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Regular Soda vs. Diet Soda, Which is Actually Worse?

Regular soda (left) is compared to diet (right). Both have “No” signs on them.
Source: Canva

Are you a diet soda enthusiast, or do you prefer a large glass of the real stuff? No matter what your answer is, it’s important to know which option is the healthiest for you — allowing you to stay as safe and healthy as possible before you consume your next soft drink. Here’s what science and experts have to say about the healthiness of regular vs. diet soda.

Calories aren’t the only consideration to make when it comes to eating and drinking healthily. While many remember the major diet soda shift in the early aughts, new concerns became mainstream in 2010 — prompting more people to care about the chemical and ingredient lists than calories, in some cases.

Before we determine which option is objectively “better” for you, we have to look at the key differences between diet and regular soda.

Diet vs. Regular: What’s The Difference?
Diet soda mimics regular soda, often containing similar flavor elements. The primary difference? Sugar substitutes. The appeal of diet soda is that it’s sugar-free (and often calorie-free), which means it won’t necessarily hit your waistline; but it might still have ill effects.

If you’re not sure what to look for, check for “diet” on the label or for ingredients such as aspartame, sucralose, stevia, and acesulfame potassium.

Regular soda, on the other hand, is higher in sugar and is a blend of carbonated water and sweeteners. Corn syrup and sucrose are often on the ingredients list for these types of sodas.

Are There Any Benefits To Drinking Diet?
Diet soda may be the “best” choice for those with specific needs. For example — it can assist with weight loss, as it can make you feel full and won’t count for much of your calories. It’s also a sugar-free “sweet” option for those with glucose control concerns.
Okay, Now What About Regular?
Regular is best for those looking to avoid headaches caused by diet soda, or who want a sweet treat without the fake sweeteners; as they have been anecdotally linked to nervous system issues.

However, we do want to note that no matter what choice you go with, water is universally seen as the best, safest option — offering you hydration that’s free of calories, chemicals, and sugary sweetness.

Assessing The Risks: Diet vs. Regular
The primary risks associated with diet soda come with the chemicals that are found in them. Aspartame, for example, is a now-known carcinogen and is generally looked down on due to its slew of possible nervous system effects.

Additionally, sucralose can cause issues in DNA replication and general, total-body health — causing disruption in the tight junctions of certain tissues in our body and leading to intestinal distress, in some.

So, if you’re reaching for a drink, you may want to think twice. Experts generally recommend educating yourself on the risks and speaking to your doctor for personalized medical advice.


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