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10 min read

Healthy Alternatives to Soda

It's never been a better time to be a beverage lover! It's no secret that conventional soda—regular and diet—is not the best choice to support their health. And lucky for us, soda and beverages aren't a two-party system. From coconut water that comes in bottles or giant cartons to vegetable juices that are cold-pressed and fresh, healthy drinks take up a ton of real estate in the supermarket. With so many delicious and healthy options, there's no reason to reach for the bad stuff anymore.

How Bad Is Soda, Really?

So exactly how bad is soda, anyway? Bad! According to a Journal of the American College of Cardiology, drinking soda may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, weight gain, and type 2 diabetes. 1 Equally as devastating, the Journal of the American Heart Association says it takes just one can of soda per day to increase your risk of fatal heart disease by 35 percent. 2 Yikes!

Calories and Weight

When it comes to what makes soda unhealthy, what’s to blame? First and foremost: the amount of sugar and calories. Sodas, and other sugary drinks, are the number one source of added-sugar. One 12-ounce can of Coke contains 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. 3 That is an incredible amount of sugar. A can of Coke supplies more than the maximum amount of sugar adults should consume in a whole day according to guidelines provided by the American Heart Association. To make matters worse, the sugar and calories in a can of conventional soda won't be a satisfying choice because there is no nutritional content like fiber or protein to consume alongside it. Instead, a soda often leads to more sugar cravings, even if you're drinking diet soda.

Is Diet Soda A Better Choice?

Before you reach for a can of diet soda, you might want to reconsider. Diet soda can actually make you crave more sugar. Though more research is needed to definitively prove this, early studies suggest that sugar substitutes like saccharin and sucralose could negatively alter your gut microbiome, too, says USC Verdugo Hills Hospital clinical dietitian Rebecca Oh, RD.4

Healthy Alternatives to Soda

Luckily, the limited choices of yesterday—and the negative health effects that came along with them—have nothing on today’s beverage choices! There are so many healthy alternatives to soda, it’s actually a little overwhelming. So let’s start with the good ones.

OLIPOP

First things first: OLIPOP, the delicious fizzy tonic that’s great for your gut. OLIPOP is a new kind of soda made with a blend of prebiotics, plant fiber, and botanicals. It comes in nostalgic flavors with a modern sensibility, like Vintage Cola, Ginger Lemon, and Orange Squeeze. Each can is under 50 calories, contains two to five grams of sugar (no 39 grams of sugar here!), and nine grams of dietary fiber. Oh yeah, and it’s also non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, Paleo and Keto-friendly. If you’re familiar with probiotics, or more commonly known as healthy gut bacteria, think of prebiotics as food for probiotics. Prebiotics provide fuel for probiotics to work effectively. Consuming more fiber, prebiotics, and nutritional diversity is the best route to better gut health—and OLIPOP provides an easy and delicious way to get all three.

Infuse Your Water With Delicious Flavors

Infusing your water with fruits, herbs, and even vegetables is an easy way to add a little more flavor to water. Start with sliced citrus, whole or cut berries, sliced cucumbers, or torn mint or basil, then get creative to find flavor profiles that keep you returning for refills. You can also think of your pitcher as an excellent place for leftover citrus rinds, strawberry tops (wash first!), or other scraps that might otherwise go to waste.

Go Natural With Green Tea

If you find yourself reaching for soda for its caffeine content, then green tea, hot or iced, is a great alternative. Unlike the sugar in soda that causes your blood sugar levels to spike and drop, green tea is naturally sugar free. While green tea is a good option, matcha is also great choice as well. Of course, now you can get matcha iced, too. (But you knew that already.)

Juice Fresh Vegetables

Juicing vegetables into tasty, refreshing combinations is another way to get nutrients. When it comes to juicing, the possibilities are endless. If you’re looking to get started, try including sweet vegetables, like beets or carrots, or even throw fruit into the mix. If you’re looking to upgrade your juice routine, try adding in herbs! (You didn’t forget about herbs, did you?!)


Here are some winning combinations:


  • Carrot - Ginger - Kale
  • Spinach - Apple - Pineapple
  • Celery - Cucumber - Mint

Coffee

Every few years, a new study comes out validating coffee fiends. This year happens to be one of those years as the British Medical Journal recently came to the good ole cup of Joe’s defense. According to their data, increased consumption of coffee “has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of ailments, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.” While coffee is low in calories, some people do not like its naturally bitter taste. Before you start packing in cream, sugar, and milk, make sure you know how much you’re putting in there and are selecting healthier options. Additionally, be mindful of your personal response to caffeine and how it may affect your sleep. But reach for that coffee before you reach for that can of Coke!

Coconut Water

Finally, there’s coconut water. It’s slightly sweet, refreshing, and great on its own or mixed with that vegetable juice (or let’s be real, a cocktail, like a healthy piña colada). In addition to being naturally low in calories and sugar, coconut water has the additional benefit of containing electrolytes, or in other words, minerals like manganese, potassium, and sodium that help your body recover and recharge. 5 However, just because it is a naturally healthier option, it doesn’t mean that all brands are created equal. Be sure to choose a brand that’s low in sugar and read the nutrition label before enjoying “nature’s Gatorade.”

Healthy Alternatives Take Away

Suffice to say that there are a practically endless number of alternatives to conventional soda—and a time and place for all of them. The hardest part may not be avoiding soda, but choosing the healthy alternative du jour. (And for the record, we’ll put a vote in for OLIPOP every time.)



Sources

  1. “Fructose and Cardiometabolic Health: What the Evidence from Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Tells Us.” Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 2015. https://www.jacc.org/doi/full/10.1016/j.jacc.2015.08.025
  2. Pacheco, Lorena S., James V. Lacey, Maria Elena Martinez, Hector Lemus, Maria Rosario G. Araneta, Dorothy D. Sears, Gregory A. Talavera, and Cheryl A. M. Anderson. “Sugar‐Sweetened Beverage Intake and Cardiovascular Disease Risk in the California Teachers Study.” Journal of the American Heart Association 9, no. 10 (May 18, 2020). https://doi.org/10.1161/jaha.119.014883.
  3. “How Much Sugar Is in Coca-Cola? | the Coca-Cola Company.” The Coca-Cola Company, 2019. https://www.coca-colacompany.com/faqs/how-much-sugar-is-in-coca-cola
  4. Laderer, Ashley. “All the Ways That Diet Soda Is Unhealthy for You and What to Drink Instead.” Insider. Insider, November 6, 2020. https://www.insider.com/is-diet-soda-bad-for-you.
  5. Miller, Marissa. “The 10 Healthiest Coconut Water Brands of 2021, according to Nutritionists.” Women’s Health. Women’s Health, January 2, 2020. https://www.womenshealthmag.com/food/g30360827/best-coconut-water/.
Cheat Sheet
  • Conventional soda—both regular and diet—may increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, weight gain and type2 diabetes.
  • There are more healthy alternatives to soda now than ever before.
  • OLIPOP is a gut-healthy soda made with fiber, prebiotics, and botanicals. With all the different flavors, it’s always a good time to swap one in.

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