The U.S. Department of Agriculture's 2010 dietary guidelines point out that you can enjoy almost any food or drink as long as you make healthy choices most of the time and eat nutritionally barren foods in moderation. Coca Cola fits in the category of foods best enjoyed occasionally rather than regularly.
A 20 oz. bottle of Coca-Cola contains 240 empty calories. The National Institutes of Health defines empty calories as those that come from added sugars or solid fats. Too many empty calories from products like Coca-Cola may be one of the underlying causes of rising obesity rates, according to a study from the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research -- especially for children. The 2009 study reports that 40 percent of young children and 62 percent of adolescents polled have at least one soda per day.
Vitamins and Minerals
Coca-Cola contains no vitamins, minerals, protein or fiber, according to the Coca-Cola Company's nutrition label. Research published in 2006 in "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" suggests that consuming cola beverages may actually decrease minerals in your body. The combination of caffeine and phosphoric acid in cola has been associated with decreased bone density and osteoporosis in postmenopausal women. Other carbonated beverages had less or no impact on bone density compared to cola.
Most cola drinks contain more than 10 tsp. of sugar per serving, according to the Harvard School of Public Health. You'll swallow 65 g of sugar with each 20 oz. Coca-Cola. While there is no recommended daily intake for sugar, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends limiting added sugars and fats combined to less than 5 to 15 percent of total daily calories to prevent weight gain. Since simple sugars contain roughly 4 calories per gram, according to the American Heart Association, the sugars in just one 20 oz. Coca-Cola put you well over the 10 percent mark for a 2,000 calorie per day diet.
The Bottom Line
Beverages like Coca-Cola are part of the American lifestyle, like cheeseburgers and apple pie. Even though they contain little more than sugar and water, they can still be part of a balanced, nutritious diet. When you consume cola beverages daily, you increase your risk of obesity and osteoporosis. To make Coca-Cola part of a healthy diet, drink it on special occasions, and limit your intake to a moderate 6 to 8 oz. glass instead of a whole 20 oz. bottle. Make sure to include the additional calories as part of your total daily intake.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- National Institutes of Health: Where Kids Get Their Empty Calories; Harrison Wein, Ph.D.; October 2010
- "The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Colas, But Not Other Carbonated Beverages, Associated with Low Bone Mineral...; K. Tucker, et al.; 2006
- Harvard School of Public Health: The Nutrition Source: How Sweet Is It?