Appears in
Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets

By Darra Goldstein

Published 2015

  • About

soda is a generic term for carbonated beverages dispensed from fountains or sold in bottles or cans. Depending on the region, these are also known as soft drinks, soda pop, fizzy drinks, or tonic, or called by brand names such as those of the three leaders: Coke, Pepsi, or Dr Pepper. All sodas are carbonated, sweetened, and flavored, features that distinguish them from noncarbonated energy and sports drinks, juice drinks, and flavored waters.

Carbonated water and sweeteners are the most important ingredients. Sodas are sweetened with sugars (regular soda) or artificial chemicals (diet soda). The other ingredients—sodium, caffeine, organic acids, coloring agents, and flavor additives—are present in amounts too small to have much effect on nutrition or health. A typical 12-ounce cola, for example, contains only 30 milligrams of sodium and 35 milligrams of caffeine, low in comparison to other sources. The flavor additives are deeply guarded trade secrets, but include fruit and herbal extracts. The acids and flavors help to counteract the otherwise overwhelming sweetness of these drinks.