With the rise in popularity of homemade seltzers and craft sodas, many people are opting to make their own bubbly beverages at home. Proponents claim that homemade soda is healthier than store-bought due to less sugar and no artificial ingredients. But is that really the case? Let’s take a closer look at the potential health benefits and drawbacks of making your own soda.
One of the main perceived health benefits of homemade soda is lower sugar content. It’s true that store-bought sodas can contain a lot of added sugars. For example, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 39 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 36 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women.
When making soda at home, you control how much sugar goes into the beverage. Many homemade soda recipes call for simple syrup, which is a mixture of sugar and water. A typical simple syrup contains 1 part sugar and 1 part water. So a 12-ounce homemade soda made with 2 tablespoons (1 fluid ounce) of simple syrup would contain about 14 grams of sugar. That’s significantly less than a regular can of soda.
However, simple syrup isn’t the only way to sweeten homemade sodas. Other common sweeteners include honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, and stevia. Honey and maple syrup have slightly higher calorie and carbohydrate counts per teaspoon compared to white sugar. Agave nectar contains more fructose, which may be more detrimental to health in high amounts. Stevia provides sweetness without calories or blood sugar impact, but some people dislike the aftertaste.
When making your own soda at home, pay close attention to how much of any sweetener you add. While homemade sodas can be lower in sugar than popular commercial brands, they may not be low-sugar or sugar-free. Moderation is key.
Another advantage of homemade soda is avoiding the artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives found in many commercial options. Popular soda brands like Mountain Dew, Fanta, and Crush contain ingredients like caffeine, citric acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium benzoate. Studies suggest that frequently consuming sodas with these additives may have negative health effects.
Making soda at home allows you to control what does (and doesn’t) go into the beverage. With simple ingredients like fruit juice, herbs, sparkling water, and natural sweeteners, it’s easy to keep artificial additives out of homemade sodas.
Healthier Ingredient Alternatives
Homemade sodas provide endless opportunities for getting creative with flavors and ingredients. Rather than relying on artificial colors and flavors, you can use real fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, edible flowers, and other wholesome ingredients to craft unique flavor combinations. Here are some ideas for healthier homemade soda ingredients:
- Fruits: strawberries, raspberries, pomegranate, cherries, peaches, pineapple, mango, kiwi, etc.
- Herbs: basil, rosemary, lavender, mint, ginger, lemongrass, etc.
- Vegetables: cucumbers, carrots, beets, celery, tomatoes, etc.
- Spices: cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, star anise, vanilla bean, etc.
When using real food ingredients, just be mindful of calories and sugar content, especially with juice and dried or candied fruits. But overall, homemade sodas open up many more nutritious possibilities than you’ll find in cans and bottles.
It’s easy to go overboard on portion sizes with store-bought soda since you’re limited to the packaging options. Standard cans contain 12 ounces, while bottles and fountain sodas may be 20 ounces or more. Drinking an entire big bottle or fountain cup can pack a bigger sugar and calorie punch.
Making soda at home allows you to better control portions. Most homemade soda recipes yield a concentrate that you custom mix to taste with carbonated water. Start with a small 4-6 ounce serving. You can always mix up more if you want. Portion control is easier when you make soda yourself.
Buying cases of commercial soda at the grocery store or filling up cups from the soda fountain at restaurants can really add up. Making your own bubbly beverages is generally cheaper in the long run. The basic ingredients – carbonated water, fruit juice, sweeteners, herbs – tend to cost less per serving than pre-packaged soda.
The initial investment for home carbonating equipment like SodaStreams or drink carbonators can be $50-$200. But these pay for themselves over time. With reusable BPA-free bottles and the ability to carbonate plain water, you can save hundreds of dollars per year making fizzy drinks at home.
Downsides of Homemade Soda
While homemade sodas have some benefits, they also come with some caveats. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Added calories and sugar: Homemade soda is lower in sugar than commercial brands but can still contain added sweeteners.
- Acidity: Carbonated beverages have a lower pH and can harm tooth enamel over time.
- GI issues: The carbonation can provoke bloating, gas, and other gastrointestinal distress in some people.
- Safety: Use caution with fermented sodas. Improperly fermented drinks may contain harmful bacteria.
- Time commitment: Making soda at home takes more active time than grabbing a can or bottle.
While healthier than commercial soda in many regards, homemade versions aren’t nutritionally equal to plain water. Moderation is still key.
Making Healthier Choices
If you want to experiment with making soda at home, there are several ways to construct recipes for healthier versions:
- Use fresh fruits, herbs, and spices to add natural flavor.
- Sweeten moderately with small amounts of honey, maple syrup, or stevia.
- Skip the simple syrup and use naturally sweet juices.
- Add a splash of vinegar. It provides flavor complexity and cuts sweetness.
- Mix with plain or flavored seltzer rather than higher-sugar fruit juices.
- Aim for smaller serving sizes, like 4-6 ounces.
You can also boost nutrition by adding superfood ingredients like:
- Matcha green tea
- Spirulina or chlorella
- Fresh mint
- Pomegranate seeds
Experiment and have fun with making healthy homemade sodas!
The Healthiest Homemade Soda Ideas
If you’re looking to make soda that’s low in sugar and calories, naturally flavored, and uses healthy ingredients, try some of these homemade recipes:
|Sparkling Lime Mint||Lime juice, fresh mint, sparkling water||Vitamin C from lime; antioxidants from mint|
|Raspberry Lemon Fizz||Raspberries, lemon, stevia, seltzer||Vitamin C and fiber from berries; vitamin C from lemon|
|Ginger Peach Soda||Peach, fresh ginger, honey, soda water||Fiber from fruit; anti-inflammatory ginger|
|Sparkling Pom-Berry||Pomegranate juice, raspberries, lime, seltzer||Antioxidants from pomegranate and berries|
|Apple Cider Soda||Apple cider, cinnamon sticks, apple slices, seltzer||Polyphenols and fiber from apples|
With creative combinations of nutritious ingredients and moderate sweetening, it’s possible to make healthy homemade sodas that beat store-bought in terms of sugar and artificial additives.
Making your own soda at home opens up possibilities for creating healthier and more natural beverages. Controlling sweetener amounts, avoiding artificial additives, trying fruit/herb/spice ingredient combinations, and watching portion sizes gives homemade soda some advantages.
However, homemade soda isn’t a “miracle health drink” either. It can still contain extra calories, sweeteners, and acids. But used in moderation as an occasional treat, it provides a fresher and more nutritious alternative to commercial sodas.
While plain water is still the healthiest drink, homemade sodas with natural flavors and moderate sweetness can be a better option than store-bought when you’re looking to satisfy a flavor craving. As with most things, balance and variety is key for good health.