It’s 7-Eleven Day (get it, 7/11 day?), also known as the day you can get a free Slurpee. We fully advocate enjoying the freebie if you’re so inclined, but we also kind of hope it will be the only Slurpee you drink this summer. Before you rush out the door to load up on 11 ounces of magically-fluffy slush, you should know exactly what you’re putting into your body (because it’s not pretty).
We broke down the anatomy of a Slurpee to reveal what kinds of chemicals, additives, and sugars you’ll really be enjoying when you celebrate summer with 7-Eleven:
SUGAR: You’re probably smart enough to know that Slurpees are full of sugar, but you may not realize that all varieties (except for the sugar-free; for more on that, see below) use high-fructose corn syrup as the primary sweetener—even the fruit flavors. This means they’re not only full of empty calories; they’ll also spike your blood sugar and fill your system with an added dose of processed ingredients.
ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS: In response to the country’s ever-growing obesity problem, 7-Eleven kindly began making sugar-free versions of their slurpees last year. An 11-ounce serving of their sugar-free flavors only costs you 20 calories–but the bad news is that the aspartame used to sweeten the drinks could be even worse for you than sugar.
CAFFEINE: If you go for Coca-Cola Classic or Barq’s Root Beer, don’t forget that you’re loading up on caffeine (8mg per 8 ounces) along with the sugar. This might not be a big deal if you’re just grabbing a kid’s size treat, but if you’re getting a jumbo cup, or giving it to your kids, you could get seriously jacked up on the mix.
FOOD DYES: If you thought Starbucks was gross for using crushed bugs in their strawberry Frappucinos, you’ll be horrified to know that certain Slurpee flavors are chock full of toxic artificial coloring. 7-Eleven uses several different food dyes, but one of hte most common is Red 40 (even the ones that aren’t red), which has been tied to reactions ranging form migraines and headaches to temper tantrums, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, uncontrollable crying and screaming, kicking, nervousness, dizziness, and inability to sit still or concentrate in kids.
PRESERVATIVES: Sodium benzoate is a flavor preservative found in most Slurpees, which is a known carcinogen when combined with citric acid (which it is, in many flavors), and has been shown to correlate with hyperactivity, according to a 2007 study.
ARTIFICIAL FLAVORS: Cherry, berry, citrus, and other fruits abound in their flavors, but you won’t find a smidge of real fruit in Slurpees. It’s all artificial, which means yet another dose of chemicals to add to the murky mix.
QUILLAIA EXTRACT: Slurpees contain this tree-bark extract, which is used as an additive in many frozen and gelatinous foods, and used as a foaming extract in some soft drinks (particularly root beer). Although most studies indicate that it’s safe in small doses, its negative side effects can include diarrhea, stomach and intestinal disturbance, and it contains oxalates; chemicals that can lower bloodcalcium levels and cause kidney stones.
Ready to skip free Slurpee day yet? You can view specific nutrition facts and ingredients listings for every Slurpee flavor on 7-Eleven’s website, but we think you’d do best to make a smoothie at home if you’re craving a frothy treat, or if you must, go get your free Slurpee today, and then steer clear until next year.
Photo: Tom Newby Photography