If you have diabetes you may be thinking quitting your regular Coke and opting for Coke Zero is going to do you a big favor.
After all, it's sugar free and therefore healthier, right?
Once you read this, you'll understand that the scientific research shows quite the opposite.
What is Coke Zero?
Coke Zero was launched in 2005 as a sugar free, low calorie alternative to regular coke. One thing that's quite funny is that while Diet Coke has been around since the 1980’s, many men thought the title “diet” sounded a little too feminine and they weren’t interested in buying it.
So as a result, Coke Zero was born. It was marketed mostly towards men who wanted to enjoy the taste of a classic Coke with zero guilt. Coke Zero comes in several different flavors, including classic, vanilla, and cherry.
You might be thinking that a sugar free soda sounds too good to be true. And you would be right!
Unfortunately, Coke Zero and other sugar free sodas are not a soda lover’s dream come true. And you'll soon see why…
You probably already know that regular soda has a ton of sugar in it, which means you should steer clear of it at all costs – diabetic or not.
For example, a 12 ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of sugar, all derived from high fructose corn syrup, which makes that a double no, no. That can of soda also packs 140 empty calories – meaning, you don’t get any nutrients from it.
It’s easy to see why so many people were thrilled when diet sodas hit the market. After all, the promise of cutting down on sugar to lose weight, and reduce your risk of obesity and diabetes – that sounds like a good deal, right?
Well, unfortunately those promises aren't all they're cracked up to be.
The sweetener in Diet Coke is called ‘aspartame,' which is the main ingredient in artificial sweeteners like Equal and NutraSweet. Aspartame tastes extremely sweet but can have a more “fake” aftertaste, which some people say they can easily detect.
Coke Zero also uses aspartame, along with a second artificial sweetener called ‘acesulfame potassium' (also known as ‘Ace-K' and acesulfame-K). This compound is 200 times sweeter than sugar, so companies can use less of it in a beverage and still get the desired taste.
In addition to the sweeteners, Coke Zero also contains caramel color, carbonated water, some natural flavors, and 34 grams of caffeine.
Coke Zero Nutrition Label
If you take a look at the nutrition label you’ll notice that Coke Zero doesn’t contain any calories, fats, carbs, or proteins. As you can see, besides the fake sweeteners and a few other (not-so-good) ingredients, this drink contains basically nothing!
When it comes to Coke beverages, and many sugar free foods and drinks, the marketing of these products is incredibly deceptive. For instance, when you are in a “diet mindset” it is tempting to think that a blank nutrition label means that a food or beverage is better for you, but that isn’t always the case. In fact, often times it is the opposite.
When you drink Coke Zero, you may be dodging extra calories and carbs, but you’re not getting any nutrition either. All you get is a stomach full of artificial sweeteners and chemicals that can do some serious damage to your health.
Keep reading to find out why these fake sweeteners are such a problem!
Research on Artificial Sugars
According to the Coca-Cola website, the FDA and other worldwide authorities have concluded that artificial sweeteners like aspartame and acesulfame potassium are safe for use in foods and beverages.
But, although these products are proclaimed to be “safe for consumption,” there have been many studies over the past several decades that show the opposite to be true – they have negative effects on our health.
In fact, researchers have found that people who regularly consume fake sweeteners have a dramatically increased risk of metabolic syndrome.
Metabolic syndrome is defined as a person who has 3 or more of the following symptoms – high blood pressure, high fasting blood glucose, high cholesterol, and large waist circumference.
A study that examined the effect of artificial sweeteners on neurobiology (the effect of food on hormones, chemicals and brain circuitry) found that, not only are these sweeteners linked to weight gain in children and adults, but they also cause strong sugar cravings.
The taste of extreme sweetness from fake sugars like aspartame and acesulfame potassium seem to trigger the reward pathway in the brain, creating a “trained flavor preference” for sweets.
Basically, the more super sweet tasting sodas a person drinks (even if the sweetness is not coming from real sugar), the more they crave that same taste again. This can lead to overeating high calorie, high carb foods, which increase your blood sugar levels and may result in gaining even more weight.
The research above is just the tip of the iceberg. So it's clear that while the marketing promotes Coke Zero, Diet Coke or other “diet” sodas as “healthier” options that will help you achieve weight loss or decrease risk of disease, the opposite is in fact true.
Myth vs. Fact
The diet soda myth: Because Coke Zero and other sugar free sodas don’t have any carbs, they won’t do a diabetic any harm. They are a “neutral” beverage as far as health concerns go.
The truth about diet sodas: It’s true that these drinks contain no carbs, therefore they don’t affect your blood sugar levels (well, they actually can in some people). But, as you read earlier, the fake sugars used in sugar free sodas can have health consequences like weight gain, intense sugar cravings, and further metabolic imbalance in the body.
Diet sodas are not “neutral” at all because they only have negative side effects and they offer no nutrition in return.
Healthier “Soda” Options
There is a healthy carbonated drink option, one that is completely sweetener free: club soda or seltzer water. And LaCroix, Dasani and many other companies make flavored (unsweetened) varieties as well.
LaCroix flavor their sparkling waters with natural flavors that are often fruit extracts and essential oils. They contain zero sugar, zero sweeteners, zero carbs and come in a variety of flavors – berry, coconut, lemon and orange.
Alternatively, you can purchase a variety pack (pictured above) – 24 cans for around $24.95 makes them just $1.24 each.
Another option is to infuse your water or sparkling water with fruit (strawberries, cucumber, lemon, lime) or herbs (mint, thyme) or brew it with an herbal tea to give a bit more flavor.
The take away here: don’t go for the sodas – diet or not!
Whether they are regular sodas, packed with sugar and high fructose corn syrup, or sugar free sodas with potentially harmful ingredients, just say no.
The upside to stevia is that it’s completely natural and there are no side effects, so you can indulge yourself!
As shown above, there are even some stevia sweetened soda brands that are springing up as the demand for all-natural snacks increases.
So, feel free to crack open a can of all natural soda and leave that Coke Zero on the shelf where it belongs!
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