Can soda be healthy?

Consumer Reports checks out popular beverages with so-called wellness ingredients

Can soda ever be good for you? At the grocery store or gas station, you might notice claims on some cans and bottles that say the soft drink has wellness benefits such as easing stress, boosting immunity, and lifting energy. But is that true?

Functional beverages, as the drink industry calls them, often contain ingredients that were once found only in supplements or herbal teas.

Probiotics and prebiotics are added to a slew of cold drinks. Consumer Reports testers said Culture Pop Probiotic Soda, Wild Berries & Lime had a well-blended sweet and tart combo. Plus, it has no sugar substitutes.

“Drinks with probiotics might not have the same benefits as foods we know that have beneficial probiotics, like yogurt and kimchi. They don’t have the variety of bacteria and other healthy compounds that fermented foods do,” said Consumer Reports’ Amy Keating.

What about healthy-sounding green juices? They’re an easy way to get vitamins and minerals in your diet, but Consumer Reports says they shouldn’t replace your veggies. If you do buy them, they suggest choosing those that have vegetables high on their ingredient lists. Suja Organic Cold-Pressed Mighty Dozen, with very little fruit juice, has 80 calories in 12 ounces. Compare that with 270 calories in 15.2 ounces of Naked Juice Green Machine, which has fruit juice as the first ingredient.

Drinks marketed as stress-relievers, such as Recess Infused Sparkling Water Mood Raspberry Lemon and Droplet Sparkling Self-Care Beverage Pretty Balanced, could make a flavorful, alcohol-free alternative to a glass of wine or a cocktail. Still, Consumer Reports says it’s not clear if their calming effects are significant.

Energy drinks have existed for decades, but newcomers such as Aspire, Celsius, and Clean contain “natural” caffeine sources with no chemical difference.

No matter what the drink is, check for added sugars, sodium, and other added ingredients.

Most people get enough electrolytes from food. An exception is if you’re exercising longer than an hour, especially if you sweat a lot or it’s a hot, humid day. You might also want to sip an electrolyte drink if you have diarrhea or vomiting, which can deplete electrolytes.


About the Author

Marilyn Moritz is an award-winning journalist dedicated to digging up information that can make people’s lives a little bit better. As KSAT’S 12 On Your Side Consumer reporter, she focuses on exposing scams and dangerous products and helping people save money.

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