105 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are
Philadelphia was the first major U.S. city to pass a tax on soda—1.5 cents per ounce, which is about $1 more for a 2-liter. Other cities have imposed similar taxes, including Berkeley, CA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Boulder, CO. The truth is that you don’t need to live in these locations to pay the price of drinking soda.
Although we call them “beer bellies,” science says we ought to call our bloated midsections what they really are: soda bellies. In a study of about 1,000 adults over the course of six years, people who drank soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages gained an extra 1.8 pounds of visceral fat—the fat that sits inside your gut, damaging your internal organs and pushing your belly out into a King of the Hill–style slouch. And visceral fat has been shown to increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, among other ills. Talk about a punch to the gut!
Why is soda so good at making us look bad? It’s the sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women consume no more than 100 calories (25 grams or 6 teaspoons) per day on sugar and men no more than 150 calories (36 grams or 9 teaspoons) per day.
This amount is about 20 grams less than the usual 45 grams of sugar found in many sodas and other sweetened beverages. And if it’s not sugar, then it’s artificial sweetener, which is 180 times sweeter than sugar and more damaging to your waistline.
To help you make better choices, we’ve ranked the 105 most popular sodas. We took the most popular sodas on the market into our Food Lab. First, we ordered them by calories, sodium, 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.
Click through to see where your favorite fizzy drinks fall in our 105 best and worst sodas list, ranked from worst-to-best. (Although, “best” still doesn’t mean healthy!)
There are a lot of unhealthy aspects to this soft drink: the fact that its second ingredient is HFCS, to the additives that are Yellow #5 and Blue #1, to the 51 grams of sugar, which is nearly double of how much sugar a person should have in one day. You’re simply much better off drinking water and just sticking an actual lime in it for some natural flavor.
If you think choosing a fruit-based soda is a better option for your health, well, that’s just not true. With 51 grams of sugar in one can, any variation of Crush soda is just a landfill of sugar. Plus, the pineapple flavor contains soybean oil, which has been linked to weight gain.
The yellow color of this soda doesn’t come from an actual pineapple. That’s all thanks to additives Yellow #5 and Yellow #6, with Yellow #5 even causing allergic-type reactions in some.
If you ate 12 chocolate glazed munchkins from Dunkin Donuts, you would still consume less sugar than one can of Crush Peach soda. Eating an actual peach? That brings in just about 13 grams of natural sugar—no HFCS in sight.
Stewart’s Cherries ‘n Cream Soda
While the bright hue of this soda may lure drinkers in, with 46 grams of sugar, it’s best to think twice before taking a sip. Instead, opt for actual strawberries with some whipped cream.
With this long list of ingredients, it’s interesting to note that pineapple is not blatantly listed as a main component of this soft drink, but there are plenty of different types of sugar here.
Just eating a real mango is much cleaner for your health than this beverage. You’ll notice that it, along with many other sodas, contains the thickener gum acacia. It not only has been said to cause flatulence and stomach discomfort in some people when ingested in high quantities but according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, it can also cause allergic reactions such as a skin rash or an asthmatic attack.
Mug Cream Soda
You would have to down 12 servings of Reddi-Wip to equal the calorie count of Mug Cream Soda—and would still need to eat 12 Hershey’s Kisses on top of that to equal the sugar count.
The lime-green soda contains brominated vegetable oil or BVO, a patented flame retardant that acts as an emulsifier in citrus-flavored soda drinks. It’s been banned in Europe and Japan before, and there have even been some reports that those who drank an excessive amount of sodas containing BVO suffered memory loss and skin and nerve problems.
Mountain Dew Code Red
As we said, Europe and Japan have already banned the flame retardant brominated vegetable oil (BVO) out of their bubbly beverages. If you’re truly trying to get a six-pack, don’t do the Dew in any variation and instead scroll through this comprehensive list of foods that uncover your abs.
Oh caramel color. It’s a very common additive you’ll find in many sodas, coffee drinks, salad dressings, and soup, but it’s also a potential carcinogen.
There seems to be no mention of any actual strawberries in this ingredient list, with “natural” flavors coming in last behind HFCS, caramel color, and Red #40.
This soda—like many others on this list—is sweetened with HFCS, which makes for a shocking sugar count. It’s also colored with that pesky food dye, Yellow #5, a food dye that studies have linked to hyperactivity in children.
Stewart’s Orange ‘n Cream Soda
If you’re looking for a refreshing summer treat with this classic flavor combo, you’re better off eating the classic Creamsicle ice cream bar that’s only 100 calories and 12 grams of sugar.
Stewart’s Grape Soda
This soda sure won’t taste like actual grapes and it contains Blue #1, a food dye that the Center for Science in the Public Interest recommended consumers be wary of.
A&W Cream Soda
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 mix of HFCS and artificial colors and flavors. This is not your grandparents’ soda, in the worst way possible.
A&W Root Beer
You gotta love that label: This American classic claims it’s “Made with Aged Vanilla” but we see no mention of “Vanilla Extract” in the ingredients list. 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.
Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda
This soda has more calories than a Mountain Dew (though with less artificial colors, thus the better ranking).
This is another example of don’t let the colorful packaging fool you. This oh-so-sweet soda is chock-full of sugar and toxic ingredients.
Dr. Brown’s Root Beer
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 is listed in A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives as a natural emulsifier and is in the soda, too. Despite its weird name, it’s probably the most natural ingredient in this sugar juice.
A-Treat Blue Razz
This raspberry flavored drink has more sugar than three Dunkin Donuts glazed donuts. If that isn’t a red flag, we don’t know what is.
Its name refers to “royal crown cola” and it was developed by a pharmacist. With HFCS, caramel color, and 42 grams of sugar in one can, there are much better soda options out there for you.
It’s not uncommon for “sodium and potassium benzoate are added to some diet soft drinks and fruit drinks,” Leslie Bonci, RD, tells us. 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.
Jarritos Mandarin Soda
That Yellow 6 and Red 40 seems to be a repeat combo offender. And for 45 grams of sugar, ditch the fizzy stuff and go for a fresh mandarin orange isntead.
Stewart’s Key Lime Soda
With this list of ingredients, you’re much better off making a key lime pie and eating that instead!
Sun Drop Caffeine Free
The caffeine-free version of this citrus pop was created because of consumers’ requests for one in 2002, but it comes in with more calories than the original flavor.
Despite its name and flavor, this soda isn’t an orange hue like you would expect. Still, it contains Yellow 5, which gives it that distinct color.
Sun Drop Cherry Lemon Citrus
The cherry lemon flavor is really packing when it comes to the ingredients—caramel color, Red 40, and Yellow 5. No thanks.
This strawberry soda says right on the can that it’s artificially flavored!
Hires Root Beer
This root beer was created by a pharmacist who introduced the first Hires Root Beer back in 1876, and many people actually owned Hires Root Beer Kits, which let families brew their own root beer right at home.
Hansen’s Creamy Root Beer
For a diet soda, it’s still rather high in sugar, but it does contain a more unique blend of natural flavors.
Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry
Dr. Brown’s Black Cherry would horrify most doctors—and not just because of the sweet stuff. Like Stewart’s cherry flavor—and many of the colored sodas here—this one has the artificial color Red 40.
Barq’s Root Beer
Barq’s Root Beer overall has a slightly less horrifying chemical profile than its competition.
Barq’s Creme Soda
Barq’s creme soda fairs slighting better than its root beer, thanks to being 5 milligrams less in sodium.
Barq’s Red Creme Soda
Does anyone even know what red creme flavor is? It’s for sure not a natural combination!
Liquefy a bag of Skittles to equal the sweetness of this can of corn syrup, citric acid, and artificial colors. In fact, that bag of Skittles has similar ingredients, including 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 (said no one ever). The wood resin is added to 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.
We’re not so sure what the 100% natural flavors are that are boasted about on the can, but there must be some strawberry in here then, in the midst of all those other additives.
Stewart’s Wishniak Black Cherry
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 one of the most caloric on this list. And, like many of the soda found here, it also contains the additive caramel coloring.
Stewart’s Cream Soda
43 grams of sugar in one soda is a whole lot, even if it is Stewart’s. This childhood favorite can stay on the shelf.
Orange is the original flavor of Crush sodas, but the amount of sugar, the Yellow 6, and Red 40? All just, well, crushing stuff.
With HFCS, Red 40, and Blue 1 in this soda, we think you’d be better off getting real grape flavor from, well, grapes.
Crush Tuti Fruiti
Fruit punch is always a rather risky drink choice, as sugar tends to be high, so it’s no surprise this fruit punch soda isn’t necessarily the best option.
RC Cherry Cola
At 160 calories, these RC drinks weigh in on the more calorie-heavy side of the regular soda options. In fact, for only 30 calories more you could have an entire Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut, and save yourself 33 grams of sugar in the process.
It’s probably a good idea to pass on this vanilla coke, if we’re being honest here!
By now, you might start to see some of the most popular sodas for what they really are: carbonated water, HFCS, some acids, and little else. This classic—once made with real cherry juice—is, unfortunately, a variation on a common blend.
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.
Mug’s Root Beer
Quillaia extract? The best (and worst) part of researching these sodas is coming across the many ingredients soda manufacturers add to their concoctions. Quillaia is another tree bark, and it helps your root beer foam up, as A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives points out. Be more scared of the sugar here—you’re basically drinking five root beer-flavored Dum Dums mixed with additives.
Wild Cherry Pepsi
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).
The “Retro Cheerwine” variant is sold in glass bottles and is sweetened with cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
But yes, there strikes HFCS, yet again, in the canned version.
Virgil’s Handcrafted Root Beer
The root beer is this brand’s original flavor and is actually brewed by hand in small batches.
Virgil’s Handcrafted Vanilla Cream Soda
All-natural bourbon vanilla is said on the soda’s site to be the secret to this cream soda’s distinct flavor.
Virgil’s Handcrafted Orange Soda
The website claims, “Only the finest Spanish oranges make a sweet enough juice with just the right citrus zest to flavor this creamy, bold classic,” and with minimum ingredients, we just might believe it.
Virgil’s Handcrafted Black Cherry
The black cherries here add a tart and tangy flavor to this soda.
Crush Blue Raspberry
Blue raspberry isn’t a naturally-occurring flavor by any means, and the color of this drink comes from you guessed it, Blue 1.
Dr Pepper Cherry
Malic acid is found in here, and according to A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, it’s used as a way to compensate for the lack of fruit in artificially sweetened fruit, so there really isn’t much actual cherry in this drink.
Hansen’s Original Cola
Kola nuts are a bonus, but all those acids and caramel color knock this soda down.
Our childhood nostalgia is crushed: This kid-favorite brand has no actual grapefruit. On the bright side, it has no BVO.
The perennial #2 in the cola wars carries 5 grams more sugar than a 3 Musketeers bar. Let that sink in: One of America’s most popular sodas has that much sugar. Instead of drinking this, make a weight loss smoothie!
Boylan Shirley Temple
This childhood favorite is even cuter in a bottle, and although it is high in calories and sugar, it scores lower on the list for fewer ingredients and its use of fruit and veggie juice for coloring rather than artificial dyes.
Pepsi Real Sugar
Sugar is the master of disguise. Maltodextrin, brown rice syrup, dextrose, sucrose—the list goes on. But its 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 that this version is 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.
No, an actual doctor didn’t create this soda but if one did, we like to think there would be a lot less sugar and more natural ingredients.
IBC Root Beer
This soda is now owned by the Dr Pepper/Snapple group and is said to have a “satisfying richness” in flavor.
Stewart’s Birch Beer Soda
Yucca extract is something different compared to other sodas on this list, but still, it’s chock-full of the typical unhealthy soda ingredients.
Maine Root. Mexicane Cola
Seeing organic sugar cane is a nice change from HFCS, but phosphoric acid is made from phosphate rock, so that’s just something to keep in mind.
Maine Root. Root Beer & Maine Root. Ginger Brew
This soda is basically the same nutrition-wise as the one above it, but comes out in a better spot thanks to its somewhat cleaner list of ingredients.
Canfield’s 50/50 Soda
This grapefruit lime soda features glyceryl abietate, an oil-soluble food additive that has been linked to a variety of possible health side effects. The additive is also derived from animal fats, a major ‘no’ for vegetarians and vegans.
Hansen’s Key Lime Twist
This soda doesn’t have a laundry list of ingredients, which is refreshing to see, but still, it will set you back a decent amount of sugar.
Fanta Green Apple
38 grams of sugar is quite a lot, whereas eating a cup of green apple slices comes in at only 11 grams of all-natural sugar.
1893 Ginger Cola
Don’t let the word “premium” confuse you. There are no premium ingredients here, but at 150 calories and 39 grams of sugar, it’s hard to believe that there are only 11 ingredients in this afternoon pick-me-up.
1893 Original Cola
We’re not sure we would call this cola “bold,” but it does have kola nut extract in it, a natural ingredient.
Stewart’s Root Beer
Although this soda was developed to be “the best-tasting root beer,” it certainly isn’t doing you any favors health-wise. 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.
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 that is found in antifreeze and cosmetics. The soda ranks well because of its calorie count, but we can’t recommend you drink it!
No caramel color—ranking goes up! Red 40—ranking goes down.
Coca-Cola’s flagship drink is actually less harmful than most of the soda’s on this list. That doesn’t mean you should drink it every day though.
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 remains a crisp drink that’s not much better than a Coke.
Often promoted by the 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 guzzling a can of carbonated corn syrup before a game.
Dr Pepper Cherry Vanilla
We’re not seeing any cherry or vanilla listed that high on the list of ingredients in this soda. Any doctor would most like tell you skip out on Dr Pepper.
Vernors Ginger Soda
This soda claims to have an “authentic bold taste,” but we wish there was more actual ginger prominently used here.
Squirt Grapefruit Soda
Squirt soda was invented in 1938 by Herb Bishop in Phoenix, Arizona, so it’s been around for a while! And while there still is HFCS, it is a lower percentage.
Jones Cream Soda
Although it’s a bit higher in calories, this cream soda is made with pure can sugar and not HFCS, making it a better for you option if cream soda is your favorite flavor.
Schweppes Raspberry Ginger Ale
If only there was actual raspberry in this soda, and we don’t just mean in the “natural flavors.”
Sierra Mist Natural Lemon-Lime Soda, Made with Real Sugar
This caffeine-free drink is back in its original glory! In July 2018, Sierra Mist returned to its natural formula from 2010, made with real sugar and no stevia. Between 2010 and 2018, Sierra Mist had rebranded to Mist TWST, which was sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and no natural sugar in sight. This tacked on an additional 30 calories and 10 grams of sugar.
There is some orange pulp in here, but that doesn’t make it healthy for you, as HFCS is still a main star.
Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale
Not seeing any sign of cranberry here, but there is Red 40, which creates the red hue.
Canada Dry Ginger Ale and Lemonade
The label touts that it’s “made from real ginger & with real juice,” but the only place we guess that ginger might be lurking is in the “natural flavors.”
Canada Dry Blackberry Ginger Ale
Blackberries are high in vitamin K and are one of the best high-fiber foods you can eat to help your weight-loss goals. But drinking this isn’t going to give you those same benefits!
Canada Dry Green Tea Ginger Ale
It’s nice to see green tea actually listed as an ingredient rather high up on the nutrition breakdownn of this soda. But again, don’t let that trick you into thinking it’s a “healthy” beverage choice!
Canada Dry Ginger Ale
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. The tagline is “Real Ginger, Real Taste” but the main ingredients here are carbonated water and HFCS. But with lower calories than the rest, it ranks rather well on this list.
Dr. Brown’s Cel Ray
The healthiest-sounding soda on this list nearly is. But unfortunately for the fans of this one, Cel Ray blends actual celery seed extract with HFCS.
Reed’s Ginger Beer
While the sugar isn’t the lowest in this soda, the list of ingredients is pretty clean overall, making it a solid choice.
Seagram’s Ginger Ale
This soda doesn’t seem like it’s all that bad but it does still have one big caveat: Lisa Moskovitz, RD, 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.
Blue Sky Root Beer
Blue Sky prides itself on being a simple soda that is “crafted for real” as its website states.
Seagram’s Tonic Water
This soda isn’t nearly as high in calories as others on this list, but there’s that HFCS and still 33 grams of sugar, so keep that in mind when cracking open one of these cans.
Schweppes Ginger Ale
This soda has as much HFCS-derived sugar as 10 croissants, and we don’t see ginger on the actual list, unfortunately.
Blue Sky Cola
This is a truly classic cola. Well, as classic as soda can get, as there is still caramel color, but no HFCS!
Ale 8 Cherry
Props to Ale 8 for being the only cherry soda here that doesn’t use red dye 40 to give their pop a bold hue. This Kentucky-based brand swaps the red dye with natural colors from fruit and vegetable juices, and unlike many of the ginger ales the list, it actually includes fresh ginger in their brew.
This soda’s key ingredient is the kola nut extract, which has a slightly bitter flavor and a little bit of caffeine. The soda has a distinct amount of foam when it’s poured, too.
Blue Sky Lemon Lime
A short list of ingredients and cane sugar? If you really need to sip on a lemon-lime soda, this is the best one.
Blue Sky Black Cherry
A cherry-flavored soda without Red 40 is one we’ll take.
Known for its distinguished bitter flavor, this soda was one of the first to be mass-produced in the U.S. Whether or not you like the unique taste of this old fashioned cola, it isn’t the worst thing you could drink for your health. In fact, gentian root extractives, the ingredient that gives it its bitter flavor, is actually used for medicinal properties, and has been shown to calm an upset stomach.
Dry Sparkling Ginger
A small list of ingredients is something we can get behind. The ginger flavor is promised to be “bold and spicy,” too.
Dry Sparkling Vanilla
The vanilla variation of this soda sneaks ahead of its ginger sister flavor, thanks to it being 5 calories less. Think of this drink as the better-for-you cream soda.
Although Coke Life is sweetened with stevia, it’s certainly not a “diet” beverage. A can of this still packs 24 grams of sugar and is 90 calories. Still, that’s much less than other traditional colas on the market. And the ingredients are pretty simple, too—sweetened with cane sugar and stevia, there’s no HFCS, which is a bonus. At less than 100 calories a can, this is definitely the best of the regular sodas (although that still doesn’t make it healthy!)