Susan Peterson is an award-winning writer and author of "Western Herbs for Martial Artists and Contacts Athletes."
Tang, Kraft Foods' citrus-flavored breakfast drink, has been a part of many Americans' breakfast since its release in 1959. According to the NASA Spinoff website, Tang flew with the Gemini astronauts into space in 1965. Immediately after Gemini's launch, Kraft launched the marketing campaign that revolutionized Tang's image. They marketed Tang as the breakfast beverage astronauts drink. Space-age charisma aside, Tang is probably not your best choice as a nutritious breakfast beverage.
Why Is Tang Bad for You?
It's all about the sugar. The first ingredient in Tang is sugar. The second ingredient in Tang is fructose, in other words, sugar. Farther down the ingredient list are Maltodextrin, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Neotame, which are all artificial sweeteners. Tang contains 24 grams of sugar in an 8 oz serving. That's almost six teaspoons of sugar. Though six teaspoons might not seem like much, it counts up if you drink Tang each morning for breakfast. At 15 calories per teaspoon, you are drinking an extra 85 "empty" calories each morning, or 31,025 extra calories in a year. That's enough to put eight extra pounds on you each year.
What Are Tang's Ingredients?
Only the color is orange. Tang may be orange in color, but it is definitely not orange juice. Tang contains less than 2% orange juice solids. If a serving of Tang is 8 ounces, 2% of a glass of Tang is .16 ounce, or less than a teaspoon. Most of Tang's flavor comes from "natural and artificial flavor." Tang is unhealthy because of all of the unnatural ingredients used to make it.
Tang contains the following ingredients:
- Citric Acid
- Calcium Phosphate
- Contains Less than 2% of Orange Juice Solids
- Natural Flavor
- Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
- Vitamin E Acetate
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin A Palmitate
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Beta Carotene
- Acesulfame Potassium
- and Neotame (Sweeteners)
- Guar and Xanthan Gums (Provides Body)
- Artificial Color
- Yellow 5
- Yellow 6
- BHA (to Help Protect Flavor)
What's Wrong With Artificial Flavors?
Eric Schlosser, in his book Fast Food Nation, points out something that may not be obvious: "Natural and artificial flavors are now manufactured at the same chemical plants, places that few people would associate with Mother Nature. Calling any of these flavors “natural” requires a flexible attitude toward the English language and a fair amount of irony."
In other words, Tang is not orange juice with all the health benefits of natural citrus. Tang is a drink that is engineered to taste like orange. These artificial flavors may taste fantastic, but they do not contain any of the vitamins and minerals you need on a daily basis.
What If You Drank Tang Every Day?
|Servings||Calories Per Serving||Calories Per Year||Amount of Sugar Per Serving||Amount of Sugar Per Year|
By contrast, a medium glass of orange juice contains about 62 calories, a third fewer than a small glass of Tang, and with it you get vitamins and minerals that Tang lacks. Below you can see another table that shows just how many calories you'd avoid if you were to drink juice instead of Tang.
What If You Drank Orange Juice Instead?
|Servings||Total Calories in OJ||Total Calories in Tang||Calories Avoided||Calories Avoided Per Year|
Engineered to Be Orange
Tang contains two artificial colors, yellow #5 and yellow #6. Yellow #5, also called Tartrazine, has been associated with both breathing problems and hyperactivity. Yellow #6, sometimes called "sunset yellow," also has a link to hyperactivity. In short, the yellow dye in Tang may make it look like orange juice, but its effects can be very different from orange juice.
In fact, despite the full-color pictures of fruit on the label, Tang is not fruit juice. It is a largely artificial product. Having an orange with your breakfast instead would serve your body better.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Questions & Answers
Question: Is there sodium in Tang?
Answer: According to My Food Diary, there is 40 mg of sodium in an 8 ounce glass of Tang.
Question: Is there caffeine in tang?
Answer: No. Tang is caffeine-free.
Tan on August 16, 2020:
Oh dear in the post before last someone really went off on one! Don’t try and take the ‘tang’ away from that person. Eek. I’ve never had it but looking at ingredients never would. Horrible stuff and I certainly wouldn’t give it to my kids. Ok so it’s obviously not orange juice and folk would know that, but come on the labelling and pictures give it the air of healthiness. It’s just refined sugar and nasty fake flavours with a few unnaturally added vitamins to con you into thinking there is anything nutritional about it. Yuk.
Besarien from South Florida on August 01, 2019:
I see by the comments that a lot of people are looking to shoot the messenger. Personally, I appreciate having all the 411 even if I disregard it. At least I've made an informed decision, right?
I used to love Tang as a child. No wonder! It was the only easily available source of sugar in our household. I'm surprised we weren't eating it out the jar. Excessively sugary treats were restricted to special occasions, rewards, and parental bribes- Christmas cookies, Halloween candy and birthday cake, the elusive yet highly-coveted ice cream fudge sundae for getting an all-A report card, the promise of an icy cold root beer served up in tiny frosted mugs at the A&W which always worked to get us into the car for places we really didn't want to go- like the barbershop or the doctor's office.
Sugar was a vital tool for my parents, and certainly not our birthright as children. Thanks to NASA, Tang rocketed right under their radar! I haven't had any for years. I doubt I'd even like the taste of it now.
Thank you for a well-written article with lots of good information. For me, it brought back pleasant memories.
fartpooper420 on January 26, 2016:
This article is over 4 years old now
startrooper228 on January 23, 2016:
Why are you lying to people, or at least twisting the truth? an 8oz. glass of OJ and 8 oz. glass of tang have virtually the same amount of sugar. Telling people to eat an orange instead is just plain stupid - we're talking drinks here - not fruit. Other than Vitamin C, a glass of orange juice has about 10% of Vitamin A requirements, and not much more. Tang has over 20% Vitamin A. Both have ample Vitamin C that 1 glass would fill your daily need. The dyes - surely you are kidding right - have been known to, geez..... Why don't you just admit it - Tang is not so bad for a drink (I dilute mine by 50%) and a hell of a lot cheaper than OJ. Much better than soda, and most other drinks you find in the 7-11. And come on, everyone knows it isn't orange juice - why are you making such a big deal out of that? It never claims to be OJ. It's also not ice cream. And what the hell - "all the benefits of natural citrus"? You mean vitamin C. IT DOESN'T MATTER WHERE IT COMES FROM - Vitamin C is Vitamin C! ugh. Please tell me you don't have a degree in science.
Rosa U.Uy on January 02, 2016:
Tang orange drink contains Neotame, a sweetener which is several times toxic than Aspartame , also a toxic sweetener. The cosumers don't know about this But the company knows it for sure.
Jeffrey on December 18, 2015:
Its not as good as orange juice, but we used to take it camping where keeping orange juice was not necessarily practical. Readily available water and a container on Tang was good for us kids
dharani venkat on April 15, 2015:
Itanay on January 08, 2015:
You compared oranges, a whole fruit, to an artificial beverage----at least compare orange juice to Tang so we can really see how much sugar each has.
longdistanceruner on January 24, 2014:
Do you really need this website to tell you that Tang isn't OJ? This is like those may contain nuts warnings on packets of nuts
val on October 03, 2013:
can anyone te;; me why we cant find tang in the stores my son only likes tang an wont drink any thing else
Kris Heeter from Indiana on January 19, 2012:
Good hub - all these artificial additives are not good. Most go to market without ever being tested and some are still on the market even after research indicates they may be harmful!
Sally Branche from Only In Texas! on June 23, 2011:
We used to give this to sick guinea pigs to cure them from scurvy. It is good for that since they suck it up faster than they would orange juice, but V8 juice and honey works just as well. ;D
Susan Lynn Peterson (author) from Minnesota on May 20, 2011:
Lately even "caramel coloring" is being manufactured from chemicals. I'm sticking with the orange.
Nancy B. from Kansas City, MO on May 19, 2011:
Good sentence to quote "Natural and artificial flavors are now manufactured at the same chemical plants...."
How can natural flavors be manufactured? The FDA (Food Destruction Agency) sold the consumer out to big business a long time ago and Tang is another example of this.