Is iced tea a good substitute for soda?

The consumption of soda is a public health concern, especially because it has a lot of sugar (when it is not a diet soda) and contributes to the prevalence of overweight and obesity. However, there are other options like pure water, fruit juices, and tea beverages (1).

In this article, we will focus on iced tea, and we will answer the query “Is iced tea a good substitute for soda?” Additionally, we will present some relevant aspects about tea, such as the health benefits and a comparison of sugar in an iced tea and a soda.

Is iced tea a good substitute for soda?

If you don’t use a lot of sugar as a sweetener, yes, iced tea is a good substitute for soda. For making a healthier iced tea you can opt for stevia, monk fruit, or even a little bit of honey as a sweetener option (2,3).

Another important point is that iced tea must be natural; natural tea contains a lot of antioxidants that you will be missing in an artificial iced tea (3).

Making a natural iced tea is quite simple, you only need to infuse 1 bag of black tea for each 250 ml with hot water (near to 80 °C) for around 5 minutes. Then you can add a few drops of lemon, ice, and a sweetener if you want a sweet beverage (2).

When should you not use iced tea to substitute soda?

You should not use iced tea to substitute soda if you are a child susceptible to caffeine, or you are pregnant (4,5,6). 

Caffeine is an alkaloid found in coffee and black tea (the main ingredient in iced tea), it has a stimulant effect on your nervous system and induces an energetic response. Nonetheless, caffeine is contraindicated in both children and pregnant women (4,5).

The stimulant reaction of caffeine can alter the sleep cycles of children. Even though there is no evidence to link caffeine to children’s hyperactivity, it could reduce the number of sleep hours in children (4). 

Remember that sleeping is crucial for a correct growth and development because it is when testosterone and anabolic hormones are circulating (4).

In the case of pregnant women, the stimulation of the nervous system can increase the risk of miscarry. On the other hand, caffeine increases the motility of your intestine, which can reduce the absorption of some nutrients. Therefore, a low absorption of nutrients by a mother could lead to lower birth weight in her child (5).

On the other hand, if you buy an iced tea, it is probable that your beverage has some artificial sweetener like acesulfame K or aspartame. Acesulfame K is not harmful for adults, but there are few studies on children and the evidence is not conclusive to guarantee its safety (6,7,8).

Aspartame, in contrast, has been linked to cancer if consumed in excess for a long time (>7.5 mg/kg in adults). Furthermore, if you have phenylketonuria (you cannot process correctly an amino acid named Phenylalanine) you can present the following symptoms (6,7,8):

  • Eczema
  • Musty odor
  • Epilepsy
  • Bad cognitive functions like disorientation and confusion

If you need further information to identify these ingredients in bottled iced teas, please visit our website on how to understand food labels, just click right here.

How does iced tea compare to soda in terms of sugar content?

Iced tea contains half of the sugar compared to a soda. According to the USDA, 355 ml of iced tea provides you with 17 g of sugar (65 calories), while 355 ml of soda contains 36.5 g of sugar (146 calories) (9,10).

Why can iced tea be a healthier option to replace soda in your diet?

Besides the lower amount of sugar in iced tea, this beverage can be a healthier option to replace soda because natural black tea contains a lot of antioxidants like polyphenols and flavonoids. The traditional iced tea contains lemon, which is a source of vitamin C, and this vitamin is good for strengthening your immune system (2,3).

Moreover, if you make your iced tea with non-caloric sweetener like stevia or monk fruit, you will be reducing your calorie intake (1).

In contrast, soda does not have any antioxidant, vitamin C, and is loaded with sugars. Other drawbacks of soda are the carbonate, artificial colorants, and artificial flavors (1).

The excessive consumption of some artificial colorants like tartrazine have been linked to hyperactivity and asthma in children, so you better keep those colorants away from children if possible (11).

Regarding long-term health concerns of soda, the excessive consumption of these beverages in children could reduce the intake of nutritious beverages like milk which provide calcium. Actually, there are studies that found a relationship between high consumption of soda with low bone-mass density in adolescents and osteoporosis in adult women (12).

Hence, it seems like a natural iced tea is definitely a healthier option than soda.

Are there any potential health benefits associated with choosing iced tea over soda?

Yes, choosing iced tea over soda can exert the following benefits on your health (2,3):

  • The reduced sugar intake could contribute to better weight management.
  • Black tea contains polyphenols with excellent antioxidant capacity, plus anti-inflammatory activity; these polyphenols could help prevent cardiovascular diseases, high blood pressure, diabetes, and cancer.
  • The lemon used in iced tea could slightly contribute to your vitamin C intake, which is very good for strengthening your immune system, especially against respiratory system diseases.


This article answered the query “Is iced tea a good substitute for soda?” Additionally, it presented some relevant aspects about tea, such as the health benefits and a comparison of sugar in an iced tea and a soda.


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