Drink This

The Top 32 Sodas—Ranked

sodas

Soda is totally harmless, and you’re not drinking enough of it.

At least, that’s what Coca-Cola wants you to think. To convince you, it’s been lobbying doctors to stop saying bad stuff about its products—like the fact that soda consumption is linked to weight gain, diabetes and heart attacks. The company pours tens of millions into medical conferences and research, according to a recent report in the New York Times. And in a recent letter to the USDA, the Sugar Association even challenged the notion that added sugar causes cavities.

But the ruse isn’t working. In fact, when we launched Eat This, Not That! in 2007, about 61 percent of young people reported drinking regular soda. Thanks to our own awareness campaign, and those of others to raise awareness of liquid sugar, that number had fallen to just 51 percent two years ago. (Out of the loop? Discover these Amazing Things That Happen To Your Body When You Give Up Soda.) So to keep us well-carbonated, soda manufacturers are now experimenting with ever more exotic flavors. In fact, PepsiCo is rolling out artisanal soda fountains; its new line, called Stubborn Soda, is already delivering exotic flavors like agave vanilla cream and black cherry with tarragon to folks in California, Florida and Colorado.

But what’s really in your soda?

Eat This, Not That! took the top 50+ sodas on the market into our Food Lab. First, we ordered them by calories, carbs and sugar. Then, we examined each can’s ingredients and gave demerits to sodas with more chemicals and additives than those that were nutritionally similar. Read on to discover the worst soda in America—and the best of the worst. And lose weight—in just one week!—with these 55 Best Ways to Speed Up Your Metabolism!

REGULAR SODA

32
Fanta Grape

12 oz, 180 calories, 48 g carbs, 48 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavors, Tartaric Acid, Potassium Sorbate and Sodium Benzoate (to Protect Taste), Citric Acid, Red 40, Blue 1

Liquefy a bag of Skittles and you’d still have to add 6 grams of sugar to equal the sweetness of this can of corn syrup, citric acid and artificial colors. In fact, that bag of Skittles has the same exact ingredients, including Red 40, which Canadian researchers found to be contaminated with known carcinogens. Even without its unsettling origin story—the Coca-Cola company created Fanta to profit in Germany, when Nazis forbid the importation of USA-made Coke—this would still be the absolute worst soda in America!

31
Stewart's Black
Cherry Wishniak

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate, Caramel Color, Red 40, Blue 1

12 fl oz, 190 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

With more sugar than seven Chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, Stewart's Black Cherry would be a “Not That!” because of the sweetness alone—it’s the most caloric on this list. And, like many of the soda on this list, it also contains caramel coloring. This additive wouldn't be dangerous if you made it the old-fashioned way—with water and sugar, on top of a stove. But the food industry follows a different recipe: They treat sugar with ammonia, which can produce some nasty carcinogens. A Center for Science in the Public Interest report asserted that the high levels of caramel color found in soda account for roughly 15,000 cancers in the U.S. annually. Instead, keep the soda sipping to a minimum and read these 50 Best Eat This, Not That! Tips For Weight Loss!

30
Dr. Brown’s
Black Cherry

12 oz, 180 calories, 45 g carbs, 45 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cherry And Other Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), and Artificial Color (Red 40)

With just one gram of sugar less that Stewart’s Black Cherry, Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry would horrify most doctors—and not just because of the sugar. Like Stewart's—and many of the colored sodas here—this one has the artificial color Red 40, which is it ranks lower than our next entry, despite having less sugar. Don’t get down with Brown.

29
A&W
Cream Soda

12 fl oz, 180 calories, 48 g carbs, 48 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Natural and Artificial Flavors, Caramel Color, Citric Acid, Flavored with Vanilla Extract, Caffeine.

A&W traffics heavily in the nostalgia of the roadside restaurant—the company created the nation’s first chain of them in 1923. But their cream soda is a car crash of HFCS and artificial colors and flavors. This is not your grandparent’s soda, in the worst way possible.

28
Mug
Cream Soda

12 fl oz, 180 calories, 47 g carbs, 47 g sugar
Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Citric Acid, Caramel Color, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Speaking of cream, you’d have go down 12 servings of Redi-Whip to equal the calorie count of Mug Cream Soda (distributed by Pepsi)—and would still need to eat 12 Hershey’s Kisses on top of that to equal the sugar count. Put the can down—and lose up to 14 pounds in 16 days with by avoiding these 30 Bad Habits That Lead to a Fat Belly!

27
A&W
Root Beer

12 fl oz, 180 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and/or Sugar, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Natural and Artificial Flavors

You gotta love that ingredients list: This American classic might have sugar and HFCS. Throw in two scoops of vanilla ice cream to make a Root Beer float and you have more than two day’s worth of sugar in one chilled mug.

26
Mountain Dew—tie

12 fl oz, 170 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Sodium Benzoate (Preserves Freshness), Caffeine, Sodium Citrate, Erythorbic Acid (Preserves Freshness), Gum Arabic, Calcium Disodium EDTA (To Protect Flavor), Brominated Vegetable Oil, Yellow 5

There's flame retardant in your Mountain Dew. That soda with the lime-green hue (and other citrus-flavored bubbly pops) won't keep your insides fireproof, but it does contain brominated vegetable oil, a patented flame retardant for plastics that has been banned in foods throughout Europe and in Japan. Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, which acts as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soda drinks, is found in about 10 percent of sodas sold in the U.S. “After a few extreme soda binges - not too far from what many [video] gamers regularly consume - a few patients have needed medical attention for skin lesions, memory loss and nerve disorders, all symptoms of overexposure to bromine,” according to an article in Environmental News.

26
Mountain Dew
Code Red—tie

12 fl oz, 170 calories, 46 g carbs, 46 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Orange Juice Concentrate, Citric Acid, Sodium Hexametaphosphate, Sodium Benzoate, Natural Flavor, Caffeine, Sodium Citrate, Gum Arabic, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Red 40, Brominated Vegetable Oil, Yellow 5, Blue 1

As we said, Europe and Japan have already banned the flame retardant brominated vegetable oil (BVO) out of their bubbly beverages. Code Red! Dudes, to truly get a six-pack, don’t do the Dew and instead scroll through this comprehensive list of 30 Foods That Uncover Your Abs!

25
Dr. Brown’s
Cream Soda

12 fl oz, 180 calories, 44 g carbs, 44 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Citric Acid, Caramel Color.

With more calories than a Mountain Dew (though with less artificial colors, thus its better ranking), this Cream would make even Prince blush.

24
Dr. Brown's
Root Beer

12 fl oz, 170 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural And Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Gum Acacia, Citric Acid, Caffeine Free
You know when you add some Mentos to a two-liter Diet Coke and the whole thing explodes? (Don’t try that at home.) That’s thanks to the Gum Acacia in the candy, which also in this soda—it’s a natural emulsifier. Despite it’s weird name, is probably this most natural ingredient in this sugar juice.

23
Surge

12 oz, 172 calories, 46.5 g carbs, 42 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Orange Juice Concentrate, Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Potassium Citrate, Caffeine, Calcium Disodium Edta (To Protect Taste), Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Carob Bean Gum, Blue 1

It’s not uncommon for “sodium and potassium benzoate are added to some diet soft drinks and fruit drinks,” Leslie Bonci, R.D. tells Eat This, Not That! Unfortunately—especially because Surge contains OJ—"they can form benzene, which is a carcinogen, when combined with vitamin C, the ascorbic acid in juice or soda," she says. Instead, get your surge—and a flat belly—from The 29 Best-Ever Proteins!

22
Mello-Yello

12 fl oz, 170 calories, 47 g carbs, 47 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Concentrated Orange Juice, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Sodium Benzoate And Edta (To Protect Taste), Potassium Citrate, Caffeine, Yellow 5, Carob Bean Gum

In addition to sky high sugar and calorie counts, this citrus soda is laced with the preservative sodium benzoate. Though studies show that when consumed in small amounts the chemical poses no risk, when combined with vitamin C (as it is in Mello-Yello) it can form benzene, a cancer-causing substance. Don’t let your Yello Mello.

21
Sunkist

12 fl oz, 162 calories, 44.4 g carbs, 43.2 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Modified Corn Starch, Natural Flavors, Caffeine, Ester Gum, Yellow 6, Red 40

What do you get when you combine carbonated water with High Fructose Corn Syrup and a host of hard-to-pronounce chemicals? This citrus-inspired sip. It gets its alluring orange color from Yellow 5 and Red 40. A Journal of Pediatrics study linked Yellow 5 to hyperactivity in children and Canadian researchers found Red 40 to be contaminated with known carcinogens. And speaking of scary chemicals, be sure to avoid these 8 Ingredients You Never Want to See on Your Nutrition Label.

20
Barq’s Root Beer

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 45 g carbs, 45 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Citric Acid,Caffeine, Artificial And Natural Flavors, Acacia.

Barq’s Root Beer falls toward the middle of the pack in terms of carbs, sugar and has a slightly less horrifying chemical profile than its competition. It’s better than A+W Root Beer but slightly worse than Mug.

19
Fanta Orange

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 45 g carbs, 44 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Natural Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Polyphosphates, Glycerol Ester Of Rosin, Yellow 6, Red 40

I don’t know about you, but after a long day of hard work and play, I like to sit back and relax and crack open a can of Glycerol Ester Of Rosin. The wood resin is added to many fruit sodas to help the fruit-flavored oils mix better with the water. While it’s not necessarily harmful, let us repeat: you’re drinking oil and water, sold to you by Coke.

18
Orange Crush

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 43 g carbs, 43 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Acacia Gum, Natural Flavors, Ester Gum, Yellow 6, Brominated Soybean Oil, Red 40
Orange Crush has the same nutritionals as our next soda, Mug’s Root Beer, but we’re docking it points for the Brominated Soybean Oil, which, as we’ve said, is crushing stuff. Instead, crush your workout—and get the flay belly you deserve—with these 20 Amazing Weight-Loss Tips From Shaun T!

17
Mug’s Root Beer

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 43 g carbs, 43 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (preserves freshness), Citric Acid, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Modified Food Starch, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor), Quillaia Extract

Quillaia extract? The best (and worst) part of researching these sodas in the Eat This, Not That! Food Lab is coming across the weird ingredients soda manufacturers (in this case, Pepsi) add to their concoctions. Quillaia is another tree bark, and it helps your root beer foam up. Be more scared of the sugar here—you’re basically drinking four root beer-flavored Dum Dums mixed with additives.

16
Wild Cherry Pepsi

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavor, Caffeine, Citric Acid

Nothing wild here—just the same ingredients as most sodas, and as much sugar as more than three cups of cherries (without containing any cherries).

15
Crush
Grapefruit

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 42 g carbs, 41 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Acacia Gum, Ester Gum, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Our childhood nostalgia is crushed: This kid favorite-brand has no actual grapefruit. On the bright side, it has no BVO. Wanna snack instead? Fuel up fast with the muscle-building protein in these 50 Best Snacks for Weight Loss!

14
Stewart's
Root Beer

12 fl oz, 160 calories, 41 g carbs, 41 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Citric Acid, Quillaia Extract, Gum Acacia, Yucca Extract

If you wouldn’t eat three and half bowls of Apple Jacks then you should stay away from this root beer. That’s the sugar equivalent of what’s in a 12-ounce can.

13
Cherry
Coca-Cola

12 fl oz, 150 calories, 42 g carbs, 42 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine

As we near the top ten, you’ll notice the oils and artificial flavors disappearing, and see some of the most popular sodas for what they really are: carbonated water, HSFC, some acids and little else. This classic—once made with real cherry juice—is unfortunately a variation on a common blend. It’s like finding out your cool dad worked in accounting all along.

12
Pepsi-Cola

12 fl oz, 150 calories, 41 g carbs, 41 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Sugar, Phosphoric Acid, Caffeine, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor

The perennial #2 in the cola wars carries 5 grams more sugar than a 3 Musketeers bar and 1 gram more carbs. Let that sink in: One of America’s most popular sodas has that much sugar. Instead of drinking this, make a smoothie—they really can help you lose weight! For 150+ recipes that will make your belly flat, buy the brand-new book from Abs Diet creator David Zinczenko: Zero Belly Cookbook!

11
Pepsi
Real Sugar

150 calories, 40 g carbs, 40 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Caramel Color, Phosphoric, Acid, Caffeine, Natural Flavor

Sugar is the master of disguise. Maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, dextrose, sucrose—it’s got more alter egos than the Avengers. But it’s most well known costume, as you know after reading this far, is High Fructose Corn Syrup. Pepsi’s hoping you forget it’s all the same sweet stuff, heavily marketing this new brand formulated with sugar and no HFCS. But in a 2014 review of five studies comparing the effects of sugar and HFCS, there was no difference found in changes in blood glucose levels, lipid levels, or appetite between table sugar consumption and HFCS consumption. In other words, your body can’t tell one from the other—they’re both just sugar.

10
Pibb Xtra

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 39 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Sorbate And Potassium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Artificial And Natural Flavors, Caffeine, Monosodium Phosphate, Lactic Acid, Polyethylene Glycol.

A “spicy” cherry soda found mostly in the South—or in Coke Freestyle machines—Pibb Xtra contains propylene glycol, a preservative, thickening agent, and stabilizer, also used as antifreeze to de-ice airplanes, as a plasticizer to make polyester resins, and found in electronic cigarettes. The soda ranks well because of it’s calorie count but we can’t recommend you drink it!

9
7Up Cherry

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 38 g sugar

Ingredients: Citric Acid, Filtered Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Natural Flavors, Potassium Benzoate (preservative), Red 40

No caramel color—ranking goes up! Red 40—ranking goes down.

8
Coca-Cola Classic

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 39 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Caramel Color, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Caffeine.

Eat This, Not That! has been after Coca-Cola since our inception, because the company itself is responsible for the HFCS-filled Sprite, Barq’s, Fanta, Dr. Pepper, Fuze Tea, Powerade, Monster energy drinks and more—not to mention the sugary “VitaminWater.” Yet the company’s flagship drink is less harmful than most of the soda’s on this list. That doesn’t mean you should drink it. It means you shouldn’t drink soda. For a healthier buzz without the preservatives, drink tea. We at Eat This, Not That! love tea so much, we made it part of our bestselling new diet plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 4 inches from their waist!

7
7Up

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 39 g carbs, 38 g sugar

Ingredients: Filtered Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Potassium Citrate, Natural Flavors, Calcium Disodium EDTA (to protect flavor)

Best part of clear sodas: no caramel color. Worst part: They’re still sodas, and otherwise contain the same ingredients as the rest. This classic, now distributed by the Dr Pepper Snapple Group, has lost market share since its 80s heyday, but still remains a crisp drink that’s not much better than a Coke.

6
Sprite

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 38 g carbs, 38 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste).

Promoted by the coolest athletes, Sprite has the marketing down—and a calorie count slightly lower than the other citric sodas on this list. But we can’t imagine LeBron and friends actually guzzling a can of carbonated corn syrup before a game. For more invaluable advice, check out our exclusive 25 Best Nutrition Tips Ever.

5
Canada Dry
Ginger Ale

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 36 g carbs, 35 g sugar

Ingredients: *Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative), Natural Flavors, Caramel Color

Our moms used to give this to us when we had a tummy ache. Now as adults, we get a tummy ache looking at it. Blame Canada. Their tagline is “Real Ginger, Real Taste” but the main ingredients here are carbonated water and HSFC. Yet with lower calories than the rest, it ranks well on this ignominious list. For Real Delicious Food, Real Weight Loss, read our special report: 14 Ways to Lose Your Belly in 14 Days!

4
Dr. Brown's
Cel Ray

12 fl oz, 140 calories, 34 g carbs, 34 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Extract of Celery Seed with other Natural Flavors, Sodium Benzoate (Preservative) and Caramel Color.

The healthiest-sounding soda on this list nearly is. But unfortunately for the fans of Jewish delis everywhere, Cel Ray blends actual celery seed extract with HFCS.

3
Schweppes
Ginger Ale

12 fl oz, 120 calories, 33 g carbs, 32 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Sodium Benzoate (preservative), Quinine, Natural Flavors

Don’t worry about the quinine—commonly associated with treating malaria, it’s also main ingredient in harmless tonic water. No, instead fear this drinks common mixer. Despite being near the top of this list, it still has as much HFCS-derived sugar as 10 croissants. At least there’s no artificial flavors (nor ginger, unfortunately).

2
Seagram’s
Ginger Ale

12 fl oz, 100 calories, 26 g carbs, 26 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Potassium Sorbate (To Protect Taste), Caramel Color, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste), Sucralose

This is the #2 least-worst soda, with a big caveat: Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., founder of The NY Nutrition Group, says “...high fructose corn syrup, which has been shown to increase appetite and, over time, lead to health problems such as obesity and diabetes.” Yeah, yeah, you knew it was bad, but hear us again: HFCS is bad! Still, Seagram’s Ginger Ale has a lower calorie count than most, thanks to the artificial sweetener sucralose.

And coming in at #1
Sierra Mist

12 fl oz, 120 calories, 30 g carbs, 29 g sugar

Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Citric Acid, Natural Flavor, Potassium Sorbate (preserves freshness), Purified Stevia Leaf Extract

In a contest of sugar waters filled with additives, there is no winner. Sierra Mist has as many calories as a pack of Now and Laters, and only 7 grams less sugar. Still, it comes in at #1 on this list because it contains no artificial flavors, and uses the sweetener Stevia Leaf Extract, which, although still under review, comes from plants, and could prove key to solving America’s obesity epidemic by satisfying our sweet tooth without adding calories.


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