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Are Zero-Calorie Fizzy Drinks Harmless?

I have to put my hand up here and say I am a massive fan of coke zero. I justify drinking it on the basis that it’s no sugar and no calories version of the full-fat coke.

But are zero-calorie fizzy drinks really that harmless?

First brought to the market to give consumers a healthier alternative to ‘full fat’ fizzy drinks, zero-calorie fizzy drinks are everywhere, and most of us when asked whether we’re taking ‘full fat’ or ‘diet/zero-calorie will opt for the latter option.

However, zero-calorie drinks have been given a fairly bad rap, with suggestions that these types of drinks are actually worse for you than the normal versions, and even that zero-calorie drinks contain deadly ingredients.

So, in this article, I’m going to dive into the world of zero-calorie fizzy drinks, get to the bottom of whether they’re as bad as everyone seems to think, and figure out whether you should be ordering full fat or zero-calorie!

Why Are ‘Full Fat’ Fizzy Drinks Bad For You?

Before we take a look at zero-calorie fizzy drinks it’s important to know why they were invented in the first place.

Zero-calorie drinks were invented to give consumers a healthy alternative, as full-fat (that is the ‘normal’ version of fizzy drinks) are packed with sugar and cause significant health issues when consumed regularly.

The high sugar content in full fat fizzy drinks can lead to weight gain, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, amongst many other illnesses.

In addition, these types of fizzy drinks are high in acidity, meaning they will erode the enamel on teeth over time.

If you’re looking to get healthy or stay in your best possible state of health, fizzy drinks that aren’t zero-calorie should be avoided completely, or at least moderated and only consumed a couple of times per week.

So, that’s where zero-calorie fizzy drinks come in – they provide the lovely fizzy drink taste, but they don’t come with the terrible health consequences, or at least that’s what the brands selling these drinks promote.

However, people quickly became concerned about zero-calorie drinks, and suggestions that these drinks were even worse for you because they contain dangerous ingredients became, and still are, rife.

What Are The Common Beliefs Surrounding Zero-Calorie Drinks?

When looking at the beliefs that surround zero-calorie drinks, it’s obvious that there are two completely different sides!

There’s one side that believes zero-calorie drinks are the perfect solution because you can still indulge in your fizzy refreshing beverage but not have to deal with the negative health impacts. These people are likely to condone, or even encourage the consumption of these alternative zero-calorie drinks!

The other side believes zero-calorie drinks are worse for you than their full-fat alternatives because they contain sweeteners that may cause cancer, such as aspartame.

These people are likely to either completely swear off any types of fizzy drinks, or actually drink original types of fizzy drinks with high sugar content.

But, which side is right?

Well, that’s exactly what I’m here to answer. So, let’s take a look at zero-calorie drinks a little more closely and figure it out.

Do Zero-Calorie Drinks Really Have No Calories?

No, zero-calorie drinks do not actually have 0 calories. The only substance that has 0 calories is water. However, for a substance to be called a ‘zero-calorie product, the FDA states that it must have less than 5 calories.

Therefore, zero-calorie drinks do actually contain calories. However, a substance that has less than 5 calories is extremely low-calorie, and therefore you shouldn’t be concerned about the calorie count.

Just bear in mind that if something has zero calories (or under 5), it has no nutritional value.

Aspartame in a jar

What Is Aspartame and Is It Bad For You?

Aspartame is a sweetener that is considered to be two hundred times sweetener than sucrose (sugar). It is made up of two amino acids, aspartic acid, and phenylalanine, as well as a very small amount of methanol.

No need to panic too much at the sight of the word ‘methanol’, because it actually naturally occurs in a variety of fruits. However, the main concern for the people in the anti-zero-calorie fizzy drink category is the fact that aspartame contains methanol.

When large quantities of methanol break down within the body, formaldehyde (a carcinogenic and toxin) is released.

…aspartame, in small doses, is not bad for you. Or, at least evidence hasn’t yet found that it’s bad for you.

However, although studies clearly show that methanol in large quantities is definitely toxic, in very small amounts (such as the amount within aspartame in zero-calorie drinks) it has no negative effects that studies have shown of yet.

In fact, aspartame is approved by the FDA, EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), and many other food safety agencies for being a safe sweetener.

Overall, aspartame, in small doses, is not bad for you. Or, at least evidence hasn’t yet found that it’s bad for you. So, as long as you’re only consuming small amounts of it, you’re safe!

Can Zero-Calorie Drinks Help Weight Loss?

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to believe that zero-calorie drinks can help weight loss, and that’s simply not true! The only thing that can help you to lose weight is healthy food and good amounts of exercise!

Of course, if you were consuming full fat fizzy drinks before and you then switch to consuming zero-calorie drinks, this will lower your calorie consumption and could potentially help you with losing weight, it’s not the drink itself that helps with weight loss.

Zero-calorie drinks won’t put weight on you or help you to lose weight because they have zero nutritional value, as mentioned above.

Should You Consume Zero-Calorie Fizzy Drinks?

Honestly, no. To reach a state of optimal wellbeing, you should try and completely distance yourself from processed food and drink, and zero-calorie fizzy drinks are processed, so avoid them if possible!

However, if you’re someone that’s always drinking full-fat fizzy drinks, or you’re actually addicted to consuming fizzy drinks, you will definitely find it beneficial to switch to zero-calorie alternatives.

…always drinking full-fat fizzy drinks… or addicted to consuming fizzy drinks, you will definitely find it beneficial to switch to zero-calorie alternatives

However, if you can, it really is best to prioritize good nutrition and cut out all of the excess, unnecessary, processed substances – full-fat fizzy drinks are bad for you and zero-calorie fizzy drinks still offer no nutrition!

Ideas To Help You Reduce Fizzy Drink Consumption

Obviously, the best solution is to stop drinking fizzy drinks altogether, whether they’re zero-calorie or full-fat.

However, a lot of people, especially those that drink multiple cans of fizzy drinks per day, struggle to cut back on their fizzy drink intake.

So, I’ve compiled a few ideas to help you reduce your fizzy drink consumption!

1. Actively Decide To Ditch The Fizz

The first thing you have to do when you’re cutting down or giving up any habit is to actively decide to stop. This might sound self-explanatory, but it’s important, especially for those that are addicted to drinking fizzy drinks!

Just like when you give up smoking or stop drinking alcohol, make a point of deciding a date, having your last fizzy drink, and stopping.

Or, if that’s too difficult to do, set some rules – tell yourself how many fizzy drinks you can consume per week, stick to it, and then try to lower that number over time.

2. Cut Back & Drink Zero-Calorie Alternatives If You Have To

If you can’t simply put down the fizzy drinks and stop, make sure you’re cutting back on your consumption. This is also the perfect time to switch to consuming zero-calorie drinks, as you’ll be reducing your calorie and sugar consumption.

However, just remember that you have to keep cutting back, don’t just swap full fat for zero-calories, and keep consuming fizzy drinks – that’s still not healthy!

3. Find Alternatives

Find some alternatives that will keep you off the fizz actually quench your thirst. Great alternatives to fizzy drinks are fruit-infused water, kombucha, herbal tea, coffee, and coconut water.

Most people see fizzy drinks as a little treat to themselves, to whenever you’d reach for a fizzy drink, treat yourself to one of the alternatives instead.

Top Tip: A much healthier alternative would be a powdered greens drink. Not only do they contain all your vitamins/minerals, but a healthy dose of greens and other healthy nutrients too!

4. Commit To Healthy Nutrition

Why not go all out and commit to improving your entire lifestyle? Contrary to what you might expect, it might actually be easier to give up fizzy drinks if you commit to a new, healthy lifestyle.

For example, you’re probably less likely to want to reach for a fizzy drink if you’re eating a salad rather than a packet of donuts!

So, maybe it’s time to make a commitment to yourself and start living healthier.

5. Introduce A Healthy Shake To Your Diet

As mentioned above, most people consume fizzy drinks because they see them as a treat. So, why not replace this treat, and get a hit of nutrition at the same time?

Try to incorporate a healthy shake or smoothie into your diet every day. This will not only boost nutritional intake, but it’ll also satiate hunger and your cravings for fizzy drinks, as well as taste great and act as a treat to yourself.

Check out my top superfood formulas here!

Coke zero in the trash

The Bottom Line – Zero-Calorie Drinks Aren’t Bad, But They’re Unnecessary!

Zero-calorie drinks are certainly not as bad as many people make them out to be, but they’re also completely unnecessary and don’t add to a healthy lifestyle.

So, reduce your fizzy drink consumption altogether, whether you’re drinking zero-calorie or full fat, and commit to a healthier, nutritious lifestyle!

Adam Author

About the LifeHacker Guy

Hi, I'm Adam the founder of the LifeHacker Guy.

I have a First Class Honours degree in Sports Science from Brighton University, specialising in exercise physiology and nutrition. In my youth I was a competitive Triathlete and long-distance runner placing top 10 in most triathlon races I completed.

Since suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, I moved into web development, after a couple of years I then moved onto developing a number of online businesses. I've recently taken a sabbatical and I'm now looking to make big changes in my life, hopefully this may resonate with you - join me in my journey!

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