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How to Find the Healthiest Soft Drink in Australia

Classic soft drinks are notoriously bad for us. Not only are they packed with sugars, artificial flavours and additives, but they also have no nutritional benefits. Soft drinks are normally one of the first things I tell people to avoid if it’s something that they’ve been consuming. However, there are now healthy soft drinks and alternative drinks coming to the market that make it so much easier to make this transition off the bad stuff!
 
Kombucha and kefir are two of the best alternatives to soft drinks and they come with some gut loving benefits. Both kombucha and kefir are fermented products, which makes them a brilliant source of probiotics, also known as healthy gut bacteria. When we consume drinks that contain probiotics, we are supporting our microbiome by adding more beneficial microbes to the mix. The fermentation process also makes these drinks fizzy, which is what makes them a fantastic alternative to soft drinks.

 

What makes it difficult to find a healthy soft drink in the supermarket?

Supermarket soft drinks are packed full of sugar and can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels. Yes, there are zero sugar soft drinks, but even these aren’t ideal due to their use of artificial sweeteners. We’ll dive more into artificial sweeteners later in this post. Alongside the sugar (or artificial sugar) content of soft drinks, they generally contain some combination of artificial flavours, colours and preservatives. Unfortunately, there is nothing about supermarket soft drinks that meet our real food (or drink) philosophy, aside from the water that they contain.

 

Qualities of a healthy soft drink:

A healthy soft drink alternative utilises small amounts of natural sweeteners and flavours instead of the artificial kinds. This makes them low in sugar and better for our blood sugar levels. They’re also free from preservatives and other highly refined ingredients. In the case of kombucha and kefir, a great quality is that they’re packed full of probiotics.

 

Ingredients we like to see in a healthy soft drink:

Ideal ingredients of a healthy soft drink or soft drink alternative would be just water, some type of natural sweetener and a fruit juice or powder for flavour. We like to see natural sweeteners like stevia used in healthy soft drinks. This is because they have less of an impact on our blood sugar levels and won’t lead to a spike that later results in a crash.

 
If it is a kombucha or kefir product, there will also be some live cultures. This is great because it means that the end result gives us the probiotic benefits. In the case of kombucha you’ll also see tea and sugar on the ingredients list, both of which are fermented by the SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast), so there are only trace amounts left.

 

What are the healthiest soft drinks available?

Here are a few of the best soft drink alternatives on the market:

Lo Bros Kombucha Cola

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Ingredients: Organic Kombucha* (Water, Organic Kombucha Culture*, Organic Green Tea*, Organic Oolong Tea*, Organic Raw Sugar*), Apple Cider Vinegar (2%), Burnt Sugar, Natural Spice and Citrus Flavours (Cassia, Lemon, Orange, Nutmeg, Ginger, Lime), Living Cultures.

 

Nutritionist Review: By Shelley M.

A DELICIOUS LOW SUGAR COCA-COLA ALTERNATIVE
Kombucha has absolutely taken the market by storm and for good reason…. Kombucha is a fermented tea that can be beneficial to the gut due to the richness of probiotics which provide healthy bacteria to your gut. These bacteria can help to improve overall health including digestive health, immune health, inflammation in the body and so much more. This Lo Bros Kombucha is one of my personal favourites. It is absolutely delicious and seriously tastes like Coca-Cola. I love incorporating kombucha into my day when I feel the sugar cravings hit or as a substitute for alcohol. Even though there is sugar in the ingredient list, the sugar feeds the yeast and bacteria, aiding in its growth. So most of the sugar added to the kombucha is consumed during the fermentation process making it a low sugar product.

 

Remedy Kombucha Wild Berry

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Ingredients: Certified organic raw kombucha (sparkling water, wild kombucha culture, black tea*, green tea*), hibiscus tea*, natural sweeteners (erythritol* and steviol glycosides*), lemon juice*, natural blueberry, blackberry, strawberry and caramel flavours.

 

Nutritionist Review: By Shahna S

DELICIOUS GUT LOVING DRINK
Remedy is known for their amazing kombucha which makes it easy to enjoy the gut loving benefits of this fermented drink. Like all fermented products, Kombucha is a brilliant source of probiotics. Probiotics are the healthy gut bacteria that go on to colonise our microbiome and support our digestive health. This Wild Berry flavour includes the delicious taste and benefits of hibiscus tea, which also gives it a pretty pink colour, naturally. There’s also some lemon juice for a hint of citrus and the kombucha is naturally sweetened. Enjoy it as it is, or mix it into your mocktail/cocktail, there’s so much you can do with this tasty and nutritious drink.

 

Lo Bros Kombucha Ginger Beer

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Ingredients: Kombucha* (95%) (Filtered Water, Kombucha Culture*, Raw Sugar*, Green Tea*, Oolong Tea*), Apple Cider Vinegar* (2%), Ginger Juice Concentrate* (<1%), Natural Flavours (Ginger, Hops, Chilli), Living Cultures (<1%), *Organic Certified Ingredients

 

Nutritionist Review: By Shelley M.

ALL FOR THE GOOD OF YOUR GUT
Kombucha has absolutely taken the market by storm and for good reason…. Kombucha is a fermented tea that can be beneficial to the gut due to the richness of probiotics which provide healthy bacteria to your gut. These bacteria can help to improve overall health including digestive health, immune health, inflammation in the body and so much more. This Lo Bros Kombucha is one of my personal favourites. It is absolutely delicious. I love incorporating kombucha into my day when I feel the sugar cravings hit or as a substitute for alcohol. Even though there is sugar in the ingredient list, the sugar feeds the yeast and bacteria, aiding in its growth. So most of the sugar added to the kombucha is consumed during the fermentation process making it a low sugar product.

 

Nexba Mixed Berry Kombucha

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Ingredients: Purified Sparkling Water, Naturally Fermented Kombucha (Purified water, oolong tea, sugar**, Kombucha cultures), Nexba Natural Sweetener Blend (*erythritol, stevia), food acids (citric acid), natural flavours, probiotic culture (bacillus coagulans).

 

Nutriitonist Review: By Malissa F.

FIZZY DRINK THAT IS GOOD FOR THE GUT
Kombucha is a great alternative to soft drinks and alcohol. It is made using a fermented tea called a SCOBY. It is a natural process that allows a plain drink to turn into a fizzy and deliciously sweet treat. Kombucha has also shown to be beneficial for your gut health as the bacteria (probiotics) used to ferment this drink also populate your gut microbiome. Because of this, it has also been shown in some cases to also assist with digestion and can reduce inflammation.
It is a tasty and natural way to enjoy a fizzy drink without any nasties added.

 
Lo Bros Kombucha Passionfruit

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Ingredients: Kombucha* (99%) (Water, Kombucha Culture*, Green Tea*, Oolong Tea*, Raw Sugar*), Natural Flavours (Passion Fruit), Passion Fruit Juice Concentrate* (<1%), Living Cultures.

 

Nutritionist Review: By Malissa F.

FIZZY DRINK THAT IS GOOD FOR THE GUT
Kombucha is a great alternative to soft drinks and alcohol. It is made using a fermented tea called a SCOBY. It is a natural process that allows a plain drink to turn into a fizzy and deliciously sweet treat. Kombucha has also shown to be beneficial for your gut health as the bacteria (probiotics) used to ferment this drink also populate your gut microbiome. Because of this, it has also been shown in some cases to also assist with digestion and can reduce inflammation. It is a tasty and natural way to enjoy a fizzy drink without any nasties added.

 

Nexba Pineapple 

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Ingredients: Purified Sparkling Water, Nexba Natural Sweetener Blend (Erythritol*, Stevia), Citric Acid**, Natural Flavours, Malic Acid***.

 

Wild Noni Peach & Pear

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Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Noni Juice, Natural Sweeteners (Erythritol, Monk Fruit Juice from Concentrate) Apple Juice (from Concentrtate), Acacia Fibre, Natural Flavours, Cascara Cherry Fruit.

 

What to look for on the nutritional panel:

Lo Bros Kombucha Passionfruit

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When looking at the nutrition panel for a soft drink alternative, the most significant thing to look at is the sugar content. It’s important to keep in mind that a teaspoon of sugar is the equivalent of around 4g. It’s recommended that we keep our added sugars to under 10% of our total energy intake for the day. Depending on your total energy intake, this may equate to around 5-10 teaspoons (20-40g of sugar) per day. With this in mind, we ideally want the sugar content of a soft drink alternative to be 1-2 teaspoons, or less. In the example above, we can see that it has 4.8g of sugar per serve, which is just over 1 teaspoon.

Another thing that we can look at on the nutrition panel of soft drink alternatives is the probiotic content, which may appear under the heading live cultures. As we can see on the nutrition panel above, this product has over 100 million probiotics per serve. This is a great source of probiotics and can contribute to the health of our gut by adding in these healthy bacteria in an enjoyable way.

 

How to read the ingredient list of a soft drink:

Ingredients on an ingredient list appear in order from most to least so it’s always helpful to factor that in when assessing the ingredients list of a product. In the case of soft drinks, whether healthy or unhealthy options, water will always be the first ingredient. Other ingredients to look for include a natural sweetener instead of sugar and fruit juices or powders instead of artificial flavours.

 

How to spot hidden ingredients in soft drinks:

‘Flavours’ are an umbrella term for any number of artificial ingredients that do not have to be disclosed under this heading. This is the definition of hidden ingredients, as we really have no idea what ingredients have made up the ‘flavour’ used in that product. Therefore, when you see the use of artificial ‘flavour’ in a product, take that as a red flag and opt for a more natural alternative or one that discloses exactly what they used to flavour it.

 

What are artificial sweeteners and why should we avoid them in this product?

Artificial sweeteners go by names such as sucralose, aspartame and saccharin. While they are technically said to be safe for consumption, they are artificially created and therefore don’t meet our real food philosophy. Due to their intense sweetness, they may also cause our taste buds to continue to seek out sweet things. Resulting in an increased consumption of sweets, added sugars, or additional artificial sweeteners. They’re often sought after because they contain little-no calories, but we know by now that calories certainly don’t determine the quality of the ingredient. We prefer focusing on nutritious ingredients that are real foods, not those that are made in the lab.

 

What does an unhealthy soft drink look like?

An unhealthy soft drink contains a ton of added sugar, along with artificial colours and flavours. Let’s take a look at a perfect example of an unhealthy soft drink to steer clear of:

Simply looking at the colour of soft drink can help determine whether it’s unhealthy or not. For example, Mountain dew has a signature colour that is almost fluorescent yellow. This screams artificial colour and is confirmed upon looking at the ingredients list and seeing the use of colour 102. Additionally, it uses artificial flavour, which can be any number of synthetic ingredients that don’t need to be disclosed under this umbrella term. There are also a couple of food acids and preservatives present, all of which are highly processed and not considered real foods. These are all red flags to look out for in unhealthy soft drinks.

 If those ingredients aren’t bad enough, Mountain Dew also contains a whopping 30.8 grams of sugar per cup. This is just under 8 teaspoons of sugar, in just one serve. That’s almost more than the recommended sugar intake for the entire day in only one cup of Mountain Dew. This is a perfect example of what to look out for when it comes to the sugar content of soft drinks that fall into the unhealthy category.

 

What else should you consider when choosing a healthy soft drink?

When choosing a healthy soft drink or alternative, it’s as simple as looking that it’s made up of real food ingredients. Like when choosing any healthy product, you should be able to understand all of the ingredients present on the list.

We should also be careful that healthy soft drinks aren’t loaded up with sugar. Its preferable if they use a natural sweetener like stevia, which are friendlier to our blood sugar levels.

 

Our top 3 soft drink products to avoid and why:

There are a lot of unhealthy soft drinks on the market, but among those we avoid are Mountain Dew, Coca-Cola and Creaming Soda. If the vibrant and artificial looking colours of these soft drinks aren’t enough to deter you, we’ll take a look at some of the nasties present inside these products ingredients lists:

 

Mountain Dew

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Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Reconstituted Orange Juice, Food Acids (330, 331), Flavour, Preservatives (211, 202), Caffeine, Colour (102).  
 
We’ve covered the many reasons Mountain Dew is a product to avoid above, enough said.

 

Coca-Cola

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Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Colour (150d), Food Acid (338), Flavour, Caffeine.
 
The all too popular Coca-Cola contains a ton of sugar, as well as artificial colours and flavours. This chemical storm is doing nothing for the health of the nation and we’d be better off switching to the cola flavoured kombuchas that are coming to the market. In just one cup (250ml) of Coca-Cola, there is 27 grams of sugar! That’s just under 7 teaspoons. Plus, how often do people stop at just one cup?! Most of the bottles come bigger than that.

 

Kirks Creaming Soda

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Ingredients: Carbonated Water, Sugar, Natural Flavour, Natural Colours (163, 120), Food Acid (330), Preservative (211)
 
Unsurprisingly, creaming soda has one of the highest sugar contents of soft drinks. With a monstrous 32g of sugar per cup (250ml), this equates to around 8 teaspoons. More than we should be having in one day, let alone a sitting. It also has a few numbers appear on the ingredients list, which we always prefer not to see.

 

So there we have it, the good and the bad of the soft drink world. If in doubt, opt for the kombucha and kefir options for the same fizzy satisfaction plus gut loving benefits.

If you feel like getting creative, you can even make your own at home! Did you know we sell a Kefir Kit that gives you everything you need to get started on your fermenting journey.

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About the author:

GoodnessMe Shahna Sarpi is a qualified nutritionist that is on a mission to help people live a nourished life through real food and healthy habits. She loves simplifying food labels and helping people make healthier food choices. Shahna is passionate about spreading the real food message and supporting people in living a healthy life.
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