What’s Really in your Soda?


Soda pic


Let’s face it, there is always going to be soda around, and there will always  be people who don’t seem to mind consuming it.  That’s fine as long as they understand what they are consuming, it’s a personal choice.    What bothers me is when manufacturers tout healthy  benefits  that aren’t true just to lure people to buy their product.

When I was walking down the soda isle in search of water, I noticed a bottle of birch beer and these  marketing claims jumped out at me:  “old fashioned taste” and “original recipe.”   A few steps more and I saw a  bottle of ginger ale  with  these words on the label: “made with real ginger.”   I started wondering and even hoped  that there was a chance that manufacturers had changed their formula  to a healthier option, so I turned the bottle around and read the ingredients.

Birch Beer:

High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and artificial flavorings, gum acacia, red #40. 

Ginger Ale:

Carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, citric acid, natural flavors, potassium sorbate and sodium benzoate, caramel color

Hmm, I don’t think these additives fit the bill of being old-fashioned ingredients,  and where is the ginger in the ginger ale? Unfortunately the marketing claims were false.

About the Ingredients

High Fructose Corn Syrup or HFCS  – A sweetener derived from corn (usually GMO corn) which is processed into a syrup from starch. It is treated with enzymes to convert the glucose to fructose making it extra sweet.  The higher prices of sugar in the 1970’s led the food companies to switch to HFCS which is a less expensive alternative to sugar.

Caramel Color –  A brown substance made by heating sugar of any type (i.e., corn syrup) and processed with ammonia and sugar to intensify brown color.  There is much debate about the ammonia making it carcinogenic.

Natural and Artificial Flavorings – This is a term that the FDA does not define or regulate.  In a nutshell natural flavors are derived from plant or animal sources, and artificial flavors are made from scratch in a lab. While you might be thinking that natural flavorings are safe to eat, think again.  Vanilla flavoring is extracted from the glands on a beaver’s butt.

Gum Acacia - A thickener and stabilizer extracted from the Acai Tree.  Gum acacia does not seem to have harmful effects.

Potassium Sorbate – A naturally occurring preservative that prevents mold, yeast and bacterial growth.  It is used in a wide array of food and cosmetic products.  Individuals with sodium sensibilities should limit their intake; otherwise there are no known negative effects on health.

Sodium Benzoate  – A synthetic preservative that is used in soft drinks, fruit juices, preserves, jams and margarine.  May encourage hyperactivity in humans and animals.  Studies on  mice have shown that there is a chance that high amounts can cause damage to the  nervous system or brain.

Red #40 – A red food coloring that was originally manufactured from coal tar and is now made from petroleum.  There is much controversy over  the safety of food colorings.  It has been suggested that artificial colorings can cause hyperactivity or ADD in children.

And on to the Nutrition Facts . .

Root Beer


There isn’t much to read here, is there?  The above nutrition label is  for the birch beer which contains  28 grams of sugar per 8 ounces.  Four grams of sugar equal one teaspoon.  That means that the  birch beer has  7 teaspoons of sugar per 8 ounces, that’s  almost one teaspoon per ounce!  The ginger ale has slightly less  sugar at 26 grams per 12 ounces (6.5 teaspoons).

A Better Alternative

When you are craving a soft drink, try sparkling water with fresh fruit or fruit juice.  You can even add sliced ginger and a splash of honey for a homemade ginger flavored soda.

If you care about your health, please do yourself a favor and shop wisely.  When you are  buying food with a package, take a few seconds to read the entire food label before tossing it into your cart.