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Is the TikTok Viral “Healthy Coke”
Really Healthy?

Dietitian Melissa Parisi mythbusts the health trend that has taken the internet by storm.

If you’re a frequent soda-drinker, the recent “healthy coke” trend may have piqued your interest. Could you kick the sugary drink habit by switching to a mixture of balsamic vinegar and seltzer? While some people claim that this odd pairing tastes just like Coca-Cola, most have discovered that the balsamic vinegar and seltzer mix tastes just like it sounds. (In this writer’s opinion: It doesn’t taste bad, but it definitely doesn’t taste like Coke … maybe closer to kombucha.)

Regardless of your tastes in beverages, is this vinegar concoction actually better for you than soda? Dietitian Melissa Parisi, RDN, says not necessarily: “While vinegar has some health benefits, it can be just as problematic as soda if you drink it in excess.”

The dangers of too much vinegar

We’ve learned from past trends, like apple cider vinegar beverages, that drinking too much vinegar too often can be harmful to your health. “Vinegar is highly acidic, so consuming it undiluted or in large quantities can lead to erosion of your teeth enamel and irritation, inflammation or injury to your throat and esophagus,” says Parisi. Some people may also experience stomach problems after ingesting vinegar.

Vinegar does tout some potential health benefits, such as lowering cholesterol and blood sugar, helping to boost immunity and improving skin health. Parisi suggests the safest way to consume vinegar is by using it in recipes for meals, dressings and marinades. “It will be gentler and safer on your teeth, throat, esophagus and stomach to ingest vinegar as a part of natural food, instead of drinking it on its own.” If you do plan to drink vinegar, use a small amount and always dilute it with another liquid first.

The dangers of too much soda

If “healthy Coke” isn’t all that healthy, is it bad to continue enjoying regular soda? Parisi says, “Too much of anything is not a good thing.” Excess soda consumption is linked to weight gain and obesity, type 2 diabetes and could affect your heart health. It can also contribute to problems with oral health, such as cavities.

But having a soda once in a while is okay. “Sometimes having the real thing will satisfy your craving,” says Parisi. “One singular food will not ruin your efforts to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet. You can enjoy things in moderation.”

Parisi shares that water is always encouraged as a primary beverage, but low-fat milk, fortified plant-based milk or a small glass of 100% fruit juice can be good options that add nutritional value.

Should you try the “healthy Coke” trend?

While the “healthy Coke” trend has benefitted from viewership, as with many TikTok trends, the science is lacking. Parisi warns viewers to be careful about hopping on trends quickly. “There’s not only negative physical side effects of consuming too much vinegar, but it can also interact with medications you’re taking for certain conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes,” she says. “If you want to try a vinegar drink mixture for its health benefits, check with your primary care provider or a dietitian first to make sure it’s safe for you.”

[Main photo credit: iStock.com/tongpatong]

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