Is Prebiotic Soda Good for Your Gut? Dietitian Answers

The rising popularity of prebiotic foods and beverages stems from their potential benefits for gut health, metabolism, bone density, skin condition, and cognitive function. Among these products, prebiotic soda has emerged as a promising alternative to traditional sodas and soft drinks. In this article, we explore whether prebiotic sodas are a better choice than conventional soda options.

What is prebiotic soda?

Prebiotic sodas are soft drinks with prebiotic ingredients like inulin, fructooligosaccharides, galactooligosaccharides, beta-glucans, and pectin. However, they also share common ingredients with traditional sodas, including added sugars, sweeteners, and flavorings. Traditional soda drinks often feature a blend of carbonated water, sugars, flavorings, fruit or fruit juice, maltodextrin, various sweeteners (such as acesulfame-K, aspartame, and saccharin), caffeine, acids (like citric acid and malic acid), preservatives, and colorings.

Many people regularly consume soft drinks despite their negative effects on health. Soda consumption has been associated with increased energy and sugar intake, and it’s even banned from schools in some countries, including several states of the U.S.

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that promotes the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria in the gut. The natural sources of prebiotics include but are not limited to onions, garlic, legumes, chickpeas, and some fruits such as apples. Since prebiotics have been shown to support gut, metabolic, bone, skin, and brain health.

Gut bacteria ferment prebiotics, producing acetic acid, butyric acid, and propionic acid, which are short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). SCFAs help maintain intestinal pH, preventing the growth of pathogens while creating an environment for beneficial gut microbiota such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus. That's why manufacturers release new products infused with prebiotics, such as prebiotic fruit juices, cereals, dairy products, and now prebiotic sodas.

Is prebiotic soda healthier than regular soda?

Although prebiotic and regular soda consumption should be limited, prebiotic soda can have a few advantages over regular soda. Still, it's important to read labels to be sure.

For a straightforward ingredient comparison, prebiotic sodas generally have lower sugar content and contain natural sweeteners, flavors, and colors; some include probiotics. In contrast, regular sodas are typically high in sugar and contain artificial sweeteners, flavors, and colors. However, it's important to note that 'natural' does not always mean 'healthy.' Natural substances can also be toxic and harmful. Take mushrooms, for example; they are all natural, but some are harmful or toxic if consumed in certain amounts. Also the ingredients vary between products, emphasizing the importance of reading labels for informed decision-making.

Here are the nutritional values of some prebiotic and regular sodas available in the market.

SunSip Prebiotic Soda Root Beer (340 ml)
POPPI Sparkling Prebiotic Orange Soda (355 ml)
Whole Foods Market Organic Tropical Blend Italian Soda (330 ml)
Demi Doux Low Sugar Soda (355 ml)
Calories35 kcal25 kcal150 kcal100 kcal
Carbohydrates 8 g7 g38 g25 g
Sugar 5 g5 g33 g25 g
Fiber2 g2 g0 g0 g
Prebiotics Agave inulinAgave inulinNoneNone

Do prebiotic sodas contain sugar or other sweeteners?

Yes, prebiotic sodas typically contain sugar or other sweeteners such as monk fruit and stevia. Sweeteners are generally used in ‘sugar-free’ or ‘diet’ beverages.

According to the FDA, sweeteners are authorized as food additives and do not pose a health risk when taken within the amounts established safe levels of intake. These sweeteners include aspartame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), sucralose, neotame, advantame, saccharin, steviol glycosides, monk fruit, and thaumatin.

Although sweeteners have no or little calories, as sugars, they can also negatively impact health. High artificial sweetener consumption has been associated with a potentially higher risk for metabolic and cardiovascular diseases.

How to read prebiotic soda labels

Reading labels is essential when choosing soda with the least unhealthy ingredients. When examining the label of a prebiotic soda, be sure to check both the ingredients list and the nutritional facts label.

  • Check sugar content. Prebiotic sodas generally contain lower sugar than regular sodas; however, you need to check the nutrition facts label to make sure. The sugar content can massively vary between sodas, so reading labels helps you choose the ones with lower sugar content.
  • Check the ingredient list. Although calories and sugar content are important, you should also consider ingredients such as artificial sweeteners, flavoring, colorings, additives, and preservatives. Checking ingredients can help you choose the ones with fewer of those ingredients.

Top alternatives to prebiotic soda

If you're seeking drinks to replace soda but don't want to compromise on healthy ingredients, here are some alternatives to prebiotic soda:

  • Kombucha with prebiotics. Kombucha is a fermented tea beverage that is abundant in probiotics. They generally have lower sugar because bacteria (probiotics) consume sugar during fermentation. Probiotics are live organisms that benefit human gut health when taken in sufficient quantities. While probiotics are living organisms and prebiotics are dietary fibers that enhance probiotics, incorporating prebiotics into your diet can enhance the beneficial effects of probiotics on gut health. Some brands offer kombucha that contain both probiotics and prebiotics.
  • Yogurt drinks with prebiotics. Yogurt is a natural probiotic source. You can find yogurt drinks added with prebiotics, too. Yogurt drinks with prebiotics can be nutrient-dense alternatives to prebiotic soda.
  • Water kefir. It’s a homemade fermented beverage made from water, sugar, kefir grains, and different fruits, herbs, and spices. Although fermented beverages can be made at home with natural ingredients, you need to monitor pH, temperature, and time during fermentation to prevent harmful pathogens that may start growing.

Expert advice on prebiotic sodas

Foods with prebiotic properties should be a part of a healthy diet; however, prebiotic soda is not the healthiest choice of prebiotic since some variations can contain high amounts of added sugars, additives, flavorings, colorings, and preservatives.

While frequent soda consumption is not recommended due to its high sugar content and lack of nutritional value, if you choose to consume prebiotic or regular soda, it's important to read labels carefully (paying attention to the ingredients) and practice moderation in consumption.

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