Sprite only has six ingredients. Now, that sounds like a good thing… But it only takes 1 bad ingredient to make a drink unhealthy, if there’s a lot of it (i.e., lots of sugar). Today, let’s take a closer look at the nutrition of Sprite. Is it really bad for you?
Sprite is not very healthy because it has 38g of sugar per can (12 fl oz), in the form of high fructose corn syrup. It also has sodium benzoate, which is a somewhat controversial preservative as it can convert into a known carcinogen (benzene) in certain conditions.
Below, I’ll discuss these ingredients and the research on whether they’re healthy. I’ll also discuss whether Sprite is fattening, whether it’s ok to drink it every day, and how it compares to Coke and other sodas.
Is Sprite Good for You?
Here are the 12 specific questions I’ll be answering about Sprite nutrition. Click any of them to skip ahead to that section—or just keep scrolling to read them all:
- What Is Sprite Made Of?
- How Much Sugar Is in Sprite?
- How Bad Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup in Sprite?
- Does Sprite Have Caffeine?
- Is Sprite High in Sodium?
- Is the Sodium Benzoate in Sprite Harmful?
- Does Sprite Make You Gain Weight?
- Does Sprite Cause Acne?
- Is Sprite Healthier Than Coke?
- Is Sprite the Healthiest Soda?
- Is It Bad to Drink Sprite Every Day?
- Is Sprite Vegan?
1. What Is Sprite Made Of?
Let’s start by looking at what Sprite actually contains. There are a few different flavors, but most of the ingredients are the same. So let’s look at normal Sprite:
Sprite Ingredients: Carbonated Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Citric Acid, Natural Flavors, Sodium Citrate, Sodium Benzoate (To Protect Taste).
Here are my takeaway points on these ingredients:
- Sprite has high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Specifically, Sprite has 38g of sugar per can, in the form of HFCS. That’s not great. Even one can of Sprite puts you over the American Heart Association’s daily sugar limit. (Below, we’ll explore whether HFCS is worse than normal sugar or not.)
- Sprite has sodium benzoate. This preservative is a bit controversial because it can potentially turn into benzene, which is a carcinogen. That said, this may be very unlikely in Sprite today. More on sodium benzoate below.
- Sprite is free of artificial colors. Sprite is clear, so there is no need for dyes like Red 40 or Yellow 5. Artificial dyes seem to cause behavioral issues for some children. So it’s a good thing that Sprite doesn’t have them.
The biggest nutritional concern with Sprite for most people will be the sugar. So let’s look at the sugar content in the next two sections below.
- Does Sprite Have Alcohol in It? Sprite is a non-alcoholic soda. It does not have alcohol. However, some people may use Sprite as a mixer along with vodka, tequila, rum, or other alcoholic drinks.
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2. How Much Sugar Is in Sprite?
Sprite has 38 grams of sugar per can (12 fl oz). That is about the same amount as in Coca-Cola, Dr Pepper, or Monster Energy. Drinking just one can of Sprite puts you above the daily sugar limit recommended by the American Heart Association.
The American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. Even just one can of Sprite already puts you above that.
Keep in mind: No added sugar is needed for human health. Really, the healthiest diet would likely just have natural sugar from fruit and whole foods. So in a sense, any “added sugar” is already a negative.
Here’s a table showing how the sugar content of Sprite compares to other sugary drinks:
|Drink||Sugar (per 12 fl oz)|
|V8 Tomato Juice||10g|
|Simply Orange Juice||34g|
|Barq’s Root Beer||45g|
|Welch’s Grape Juice||52g|
As you can see, sodas like Sprite are among the most sugary drinks available. Sprite doesn’t have quite as much sugar as Mountain Dew or Barq’s—but it’s not far behind, either.
3. How Bad Is the High Fructose Corn Syrup in Sprite?
Sprite is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). And HFCS has a pretty bad reputation… Many people think it is even worse than normal table sugar. But is it really?
Some research suggests HFCS may increase appetite and contribute to obesity more than regular sugar. However, other research contradicts this. Overall, it’s still unclear whether high fructose corn syrup is actually worse than normal sugar. (source)
But the real bottom line is this: Any high-sugar diet, whether it’s HFCS or normal sugar, can increase heart disease and obesity risk, while raising blood sugar, triglycerides, and blood pressure. (source)
So, when it comes to Sprite, the real problem isn’t specifically the high fructose corn syrup… It’s just the amount of added sugar overall. Thirty-eight grams per can is a lot of sugar. And that doesn’t bode well for long-term health.
4. Does Sprite Have Caffeine?
Sprite does not have caffeine. It is not an energy drink. It is not advertised as providing caffeine, and none of the ingredients have caffeine naturally. Sprite should not keep you awake.
Caffeine is an interesting ingredient because it has documented health benefits, but it can also be bad in many cases. Studies show it may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But it’s habit forming, and too much can disrupt sleep.
Therefore, I wouldn’t consider caffeine as simply “healthy” or “unhealthy.” It’s more complicated than that. It can likely be good or bad depending how it’s affecting your life specifically.
5. Is Sprite High in Sodium?
Sprite has about 65mg of sodium per 12 oz can. This is only about 3% of the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg of sodium per day. Therefore, Sprite is not very high in sodium.
Of course, if you drink Sprite all day, you could end up consuming at least several hundred milligrams of sodium from it. So, you should still be mindful if you’re trying to keep your sodium intake low.
6. Is the Sodium Benzoate in Sprite Harmful?
Sodium benzoate is a preservative used in Sprite. It is only present in small amounts. Sodium benzoate is limited by the FDA to make up only 0.1% of the weight of the foods it’s added to. Still, some people have concerns.
The biggest concern is that sodium benzoate is able to convert to benzene, a known carcinogen, in certain conditions. This has particularly been a concern in soft drinks where sodium benzoate is also present with ascorbic acid. (source)
(Side note: Sprite does not have ascorbic acid as an ingredient. So theoretically, there should not be any benzene in Sprite today.)
There was a study in 2005-07 showing that 10 out of 200 soft drinks tested contained more than the allowable levels of benzene (5 parts per billion).
Since then, the offending soft drinks have been reformulated to comply with allowable levels. But the study also showed ~60% of soft drinks had some measurable level of benzene.
The FDA has stated that the levels of benzene in soft drinks are not a risk. (source)
There have been some other concerning studies on the impacts of sodium benzoate in animals. It may raise levels of inflammation, oxidative stress, or even risk for ADHD (source). Some people also have allergic reactions to it.
The Environmental Working Group has assigned sodium benzoate a risk score of “1 to 3” on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the worst). So the overall risk is low.
Personally, after reading into all of this, I’m not that worried about the safety of sodium benzoate in Sprite. But personally, I’d still rather not consume it every day.
7. Does Sprite Make You Gain Weight?
Sprite is high in calories—140 calories per 12 oz can—so it could contribute to weight gain. However, changes in bodyweight depend on overall calorie balance. So drinking Sprite in moderation will not automatically cause weight gain.
Many people misunderstand what actually causes fat gain. It isn’t generally caused by eating a specific unhealthy food. Fat gain is a result of consuming more calories than you burn overall. The overall quantity of calories is what’s important.
For example, it’s possible to gain fat from healthy foods—if you eat large portions and don’t exercise. In the same way, it’s been proven that you can lose weight by eating McDonald’s, if you eat a small amount.
So, there’s a sense in which no specific food is “fattening.” Only overall diets can be fattening… However, there’s another sense in which Sprite may indeed lead to weight gain: It has a lot of empty calories that don’t really fill you up much.
That is, when you drink Sprite, you’re getting a lot of calories, but not much satiation. And that can easily lead you to consuming more calories than you need for the day. And in turn, that can cause weight gain.
So, yes, there is a sense in which Sprite can cause weight gain, as many sugary drinks and sources of liquid calories do. But the actual key is your overall diet and calorie balance. One specific food doesn’t necessarily make or break your diet.
If your goal is weight loss, I would consider (A) tracking your calories, or (B) following some of these 18 tips for weight loss without counting calories. Whether you drink Sprite will not make or break your weight-loss journey by itself.
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8. Does Sprite Cause Acne?
The relationship between diet and acne is still evolving. But increasingly, there is significant evidence that diet does play a major role in acne. And there are a few specific types of foods that are widely acknowledged as problematic.
One of the foods most strongly associated with acne is sugar. And as covered above, Sprite has a lot of sugar in each can (38 grams). This means Sprite will likely cause acne for some people.
For many acne sufferers, reducing acne is about stabilizing your blood-sugar levels. And often, that means minimizing or eliminating high-GI carbs like the sugar found in Sprite.
If you want to learn more, I wrote more about acne science and how to clear your acne in this big blog post. But suffice it to say—there’s a decent chance Sprite will be a negative for your skin.
9. Is Sprite Healthier Than Coke?
Sprite is very similar to Coca-Cola nutritionally. They have almost the same amount of sugar per can (38g vs 39g). And they have pretty similar sodium content (65mg vs 45mg). But Sprite doesn’t have the caramel color or phosphoric acid of Coke, making Sprite potentially healthier in comparison.
You see, caramel color can potentially contain a carcinogen called 4-MeI. In a Consumer Reports study, many sodas with caramel color tested at surprisingly high levels for 4-MeI. So, that might not be good for Coke… But Sprite avoids this problem.
Phosphoric acid has been linked to osteoporosis and lower bone density, as well as cavities and tooth decay. So, that one’s not great for Coke, either. But Sprite doesn’t have phosphoric acid—nice!
What about comparing Sprite to other sodas?
- Dr Pepper vs Sprite: Sprite may actually be slightly healthier than Dr Pepper, for the same reasons as with Coke above: Sprite avoids the caramel color and phosphoric acid, while not being dramatically worse in any other way.
- Sprite vs Pepsi: Pepsi has about 3g more sugar per serving compared to Dr Pepper. And again, like Coke and Dr Pepper, Pepsi has caramel color and phosphoric acid—yikes.
- Sprite vs Mountain Dew: Sprite has about 8g less sugar per serving than Mountain Dew. Mountain Dew also has the artificial color Yellow 5, which may cause behavioral issues for some children, and brominated vegetable oil, which is banned in some countries. So, likely sprite is at least a little bit healthier.
- Sprite vs Root Beer: Sprite has about 7g less sugar per serving than Barq’s Root Bear. So, it’s possible Sprite is slightly healthier—but again, neither drink is very healthy.
Really, any of these sugar-loaded sodas are not the healthiest choice. For a healthier soda option, you can look at Zevia. It’s sweetened with stevia rather than sugar. Read my Zevia review here.
10. Is Sprite the Healthiest Soda?
Sprite is not the healthiest soda, as it has 38 grams of sugar per can. That much sugar makes it potentially obesity- and disease-promoting. (source)
Again, the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 25g of sugar per day for women and 36g per day for men. And just one can of Sprite puts you above those limits.
It would be healthier to choose a diet soda—especially one like Zevia that uses a natural non-calorie sweetener rather, not artificial sweeteners.
Compared to the most popular soda brands today, which are mostly all sugar-sweetened, Sprite is indeed a bit healthier than most. (See the above comparisons for explanations why.) But a diet drink that completely avoids the sugar spikes and empty calories would be better.
11. Is It Bad to Drink Sprite Every Day?
Generally speaking, yes, it is bad to drink Sprite every day. Even drinking just one can of Sprite already puts you above the American Heart Association’s recommended daily sugar limit.
High-sugar diets lead to increased risk of obesity, heart disease, tooth decay, and more health problems. And if you drink even a can or two of Sprite, you’ve already entered into the realm of “high sugar.”
Now, technically, you could drink one sip of Sprite a day, and you could still be consuming a low-sugar diet. So, that would probably be fine. But who is really stopping after one sip? Let’s be realistic here.
The most sensible guideline would probably be to only drink Sprite and similar sodas on occasion. Don’t make it a daily habit.
- Is it OK to drink Sprite once in a while? Sure. For most people, your body can tolerate occasional spikes in sugar and empty calories like those in Sprite. What really causes most diet problems is the repeated consumption of unhealthy foods as a habit.
12. Is Sprite Vegan?
Sprite is considered vegan. It has only six ingredients, none of which are derived from animals. In addition, Sprite Zero Sugar and other Sprite flavors are generally considered vegan.
Sprite is even more vegan-friendly than some other sugar-sweetened drinks. That’s because Sprite is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup—not cane sugar that may have been filtered with animal bone char.
For more on the topic of Sprite’s vegan-ness, see my separate post: “Is Sprite Vegan?“
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