What is 'healthy Coke'? Experts weigh in on TikTok's latest drink craze

Is a balsamic vinegar soda really a healthy version of a Coke? (Photo: Getty Creative)
Is a balsamic vinegar soda really a healthy version of a Coke? (Photo: Getty Creative)

TikTok loves a drink trend, from the chia seed water “internal shower” to whipped coffee. The latest, however, is making social media users highly skeptical.

On Tuesday, TikToker Amanda Jones shared a video of herself making what her Pilates instructor referred to as a “healthy alternative to a Coke.” The recipe? Any flavor of sparkling water (in Jones’ case, a guava flavored LaCroix) and a splash of balsamic vinegar over ice.

“I am not joking you,” Jones assures in the video. “It tastes just like a Coke, and you’re going to think I’m insane.”

TikTok users had mixed reactions to the concoction. Social media influencer (and Diet Coke connoisseur) @Tinx likened the flavor to “kombucha gone bad.” Recipe creator @healthylittlepeach, however, called the soda “delicious” — and even declared it her “new drink.” Registered dietitian @nutritionbykylie said it tastes “exactly how you think” it would — like “carbonated balsamic vinegar.”

Jones herself has been surprised by the reaction. She tells Yahoo Life over email, "I’m an actress in LA and between auditions I took to TikTok as a creative outlet. I always love seeing the organic growth of content. This 'viral' moment has been quite fun to watch because it’s really motivating people to go out and give it a try! Truthfully, I did not think people would get so riled up about such a fun drink. I think it’s being coined salad dressing soda? Too funny."

As for this writer…I liked it! So much so that I poured myself a glass to sip while writing this article. To me, it tastes somewhere between a wine spritzer and a kombucha — a little sour, a little sweet and refreshing overall. What it doesn’t taste like at all, however, is a Coke — even though it looks nearly identical to one when poured over ice.

If the balsamic vinegar soda isn’t all that Coke-like, is it at least a healthy swap for one, provided you enjoy the taste? Registered dietitian nutritionist Keri Gans says, “If you are comparing this combo to a regular soda, one could say it is a healthier version, as it has 2.4 grams of naturally occurring sugar per a one-tablespoon serving, and a regular Coke has 39 grams of added sugar per a 12-ounce serving. Also balsamic vinegar contains acetic acid, which may contain probiotics that aid in digestive health.”

Brenna O'Malley, a non-diet registered dietitian and founder of the Wellful, shares that the health benefits are overall pretty minimal.

“It’s not really any different than using balsamic vinegar in cooking or as a salad dressing,” she notes. “I’d be cautious of anyone claiming this is the newest ‘health hack’ — these are two common household ingredients, and they’re definitely not a Coke. If you enjoy this combo, that's great, but it's really not a 1:1 swap for an alternative to Coke and may not satisfy your craving for a Coke, either.”

She points out that if a Coke is really what you’re craving, it may make more sense to just go for that.

“There is often benefit to having that food/drink instead of ‘eating around it’ meaning you have a ‘healthified’ alternative but often end up having the initial food you were craving after anyways,” she explains. “By letting yourself have and enjoy a Coke, we can cut out the middleman.”

But if you do find yourself reaching for the balsamic vinegar and seltzer by choice, there are a few things to keep in mind. Registered dietitian Heather Finley — who tested out the drink herself on Instagram — points out that “too much vinegar at once could be very irritating to the gut and the esophagus.”

“I would caution individuals in drinking vinegar if they have gastritis, ulcers or inflammation,” she explains. “For someone without these conditions, you would still want to be conscientious of how much vinegar you were consuming at once.”

Ultimately, she says, “no one food is going to ‘make or break’ your health.”

“Focusing on what you are consuming over a week or a month is much more important than one single can of soda,” she says. “If you enjoy the occasional soda, drink it, enjoy it and don’t guilt yourself for it.”

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