Remember Pepsi A.M. or the “Coke for Breakfast” ad campaign?
There's a reason for that—well, quite a few of them actually.
Let’s look at some of the reasons we start the day with coffee rather than soda.
Soda vs Coffee: Caffeine Content
Sure, coffee has caffeine, and soda does too—well, some of it anyway. Anyone who's ever experienced the pain of ending up with MUG instead of Barq's in a misguided attempt to stay awake during a late night study session knows that not all sodas are created equal when it comes to caffeine content.
But even the cola with the highest caffeine levels can't hold a candle to coffee when it comes to jump-starting your day.
Yes, even Surge—that Y2K-era staple with a "whopping" 50-ish mg of caffeine per 12oz can—pales in comparison to a 12oz cup of coffee, which contains about 140-ish mg of caffeine. That's nearly 3 times the caffeine strength.
It certainly did "beat" coffee on sugar content, though—56g of sugar to coffee's 0g.
"Feed the rush," indeed.
The association with caffeine is about the only similarity between coffee and soda—and many supposedly “energy boosting” sodas don't even contain caffeine at all. (I’m looking at you, Sprite.)
There are more differences than similarities between coffee and soda, especially when it comes to your health. In fact, it’s arguable that coffee has more in common with red wine than Big Red.
Here's a look at some other key ways that coffee is better for you than soda:
Soda vs Coffee: For Your Health
1. Coffee is less likely to cause weight gain.
Coffee has been shown to boost metabolism and help the body burn fat. Soda, on the other hand, is loaded with sugar and calories that can lead to weight gain. Sure, you can load up your coffee with sugar and cream if you want, but you can also choose to enjoy it black or with just a splash of milk—unlike soda.
In recent years, even diet soda has been linked to greater food cravings—and in rodent studies, aspartame has literally been found to damage a part of the brain that tells the body to stop eating. I'm not making this up—you can see it right here, from Harvard Medical School. Not too much else to say other than, if you're watching your weight, coffee is a better choice than soda.
2. Coffee can improve your physical performance.
Caffeine has been shown to improve physical performance by increasing alertness and helping the body to use fat for energy. Soda, on the other hand, can actually decrease physical performance due to the sugar crash that it can cause. (What's more, dietitians say that right before working out is the single worst time of day to drink soda.)
Just like so-called energy drinks, soda is inferior to coffee when it comes to giving you a long-lasting energy boost.
3. Coffee is packed with antioxidants.
Coffee is a great source of antioxidants, which are important for protecting the body against cellular damage. Soda, on the other hand, contains fewer to no antioxidants.
The caffeine in some sodas contains antioxidants—though coffee contains significantly more caffeine. Other than that, the fruit juice and caramel coloring used in some are about the only other soda antioxidant source to speak of. And as you might guess, the overall amount of antioxidants in soda isn't anywhere near as potent as the antioxidants found in coffee.
4. Coffee can help you live longer.
Studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of many chronic diseases and conditions than those who don't drink coffee—including the big ones: heart disease, stroke, multiple types of cancer, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and more. Drinking coffee in moderation can thus lead to a longer life and improved quality of life in general. Soda? Not so much. All things being equal, coffee drinkers are likely to live longer than soda drinkers. That's a pretty big difference, but if it's not enough to sway you over to the coffee side, I've got one more difference for you to consider:
5. Coffee can actually improve your mental health.
Coffee has been shown to improve mood, as well as cognitive function, and energy levels. Meanwhile, soda and other sugary/sweetened drinks have literally been linked to greater risk of depression. Who wins this round? It's tough to say, but I'm going to give the nod to coffee again.
Coffee vs Soda: The Bottom Line
No one's saying you need to choose one or the other, but if you're looking for the healthier option, coffee is the clear winner. (Not right now, Crystal Pepsi.)
Coffee has many more health benefits than soda, and is less likely to lead to unwanted weight gain, depression, diabetes, and numerous other health problems.
And as far as caffeine strength goes? It’s no contest. Coffee is the strongest by far.
And while neither is likely to make you immortal (unless you happen to behead a Highlander while drinking one) coffee might just help you enjoy a longer, healthier life. Soda—even diet soda—might just shorten it.
So, next time you're considering a cup of joe or a can of soda in the morning, think about why almost no one remembers Pepsi A.M.—and why those that do think it may have been a fever dream brought on by hearing too much Ace of Base.
Then make your choice accordingly.
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