Take a stroll down the soda aisle of your favorite grocery store, or peruse the drink cooler at checkout, and you may come across something unusual: prebiotic or probiotic sodas. These healthier alternatives to sodas are becoming increasingly popular and tout various health benefits, but is there any merit to them and do these sodas contain enough healthful ingredients to make a difference?
What Are Pre- and Probiotics?
Prebiotics are indigestible fibers found in certain foods. These fibers are fermented by the bacteria living in your gut, also known as the microbiome, which benefits the growth of healthy bacteria living in your gut.
Probiotics are naturally occurring bacteria found in already fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha.
In the context of sodas, prebiotic sodas are carbonated drinks that contain prebiotic fibers that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut, while probiotic sodas contain live, beneficial bacteria that can help support digestive health.
Are Prebiotic and Probiotic Sodas Healthier?
Consumers are becoming more and more health-conscious and rethinking sugary soft drinks. But that doesn’t mean consumers don’t still crave that crisp snap of a carbonated beverage. The seltzer and sparkling water market has exploded in recent years, and prebiotic/probiotic sodas are rising in popularity as a result.
“There continues to be a trend for increasingly unique drinks to hit the market. Many new drinks have the words ‘prebiotic’ and ‘probiotic’ listed and are typically in a fun, colorful container that gives us hope of a healthy drink. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any health claims for these beverages,” says Denice Taylor, a registered dietitian nutritionist on the staff at Texas Health Arlington.
That being said, it doesn’t lessen the appeal of products like these potentially improving your health. Generally speaking, functional sodas are healthier alternatives to traditional sodas as they refrain from using artificial sweeteners and refined sugar. Most functional sodas like these typically consist of carbonated water, natural fruit juices and natural flavorings, in addition to the pre- or probiotic factor included.
Dallas-based functional soda brand Poppi is a leading U.S. brand making prebiotic soda that contains apple cider vinegar, which is believed to have certain health benefits such as:
- Aiding weight loss
- Reducing cholesterol
- Lowering blood sugar levels
- Improving the symptoms of diabetes
According to Poppi’s website, they believe their soda not only improves gut health and immunity, but also improves complexion, lowers cholesterol, promotes weight loss, stabilizes blood sugar, and improves energy.
Similar functional soda brand Olipop gets its prebiotics from a range of ingredients including marshmallow root, cassava root, chicory root, and cactus.
However, Taylor says research is still lacking on the full benefits.
“While some research suggests that prebiotics and probiotics can offer health benefits, more research is needed to fully understand their effects,” she explains. “Additionally, some brands of these sodas contain added sugars and other additives, so it's important to read labels and choose options that are low in added sugars and made with natural ingredients.”
Additional Ways to Incorporate Pre- and Probiotics into Your Diet
Functional sodas aren’t the only way to incorporate healthy bacteria into your diet. There are many other food and beverage options available, such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, and sauerkraut. These items are all good sources of probiotics. Meanwhile, foods like garlic, onions, and asparagus are good sources of prebiotic fibers.
“If you want the ease of drinking your probiotics you can turn to the originals,” Taylor adds. “The OG probiotic drink was buttermilk, a fermented tart liquid. Then came kefir, a flavored yogurt drink, and fermented kombucha, a fizzy sparkling drink similar to apple cider-based functional sodas.
“While there have not been a lot of scientific studies that prove that these beverages with probiotics cause health improvements, we do know that they can add healthy bacteria to your body and they can contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, such as calcium, which is beneficial.”
It is helpful to note that while you can get prebiotics and probiotics in these drinks, chances are you’re already getting a healthy dose elsewhere in your diet, especially if you consume a well-rounded diet. So you don’t necessarily need to supplement with these sodas. However, if you’re craving the crisp snap of a soda but want a healthier alternative, these functional sodas can be beneficial. Just be sure you’re not going over the recommended daily dose of about three to 10 grams of prebiotics, as going well above that amount (such as 40 to 50 grams) can lead to gas or bloating.
At the end of the day, are pre- or probiotic sodas a necessary addition to your diet? No. However, in comparison to traditional sodas, you can rest assured that enjoying a functional soda every now and then can be a nice treat you can feel good about. Additionally, if you're someone who doesn't typically eat enough prebiotic-rich foods already, they're an easy way to promote that "good" bacteria you need for a healthy and happy gut.
“Ultimately, whether or not you should be drinking prebiotic and probiotic soda is up to you and your healthcare provider,” Taylor says. “If you're considering adding these beverages to your diet, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider or dietitian to determine if they are right for you!”
Finding a physician who can partner with you for your health is essential. We can help find a physician that’s appropriate and convenient for you. Call 1-877-THR-WELL (847-9355) or visit TexasHealth.org/FindaProvider today.