Can a soft drink really improve your heart and gut health, reduce body fat, and keep you full and satisfied? Probably not.
Prepare yourself, soda junkies: Coca-Cola is releasing a new diet soda that's promising to actually improve your health. Nope, this is not an early April Fool's Day joke. Coca-Cola Plus is basically your old favorite, Diet Coke, but now with 5 grams of fiber added to the mix. And the Coke brand is not exactly being shy about their marketing, touting it as the healthiest soda you've tasted yet and proclaiming multiple health benefits.
Available only in Japan at the moment (an older version was released several years ago and then taken off shelves), the new Coca-Cola Plus claims to reduce the amount of fat your body absorbs from food and raise triglycerides 7 percent less than regular Coke. (Low triglyceride levels are an important measure of heart health.) Basically, they're saying that drinking Coke Plus with a junk food meal will make the junk food less harmful to your body. Is this a foodie's dream come true?
Don't be fooled by this health hype—there is no such thing as a healthy soda, says Shawn Talbott, Ph.D., a Harvard nutritional biochemist and author of Best Future You. It's just an attempt to capitalize on healthy ingredient trends (i.e. fiber) while distracting consumers from how unhealthy the product truly is, he says.
The first problem, according to Talbott, is the amount of fiber. At just 5 grams, it's not enough to stunt fat absorption or even make you feel fuller. It's only a fraction of the 30 grams per day that women need. (According to the FDA, most women only get about 15 grams per day, in case you're wondering if your diet stacks up.) And you know what else has 5 grams of fiber plus a host of vitamins and minerals? One apple. Hard to argue with that, huh?
The other issue is how the rest of the soda ingredients interact with the fiber. "The type of fiber that this soda is adding—indigestible dextrin—can be considered a prebiotic which helps encourage the growth of beneficial probiotic bacteria in the gut," says Talbott. "But artificial sweeteners are also known to interfere with the growth, function, and viability of gut bacteria, so it's unclear how the ingredients in Coca-Cola Plus would 'fight it out' in the gut." Not to mention that artificial sweeteners come with their own health risks.
"Is Coke Plus better than no fiber? Sure, but not much better, and I certainly wouldn't consider it to be 'healthy,' especially when you're drinking it in the form of a super-sweet beverage," he adds.
Bottom line? Drink water most of the time and make soda a rare treat. And if you do occasionally drink the sweet stuff, just enjoy the regular sugar-sweetened variety and skip all the additives.