Is Zevia cola healthy?

October 4, 2010

I was in Whole Foods the other day, and I wanted a little caffeine boost on a hot day. Not being a coffee drinker, I typically will go with iced tea- either the no sugar or low sugar kinds. But I was in a bit of a wacky mood that day, and went on the hunt for something different. I used to be a huge fan of Coca-cola, before I found out how horrible it was for my health, and did drink diet sodas for a while but not sure all those chemicals are too healthy either.

So I found Zevia sodas in the fridge. 0 sugars, and sweetened with all-natural calorie-free stevia, as well as something called Erythritol.

Wikipedia defines Erythritol as

a natural sugar alcohol (a type of sugar substitute) which has been approved for use in the United States[1] and throughout much of the world. It was discovered in 1848 by British chemist John Stenhouse.[2] It occurs naturally in fruits and fermented foods [3]. At the industrial level, it is produced from glucose by fermentation with a yeast, Moniliella pollinis[1]. It is 60–70% as sweet as table sugar yet it is almost non-caloric, does not affect blood sugar, does not cause tooth decay, and is absorbed by the body, therefore unlikely to cause gastric side effects unlike other sugar alcohols. Under U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) labeling requirements, it has a caloric value of 0.2 kilocalories per gram (95% less than sugar and other carbohydrates), though nutritional labelling varies from country to country—some countries like Japan label it as zero-calorie, while European Union regulations currently label it and all other sugar alcohols at 2.4 kcal/g.”

Doesn’t sound too horrible, but I still don’t like the idea of putting lots of “sugar alcohols” in my body. Something sounds very unnatural about that!

Zevia also contains: Triple filtered carbonated water, caramel color, tartaric acid, stevia leaf, fumaric acid, 45 mg of caffeine, natural flavors, citrus oils, cola nut extract, and citric acid.

The taste reminded me exactly of RC cola, which I haven’t had since I was a kid many years ago. RC was like Pepsi only sweeter! I could not help but think I was putting something less than optimal in my body. It definitely did not strike me as a health drink- I still kept thinking it was coating my insides and rotting my teeth, even though it’s nothing like what regular sodas do.

Overall, I would not recommend Zevia. There are definitely worse things you could drink- but when they say “100% natural”- I think that is a bit of a stretch! I would say, if you’re a Diet Coke fiend, and you’re looking to ween off of soda, give this a try. Otherwise, next time you feel like having a little caffeine hit, I recommend sticking with the healthier teas out there.

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13 comments on “Is Zevia cola healthy?

  1. Paula Brown Apr 25, 2011

    I agree, probably not the best thing to drink but far from the worst. I’ve pretty much weaned myself from sodas, but there are a few times I really would enjoy one. I think these are a good option for those times (maybe once a week or so) because if I “can’t” have it, sometimes I want it even more.

  2. Interesting. Yeah, I’d probably opt out of this choice too. What’s odd is that most diet sodas are sweetened with both aspartame and acesulfame potassium (now favored over aspartame in the protein powder industry–although, I did just order some with stevia). It’s as if the diet soda industry can’t ween themselves off aspartame!

    In any event, teas are indeed a much better way to go.

  3. Tyson Apr 1, 2012

    I don’t see how you don’t recommend this it IS all natural.

    Erythritol is even in Organic foods and drinks, plus its naturally in: grapes, melons, mushrooms, and fermented foods such as wine, beer, cheese, and soy sauce.
    (So now you’re not going to eat any of these foods or drink Wine and eat Cheese, even though both have been PROVED healthy?)

    Plus it does NOT absorb into your body, you pee it out so therefore I don’t see how it would be harmful.
    ****FACTS: “Erythritol is classed as a sugar alcohol, but it is neither a sugar nor an alcohol. It is well absorbed in the small intestine and removed by the kidneys unchanged and is excreted in the urine.”

    People going a little to nuts with being “healthy”. Don’t get me wrong, I’m eating organically and naturally, but I myself approve this Zoda (see what I did there?)

    Do your research before spouting out it might not be OK for you, because it’s unfamilier with it. DUH, research it’s out there.

    • Couldn’t have put that better myself. I’m all organic, and this is a great treat for my kids!

  4. Dawni Apr 20, 2012

    I work in the health food industy and FYI – The FDA does NOT monitor the use of the phrase “all natural”. Unlike foods that are organic, and have to meet certain standards by the FDA, All natural foods do not have to meet any standards (yet) Any company can slap that on their product, but it means nothing! So be careful what you buy!

  5. Thanks Dawni! Good points. I would also add that relying on the FDA to inform us as to what is healthy and safe and what isn’t is a risky proposition at best, and can be pretty dangerous. The best thing to do is to take your health into your own hands and do your research on what you put into your body. Resources like our show, Robb Wolf, Mark Sisson, etc. are debunking all the BS out there and pointing people in a more healthy direction. In the age of the internet, you have excellent resources at your fingertips, and the days of big 3-letter bureaucracies even being legitimate or meaningful are coming to an end.

  6. I agree with Tyson. Erythritol is natural and it comes from the fermentation of fruits. Just because it sounds unfamiliar to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trust it, just look it up. Zevia tastes good and after research, they do seem to use natural ingredients. Even the caffeine in these sodas come from coffee…

    • Indeed, Bob (and Tyson). There’s also Natvia, which I used recently in a “primal” cheesecake, which is sublime. Cheers!

  7. Being natural doesn’t necessarily make it safer than something that’s synthesized. Apple contains trace amounts of cyanide as do other fruits such as mangoes and peaches.

    Stevia’s banned in the EU and the FDA itself has mentioned that:

    “FDA has not permitted the use of whole-leaf Stevia or crude Stevia extracts because these substances have not been approved for use as a food additive. FDA does not consider their use in food to be GRAS in light of reports in the literature that raise concerns about the use of these substances. Among these concerns are control of blood sugar and effects on the reproductive, cardiovascular, and renal systems.”

    I’m not suggesting that Zevia is harmful, but it’s inaccurate to deem something to be healthy just because it comes from natural sources.

    • Indeed, Joe, it’s oftentimes helpful to be cautious in the realm of nutrition. I’ve yet to see any scientific evidence against stevia, however. “Follow the money,” as Tom Naughton would say (creator of Fat Head). As you might know, the FDA has contributed the death and suffering of countless sick people who could’ve been helped by various medical products and services.

    • Stevia is not banned in EU, it was approved in December of 2011.

  8. Ricco Feb 12, 2013

    Do your own research. Stevia has been in use for a long time by the Peruvians as a sweetener. Should we really trust the FDA when they initially voted to not allow aspartame, but it went ahead anyway to allow it as a sweetener. The intense lobbying by the producers puts that in nearly everything. Aspartame is way more harmful!

    • Ricco, thanks for the note. While I too have anecdotal evidence that aspartame is not so good (seemed to get headaches from it sometimes), there’s just not much empirical research out there (controlled studies) showing harmful effects of various artificial sweeteners, and there’s tons of research showing the harmful effects of higher consumption high fructose corn syrup and sugar.

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