Sure, soda is delicious, but you probably don't think of it as being good for your health. It's well-known that soft drinks are full of empty calories and a high sugar content. But are there good effects of soda? The answer is a little complicated.
Some soft drinks provide a slight caffeine boost that can be healthy in moderation, but overall, they do more harm to your body than good.
Health Benefits of Soft Drinks
Soft drinks get a bad reputation for their high sugar content — and sugar-free diet versions are similarly controversial, according to Harvard Health Publishing. But not everything in these drinks is bad news, and there are even a few health benefits of soft drinks (but they are few and far between).
First, the caffeine in some soft drinks can be good for you in small doses. According to the USDA, one can of regular cola contains 33.5 milligrams of caffeine, about three times less than a small cup of coffee.
Low levels of caffeine have been shown to improve brain function, help with focus and make workouts stronger and more effective. A tiny mid-afternoon caffeine boost may help you focus through your remaining hours at work without getting tired.
However, coffee can make you jittery, anxious and sleepless if you drink it in excess (more than 400 milligrams per day for most people). Since soft drinks have less caffeine than coffee, you're less likely to overdo your caffeine intake. Rather than reaching for that third cup of coffee in the afternoon, a soft drink could give you a lighter boost, and you aren't running quite the same risk for caffeine addiction.
Read more: Side Effects of Carbonated Drinks
Health Risks of Drinking Soda
Don't be fooled into thinking soda is the ideal afternoon pick-me-up. It may perk you up for an hour or so, but due to its high sugar content, you'll likely experience an energy crash not long after consumption.
Many popular soft drinks contain high fructose corn syrup, which spikes blood sugar levels and converts quickly into fat. They give you a quick boost, but in the long run, they make it difficult to maintain a healthy weight — not to mention that sugar can be dangerously addictive.
Diet drinks may have zero calories and no sugar, but they aren't always better for your overall health. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame may have negative effects on your gut health, according to a September 2018 study published in Molecules — and little is known about their long-term impact on the body. If you love soft drinks, diet drinks could be an effective way to lower your sugar intake — but they should be consumed in moderation.
Read more: Is Drinking Diet Soda Bad for You?
Should You Drink Soda?
It's up to you whether you want to incorporate soft drinks into your regular rotation, but you should be aware of the health benefits as well as the health risks of drinking Pepsi, Coca-Cola and other soft drinks. For the most part, soft drinks do nothing seriously positive for your health. If you like the caffeine boost, but you're looking for something with less sugar, reach for a cup of unsweetened green tea instead.
Soda can be OK as a treat every once in a while, but try to resist the urge to consume it regularly. Like any other processed food, soft drinks should be consumed in moderation. They have marginal health benefits, but overall they do more harm than good.
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Artificial Sweeteners: Sugar-Free, but at What Cost?"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Soft Drink, Cola"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Coffee, Brewed"
- American Heart Association: "Is Coffee Good for You or Not?"
- Nutrition & Metabolism: "Fructose Metabolism in Humans – What Isotopic Tracer Studies Tell Us"
- Molecules: "Measuring Artificial Sweeteners Toxicity Using a Bioluminescent Bacterial Panel"
- Food and Chemical Toxicology: "Systematic Review of the Potential Adverse Effects of Caffeine Consumption in Healthy Adults, Pregnant Women, Adolescents, and Children"