Healthy Alternatives On a Budget: Soda and Soft Drinks_Featured_, Health-Wellness Tuesday, August 14th, 2012
For better or for worse, soft drinks are a part of American culture, and avoiding them completely can be difficult and exhausting. At a minimum, it requires a great degree of self-control, restraint, and a lingering sense of denial. After all, who doesn’t enjoy a nice cold cola on a hot summer day?
But unfortunately, the myriad health consequences of soda and soft drink products are numerous and well known. Among the most common offending ingredients are:
- High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
- Aspartame (Nutra-Sweet)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
- Saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low)
- Phosphoric acid
- Bromated Vegetable Oil (BVO)
- Sodium and Potassium Benzoate
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
- Artificial flavors
- Artificial food dyes
These common substances are destructive to the body and mind, and in the long run will all promote weight gain. But it’s a good bet that most of our readers are already familiar with the dangers of these additives, so rather than reiterate them, this article will focus on viable non-toxic alternatives.
Are Drinks Made With “Real Sugar” REALLY HEALTHIER?
The short answer?
Healthier? Yes. But healthy? No.
Even soft drinks made with “real sugar” can induce toxic metabolic effects. Drinks like “Pepsi Throwback” still contain refined table sugar. Even natural alternatives like Hansen’s and Blue Sky contain cane sugar, which, while somewhat preferable to its refined counterpart, is still sucrose.
Sucrose is the most common form of sugar — the traditional kind we think of for baking. Sucrose is a natural compound comprised of 70% glucose — the “good” sugar that our bodies use as fuel — and 30% fructose — the “bad” sugar that makes us fat, promotes diabetes, depresses our energy levels and mood, and stresses the liver.
Fructose is the form of sugar that naturally occurs in fruits. In isolation, it can be toxic. But when it occurs in nature, it is always paired with fiber along with other enzymes and phytonutrients that help to break it down. These beneficial nutrients slow down fructose absorption and prevent unhealthy spikes in blood sugar and insulin.
Nature is a remarkable nutritionist, for when it gives us a poison (fructose), it pairs it with the antidote (fiber). But in isolation, fructose can wreak havoc on our health and torpedo our weight loss efforts.
Consuming more than 15 grams of fructose per day induces distinct metabolic changes that make it difficult, if not impossible, for the body to shed excess weight, and even glucose can sabotage weight loss/maintenance efforts if consumed in excess and without sufficient physical activity. So even sodas made with “real sugar” are not the best choices for those striving to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
But the good news is that there are alternatives. You can have your soda, and drink it too!
Healthy Alternative #1: Zevia All Natural Soda
Zevia is an all-natural soda company that produces non-toxic varieties of your favorite carbonated soft drink flavors.
It is sweetened with erythritol and stevia, two natural zero-calorie sugar alternatives with little to no side effects when consumed in moderation. Zevia is also naturally flavored, and is free of artificial food colorings and the highly corrosive phosphoric acid.
Zevia’s aluminum cans do contain trace amounts of BPA, but it is negligible at “[…] 2,000 times lower than the regulatory acceptable level.” Fortunately, BPA is only released in substantial quantities when exposed to heat. So as long as you keep your cans refrigerated and out of the garage or prolonged sunlight, BPA shouldn’t be much of a concern.
Perhaps the best thing about Zevia is the wide variety of available flavors that include non-toxic interpretations of practically every soda under the sun. From Dr. Zevia (Dr. Pepper) to Moutain Zevia (Moutain Dew), Cola, Cherry Cola, Lime Cola, Root Beer, Orange Soda, and more, you are sure to find a flavor that hits the spot.
Recently, Zevia appears to have exploded in popularity and is now being carried by retailers as varied as Whole Foods Market, Target, and Ralph’s. It can be a bit more expensive than mainstream soda at $4.99/six-pack, but it frequently goes on sale in most markets for as low as $2.99, which you can stack with printable coupons that Zevia publishes each month. By shopping wisely, you can sometimes buy Zevia for as little as $0.99 — $1.99/six-pack.
A brief word of caution however: Zevia, while non-toxic, is still highly acidic. If you drink more than a can a day, make sure to take steps to re-alkalize your body in order to prevent an acidic pH imbalance. As with all things, Zevia is best consumed in moderation.
You can click HERE to find a store that sells Zevia near you.
Healthy Alternative #2: Blue Sky Free
Blue Sky Cola has been a staple of natural and health food stores for decades, offering an “all natural” — if still sugar-laden — alternative to Coke and Pepsi. But their latest line of zero-calorie soda, Blue Sky Free, is an even healthier alternative.
Blue Sky Free, like Zevia, is sweetened with erythritol and stevia, and carries the same benefits and minor downsides. The flavors have subtle differences, and it’s a matter of personal taste preference as to which one you will like best — so why not give them both a try?
The biggest downsides to Blue Sky Free are that it can be harder to find, doesn’t go on sale as often, and there are fewer available flavors to choose from. But if your soda flavor of choice is one of the classics — cola, root beer, etc. — then Blue Sky Free is another viable non-toxic alternative to consider.
Healthy Alternative #3: G.T.’s Organic Raw Kombucha
Kombucha is by far the healthiest natural soda alternative on the market. It is not technically a soda in the traditional sense of the term, but it is carbonated, sweet, flavorful, and energizing — so we think it fits the bill.
This delightfully refreshing beverage is manufactured through a natural fermentation process that produces its carbonation and distinct strains of live active cultures that you will see floating around in the bottle. These cultures are what makes it a nutritional powerhouse, providing over one billion live probiotic organisms per bottle, along with a plethora of beneficial enzymes to alkalize, detoxify, and energize the body while stimulating the mind. Some varieties also contain beneficial boosters like chlorella, spirulina, and chia seeds, and are flavored with organic, raw, not-from-concentrate fruit juices like grape, strawberry, orange, guava, and others.
While not caffeinated, Kombucha is highly energizing, though it contains no stimulants. The energy is a natural kind that comes from the enzymes, probiotics, and other nutritional boosters to keep you sharp and focused without jitters, shakes, or elevated blood pressure.
The tastiest and most common brand is G.T.’s Kombucha, available at virtually every health food store nationwide.
G.T.’s Kombucha is not sugar-free like Zevia and Blue Sky Free. A moderate amount of sugar is produced naturally during the fermentation process, and occurrs in the fruit juices (less than 5% by volume) used to provide its delicious flavors. A 16oz. bottle of G.T.’s Kombucha contains about 16 grams of sugar, or roughly a third of what you would find in a typical mainstream soft drink.
Of the three natural soda alternatives we’ve discussed, Kombucha is by far the best option from a nutritional standpoint. While Zevia and Blue Sky Free are non-toxic and perfectly safe in moderation, they provide little or no active nutritional benefit, whereas organic raw kombucha might just be one of the healthiest things you can put into your body.
There is one notable tradeoff however, and that is price. A 16oz. bottle of G.T.’s Kombucha costs about $3.49 — $3.99, making it more of a luxury item than a staple for most shoppers. But it still costs less than a Grande Caramel Macchiato or Frappuccino at Starbucks, making it an excellent and much healthier alternative when you’re in the mood to treat yourself to something special.
Author’s Note: This is the second installment of the ongoing series “Healthy Alternatives on a Budget,” published exclusively at Conscious Life News. If you missed part one, make sure to check out “How to Reduce Your Fluoride Exposure on a Budget.”
Your feedback, requests, and suggestions for future entries in this series are welcome and appreciated in the comments section below, or you can email them to email@example.com.