kool-Aid on keto? Kool-Aid is not keto friendly. Pretty much all the calories come from carbohydrates, with 17g of total carbs per 6 oz serving of Kool-Aid Jammers, for example.

3. Does Kool-Aid Have Artificial Sweeteners?

Is Kool-Aid Healthy? 13 Things You Should Know - I Am Going Vegan (5)

Some Kool-Aid products contain the artificial sweeteners sucralose and/or acesulfame potassium. Both of these sweeteners are FDA approved and generally recognized as safe, but there remains some controversy around the long-term health impacts of each.

The most widely controversial artificial sweetener is probablyaspartame. Personally, I avoid aspartame because of theresearchshowing possible connections to depression. The Kool-Aid products I checked donotcontain aspartame.

Another sweetener people sometimes have questions about is xylitol, especially since it is bad for dogs.Kool Aid does not have xylitol.

So let’s look at the health concerns around the sweeteners that are used in several Kool-Aid products—sucralose and acesulfame K.

First, let’s coversucralose:

What aboutacesulfame K?

  • Studies in the 1970s suggested that acesulfame Kmightcause cancer—but the studies were not good quality. (source)
  • One breakdown product of acesulfame K—acetoacetamide—maycause 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)

Keep in mind that most of the health concerns around artificial sweeteners are not well proven. They are just concerns. But for many people, the risk feels scary nonetheless. Why take the risk if you don’t have to?

4. Does Kool-Aid Count as Water Intake?

Kool-Aid is mostly water by volume, so for many purposes, it would count as water intake. Kool-Aid can aid in hydration. However, Kool-Aid also contains sugar and other ingredients that are not healthy when consumed in excess, so it should not be your only beverage.

It should also be noted that Kool-Aid doesn’t really have electrolytes. For example, Kool-Aid Jammers only have about 30mg of sodium per pouch. Gatorade has more than twice as much sodium. So Kool-Aid is not a sports drink, and it’s not formulated to assist in rehydration.

That said, for many purposes, yes, when you drink Kool-Aid, you are consuming water along with the other ingredients. So Kool-Aid does generally count toward your total water/fluid intake.

5. Are the Artificial Colors in Kool-Aid Safe?

Is Kool-Aid Healthy? 13 Things You Should Know - I Am Going Vegan (6)

Kool-Aid has artificial colors like Yellow 5, Red 40, and others depending on the flavor. Research suggests that artificial colors cause hyperactivity and behavioral issues in some children. There are also concerns around possible carcinogens in artificial colors used in Kool-Aid.

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.

Some research has suggested that as little as 50 mg per day of artificial food colorings could cause behavioral changes in children. And the same research noted that a single serving of Kool-Aid Burst Cherry has more than that (52.3 mg)! (source)

So, according to that research, Kool-Aid may indeed causes behavioral changes like hyperactivity in children.

There may also be cancer risks from some of these artificial colors, but the evidence is not solid:

  • Yellow 5: A 2015 study found that Yellow 5 caused DNA damage in human white blood cells that it was exposed to. It is possible that this DNA damage could lead to tumor formation if it were to happen in amounts that could not be repaired.
  • Yellow 6:Yellow 6 often contains known carcinogenic contaminants, including benzidine and 4-amino-biphenyl. These contaminants have only been documented at low levels where it shouldn’t be cause for concern, however. There were also animal trials where Yellow 6 resulted in kidney/adrenal tumors—but this result is disputed. (source,source)
  • Red 40: Red 40has small amounts of benzidene, which is a known carcinogen.It’s legally allowed because the amount is small enough to have no presumed effect. The EU requires foods with Red 40 to bear awarningsaying it“may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children.”
  • 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 of these artificial colors are still being tested on animals to determine their safety.The most established problem ishyperactivity in kids. Some governments have taken steps to add warnings or ban some of these dyes.

It’s actually hard to find good credible sources on which of these dyes are currently banned in which countries. But I found the most credible documentation thatYellow 6is banned in Japan and several European countries.

6. Does Kool-Aid Have Caffeine?

Kool-Aid does not have caffeine.It is not anenergy drink. It is not advertised as providing caffeine, and none of the ingredients have caffeine naturally. Kool-Aid should not keep you awake.

Caffeine is an interesting ingredient because it has documented health benefits, but it can also be bad in many cases. Studies show it mayreduce the riskof Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s… But it’s habit forming, and too much can disrupt sleep.

In any case, Kool-Aid is caffeine free!

7. Is Kool-Aid High in Sodium?

All the Kool-Aid products I checked are very low in sodium, with between 0mg and 30mg per serving. Even Kool-Aid Jammers, with 30mg of sodium per pouch, still only have about 1% of the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day.

Even with the American Heart Association’s lower “ideal limit” of 1,500 mg of sodium per day, one Kool-Aid Jammer pouch only gives you 2% of your daily sodium intake. You’d have to drink 50 Kool-Aid Jammers to reach their limit. So, Kool-Aid is pretty low in sodium.

8. Does Kool-Aid Make You Gain Weight?

Kool-Aid drinks contain calorie-dense ingredients like sugar or high fructose corn syrup, so they could contribute to weight gain. However, changes in bodyweight depend on overall calorie balance. Drinking Kool-Aid in moderation will not automatically cause weight gain.

Many people misunderstand what actually causes fat gain. It isn’t generally caused by eating a specific unhealthy food. Fat gain is a result of consuming more calories than you burn overall. The overall quantity of calories is what’s important.

For example, it’s possible to gain fat from healthy foods—if you eat large portions and don’t exercise. In the same way, it’s been proven that you can lose weight by eating McDonald’s, if you eat a small amount.

So, there’s a sense in which no specific food is “fattening.” Only overall diets can be fattening… However, there’s another sense in which Kool-Aid can lead to weight gain: It simply has a decent amount of empty liquid calories, which don’t really fill you up.

That is, when you drink Kool-Aid, you’re getting calories without really getting full. And that can lead you to drinking more calories than you need. And in turn, that can cause weight gain.

So, yes, there is a sense in which Kool-Aid could cause weight gain. But the actual key is your overall diet and calorie balance.One specific food doesn’t make or break your diet.

If your goal is weight loss, I would consider (A) tracking your calories, or (B) following some of these18 tips for weight loss without counting calories. Whether you drink some Kool-Aid (in moderation) will not make or break your weight-loss journey by itself.

Does nutrition ever seem confusing? It doesn’t have to be. Learn how simple (and delicious) healthy eating can be in the FREE Food for Health Masterclass. This 1-hour presentation makes things clear—finally. Click here to reserve your free spot!

9. Is Kool-Aid Healthier Than Soda?

Let’s compare Kool-Aid with the most popular soda in the world, Coca-Cola. We’ll look at a 6 fl oz serving of each. That’s 1 pouch of Kool-Aid Jammers and 1/2 can of co*ke:

DrinkCaloriesTotal SugarsSodium
Kool-Aid Jammers (1 pouch)7016g30mg
Coca-Cola (1/2 can)7020g23mg

As you can see, these drinks are pretty similar nutritionally. Coca-Cola is higher in sugar, and Kool-Aid Jammers are higher in sodium—but neither is a big difference.

What about the ingredients? Well, they both have some questionable ingredients along with the sugar itself. Coca-Cola has caramel color and sodium benzoate, which have been linked to potential carcinogens, and phosphoric acid, which may lead to osteoporosis and tooth decay.

Meanwhile, Kool-Aid Jammers have sucralose and artificial colors like Red 40. And we already covered above why these ingredients are often considered unhealthy.

Overall, the real answer is that neither Kool-Aid nor co*ke are healthy drinks. If I had to choose one, I might choose Kool-Aid, just to get slightly less sugar—but neither drink is healthy.

10. Is Kool-Aid Healthier Than Capri Sun?

Now let’s look at Kool-Aid vs Capri Sun. We’ll be comparing the pouches, so Kool-Aid Jammers and Capri Sun, actually:

DrinkCaloriesTotal SugarsSodium
Kool-Aid Jammers (1 pouch)7016g30mg
Capri Sun Juice Drink (1 pouch)355g15mg

Here you can see, Capri Sun is a bit lower in calories, sugar, and sodium. So Capri Sun looks like the winner in this regard, but what about when looking at the ingredients?

Honestly, Capri Sun ingredients look better than Kool-Aid, too:

Capri Sun Juice Drink (Fruit Punch) Ingredients: Filtered Water; Sugar; Pear And Grape Juice Concentrates; Citric Acid; Orange, Apple And Pineapple Juice Concentrates; Natural Flavor; Mushroom Extract (To Protect Quality).

Capri Sun has sugar, but aside from that, it’s mostly just juice concentrates, natural flavors, and strangely enough, mushroom extract. But there are no artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, or questionable preservatives like found in many Kool-Aid products.

So, based on these two products, it seems that Capri Sun is a bit healthier than Kool-Aid. But keep in mind: There are many product lines by Kool-Aid and Capri Sun. The comparison may look different depending on the specific products you compare.

11. Is It Bad to Drink Kool-Aid Every Day?

Generally speaking, it is bad to drink Kool-Aid every day. It is high in sugar, and depending on the exact drink you have, it may contain other processed ingredients like sucralose, artificial colors, and preservatives like sodium benzoate. Especially if Kool-Aid is part of a high-sugar diet, it is not healthy.

High-sugar diets lead to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, and more health problems. And if you drink even two or three servings of Kool-Aid, you’ve already entered into the realm of “high sugar,” to some extent.

So, side effects of drinking Kool-Aid every day could potentially include cavities, weight gain, blood-sugar spikes leading to acne and other issues, and more—all from the sugar.

And that’s not even mentioning the potential behavioral effects of the artificial colors—or the potential increased cancer risks with artificial sweeteners and colors.

Now, technically, you could drink one or two sips of Kool-Aid a day, and you could still be consuming a low-sugar diet. So, that would probably be fine. But who is stopping after one sip? Let’s be realistic here.

The most sensible general guideline would be to only drink Kool-Aid on occasion. Don’t make it a daily habit.

12. Is Kool-Aid Bad for You Without Sugar?

It is possible to make a drink from Kool-Aid packets without sugar. But even if you replace the sugar with a healthier sweetener, your Kool-Aid will still have multiple unhealthy or controversial ingredients. Artificial colors like Red 40 and BHA would probably be the biggest concerns.

How do you sweeten Kool-Aid without sugar? Well, it’s possible to buy natural zero-calorie sweeteners at the store. You could add one of those instead of sugar. Stevia, erythritol, or monk fruit extract might be interesting choices.

As I covered in my Zevia soda review, there are still some potential downsides with natural zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia—but they seem better than sugar or artificial sweeteners to me.

Honestly, the healthiest Kool-Aid alternatives would not even use Kool-Aid powder at all. They would avoid artificial colors and preservatives all together. For example, check out this cranberry drink formulated by Dr. Michael Greger.

13. Is Kool-Aid Vegan?

Kool-Aid is generally considered vegan. It contains no milk, egg, meat, honey, or other animal ingredients. However, in many cases, Kool-Aid will be made with sugar that is filtered with animal bone char. Therefore, some of the most strict vegans would avoid it.

If you want to be certain that your sugar is vegan, then you can get organic sugar. Organic sugar is never filtered with animal bone char. (source)

Two More Recommendations for Your Plant-Based Journey

1. This is the best free video training I’ve found on plant-based nutrition. You’ll learn how to reduce your risk of cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and obesity—all with plant-based food. Watch the free “Food for Health Masterclass” here.

2. This is thebest vegan multivitamin I’ve foundin my 14 years of being vegan.It has vitamin B12, vitamin D, omega-3—and nothing else. Translation: It only has the nutrients vegans areactually low in. Read myfull review of Future Kind’s multivitamin here(with 10% discount).



Is Kool-Aid Healthy? 13 Things You Should Know - I Am Going Vegan (7) Tyler McFarland

I’m Tyler McFarland, the editor and main author here. When I first went vegan 13 years ago, convenience products like veggie burgers and soy milk were a lot harder to find. Now they’re everywhere!

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