Can Soft Drinks Be Healthy?

New sodas are aimed at health-conscious consumers but fall short experts say.

By Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD/LD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

The idea of a healthy soft drink may sound like an oxymoron. But to soda manufacturers, it's the hottest trend in the better-for-you category of food and beverages.

With all the attention on obesity and health, consumers are looking for healthier, more natural beverages. And manufacturers are hoping to perk up sagging soda sales with new "healthy" soft drinks spiked with vitamins and minerals and marketed with natural-sounding terms.

Soda Sales Sagging

Sales of carbonated drinks have been sagging due to the popularity of bottled water and noncarbonated drinks like teas, juices, sports drinks, and "functional" drinks with added ingredients purported to reduce stress or increase energy.

Soda companies have responded by launching new products and marketing efforts.

Some carbonated beverages are now being marketed as "sparkling," implying a healthier, more natural beverage. There are caffeine-free, no-calorie beverages laced with vitamins and minerals, like Diet Coke Plus and Tava from Pepsi.

"Zero-calorie" sodas are aimed at consumers who don't like the idea of a "diet" drink. Jazzed-up flavors like pomegranate, cherry, vanilla, lemon, lime, and caramel are also making their way into soft drinks.