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Is Panera's Charged Lemonade Healthy?

Panera's Charged Lemonade Has Been Blamed For Multiple Deaths — RDs Share Their Concerns

Is Panera's Charged Lemonade Healthy?

Image Source: Panera Bread

A standard latte has one shot of espresso, a macchiato calls for two, but Panera's Charged Lemonade? A single 20-ounce cup of it is equivalent to more than four shots of espresso. That's news to most people, despite the fact that the chain's line of lemonades has been out since April 2022.

In fact, Panera is now under fire after being blamed for a second death. According to a lawsuit filed Monday, Florida resident Dennis Brown drank three Charged Lemonades from a local Panera on Oct. 9 and died of cardiac arrest, per "Today."

In late October, a lawsuit alleged the company's failure to properly warn customers about the drink's ingredients led to the death of University of Pennsylvania student Sarah Katz, who had a heart condition and consumed the highly caffeinated beverage, per NBC News. The Food and Drug Administration is reportedly "gathering information" around the incident.

Panera told NBC after the Katz family's lawsuit that it had "enhanced" the existing disclosures for these beverages in restaurants and on its website and app. In a statement released on Tuesday, Panera said it "stands firmly by the safety of our products," per The New York Times.

That being said, social media users have also made concerning claims about the drink. "I feel like the Hulk!" content creator @sarahebaus shared in a recent viral TikTok after consuming multiple refills of the beverage. Others echoed her sentiments, commenting that the lemonade kept them up for over 24 hours.

Customers have compared taking one sip of Charged Lemonade to Fergie doing cartwheels and Winnie the Pooh having an out-of-body experience — and as someone who's actually tried it, the memes are hardly an exaggeration. Ahead, my review of the Charged Lemonade and what RDs think of the beverage — plus options for a healthier alternative.

What to Know About Panera's Charged Lemonade

When I tried it for myself, I went with the Strawberry Lemon Mint flavor, and by the time I was finished with my drink, I was completely wired. Despite the fact that Panera's 20-ounce Cafe Blend Dark Roast Coffee contains about the same amount of caffeine — 268 milligrams versus the 20-ounce Charged Lemonade's 260 milligrams — I felt significantly more energized than I usually do after a cup of coffee. The larger size, 30 ounces, which Katz consumed, contains 390 milligrams of caffeine — more than any size of the company's dark roast coffee, per NBC.

While the recommended daily intake of caffeine is 400 milligrams, every body is different. "Some individuals are highly sensitive to caffeine and can experience adverse effects even with small amounts of less than 100 milligrams, while others may tolerate higher doses without apparent issues," Joe Whittington, MD, previously told POPSUGAR.

@sarahebaus

@Panera Bread this drink should come with a warning because it’s delicious and will lead to my cardiac arrest #panerabread #mangoyuzucitrus #remotework

♬ original sound - sarahebaus

In the case of Panera's Charged Lemonades, it's not just the caffeine that you have to take into consideration. According to dietitian Wendy Lord, RD, the drink contains four different sources of energy. In addition to caffeine, coffee extract, and guarana extract, the Strawberry Lemon Mint flavor also contains a whopping 65 grams of sugar (the other two flavors, Fuji Apple Cranberry and Mango Yuzu Citrus, have 65 grams of sugar and 82 grams of sugar, respectively). "It gives you a quick energy boost, but as soon as the sugar level goes down, you feel low," Lord explains. For this reason, NYC-based dietitian Leyla Shamayeva, RD, says Panera's Charged Lemonades are more like "energy drinks with added caffeine" than they are actual lemonade. The sugar content, Shamayeva says, is "right on par with sugar counts in 20 ounces of regular Red Bull, and it's more sugar than the American Heart Association recommends per day."

Although Panera's Charged Lemonades are accurately advertised as "clean" and "plant-based" since they don't contain artificial flavors, the truth is they have little nutritional value, which is pretty unfortunate considering how tasty they are. They're fruity and refreshing, and they do taste like lemonade, but both dietitians agree they're filled with so many empty calories that you're better off just drinking regular lemonade. Plus, "it's essential for individuals who know or suspect they are sensitive to caffeine to pay close attention to their body's response when consuming products containing caffeine. If you are sensitive to caffeine, consider reducing caffeine intake or eliminating it altogether, depending on the severity of the symptoms," Dr. Whittington told POPSUGAR.

Ultimately, Panera's drinks are best enjoyed in moderation, so if you're planning to sip all day, Lord and Shamayeva recommend two healthier yet energizing alternatives. To make Lord's cherry lemonade or Shamayeva's strawberry mint lemonade, read on for all the ingredients and steps.

— Additional reporting by Alexis Jones

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Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Kalea Martin

Panera Charged Lemonade Alternatives

Wendy Lord and Leyla Shamayeva

Is Panera's Charged Lemonade Healthy?

Ingredients

  1. For strawberry mint lemonade:
    1 lemon, juiced
    1 cup green tea
    1 sprig mint
    2 strawberries
  1. For cherry lemonade:
    1 lemon, juiced
    1 cup green tea
    1/2 cup cherry juice
    1/2 cup coconut water
    1/2 cup seltzer water
    Agave nectar, to taste

Directions

For strawberry mint lemonade:

  1. Brew a bag of green tea, then measure out one cup.
  2. While tea cools, muddle together strawberry and mint.
  3. Mix with lemon juice and cooled green tea, then drizzle on a sweetener of your choice.

For cherry lemonade:

  1. Combine brewed green tea with cherry juice, coconut water, seltzer water, agave nectar, lemon juice.
  2. Blend or serve with ice, and enjoy!
Image Source: Panera Bread
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