Is Zevia Healthy? A Registered Dietitian Answers

Is Zevia Healthy? A Registered Dietitian Answers


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Zevia is a zero-calorie soda brand that's marketed as a healthier alternative to regular soda. The brand describes itself as "naturally sweetened" and "Zero Sugar Soda That's Good For You."

But what's actually in Zevia, and how does it taste so sweet without sugar? Is Zevia actually healthier than regular soda, or are these just marketing claims? Does the brand use any questionable additive ingredients? And what do medical professionals think about Zevia?

In this article we'll answer all of these questions and more as we analyze the ingredients in Zevia based on medical studies to give our take on whether the drink brand is healthy or not.

We'll compare Zevia to Coke to see if it's a healthier option, and feature a dietitian's review and taste test of Zevia drinks.

Ingredient Analysis

Zevia Cola flavor ingredients

The ingredients in the Cola flavor of Zevia are shown above.

Stevia leaf extract is a natural sweetener derived from a plant called Stevia rebaudiana, which we consider to be a significantly healthier option than refined sugar.

A 2020 medical review on the health effects of stevia reported that the plant exhibits antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and hypotensive (blood-pressure-lowering) properties.

The researchers noted that stevia has been shown in some studies to have a reversible anti-fertility effect, so it may not be the best option for couples trying to conceive.

If Zevia were made with carbonated water and stevia leaf extract alone, we would recommending the drink from a health perspective. However, it also contains some inactive ingredients that may be questionable from a health perspective.

Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that was shown in a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal to cause inflammatory reactions in some patients that require medical intervention.

Natural flavors is a healthier option than artificial flavors, but some clinical studies suggest toxicity concerns related to some flavoring additives and their metabolites, as we documented in our review of Sparkling Ice.

Caffeine is included at a moderate dose of 45 milligrams (mg), which is around 50% of the amount in one cup of coffee. This should not cause side effects in healthy individuals.

Overall, we do not consider Zevia to be healthy and do not currently recommend the brand.

But is Zevia healthier than traditional sodas like Coke? We'll answer that question in the next section of this article.

Is Zevia Healthier Than Coke?

Coke ingredients

The ingredients in Coke are shown above.

High fructose corn syrup is one of the unhealthiest processed food ingredients on the market in our opinion.

Not only is high fructose corn syrup intake associated with unfavorable health outcomes like obesity and diabetes, it may be even less healthy than other caloric sweeteners like cane sugar according to a recent meta-study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

The study authors found that high fructose corn syrup intake increases risk of obesity and diabetes.

Coke also contains phosphoric acid, which may have negative effects on bone health depending on the dose and the number of sodas consumed, based on the results from a 2013 medical review.

Both drinks contain natural flavors which we recommend avoiding.

A 12-ounce Coca-Cola contains 140 calories, while Zevia contains zero, making Zevia a better option for consumers seeking weight loss.

Overall, we consider Zevia to be a much healthier option than traditional soda brands like Coke and Pepsi, primarily due to its lack of high fructose corn syrup and lack of calories.

But what does a dietitian have to say about the taste and health effects of Zevia? We'll feature a popular YouTube review published by a dietitian in the next section of this article.

We Tried Zevia Ourselves

Zevia UGC

As the author of this article, I wanted to try Zevia myself to share my thoughts on the taste and overall product experience.

I bought the Root Beer flavor at my local Whole Foods to go with a big meal of grass-fed cheese and crackers.

The drink tasted impressively similar to regular Root Beer, but the aftertaste tasted to me like stevia, which is my issue with most stevia-sweetened drinks.

It is nice that the drink had zero calories, and I would consider purchasing it in the future if I had a craving for Root Beer. It's the best-tasting "healthy" root beer I've had.

I didn't experience any bloating or other minor negative effects that people sometimes report when drinking soda.

I think the drink does taste good with salty food, and I liked the larger, narrower can more than the shorter, wider ones.

Overall, I'd rate this product 7/10.

Dietitian Reviews Zevia

A YouTube review of Zevia published by dietitian Nicole Hoskens answers many consumer questions, such as whether Zevia can cause weight loss, and what the difference between stevia and table sugar is.

She also taste tests every flavor of Zevia:

Does Zevia Cause Side Effects?

Zevia doesn't appear to have been studied in any clinical trials (most food products aren't), so it's challenging to say for certain whether or not the drink causes side effects. 

However, we can make an educated guess based on the ingredients in Zevia.

A medical review published in the Microorganisms journal found that stevia can disrupt gut function, however most of the clinical trials analyzed to come to that conclusion were in vitro (test tube) studies, rather than in vivo (human) studies.

We have not come across any convincing evidence that stevia causes gastrointestinal disturbances in humans.

Overall, we consider Zevia unlikely to cause side effects in otherwise healthy adults.

There is no mention of potential side effects on the brand's website.

Our Healthy Soda Pick

Olipop is our healthy soda pick.  

This natural soda uses no flavoring additives or refined sugar, and is instead flavored with nutritionally-rich botanical ingredients like mandarin juice (which is clinically shown to be a potent antioxidant), nopal cactus and calendula flower.

The cans have only 2 to 5 g of added sugar from natural sources like cassava root syrup and apple juice.

Interested consumers can check out Olipop Orange Squeeze flavor (our top pick) at this link to the product's Amazon listing.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

We don’t consider Zevia healthy overall, but we do consider it significantly healthier than commercial sodas like Coca-Cola.

We don't currently recommend any sodas sold by Zevia, but switching from Coke to Zevia would cause an improvement in health in our opinion.

Zevia contains citric acid and natural flavors; both inactive ingredients that health-conscious consumers may wish to avoid.

This natural soda is unlikely to cause side effects.

For consumers seeking stevia-based sodas, we'd recommend searching for a brand that uses stevia and carbonated water and is free of citric acid and flavoring additives.