Soft drinks are meant to be the healthier alternative to hard liquor. While alcohol isn't healthy, loading up on sugar may not be much better. Your favorite soft drink might be tasty, but you should check the nutrition facts to see what it's actually made of and how much sugar it contains.
Sugar in Soda
The problem with sugary drinks is the sugar itself and the calorie content. A 12-ounce can of one of the leading cola brands has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar. If you drink one a day for a week, that's an extra 980 calories and 273 grams of sugar in your diet! Once in a while, soft drinks are fine, but you should avoid the top 10 worst types of soft drinks:
Some of the most popular sodas in the world use the flavor of the kola nut in their drinks. The kola nut is in the cocoa family and primarily grown in Africa and in the American tropics.
Orange soda is a misleading name for a soft drink that contains very little orange. It's mostly made of soda water, sugar and some citric acid. Technically, it does include natural flavors that give it a full orange flavor. It's also colored to make it look orange. Sugar makes up the bulk of the flavor, however, with 43 grams of it per 12-ounce can.
A combination of vanilla extract and yucca extract, which gives the drink a foamy texture, makes cream soda taste creamy. Otherwise, it has the same basic ingredients that other sodas have: soda water, sugar, artificial coloring and artificial flavoring. Nutrition facts from the USDA's website say that cream soda has approximately the same amount of sugar as orange soda at 42 grams per 12-ounce can.
Root Beer and Ginger Beer
Root beer was originally a bitter, syrupy drink, according to an article from Berghoff. Sassafras root used to be the main ingredient that created the classic root-beer taste, but it was banned in the 1960s when it was labeled a carcinogen.
Since then, a combination of natural and artificial flavors create the old root beer taste. There's roughly the same amount of sugar in a 12-ounce can of root beer as in a can of cola at 43 grams. There's also caramel coloring to give it a distinct look.
Sugar and caffeine are a powerful combination when you need a pick-me-up, but sometimes, the surge of energy is too powerful. While most soft drinks are relatively unhealthy, energy drinks can be downright dangerous.
According to an article from the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, overconsumption of energy drinks can lead to a trip to the hospital. People who drink energy drinks are also more likely to binge drink. One energy drink can have three to six times the amount of caffeine as cola and almost twice the amount of sugar.
Sweetened Iced Tea
If you brew tea at home, you can have a slightly caffeinated and refreshing drink. Store-bought iced tea isn't as innocent. Check the nutrition label, because some iced teas can have as much sugar as a can of cola.
The Greek root word tonikos means invigorating. Tonic water is made of soda water, quinine and sugar. Quinine is made from the bark of the cinchona tree and gives tonic water its signature bitter taste.
You normally use tonic to mix with liquors like vodka and gin. Some brands use relatively little sugar, but some use nearly 34 grams per 12-ounce can according to the USDA. That's not as much as some sodas, but if you're adding alcohol, the drink becomes even more unhealthy.
Few things are more refreshing than a cold, sweet drink after you've been sweating through a workout. While such drinks may be justified after an intense run, HIIT session or group exercise class, many people drink sports drinks when they're not working out.
The sugar in a sports drink is supposed to replace the carbohydrates you burn from exercise. They also contain electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, to replace what you lose through sweat. There are about 20 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce sports drink, says the USDA's nutrition database. This isn't as bad as most soft drinks, but if you drink one a day for seven days, that's an extra 140 grams of sugar per week.
According to an article from USA Today, a woman in Buffalo, New York, filed a lawsuit against a major ginger ale company alleging that they didn't use enough ginger to justify calling it ginger ale. She won the case, considering that there isn't any ginger in most sodas. It's mostly carbonated water, sugar, and natural or artificial flavors. Some major brands have around 34 grams of sugar per 12-ounce can, according to the USDA.
Aloe Vera Drinks
One of the most soothing plants in spite of its spiky exterior, aloe vera is more useful in topical gel than it is in drinks. An aloe vera juice contains about 27 grams of sugar per 12 ounces, according to the USDA's nutrition database. Companies add sugar because aloe vera isn't very tasty naturally. There isn't much nutritional value to adding aloe vera to your drink either, aside from 32 milligrams of vitamin C.
- Britannica: Kola Nut
- Berghoff: Beer Blog
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health: Energy Drinks
- Mixology: Seven Facts About Tonic Water
- USA Today: Ginger Ale Doesn't Contain Any Real Ginger, Lawsuit Alleges
- USDA: Cola UPC
- USDA: Orange Soda UPC
- USDA: Cream Soda, UPC
- USDA: Tonic Water, UPC
- USDA: Gatorade, Thirst Quencher, Orange
- USDA: Schweppes Ginger Ale
- USDA: Aloe Vera Juice Drink
- Business Insider: The Government Just Proposed a Sea Change to American Diets, and It Could Send an Entire Industry Reeling
- USDA: Roor Beer UPC