What Is Prebiotic Soda And Does It Actually Have Benefits?

When you pop open a soda can, your health likely isn't the first thing that comes to mind. A new type of soda has been trending that may legitimately change your opinion with a healthy spin on the classic carbonated drink

But if the thought of a healthy soda makes you suspicious, you're probably not alone. Sodas have long been known to be loaded with sugar and sometimes other questionable ingredients like high fructose corn syrup (via Healthline). 

According to The Baltimore Sun, diet and sugar-free options have been on the market since the 1950s. These sodas, such as Diet Pepsi and Coke Zero, contain fewer calories and use artificial sweeteners to greatly reduce or eliminate the sugar content. These sodas were obviously made for consumers looking for a healthier option. What sets prebiotic soda apart from even these reduced offerings and is it healthy?

Poppi and Olipop are two major brands behind the prebiotic soda craze. According to Dot.LA, Olipop launched their product in 2018. Meanwhile, Poppi first appeared on Shark Tank in 2018 and launched in 2020 (via Forbes). The companies, and interest in healthier soda generally, have grown in the last few years, with many large stores like Walmart regularly stocking one or both brands. Poppi's slogans such as "Be Gut Happy, Be Gut Healthy” and "Bubbles with Benefits," promise a drink with something more. These probiotic sodas are low-calorie, flavored, carbonated drinks that contain gut-healthy prebiotics per Olipop. So what can these prebiotics actually do?

Prebiotics impact gut health

Per the Mayo Clinic, prebiotics are fiber from plants that serve as food for the trillions of organisms living within our body. These microorganisms called probiotics are mostly bacteria that create a balanced ecosystem inside the human body called a microbiome. According to the Cleveland Clinic, probiotics coat our gut and other inner linings of the body and maintain a healthy environment by overpowering and outnumbering our bad bacteria.

The health of your microbiome matters because it is directly connected to your overall physical and mental health. Regarding gut bacteria, Will Cole, a functional medicine expert, told Shape, "when the bad guys (aka bad bacteria) outnumber the good, that's when your immune system becomes weak, inflammation runs rampant, and a slew of other health problems can develop." 

Furthermore, according to the American Psychological Association, the gut is responsible for releasing most of the body's serotonin which can affect thinking and mood.

How can soda provide prebiotics?

As prebiotics are directly linked to multiple aspects of our overall health, it seems imperative that we add more of them to our diet. While you can get prebiotics from various foods such as oats, bananas, or asparagus, you may not be regularly getting enough (via Healthline). Those with diets that lack healthy fiber or who have concerns about gut health may want to add more through supplementation. Prebiotic sodas are trying to fill that void with fiber-packed, deliciously flavored sodas.

Poppi uses apple cider vinegar (ACV) as their source of prebiotics. According to Poppi, the ACV in the soda supports a healthy gut, reduces skin inflammation, can lower blood sugar and cholesterol, improves skin health, and boosts metabolism and detoxification. Olipop uses eight plant fiber sources for its prebiotics, including slippery elm bark, marshmallow root, kudzu root, calendula flower, nopal cactus, Jerusalem artichoke, chicory root, and cassava root. Benefits of these plants promote healthy gut bacteria and reduced inflammation, and provide antioxidants and dietary fiber (per Olipop).

These ingredients make prebiotic sodas a better choice for those looking to replace soda with something helpful for the body. These healthier drink alternatives can be used to fill your soda cravings, help soothe stomach troubles, or add beneficial fiber to your diet.