Soda – What Are Those Ingredients?

Soda, is also known as pop or soda pop. Some of us refer to all pop as coke. I grew up calling it pop. I have never called it soda. Funny, when I lived in Maryland my family and I were eating out. I asked our server for another pop and he looked at me like I swore at him! It took me a second to realize he had no idea what pop was, and I quickly asked for another coke and he got it.

Whatever you call it, soda pop is extremely popular drink and it’s list of ingredients is um not so popular. Well actually like everything in our society, the advantage or disadvantage of something depends on who is telling the story, or in this case article.

I’ll go into detail about what I mean on who authors an article below. First read on to learn a little about soda pop and it’s popularity which is staggering! Let’s look at one of the most popular soda pops – Coca-Cola.

Coca Cola History Timeline

It all started in 1886 with John Pemberton when he mixed some ingredients and added carbonated water to it. From 1888-1891 the Coca Cola company produced ten billion gallons of syrup and it was first put into bottles in 1894.

In 1916 the signature curved bottle was created and distributed. And the popularity grew from there with some smart marketing techniques like keeping the ingredients secret and selling a bottle to WWI soldiers at low cost to support them.

John Pemberton was a pharmacist and I’m sure he didn’t envision his tonic to become what it has. If he had, he would not have sold it! And I’m absolutely sure he would not have wanted the recipe to be filled with artificial ingredients! Let’s look a little closer at the ingredients in today’s coca cola. These are listed by order on their cans.

Carbonated Water

Okay I know this sounds harmless and mostly it is. Carbonated water is not associated with any type of negative health concerns. It may however cause you to have more gas in your digestive system (could be dangerous to others’ health, wink, wink!).

Carbonated anything may also cause more pressure in your stomach contributing to acid reflux or more commonly known as heartburn.

And carbonated water can irritate ulcers. So overall, not a too bad of a first ingredient.

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)

We went from harmless carbonated water to the highest problem ingredient in my opinion.

HFCS contains fructose which metabolizes in the liver and only in the liver. A by product of the liver metabolizing fructose is fat. When too much high fructose corn syrup is ingested, yep you guessed it, your liver creates an overabundance of fat. Your brain craves it, so you eat/drink more producing more fat from the liver. Bad, bad stuff.

Please, I implore you to read more about this nasty ingredient from my previous post One Reason You’re Overweight-High Fructose Corn Syrup.

So how many sodas do you have a day? If you crave soda check to see if it’s sweetened with HFCS. Not that sugar isn’t addictive because it is too. Sugar signals your brain to release a feel good chemical which causes you to want to eat or drink more yummies.

The biggest and most significant difference between HFCS and sugar is where in the body it is digested. I already said HFCS is digested only in the liver with fat as a by product. Sugar is digested in the intestines and no, fat is not created with its digestion. So score 1 for sugar.

I suggest you look at the label of your soda and look for one that is sugar sweetened with no HFCS. Do me a favor and leave me a comment below and let me know how many you find sugar sweetened without HFCS. Better yet, find one sweetened with only sugar that is non-GMO (genetically modified, and yes it’s as bad as it sounds! stay tuned for my upcoming post about GMOs. You don’t want to miss that one!).

Now that you are aware of how nasty high fructose corn syrup is, please read your labels and start to weed this chemical out from your kids’ food and drink! And yours too before it’s too late!

Here’s what the coca cola company says about high fructose corn syrup. “High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is a type of sweetener. It’s made from corn and is similar to table sugar. HFCS has about the same number of calories as sugar.” So by their definition, you probably don’t think there’s much difference between hfcs and sugar since it has the same amount of calories, right?

Ahhhh, but I have now educated you not to be fooled by their lack of information and their comparison to sugar. See what I mean about who is writing the content of what you’re reading?

Caramel Color

Nope I’m not talking about melting caramel candy. I’m talking about artificial brown color in coke and many, many other consumable products. Carmel color is made by reacting sugars with ammonia and sulfites under high pressure and temperatures. The U.S. government has conducted studies showing carmel color caused cancer or leukemia in lab animals.

Oh boy, and here’s how the coca cola company defines carmel color, “Caramel Color is made by a process involving the heating of corn or cane sugar and other carbohydrates to achieve the desired color. Caramel coloring in beverages has been evaluated for safety by agencies like the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of the World Health Organization and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.”

Huh, wonder why they needed to mention it’s been tested for safety?

Phosphoric Acid

A corrosive acid which is added to soda to give it the tangy taste. It also retards the growth of bacteria or mold in sugary products.

Corrosive. Need I say more? Yup, I will because that’s not all.

Some studies suggest phosphoric acid is linked to low bone density in women or osteoporosis. Other studies suggest phosphoric acid doesn’t cause low bone density but rather drinking soda instead of milk does. Doubt that, many studies have proven this not to be true.

Corrosive = Bad teeth, and has also been shown to cause an increase in kidney disease.

Coke’s definition of phosphoric acid, “Phosphoric Acid is used in certain sparkling beverages to add tartness to the beverage. Phosphoric Acid contains phosphorus, one of the basic elements of nature and an essential nutrient. Phosphorus is a major component of bones.” Um… phosphorus and phosphoric acid are NOT the same, so why are they even saying this?

Natural Flavors

No one really knows what “natural flavors” means. Here’s what the coke company explains it as, “Natural Flavors may come from the essential oils or extracts of spices, fruits, vegetables, herbs, roots and barks.”

Well I guess we’ll just have to take their word for it… it’s natural (sarcasm).


I don’t think caffeine needs an introduction or explanation. At least they have put it on the label!

Not Created Equal

Not all sodas are created equal. However, most do follow the above example for ingredients especially the high fructose corn syrup.

Most of us enjoy a soda now and again, but please remember what you’ve read and if you drink more soda than you should try to cut back for your health before it’s too late!

Please leave me a comment. I’d love to have you join our community with your thoughts.

Psst….Wanna free ebook on Navigating the Paleo Diet?

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