I admit it – I sometimes crave a soda.
It usually comes over me when I pass by some fast food outlet and smell the fried food aromas drifting through the air. It’s amazing how long that food-programming lasts, considering the last time I really ate fast food was in high school. Sometimes when we’re having pizza and movie night on Friday’s at home (yes, I eat pizza and I love it! Pizza Plus in my Brooklyn neighborhood delivers the best whole wheat pie with Diaya cheese and zucchini slices you can imagine!) I’ll indulge in a frosty beverage, but it’s not the iconic red cans of dark cola I used to enjoy.
Coke, Pepsi, and other major colas aren’t part of my diet anymore. I learned that most sodas contain phosphoric acid, which can cause your bones to lose calcium due to the high acidity. Back in high school and college I would drink a Super Big Gulp from 7-11 several days a week, and most Americans can relate. Sodas sweetened with high fructose corn syrup make up the majority of American’s calorie intake.
I get a lot of questions from friends about whether they should avoid certain foods, and soda tops the list. Diet sodas seem to elicit the biggest worries, because they might have heard about studies linking artificial sweeteners to cancer, Alzheimer’s, or other health concerns.
I never liked the taste of diet sodas, and still find artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Equal to leave a funny after taste. My friend Val, belly dancer extraordinaire, described it perfectly: “This tastes like toothpaste!”
So I’ve decided to do a little experimentation and test out the new range of naturally sweetened sodas that are lining the shelves of health food store aisles these days.
My first taste test brings us to the world of diet sodas: ZEVIA.
Including stevia, erythritol (a natural sugar alcohol that, like xylitol, doesn’t contribute to dental decay), natural caramel, natural tartaric acid, citric acid, kola nut extract, natural caffeine, annatto, and ginger root, Zevia offers several flavors including ginger ale, orange, cherry lime, and cola.
ZEVIA is sweetened with non-caloric stevia extract, which is derived from a South American herb also known as sweet leaf. Although it appears to be a new trend, use of stevia is not new. South American tribes have sweetened their diets with with leaves from the sweet leaf plant and attribute medicinal properties to the herb. Stevia has been used in Japan since the 1970’s when sugar-free sweeteners began to grow in popularity.
Stevia has been banned in Europe, and has been labeled as a dietary supplement, but not as a sweetener, here in the US for decades. It is hundreds of times sweeter than sugar and truly has virtually no calories.
MY TASTE TEST: I tried the cola, ginger ale and orange flavors from Zevia. The cola tasted exactly like my memory of Diet Coke! I have to say I haven’t had a Diet Coke in at least 12 years, so my tongue might have a different opinion from a regular drinker. The ginger ale flavor tasted more like tooth paste (thanks Val), and wasn’t very gingery. In fact, we realized that Tom’s of Maine ginger toothpaste has more ginger flavor than this soda! Finally, the orange soda was my favorite, which was a total surprise. I grew up playing soccer and our coach always had orange soda for our half-time beverage. Even as a sugar-a-holic young kid, I didn’t like orange soda because it tasted so thick and unnatural. But Zevia’s orange soda was lighter and clean tasting without being overly sweet.
So, if you like diet soda but want to move away from the artificial colors and artificial sweeteners, try ZEVIA. You can also try these packets of Stevia to take in your bag, car, or to your office – they’re just like sugar packets, without the sugar!
Next time I’ll talk about another brand of soda and how to make your own at home!