Fresca is a popular zero-sugar and zero-calorie sparkling drink. The brand is owned by Coca-Cola, who describes their product line as a “refreshingly unique, crowd pleasing taste experience?”
But what’s actually in Fresca that gives it its unique flavor if it has no calories? Is the brand good for you or bad for you? Are there any questionable additive ingredients in Fresca? And how does it compare to other sparkling water brands in terms of healthiness?
In this article we’ll answer all of these questions and more, as we analyze the ingredients in Fresca based on medical studies to give our take on whether the sparkling drinks are bad for you or not.
We’ll compare Fresca to other popular sparkling water brands like Pellegrino to give our top pick, and explain why the brand was sued over false advertising allegations.
The ingredients in the Grapefruit Citrus flavor of Fresca are shown above.
Concentrated grapefruit juice is a healthy and nutritious flavoring ingredient, but there can’t be very much of it in this drink, since fruit juice contains calories and Fresca has zero calories.
Beyond the water and fruit juice, there are a number of additive ingredients in Fresca that have questionable health effects according to clinical studies.
Citric acid is a preservative and flavor enhancer that can cause whole-body inflammatory reactions in some individuals according to a medical review published in the Toxicology Reports journal.
Acesulfame potassium is an artificial sweetener shown to cause negative changes to brain function under certain dietary conditions in a 2018 animal study.
Aspartame is another artificial sweetener that can break down in the body into formaldehyde and damage DNA according to a medical review published in the Nutrients journal.
Natural flavors is a broad generalization that fails to identify the specific flavoring chemicals used, and some flavoring additives may be toxic to the body as we documented in our article on is V8 good for you.
Potassium benzoate is a preservative.
It’s also worth noting that some Fresca products are packaged in plastic, and plastic products leach chemicals into food and beverage products that can be toxic according to a 2021 medical review.
We would recommend that consumers intent on purchasing Fresca use the canned version rather than the plastic bottle version.
Overall, we consider Fresca to be bad for you due to the additive ingredients listed above and we do not currently recommend this brand.
Nearly any food or beverage approved for sale in the US is acceptable in moderation, and Fresca is certainly a healthier choice than soda.
But how does it compare to other sparkling water brands in terms of health? We’ll answer that question in the next section of this article.
Fresca vs. The Competition
There are many popular sparkling water brands in the US, but Pellegrino, La Croix and Sparkling Ice are among the most popular.
Here’s our comparison of these three brands against Fresca:
Pellegrino is a sparkling mineral water with no added flavoring ingredients or preservatives. It’s typically packaged in glass, and the brand publishes an annual Water Analysis Report proving its purity and mineral content.
Our verdict: Pellegrino is much healthier than Fresca
La Croix became popular for their colorful cans. The brand’s products have a simple formulation: carbonated water and natural flavors. While we don’t typically recommend natural flavors, this is still a preservative-free and artificial-sweetener-free drink.
Our verdict: La Croix is healthier than Fresca
Sparkling Ice is more similar to Fresca than the two brands discussed above. It’s zero-sugar and contains a large number of additive ingredients, as we documented in our is Sparkling Ice good for you article.
The relevant distinction is that beyond all of its questionable additives, Sparkling Ice also contains a synthetic vitamin blend.
Our verdict: Fresca is healthier than Sparkling Ice due to its lack of synthetic vitamin additives
But does sparkling water cause weight gain? We’ll discuss that question in the next section of this article.
Does Sparkling Water Cause Weight Gain?
A YouTube segment from the popular “The Doctors” show discusses whether sparkling water can cause weight gain, and has over 140,000 views:
Fresca Sued over False Advertising
In 2023, Fresca was sued over allegations that the brand has misled consumers about its ingredients and healthiness.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that images of fruits on the product labelling suggests these ingredients are included in the drink in "non-negligible amounts," while they either exist in negligible amounts (as we highlighted in our Ingredient Analysis section) or don't exist at all, according to ClassAction.org.
The plaintiffs also allege that these misrepresentations allow the brand to be sold at a premium price.
Overall, we're not particularly concerned about this lawsuit because it's related to marketing and not product quality. We recommend that consumers always read the full ingredient list to avoid being convinced about the health properties of any product based on its marketing.
Our Clean Sparkling Water Pick
Spindrift Sparkling Water is our top sparkling water brand pick.
The company has a clean ingredient list for all of their drinks: carbonated water and a small amount of fruit juice.
The drinks are packaged in cans, there are no questionable additives like artificial sweeteners or citric acid, and the drinks taste great (we've tried them).
Interested consumers can check out Spindrift Sparkling Water at this link to the brand's official Amazon listing.