Nutrition expert exposes which soda is worse for your health: Coke or Pepsi

While the debate has raged on for decades as to which drink tastes better, Coke or Pepsi, one question few have ever thought to ask is, is there any difference between the two sodas when it comes to how they impact your health? Registered Dietitian Emily Wunder, MSCN, RD, LDN looked into this matter for us, and, unsurprisingly, her short answer is that "neither Coke or Pepsi really have much to offer."

Wunder points out some of the obvious drawbacks to both beverages, saying of the ingredients – each contains carbonated water, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, phosphoric acid, caffeine, and natural flavors – there's "nothing that screams nutrient-dense or healthy." Both sodas, she says, contain similar levels of caffeine, and both also contain phosphoric acid. She cites this last-named ingredient as a possible reason why studies like Framingham Osteoporosis Study (via PubMed) have found a link between cola consumption in women and lower bone mineral density. She also brought up a study by the Harvard School of Public Health (via The Harvard Gazette) that found links between soda intake and cardiovascular disease, with women, in particular, being at higher risk of premature death from this condition.

While there are no pluses, each drink has its own particular minus

Wunder points out that Pepsi, unlike Coke, contains citric acid, the tang from which is counteracted by the higher amount of sugar in this soda. Pepsi's and Coke's ingredient lists back this up, as Pepsi has 41 grams of sugar per 12-ounce serving while Coke has a mere 39 grams. Pepsi is also slightly higher in calories, with 150 to Coke's 140. Therefore, if you're counting every single calorie and/or carb, Coke's going to be your marginally-better pick. Where Coke comes out the big loser is where it comes to sodium content. While Pepsi contains 30 milligrams per can, Coke has 45 milligrams, which is 150 percent higher. As Wunder says, "While this may not seem like a ton, there are many common foods that are high in sodium so if your drinks throughout the day also have sodium, this can definitely add up!"

Her verdict on Coke vs. Pepsi is that neither one is better for you, as both have "poor health implications." She suggests you stick with water (flavored and/or carbonated kinds are fine) instead, as these are all "better alternatives to stay hydrated and feel good about what you are drinking."