Beer vs Soda: Which Should You Drink?

by Dane Wilson | Last Updated: October 16, 2021

Are you worried that your beer-drinking habit is going to give you a beer belly? Thinking about switching to soda instead? You might want to think again on that one. Making a choice between beer vs soda is truly about weighing what you’re more concerned about—alcohol or sugar consumption. That’s why we’re putting these two beverages head-to-head to see which one is the healthier choice.

You can place your bets now.

Beer vs Soda: A Health Debate

Let’s start off this debate with a health warning. Regardless of who comes out on top of the beer vs soda boxing match, it’s important to remember that both drinks have inherent risks involved. Yes, we can compare the two nutritionally and say which is better based on the nutritional facts, but that doesn’t always paint the most factual picture.

What many people ignore is substance abuse. Sugar and alcohol are both addicting, but beer could send a recovering alcoholic spiraling back to bad habits. If you would consider yourself someone with substance abuse issues, stay away from alcohol—no matter what.

That aside, the general health metrics—calories, carbs, fat, and sugar—are going to help you determine which is better for you. For those at risk of diabetes, consider the glycemic load of beer vs soda as well.

Here’s a closer look at those metrics:

Calorie Count

Beer and soda both have calories. In fact, when you compare your favorite brand of soda with some common beers, you will find that they have about the same amount of calories.

For instance, a 12 oz can of Coca Cola has 140 calories, Pepsi and Dr. Pepper have 150 calories per serving, and a can of Fanta (any flavor) runs around 160-180 calories.

A 12 oz serving of Budweiser is 144 calories; Stella Artois is 154 calories; Heineken, 149 calories; and Corona has 148 calories in a bottle. That’s not considering light beers and non-alcoholic beers.

However, you will soon find that the quality of calories is often more important than the quantity of calories when comparing two items.

Carbohydrates & Sugar

Due to the vast number of variations of both soda and beer, it can be difficult to directly compare the amounts of carbohydrates and sugar. That said, normal varieties of soda (non-diet) have crazy amounts of sugar. Some brands have swapped over to natural sugar instead of artificial sweeteners and high fructose corn syrup, but natural sugars are just as dangerous when consumed in high amounts.

Diet versions don’t have the same amounts of added sugars, but they also have drawbacks. Using artificial sweeteners can increase insulin resistance, because most types are hundreds—if not thousands—of times sweeter than real sugar. This confuses the brain, releases more insulin than necessary, and thereby upsets your physiology.

But ignoring that for now… 7Up has 38 grams of sugar (9-10 teaspoons), orange soda has 49 grams (12 teaspoons), coke is 39 grams (10 tsp), and Pepsi has 41 grams (11 tsp). That’s only the 12 oz serving, though. Most sodas are sold in 20 oz bottles these days, which nearly doubles the amount of sugar you are consuming. For instance, a 20 oz bottle of Dr. Pepper contains 64 grams of sugar.

No wonder soda has been dubbed “liquid candy” by nutritionists.

Negative Effects of Too Much Sugar

So what happens when you have too much sugar? Here are some negative effects to consider:

  • Bowel problems. Harvard found that 75% of people who consume 40-80g of sugar will experience diarrhea more frequently.
  • Sugar highs and energy crashes
  • Rotted teeth
  • Skin inflammation and premature aging
  • Fatty liver or liver diseases
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular diseases
  • Increased risk of diabetes and obesity
  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced libido

Sugar in Beer

In terms of sugar, beer is less harmful. Normal alcohol beer has a negligible amount of alcohol, because the yeast consumes it during fermentation to produce alcohol. If you opt to select a low-calorie or non-alcoholic beer, this isn’t the case, however.

Since low alcohol or zero alcohol beer does not have alcohol, a small amount of sugar might remain in the brew. That said, the average amount of sugar in a serving of low-alcohol beer is around 2.4 grams of sugar. That is nowhere near the amount of sugar in soda.

Beer vs Soda: Which Should You Drink_Sound Brewery

Glycemic Load

What’s the glycemic load (GL) and why is it important? First off, this is not discussing the glycemic index (GI), which can be misleading. For instance, watermelon is given a high GI of 72, showing that they can quickly affect your blood sugar. However, when you consider how little carbs those items have—watermelon only has 2 carbs per 100 g serving—and the quality, the GL (4) is much lower than the GI.

For this example, let’s use the average Coca Cola. A single 12 oz serving as 155 calories, 0.92 g of fat, 38.33 g of carbohydrates, and 36.78 g of sugar. None of those sugars are natural. Beer has 0 g of sugar. As you have seen, the amount of sugar in beer vs coke puts beer at an advantage.

So what’s the glycemic load of beer vs soda? The average beer has a GL of 2.5 to 7.5, while cola is 15.0. Beer has half the glycemic load of soda, meaning that it’s effect on blood glucose levels is less influential than coke.

Vitamins and Minerals

Beer has an array of vitamins and minerals. B-vitamins, biotin, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and phosphorus are high in beer. Unfortunately, the alcohol will destroy some of the B-vitamins and vitamin C in your brew. Oh, and it could decrease your body’s ability to absorb all that goodness. When consumed in moderation, though, the alcohol will have a minimal impact on nutrient absorption.

Soda has a less spectacular nutritional profile. Soda does not have any vitamins or minerals. Yes, you could pick up a fortified energy drink, like Coca-Cola Energy or Red Bull, but again, these have sugar. Dr. Pepper does contain some iron, calcium, zinc, and manganese. Sprite has some potassium, calcium, and magnesium, but the large amount of sodium detracts from the beneficial minerals.

Chemical Additives in Soda

One point to House Beer for not containing any unnatural or chemical additives.

But soda? The ingredient panel is usually a nightmare. Aside from artificial sweeteners, most sodas also contain additives like potassium benzoate, artificial dyes, high fructose corn syrup, and preservatives.

Take potassium and sodium benzoate, for instance. Alone, sodium and potassium benzoate are relatively harmless. Yet, when combined with vitamin C from ascorbic acid, the chemicals can form benzene, which is a known carcinogen.

Ever hear of brominated vegetable oil? It’s in Mountain Dew Code Red, and it’s a flame retardant. Japan and Europe banned it from drinks. BVO also affects your thyroid and might make it harder to get pregnant.

And also those dyes used to make soda in a rainbow of colors have been linked with allergic reactions and cancerous tumors. We can’t forget the insidious “caramel coloring” either. What sounds perfectly normal is actually sugar treated with ammonia.

Beer vs Soda: What About The Alcohol?

Having picked apart the negative aspects of too much sugar consumption, it’s time to turn your attention to alcohol. There is a lot of nonsense found on the internet that claims that alcohol is okay in small amounts. This can be true when you consider research done on wine and beer consumption, but the chances of moderate consumption turning into a less healthy habit is always possible.

Alcohol addiction, abuse, and alcohol-related suicide are very real and should never be underestimated.

A serving of beer a day is going to compound throughout your life. Drinking excessive amounts of beer on the weekend could have the same outcome. Though lifestyle choices contribute to the influence of alcohol on your body, there is no true “safe amount” of alcohol.

Alcohol can have terrible effects quickly, too. Sure, a light buzz from alcohol will relax you and make you happier, but it can also make you less coordinated, reduce judgment, and give you blurry vision.

Your blood sugar will drop within 30-90 minutes of consumption, making you feel exhausted and weak. This is because alcohol forces the body to convert glycogen to glucose rapidly. You might get munchies and make terrible diet choices.

Let’s not forget the confusion, agitation, sleepiness, headaches, nausea, and vomiting that can come on at any time, including the day after! Long term alcohol consumption can also damage the brain cells.

Don’t let the low ABV of Budweiser or Corona persuade you to drink more, either. A few beers could hit you as hard as a single serving of wine if you aren’t careful.

Beer vs Soda: Taste

The main argument that people have in the beer vs soda debate is that soda tastes better. Well, that would be due to the sugar. Human brains absolutely love sugar, because it triggers the reward center of the brain and releases dopamine. Unfortunately, the human body has other ideas. As discussed already, though the brain will consume loads of sugar to produce energy (and momentary happiness), our bodies will get overloaded with it, which causes insulin resistance and, later, type 2 diabetes.

So, while you may adore the sugary goodness of a Sprite or Coke, keep in mind what is making it taste so good. Beer can be an acquired taste, but there are also many varieties that are sweetened with natural fruits, like Hazy IPAs, a delicious lambic, or a funky Gose. Neither tastes much like mass-produced beers.

Beer vs Soda: Which Should You Drink_Sound Brewery

Hydration

Since this is a discussion about beverages, it would be remiss to forget about one key function of drinking. Hydration! If you want to pick up a drink to slake your thirst on a hot day, your first choice should be water, but if there is only a choice between beer or soda in the cooler, what do you do?

Well, one main ingredient of beer is water. However, alcohol is a diuretic. Consume too much alcohol, and you won’t feel hydrated. Instead, you are going to lose water more rapidly. Caffeine, which is also a diuretic but to a lesser extent, can also work against you.

But you don’t want to quench your thirst with a sugary beverage either. If you’re dehydrated, you’re only going to make yourself more thirsty. Without fluids, the sugar in your blood becomes more concentrated, leading to hyperglycemia, more frequent urination, and further dehydration. Yikes.

Beer vs Soda: Which One is the Worst?

Having gone through all this, there is no way to tell which one is better or worse. When you overdo either, the effects on your health will look very much the same. You won’t be the best version of yourself.

When it comes to drinking either beer or soda, moderation is key. Is beer worse than soda? No. Neither one is healthy enough to drink daily, though it can be argued that soda is worse for you than beer, due to the high amount of sugar and other synthetic ingredients. Meanwhile, thanks to hops, beer is at least enriched with vitamins and minerals, despite containing alcohol.

In short, drink both responsibly! Know your limits, and don’t get carried away with either. Partake but don’t overdo it.

FAQs

Which is worse for the body, soda or alcohol?

Both are terrible for the body when consumed in excessive amounts. Soda contains a lot of artificial ingredients and sugar, depending on the type, and that will have adverse effects on your skin, teeth, and mental health. Meanwhile, beer contains alcohol, which can quickly impact your organs, particularly your brain and liver. Both can upset your blood glucose levels, leading to weight gain, too.

Does beer count as soda?

No, beer does not count as soda. Beer and soda are two different kinds of beverages. Although beer and soda are both carbonated, the ingredients and preparation are different. Soda is non-alcoholic and not fermented, traditional beer is the opposite.

Is beer unhealthy?

Yes, beer can be unhealthy and should be considered an indulgence in most cases. Drinking beer every day can have terrible effects on the body and should therefore be avoided. Like any kind of alcohol, beer should be consumed responsibly and in moderation.