These Are the Unhealthiest Sodas, Based on Their Sugar Amount

Soda may not be the worst thing you could eat or drink, based on sugar content alone. But that does not mean it’s a wise choice. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a carbonated beverage here and there, there’s definitely something wrong with the sugar probably lurking in it.

Here’s a breakdown of six of the unhealthiest sodas you can drink, based on how much sugar is added to each one.

Fanta Grape Soda

  • Sugar per serving: 44 grams (3.4 tablespoons) per 12 fluid ounce

It also contains high fructose corn syrup and Red 40.

Research suggests that consuming high fructose corn syrup and similar added sugars can contribute to an increased risk of multiple chronic health issues. These range from obesity to type 2 diabetes to heart disease.

Experts warn that the most dangerous thing about consuming Red 40 — an artificial food coloring manufacturers are required to disclose on ingredient labels — is that most people don’t realize how much they’re consuming.

If you drink a lot of soda containing Red 40, it’s possible you could be putting yourself at risk. It may be a carcinogen, and it’s had negative effects in animals, though more human research is needed.

Pepsi Wild Cherry

Soda drink

Soda drink | naikon/iStock/Getty Images

  • Sugar per serving: 42 grams (3.2 tablespoons) per 12 fluid ounces

Wild Cherry Pepsi also contains high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and “sugar.” (It does not specify were the sugar comes from.)

The caramel color added to many soda products may cause issues related to blood pressure. Certain types may also increase cancer risk.

As you move down this list, you’ll notice that despite nice-sounding claims on bottles and cans, the products with added flavors (e.g., cherry flavorings) tend to be the least healthy — especially if you’re taking artificial ingredients into consideration.

Mountain Dew

  • Sugar per serving: 46 grams (3.6 tablespoons) per 12 fluid ounces

Mountain Dew also contains high fructose corn syrup, concentrated orange juice (which basically just means more sugar without any health benefits), and Yellow 5.

Yellow dyes, found in candy, chips, and soft drinks, make up a large percentage of the artificial food colorings uded in foods and beverages in the United States. You may want to avoid anything containing Yellow 5 or Yellow 6 if you don’t want to risk potentially harmful cancer-causing substances. Research is ongoing, but it’s always safer to avoid than to take the risk — it’s really up to you.

Cherry Coke


Soda | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

  • Sugar per serving: 42 grams (3.2 tablespoons) per 12 fluid ounces

Cherry Coke also contains high fructose corn syrup, caramel coloring, and natural flavors.

What are natural flavors? If it seems like a frustratingly vague description, that’s because it is — probably on purpose. The average consumer doesn’t know what a natural flavor contains because there could be over 100 ingredients in a single flavor.

Natural cherry flavoring definitely contains a chemical compound extracted from actual cherries. But that may be the only thing that differentiates it from artificial cherry flavoring.

Sunkist Orange Soda

  • Sugar per serving: 43 grams (3.3 tablespoons) per 12 fluid ounces

Does “made with real sugar” matter? The original drink contains high fructose corn syrup and dyes Red 40 and Yellow 6. The “healthier” version contains the same amount of sugar derived from sugar cane.

Jolt Cola

  • Sugar per serving:  50 grams (about 4 tablespoons) per bottle

Jolt Cola also contains caramel coloring and natural flavors.

Besides the sugar content of each of these drinks, the most concerning thing about drinking soda is that it simply lacks any nutritional value. You’re not just adding sugar to your daily total, but you’re also drinking extra calories that don’t benefit you in any way.

If you drink soda for the “fizz” and flavor, consider infusing sparkling water with your own flavors. No, it’s not the same — but it’s a lot healthier. Of course, if you drink 12 ounces of soda every now and then, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat. But please don’t make it a daily habit.