prebiotic soda

Soda for Gut Health? The Rise of Prebiotic Sodas

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Sugar-sweetened soda, pop, or whatever you call it is probably the only food (drink) that I recommend avoiding across the board as a dietitian. As popular as they are, these beverages have zero nutritional value and are probably the number one cause of obesity and metabolic disease, above any other food.

I can’t deny that these drinks are popular. The carbonated beverage market was estimated at over 440 billion in 2022 (although this does include all types of beverages). 

But consumers are smartening up to the downsides of these types of drinks. There is a growing demand for healthier beverage options, beyond just substituting sugar with a ton of artificial sweeteners and calling it a “diet” drink. Consumers want functional food and beverages with additional health benefits, beyond just fewer calories.

At the forefront of this changing demand is the emergence of an increased interest in gut health. Pairing the demand for functional products for gut health with an increased demand for healthier “soda”, prebiotic sodas emerge as a refreshing trend, bubbling up in popularity over the last few years.

So what are prebiotic sodas, what brands are leading the way, and should you add these innovative drinks to your beverages of choice?

What are prebiotic sodas?

Prebiotic sodas are carbonated beverages, similar to traditional sodas, that contain prebiotics or food for beneficial bacteria as well as other health properties. They are typically lower in sugar and calories than traditional sodas and may have additional health benefits. 

What are pre and probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria often referred to as “good” or “friendly” bacteria and prebiotics are various types of fiber the probiotics love to eat. These microorganisms play a pivotal role in maintaining a healthy balance in the human gut microbiome. The gut microbiome is a complex ecosystem of bacteria, viruses, and fungi that reside in the digestive tract. It’s vital to various bodily functions, including digestion, immune response, and even mental health.

Probiotics have traditionally been associated with fermented foods like yogurt, kombucha, and sauerkraut. They are also popular in dietary supplements used for a variety of health conditions such as improved digestion, skin health, and weight management. 

Prebiotics are a type of dietary fiber that acts as food for probiotics. This special type of fiber is known to support immune function, have a positive impact on weight management and blood sugar control, and contribute to overall metabolic health. 

Furthermore, prebiotics have been linked to benefits for mental health due to their influence on the gut-brain axis. They can aid in the absorption of essential minerals like calcium and magnesium, improving bone health. 

So in an era where innovation meets health, prebiotics are found in a new food: the effervescent, flavorful, and often nostalgic form of soda. The popularity of prebiotic sodas lies not just in their health-promoting properties but also in their appeal as a healthier alternative to traditional sugary sodas. 

Based on market trends and consumer demands, I believe that prebiotic sodas are more than just a fleeting fad; they are a sign of the evolving preferences of consumers who want to balance taste, nutrition, and wellness. 

Health Benefits of Prebiotic Sodas

prebiotic soda

Prebiotic sodas are an incredible solution to making soda “healthier”. The addition of these beneficial fibers to popular beverages provides several health advantages. Here are just a few:

Promotion of Gut Health

Prebiotics in these sodas serve as food for probiotics (good gut bacteria), promoting their growth and activity. This supports the overall health and balance of the gut microbiome, crucial for effective digestion and nutrient absorption.

Regular intake of prebiotics can improve bowel regularity and help alleviate symptoms of digestive disorders like bloating and constipation.

Enhanced Immune Function

A well-balanced gut microbiome, supported by prebiotics, plays a significant role in strengthening the immune system. This can help you stay healthy.

Metabolic Health Benefits

Prebiotics have been linked to positive effects on metabolic health, including improved blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity (literally the opposite of what you can expect from traditional soda, which makes blood sugar and insulin sensitivity worse).

Weight Management 

Prebiotics can support weight management by promoting feelings of fullness and reducing the urge to overeat. This satiety effect can be a valuable tool in a balanced weight loss plan. A soda that helps you LOSE weight? Yes, please!

Bone Health

By improving the absorption of minerals such as calcium and magnesium, prebiotics contribute to better bone density and overall bone health.

Improved Mental and Cognitive Health

Emerging research suggests that a healthy gut microbiome, supported by prebiotics, may have a positive impact on mental and brain health. This is due to the gut-brain axis, where gut health is increasingly recognized as influential on mood and cognitive functions.

Lower Sugar and Calorie Content

Prebiotic sodas typically have significantly lower sugar and calorie content compared to traditional sodas, aligning with a health-conscious lifestyle. The lower sugar content may contribute to some of the health benefits discussed above. 

They also make for a great alternative for those looking to adopt an alcohol free-lifestyle, as they are amazing mixers for non-alcoholic cocktails, helping you effortlessly reduce calorie and sugar content without sacrificing taste.

The bottom line is that in terms of health, there is no real comparison between regular soda and prebiotic sodas, prebiotic sodas win hands down. Want to try prebiotic sodas? Here are a few brands to consider.

Top Prebiotic Soda Brands in 2024

While there are dozens of brands popping up every day, these two are my favorite prebiotic sodas.

OLIPOP

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02/26/2024 02:14 pm GMT

OLIPOP was my first introduction to prebiotic sodas. I tried the “Orange Squeeze” flavor and it tasted so much like Orangina, a childhood favorite drink, that I was hooked. 

The great thing about OLIPOP is that their product comes in all of the nostalgic flavors of traditional sodas, such as root beer or cola, with the added health benefits of prebiotics, botanicals, and plant fiber. 

Each can contains a blend of prebiotics derived from ingredients like chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, and kudzu root, which promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. These prebiotics add 9 grams of beneficial prebiotic fiber per can. That is over ⅓ of your daily fiber needs for the whole day, from a soda!

Additionally, OLIPOP includes a variety of botanicals like cassava root and calendula flower, which contribute to its unique flavor profile and offer additional health properties. 

Unlike traditional sodas, OLIPOP is low in calories containing between 35-45 calories per can. It is also low in sugar, with around 2-4 grams of added sugar per can. Compare this to a regular cola that has 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar per can, health-wise OLIPOP is a clear winner. 

The brand’s commitment to using natural ingredients and supporting gut health has made OLIPOP a popular choice for health-conscious consumers seeking both flavor and functionality in a beverage. And I absolutely love the taste!

The only downside of OLIPOP is the cost. A 12-pack typically costs around $35 or around $3 per can. Whereas you can get a 12-pack of Coke for $7 or around $.50 a can. But beyond the cost, the downsides of drinking regular soda are simply not justifiable. 

My advice would be to save the OLIPOP for when you are having a soda craving and drink water during other times. 

Poppi

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02/26/2024 03:17 pm GMT

Poppi is another trendy prebiotic soda that has gained popularity for its health benefits and unique flavors. It uses a base of apple cider vinegar (ACV), known for its numerous health properties, combined with natural fruit flavors. 

The key component, ACV, is rich in acetic acid, which may have some health benefits, including improved digestion, enhanced weight management, and better blood sugar control. Poppi adds a small, palatable amount of ACV in each can, making it easier to enjoy without the vinegary taste. 

Poppi is also a rich source of prebiotics from natural sources, contributing to a healthy gut microbiome. It does not have quite as much fiber as OLIPOP, with around 2 grams per can. It is also known for being low in sugar and calories. Each can contains around 25 calories and 5 grams of sugar. 

Just like OLIPOP, Poppi is more expensive than regular soda. A 12-pack costs between $30-$35, but the health benefits far outweigh the additional cost.

With its colorful and diverse range of flavors, Poppi appeals not only to those looking to improve their gut health but also to anyone seeking a healthier, guilt-free soda experience.

Should You Try Prebiotic Sodas?

I am a big fan of prebiotic sodas, but mostly because I think regular soda should be completely banned from human consumption. That might be an extreme position, but I can’t think of any health benefits of drinking a regular soda, whereas prebiotic sodas have dozens of benefits. 

Yes, the cost is significantly more, which may mean these “healthier” sodas are inaccessible for many people. But, it is worth it to drink something that is lowering your risk of chronic disease, not increasing it.

I look forward to seeing continued innovation in the healthier beverage space in the coming years. I think there is a lot of room for improvement from beverage makers to produce tasty drinks that don’t make us sick. 

Want to learn more about the top food trends for 2024? Check out our roundup post!