PHOTOGRAPH BY PHOTODISC
We've said it before and will probably say it a hundred times more: Soda is toxic stuff. Not only is most of it full of diabetes-inducing high-fructose corn syrup, but drinking too much of the bubbly stuff has also been linked to an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It contains genetically modified ingredients (GMOs) and phosphates, preservatives that have been linked to kidney disease and accelerated aging. Obviously, not something you want as part of a regular diet. But at some point, we all crave something fizzy, and that's no reason to reach for a toxic can of kidney-killing GMO water.
We Like This: Organic Soda Syrup
We looked high and low for healthy soda alternatives, free of the worst offenders in traditional sodas, such as GMOs or artificial caramel coloring that can be contaminated with carcinogens. Nor do any of our healthy sodas come bottled in cans, which are normally lined with hormone-disrupting bisphenol A. Some do contain cane sugar, a less-processed sugar that still should be consumed in moderation, and others are flavored with other sweeteners to avoid, but they're all far better alternatives to what's lurking in most soda cans. Click through the entire slideshow for eight healthy sodas that will satisfy your next craving.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF STEAZ
Put down the Diet Coke! If you need an afternoon caffeine fix, grab a Steaz Sparkling Green Tea soda instead. In addition to the fact that green tea is loaded with antioxidants, this no-cal soda alternative is sweetened with stevia and erythritol, a natural sugar alcohol. It's also fortified with vitamin B12, which helps improve your mood, your energy levels, and mental fog.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF REED'S
Ginger ale, or ginger beer depending on who you're talking to, is a fantastic home remedy for nausea, upset stomachs, and even sore muscles, but 99 percent of what the big companies pass off as ginger ale contains tons of sugar and little to no real ginger. Not so with Reed's Extra Ginger Brews, which contain the most ginger of any brand out there, and they're sweetened naturally with honey and stevia.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTSEY OF REED'S
Also from the purists at Reed's, Virgil's Root Beer is root beer made the way nature intended, by brewing a combination of herbs and spices naturally, rather than concocting a chemistry experiment of artificial flavorings, dyes, and additives. The ingredients list reads like the gatherings of a world traveler--anise from Spain, vanilla from Madagascar, molasses from the U.S., and balsam oil from Peru–and will get you off that artificial canned stuff forever. However, good as it is, this soda won't win you any favors with your waistline. At 160 calories per serving and 42 grams of sugar, make it a weekly indulgence.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF BIONADE
This German brand may be hard to find, but it's worth it if you can get it. A naturally fermented drink made from malt and water, just like beer, Bionade nonalcoholic soda has just 60 calories and 14 grams of sugar per bottle, and it's certified organic. The sodas come in decidedly grown-up flavors like elderberry, lychee, ginger-orange, and herb, all invented by a former beer brewer. The sodas are so popular in Europe the company even rejected a takeover by Coca-Cola.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF ROCKY MOUNTAIN SODA CO.
Oogavè is one of the few certified-organic soda brands out there, and the line includes an honest-to-goodness organic cola alternative for people who love Coke or Pepsi. The company also has other cool flavors like strawberry-rhubarb and mandarin-key lime, the best organic alternative to Sprite or 7-Up. All the company's sodas contain half the sugar (24 grams) that conventional sodas and other cane-sugar-sweetened sodas do. Plus, none of their products exceeds 100 calories per bottle.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF GT'S
Not technically a soda, we had to throw in GT's Enlightened Organic Raw Kombucha simply because it's so good and so good for you. Kombucha is tea that's been fermented with a probiotic culture, similar to the way vinegar is made, and the end product is low in sugar and full of healthy bacteria that aid digestion and even ward off infections. Fizzy like a soft drink, kombucha is much less sweet; these products contain just 4 grams of sugar per bottle and only 60 calories. Try the slightly tart original kombucha or the fruitier citrus or ginger flavors.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF HOTLIPS
Made to "worship the magnificent fruits and berries" of the Pacific Northwest, HotLips Real Fruit Soda is another winner, with the brand's lineup even changing with the seasons based on what's locally available--apples and pears in the fall and raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and other berries in spring and summer. Some of the fruits are even organic. The company takes fruit, cooks it, adds water and cane sugar then bottles it, with much of the fiber-rich pulp intact, and carbonates it. Unlike a lot of so-called natural sodas, Hot Lips sodas contain organic lemon juice as a preservative, rather than ascorbic or citric acid, both of which can be derived from genetically modified corn and soy. For the healthiest HotLips drinks, grab the cranberry or pear sodas, neither of which has any added sugar.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF WHITE ROCK BEVERAGES
All Fizzy Lizzy sodas are nothing more than carbonated water combined with actual fruit juice, with a little vitamin C added for extra nutrition. The makers don't add sugar of any kind, so all the sugars in their sodas are naturally occurring. For the lowest-calorie options, go with the cranberry soda—just 100 calories per bottle and 22 grams of sugars—or the grapefruit—also 100 calories with 25 grams of sugar. Or give their award-winning pineapple soda a try, maybe mixed with some coconut water for a faux piña colada.