by Michele Lieblich, MBA, HHC

The Skinny on Diet Soda

We all have bad habits.  From twirling our hair to smoking, they range from harmless to harmful.

A bad habit I finally kicked was my addiction to Diet Soda.  I tried many times but failed when I couldn’t find fulfillment from any other drink – none had the fizzies, the taste, the mouth feel…. But I had to keep trying as it didn’t jibe with my otherwise healthy lifestyle.

Just take a look at the ingredients:

Carbonated Water, Caramel Color, Aspartame, Phosphoric Acid, Potassium Benzoate, Natural Flavors, Citric Acid, Caffeine.

See anything nutritious?

Let’s break it down:


Carbonated Water:  water made effervescent with pressurized carbon dioxide.

Caramel Color: a soluble food coloring.  Made in a lab by carefully using heat to treat carbohydrates, generally in the presence of acids, alkalis, or salts, in a process called caramelization.  It is more fully oxidized than caramel candy and has an odor of burnt sugar and a somewhat bitter taste. Its color ranges from pale yellow to amber to dark brown.

Aspartame: a highly controversial artificial sweetener that merits a whole other post.

Phosphoric Acid: is a cheap, mass-produced chemical used to acidify foods and beverages and provide a tangy or sour taste.  There is much controversy regarding its potentially damaging effects.  Also worth noting, phosphoric acid is commonly used for rust removal.  Plus, studies have shown phosphoric acid in sodas may lead to osteoporosis.

Potassium Benzoate: a food preservative that prevents the growth of mold, yeast and some bacteria.  In the EU, they recommend children avoid this preservative.  In combination with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), sodium and potassium benzoate may form benzene, a known carcinogen.  Also worth noting, potassium benzoate is used in fireworks.

Natural Flavors: the official definition of “natural flavor” under the Code of Federal Regulations is: “the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.”  In other words, very vague and hardly healthy.

Citric Acid: an organic acid found in citrus fruits; used a natural preservative and to add an sour taste to foods and drinks.

Caffeine: a stimulant found in varying quantities in the seeds, leaves, and fruit of some plants, where it acts as a natural pesticide that paralyzes and kills certain insects feeding on the plants.

So clearly not a virtuous drink.  Not only is diet soda not nutritious but it’s also potentially hazardous to your health.  It seems almost daily, new studies are released about soda’s various harmful effects on your body, from the less serious like eroding tooth enamel to the infinitely more sobering news like, how a daily diet soda habit will increase the risk of a heart attack and stroke by 61%.

If all of this is not convincing, perhaps appealing to the more superficial side in us all – Diet Coke will actually make you gain weight!

If you are on the bandwagon but you need help quitting, Dr. Oz has a 28-day plan for quitting soda.  Also, there are lots of alternative drinks to help ease your way into abstention, from club soda to, my favorite, Kombucha (both have the fizzies!)!  You can also make your own naturally tasty drinks – Whole Living’s website has some delicious recipes!