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Natural Soft Drinks: Are They Healthier?

Sodium Benzoate

Many soft drink lovers enjoy the experience of guzzling a can of a sweet carbonated drink. In fact, the United States is the number one consumer of soft drinks in the world – followed closely by Ireland. Astonishingly, the average person drinks about six-hundred servings of soft drink a year. Unfortunately, soft drinks have gained a reputation for being unhealthy and have even been blamed for the current diabetes and obesity epidemic. On top of that, more consumers are looking for food and drinks that contain fewer artificial chemicals and that are more natural – something that most soft drink companies have failed to address until recently.

Now, a few companies are jumping on board the “better for you” bandwagon by launching natural soft drinks – hoping to position themselves to profit from the growing concern about chemicals in food products. Are the new natural soft drinks really any better from a health standpoint?

What’s in a Traditional, Non-Natural Soft Drink?

Most non-natural soft drinks are a blend of carbonated water and artificial caramel coloring. Phosphoric acid is added to cola flavored soft drinks as a flavoring agent, while citric acid is added to citrus flavored drinks. Cola drinks usually have around thirty to forty milligrams of added caffeine. They also contain sodium benzoate, potassium benzoate, or EDTA which serve as preservatives. To add sweetness, most soft drink manufacturers use high fructose corn syrup unless they’re manufacturing a sugar-free soda in which cases aspartame or sucralose is added. Not exactly a healthy concoction.

What’s in a Natural Soft Drink?

Seven-up has recently reformulated to make its product a natural soft drink which it claims is free of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. Sounds good so far. Unfortunately, they continue to sweeten their “natural soft drink” with high fructose corn syrup – a sweetener that’s not on most people’s lists of healthy ingredients. Basically, what they’ve done is remove the preservative EDTA and cut the sodium content in half. To its credit this new natural version of seven-up contains no artificial flavors, colorings, or preservatives, but it’s still swimming in high fructose corn syrup – an example of how natural doesn’t always mean healthy – if you call high fructose corn syrup natural – which according to the FDA it’s not. Pepsi has followed suit by coming up with its own “natural soft drink” called Pepsi Raw that’s currently being marketed in the U.K. Unfortunately, it too contains high fructose corn syrup.

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Natural Soft Drinks: The Bottom Line

The natural soft drinks that have been put out so far by big soft drink manufacturers fall short of being healthy drinks despite their lack of artificial preservatives and flavorings – mainly due to their continued use of high fructose corn syrup. Do your health a favor and stick with water or green tea instead.