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A new report shows that water is quickly becoming the preferred drink of choice (once again)
Americans are drinking more water than soda, thanks to a huge surge of bottled water.
The newest research is a bit of a consolation prize for Mayor Bloomberg: for the first time in three decades, water has regained its spot as the number one beverage for Americans, over soda.
The Associated Press reports from research from Beverage Digest. Soda was the reigning champion of drinks for more than two decades; the highest per capita soda consumption peaked in 1998, when Americans drank 54 gallons of soda per year. (Just imagine all that sugar.) But it's clear that water has made its comeback; now, the per capita consumption of water has peaked at 58 gallons per year, compared to 44 gallons of soda per year. That's a 38 percent increase of water consumption. Why the uptick? The growing backlash against soda from the health community (and that includes Mayor Bloomberg). As the Atlantic notes, we're already banning sodas from our diets.
The Atlantic breaks down the numbers further; writer James Hamblin notes: "That's 7,242 ounces of water annually — 20 ounces daily, which is 2.5 cups. So in the setting of unfounded claims that we should be drinking eight to infinity glasses of water each day, it's redeeming to know that most people are alive and functioning despite falling far short of that." So we're good despite all that eight-glass hype.
Another huge factor in the increase of water consumption? The rising popularity of bottled water. The per capita consumption of bottled water has grown to 21 gallons per year for Americans. (That other 37 gallons doesn't just account for tap water — that also includes flavored waters, sparkling waters, and enhanced waters — yes, even the Vitaminwater.) Of course, while many predict that the bottled water market will keep growing, others think it will start to experience a backlash thanks to growing environmental concerns. Find out more about what's in your bottled water here.
Seltzer Water: Is It Good for You?
Seltzer water has gained popularity over the past few years as a refreshing and healthy alternative to soda. Also known as “sparkling water” or “carbonated water,” seltzer water is still water that has been infused with carbon dioxide gas, causing it to bubble.
Seltzer water should not be confused with mineral water, which contains mineral and sulfur compounds from a mineral spring, or tonic water, which includes quinine (a common treatment for malaria) along with sugar or high - fructose corn syrup.
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Drink More Water in the New Year With Prevention&rsquos 7-Day Hydration Challenge!
Ditch the idea that you need eight glasses a day, and use this science-backed guide instead.
There are tons of theories about what proper hydration can and can&rsquot do for the body. People have claimed it can make skin look plumper or more radiant, that it can prevent cancer, and even that it can protect against COVID-19. While the scientific evidence for all of these effects remains mixed, one thing is clear: The human body does not like to be low on water.
&ldquoIf we&rsquore not hydrated, then our body is in a state of stress,&rdquo says Melissa Majumdar, M.S., R.D., dietitian at Emory University Hospital and a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. &ldquoAnd we do know that states of stress can lead to chronic disease.&rdquo When you&rsquore chronically dehydrated, your body will release the stress hormone cortisol, and that can impact weight, blood sugar, and even cardiac function. Coming off a landmark year of stress, one could argue there&rsquos never been a better time to drink up.
Enter: Prevention&rsquos 7-Day Hydration Challenge. You&rsquoll learn how to use the science behind hydration to your benefit and pay attention to your own body as it signals what it needs. Check back here every morning at 9:30 a.m. for a new task, and a mere week from now, you&rsquoll have everything you need to become your best, most hydrated self.
DAY 1: Practice 360° hydration.
Your first goal is to hydrate by drinking and eating mindfully. An egg is a great place to start, because it&rsquos cheap, healthy, and it starts out as a liquid before you cook it.
But wait, let&rsquos back up for a sec. Where did our fascination with how much water to drink per day originate&mdashand why is there so much confusion about it?
While not a myth exactly, the recommendation to drink eight glasses of water a day isn&rsquot supported by any rigorous science. Researchers believe it stems from a 75-year-old report that has been repeated so often it has simply become canon. Back in 1945, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board recommended consuming 1 milliliter of fluid for every calorie eaten. If you consume a diet of about 2,000 calories, that comes out to 8 and a half cups of water a day.
Beyond that, experts will say it depends&mdashon how active you are, how hot it is where you live, and even how &ldquosalty&rdquo you are (more on that later).
The good news is, that same Food and Nutrition Board bulletin said that a substantial portion of dietary water can and should come from foods and drinks. &ldquoFruits and vegetables, yogurt, even foods that are made with fluid like hot cereals, rice, and pasta, count because they&rsquore absorbing fluid as they cook,&rdquo says Majumdar.
The most recent government recommendations on hydration, a 2004 report backed by eleven researchers from the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, say that well-hydrated men tend to consume about 3.7 liters of fluid a day, and well-hydrated women consume about 2.7 liters (or 11.4 cups) . But you don&rsquot need that amount in pure water.
We know it would be satisfying if, to kick-off this challenge, we gave you an exact amount of water to drink per day. But that would be doing you a disservice. Rather, today&rsquos challenge is to disassociate guilt from daily glasses of pure water consumed and make sure that you get fluids from lots of sources&mdashfruits and vegetables, coffee, tea, juice, and even soda&mdashin addition to water.
If you want more guidance throughout the day, the experts who wrote the aforementioned report agree: Check in with yourself. Are you thirsty? If yes, you&rsquore probably a little dehydrated, so drink up. If the idea of downing water right now doesn&rsquot feel right, set a glass of water nearby and you&rsquoll likely pick it up when you&rsquore ready, without even thinking about it.
DAY 2: Drink more &ldquodilute&rdquo beverages than concentrated.
Today&rsquos challenge is to hydrate without relying on sugary drinks. And it&rsquos not just about the sugar itself&mdashmaking good choices about what to drink is easier if you understand a concept called osmolality. It&rsquos an interesting way to think about hydration (and bonus, is pretty fun to say).
All human cells need appropriate concentrations of water, potassium, and sodium both inside and outside to work properly. One way to measure those proportions is to determine how concentrated the fluids in your body are. A scientist can take blood serum or urine, separate out all the solids (such as salts, sugars, and minerals), and then divide the total amount of those solids by the total amount of fluid. The resulting number is a measure of osmolality.
While, yes, any non-alcoholic beverage provides hydration, how quickly the fluid gets into your cells may come down to how concentrated your drink of choice is. &ldquoThe blood is around 290 or 300 osmolality, and many of the drinks that are sold to us in stores are over that. Some of them are really high, like 1,200 for cranberry juice. In order for these things to be absorbed, water has to come out of your body into the intestine to dilute it down until the gradients are right,&rdquo says Jodi Stookey, a nutrition epidemiologist at Arizona State University.
While a beverage&rsquos osmolality doesn&rsquot have major effects for hydration, it can affect how quickly liquids get into your system, and it can also be a good proxy measure for high calories. &ldquoI think of it as &lsquothis is a concentrated drink&rsquo and &lsquothat is a dilute drink,&rsquo&rdquo Stookey says. &ldquoAnd the sugary drinks are in the group with the concentrated drinks.&rdquo
So today, while, yes, you can get some hydration from sodas and other liquids, aim to drink a greater amount of flat or carbonated water&mdashwith a squeeze of citrus juice if you&rsquod like, for taste.
DAY 3: Look at your pee. Yes, really.
Today your goal is to observe your urine throughout the day. Because water and salt balance is vital for survival, your body has a powerful system, called the osmoregulatory system, for maintaining it. Part one of this system are specialized neurons in your brain that can tell when the water in your body decreases.
&ldquoLet&rsquos say you have a busy day and you don&rsquot have a chance to drink enough. Under those circumstances, the saltiness level of your blood is going to rise because you&rsquove lost water molecules from the blood, leaving the salt behind. And your blood volume shrinks because you&rsquove lost water from the blood. Those are two very powerful factors that result in increased thirst,&rdquo says Bob Murray, Ph.D., former director of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute and founder of Sports Science Insights, which helped develop Dogfish Head&rsquos SeaQuench ale. Neurons that can detect low blood volume and high blood saltiness release water-conserving hormones when they sense you&rsquore low on H20. They also make you feel thirsty.
Part two of the body&rsquos hydration system are the kidneys, which respond to those hormones released by the brain and also use their own sensors. The kidneys conserve or release water and salt by changing the amount and concentration of your urine. This is why doctors recommend paying attention to pee color to make sure you&rsquore properly hydrated: The color of your urine is a reliable, personalized measure of hydration status. If your urine is yellow or darker, your body could use some water. As long as it&rsquos straw colored or lighter, you&rsquore doing great.
DAY 4: Count your coffee and tea.
Today your goal is to choose between coffee or tea and enjoy it as part of your 360° hydration. That&rsquos because the idea that coffee and tea are dehydrating is a myth. &ldquoWe absolutely can count coffee and tea as fluid,&rdquo Majumdar says. &ldquoThe only fluid we would not want to count is alcohol.&rdquo
The myth that coffee and tea dehydrate the body may date back to a 1928 study that involved injecting caffeine into rabbits&mdasha much different method of consumption than most people use to enjoy coffee. While caffeine is a diuretic, which means it encourages the body to produce urine, as long as you&rsquore drinking water alongside it, your body&rsquos osmoregulatory system absorbs all the water you need before you pee. In fact, since the 1920s, several studies, including one from 2014 in which men drank either 27 ounces of coffee or the same amount of water and had their urinary and blood markers of hydration measured over three days, have shown that coffee and tea provide just as much hydration as water.
Beware, however, if you&rsquore the kind of person to drink a cup of coffee and then bury yourself in Excel for hours: &ldquoWe can override [our natural thirst mechanism] by being busy or distracted,&rdquo Majumdar says. Keeping a water bottle nearby can help&mdashsome, such as models from Hydromate, come with goal lines and motivational slogans on them. Fun beverages, such as infused and sparkling waters, both of which hydrate just as well as the plain stuff, can inspire you to drink more often too. There are even hydration reminder apps, such as Waterminder, to help your body bump its thirst message to the top of your inbox.
DAY 5: How are you feeling?
More than halfway through this challenge, today we want you to think about, and write down, how prioritizing your hydration is working (or not) for you. Do you feel more energy, less foggy? Or maybe you&rsquove decided the coconut La Croix just isn&rsquot your favorite, and it&rsquos back to pamplemousse you&rsquoll go.
There are no right or wrong answers, because &ldquothere's no part of our body that doesn&rsquot benefit from water,&rdquo says Brigitte Zeitlin, a registered dietician who counsels clients through her practice BZ Nutrition. &ldquoWater affects our digestive system. It affects how our brain functions. It affects how our muscles contract and relax. It keeps our joints lubricated. It helps regulate our body temperature.&rdquo
Being properly hydrated may even help you lose weight: It is very common to mistake thirst for hunger and eat calories your body doesn&rsquot need. On top of that, studies have found additional weight loss among dieters who drank water before eating versus those who did not.
Consider checking in about your hydration as part of your self-care routine even after this challenge is over&mdashwhether it&rsquos part of a journaling exercise or setting a calendar reminder.
DAY 6: Look at sports drinks differently.
Today your goal is to put an athlete worthy event on your calendar (something feasible for you, like a 5K or half marathon), and then consider reaching for the Gatorade. Until then&mdashunless you&rsquore feeling sick&mdashyou don&rsquot need sports drinks to hydrate.
Sports drink companies have made us believe that all we need to perform like all-star running backs is a neon beverage full of electrolytes. But the truth is the other way around: Athletes need sports drinks, and the rest of us, well, don&rsquot. &ldquoIf you&rsquore not an athlete&mdashand by athlete I mean you are training for a marathon, you are running five to six plus miles a day, you&rsquore training for triathlons, you&rsquore an Olympic medalist&mdashsports drinks can be high in sugar and other additives that will really backfire on your overall health goals,&rdquo Zeitlin says.
How do you know if you&rsquore doing enough to need replenishment? &ldquoThe simplest approach is to weigh yourself before practice, then weigh yourself after practice or any type of training session,&rdquo says Murray. If you are pretty close to where you started, you&rsquove done a good job of hydrating. If you&rsquove lost considerable weight, you&rsquore dehydrated, and should consume water and perhaps a replenishing meal, like a banana and peanut butter, or go for a sports beverage containing electrolytes. You can also look for salt rings on your clothes. &ldquoIf you wear a hat during exercise or a shirt and there's white residue that&rsquos left over, that's an indication you&rsquore a salty sweater,&rdquo Murray says, and that&rsquos extra incentive to choose a sports drink over water.
One more time sports drinks can make sense is when you need to get water into the body continuously, such as when you&rsquore sick or are exercising in high heat. &ldquoThe science of sports drinks is pretty much the same science that bartenders have known for centuries: Put salty snacks on the bar, and people drink more,&rdquo Murray says. The reason sports drinks work so well is that they maintain the salt-driven desire to continue drinking. &ldquoSo sports drinks aren&rsquot really thirst quenchers so much as they are thirst maintainers,&rdquo Murray says. &ldquoAnd that&rsquos exactly what we want to have happen.&rdquo
DAY 7: Thangry is your new hangry.
Congratulations! You&rsquove made it to the seventh and last day of this challenge. Today&rsquos goal is to track your mood alongside your hydration status, the final and most nuanced step in listening to your own body&rsquos needs.
When you&rsquore feeling tired or irritable (or both), could you use some water? One of the ways our bodies motivate us to drink water is by making dehydration feel unpleasant. Even mild dehydration can make you feel tired or brain foggy. You may have trouble concentrating, get muscle cramps, feel lightheaded, and perform worse in sports. And you&rsquoll probably get moody. The term &ldquothangry&rdquo hasn&rsquot caught on the same way the portmanteau of hungry and angry has, but that doesn&rsquot mean thirst crankiness isn&rsquot real. &ldquoWhen we get dehydrated, we get grouchy,&rdquo says Stookey, and sorry but &ldquothat&rsquos especially true for women.&rdquo
In 2015, two researchers from Swansea University in Wales published an article reviewing thirty studies on the effects of hydration on mood and cognition. Twenty-one of those studies explicitly measured people&rsquos mood, and every single one of those found that dehydration made mood worse. This effect may be more pronounced in people with ovaries, because estrogen affects the body&rsquos water balance and kidney function and may affect the sensitivity of thirst-causing neurons.
&ldquoMore often than not, if you&rsquore feeling a little bit irritable, if you&rsquore feeling cravings, if you&rsquore feeling brain fog, if you&rsquore feeling low energy, it&rsquos hydration,&rdquo says Zeitlin, who notes that she tries to encourage her clients to pay attention to their internal feelings rather than automatically reaching for sugar or caffeine. &ldquoI&rsquom hoping that mindfulness is a trend for 2021,&rdquo she says. &ldquoAnd that carries over to being mindful of your hydration.&rdquo
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Your migraine headaches seem worse.
The sugars and artificial sweeteners in Coke and Diet Coke may trigger headaches. Or the combo of sweeteners and the dehydrating effect of the caffeine in Cokes may put your head pain over the top. A review of headache triggers in the Clinical Journal of Pain in 2009 suggests that aspartame, the sweetener in Diet Coke and other diet sodas may make headaches worse when people susceptible to migraines consume the amount of aspartame found in five or more diet sodas. (Related: 10 Foods That May Be Triggering Your Headaches.)
Articles in this series will examine Americans’ changing eating habits.
Slowly, the messages appear to have sunk in with the public. By 2003, 60 percent of Americans said they wanted to lose weight, according to Gallup, up from 52 percent in 1990 and 35 percent in the 1950s.
The Obama administration has increased pressure. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, required chain restaurants to publish the calorie content of their meals. The federal government has also changed requirements, making school lunches healthier, although the effort has created some backlash.
Several cities have gone further. Philadelphia subsidizes produce purchases for the poor. New York limits the kind of food available in day care centers. Berkeley, Calif., last year became the first city in the United States to tax sugar-sweetened beverages. The evidence for the effectiveness of these interventions is mixed, but their popularity reflects public health officials’ emphasis on diet and obesity.
Still, the timeline of the calorie declines suggests that people started eating a little less before policy makers got involved. That follows the pattern for tobacco use, which peaked right around the time of the 1964 surgeon general’s report. The policy changes that many credit with the country’s sharp reductions in smoking — advertising bans, warning labels, taxes and restrictions on smoking in public — came later, accelerating change after attitudes had already begun to shift.
The anti-obesity public health campaigns have focused on one subject more than any other: beverages.
Anti-soda messages hit their target. Americans, on average, purchased about 40 gallons of full-calorie soda a year in 1998, according to sales data from the industry trade publication Beverage Digest analyzed by the Center for Science in the Public Interest. That fell to 30 gallons in 2014, about the level that Americans bought in 1980, before the obesity rates took off.
“I think the attitude more and more in this country is that it’s not a good idea to consume a lot of soda,” said Dr. Satcher, now a professor at the Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta.
Beverage companies have reacted by marketing diet drinks and investing heavily in new products, including iced teas and flavored water. “A lot of the changes we are seeing are consumer-driven,” said John Sicher, Beverage Digest’s publisher.
Outside of beverages, there are few clear trends. Experts who have examined the data say the reductions do not mean that Americans are flocking to farmer’s markets and abandoning fast food. Consumption of fruits and vegetables remains low consumption of desserts remains high. Instead, people appear to be eating a little less of everything. Although consumption in nearly every category has been “cut some,” said Mr. Popkin, “the food part of our diet is horrendous and remains horrendous.”
The calorie reductions are seen across nearly every demographic group, but not equally. White families have reduced their calorie consumption more than black and Hispanic families. Most starkly, families with children have cut back more than households with adults living alone, further evidence, experts say, that the public health emphasis on childhood obesity is driving the changes.
Ms. Lopes-Filho said she’s seen how her concern about her son’s diet has subtly changed her own eating habits. “I think I’m still sneaking stuff behind his back, but I have tried to change,” she said. “I haven’t been drinking soda or doing a lot of sugary drinks in a while, but all because of him — because I know that if I have it, he’s going to want it. And there’s really no fair way to say, ‘No, this is Mommy’s drink.’ ”
Perhaps the biggest caveat to the trend is that it does not appear to extend to the very heaviest Americans. Among the most overweight people, weight and waist circumference have all continued rising in recent years.
The recent calorie reductions appear to be good news, but they, alone, will not be enough to reverse the obesity epidemic. A paper by Kevin Hall, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health, estimated that for Americans to return to the body weights of 1978 by 2020, an average adult would need to reduce calorie consumption by 220 calories a day. The recent reductions represent just a fraction of that change.
“This was like a freight train going downhill without brakes,” Kelly Brownell, dean of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University, said. “Anything slowing it down is good.”
More information about the data sources we examined, and their various strengths and weaknesses, can be found here.
Medicinal Soft Drinks and Coca-Cola Fiends: The Toxic History of Soda Pop
Soda’s reputation has fallen a bit flat lately: The all-American beverage most recently made headlines due to an FDA investigation of a potential carcinogen, commonly called “caramel coloring,” used in many soft-drink recipes. This bit of drama follows other recent stories that paint an unflattering picture of the soda industry, including New York’s attempt to ban super-sized drinks, the eviction of soda machines from many public schools, and a spate of new soda-tax proposals. All these regulations are designed to mitigate the unhealthy impacts of Big Soda, such as increasing childhood obesity, in the same way restrictions were slapped on cigarettes in years past.
“The drink became symbolic of America, and even freedom in a way. It made Coca-Cola more than just another fizzy drink.”
Faced with all this bad press, it’s hard to believe that the “evil” soft drink actually began as a health product, touted for its many beneficial effects. In fact, soda got its start in Europe, where the healing powers of natural mineral waters have been prescribed for hundreds of years. Bathing or drinking the water from these natural spas was thought to cure a wide variety of illnesses. Tristan Donovan, the author of Fizz: How Soda Shook Up the World, says that the ailments treated with bubbling spring waters constituted a “ludicrously big list,” everything from gallstones to scurvy. (In reality, the beverage did little more than settle an upset stomach, without any adverse side effects.)
Despite the broad appeal of mineral water, packaging and transporting this effervescent liquid proved difficult, so chemists set out to make their own. “It took until 1767 for the real breakthrough to happen when Joseph Priestley, the British chemist who was the first to identify oxygen, figured out a way to put carbon dioxide into water,” says Donovan. Priestley’s process used a fermenting yeast mash to infuse water with the gas, resulting in a weakly carbonated drink. Proponents of the bubbly beverage’s healthful properties were thrilled.
Top: A Coke advertisement from 1907. Above: Early soda machines required oversized cranks to manually carbonate water, like these devices from the 1870s.
In 1783, the Swiss scientist Johann Jacob Schweppe improved on Priestley’s process with a device for carbonating water using a hand-cranked compression pump, launching the now-famous Schweppes company. Yet it was still virtually impossible to get carbonated water to market without losing its fizz, as drinks in corked stoneware bottles tended to go flat quickly and glass bottles weren’t widely available. Charles Plinth solved part of the problem with his soda syphon in 1813, which could dispense bubbly water without compromising the remaining mixture’s carbonation, though syphons still had to be refilled at a facility that actually produced the carbonated liquid.
Finally, in 1832, the English-born American inventor John Matthews developed a lead-lined chamber wherein sulphuric acid and powdered marble (also known as calcium carbonate) were mixed together to generate carbon dioxide. The gas was then purified and manually mixed into cool water with steady agitation, creating carbonated water. Matthews’ design worked either as a bottling unit or a soda fountain, since it produced enough carbonated water to last customers all day. But America’s weak glass industry still wasn’t able to support large-scale bottling plants, so the simplest way to sell soda water was at public fountains.
Left, a Schweppes ad from 1937, more than 150 years after the mineral water company was founded. Right, early carbonated waters were sometimes sold in rounded “torpedo” bottles, forcing them to lie flat so the liquid contents would dampen the cork, preventing it from shrinking.
“If I were going to single out one person as creating the carbonated drink industry, I would give credit to Benjamin Silliman, even though he eventually failed financially,” says Anne Funderburg, the author of Sundae Best: A History of Soda Fountains.
An illustration of a French soda water apparatus, featuring soda syphons and carbonating machines below the counter, circa 1830s.
“Silliman was a chemistry professor at Yale College, and he wanted to supplement his small paycheck while also doing something altruistic for mankind. Silliman believed that carbonated waters could be used as medicine, so he set up a business in New Haven, Connecticut, selling bottled carbonated water.” Though Silliman had little success selling the drink at his local apothecary, he decided to expand his business, designing a larger-capacity carbonation apparatus and securing investments to open two pump rooms in New York City.
In 1809, Silliman started selling his soda water at the Tontine coffeehouse and the City Hotel, elegant establishments that catered to an elite clientele (the Tontine was in the same building as the New York Stock Exchange). In addition to their supposedly beneficial products, these early soda fountains were designed to create an uplifting environment, adorned with marble counters and ornate brass soda dispensers. However, Silliman continued to focus on the medical benefits of his soda water, while his competitors recognized that the social aspects of drinking were potentially more appealing.
In their heyday, soda fountains were elaborately designed places for rejuvenation. Left, the counter at the Clarkson & Mitchell Drugstore in Springfield, Illinois, circa 1905. Via the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Right, an 1894 ad for an ornate fountain produced by Charles Lippincott & Co.
“People who had better business sense than Silliman set up their pump rooms like a spa: You came to drink your carbonated water, but you hung around reading the free books and conversing with other intelligent people who were also there to drink carbonated water,” says Funderburg. “They understood that you could make a real business out of it, where Silliman treated soda more as a medicine.” Though the servers at Tontine recognized that customers preferred soda water as a mixer, it remained a slow seller, and eventually Silliman was forced out of the industry. Even as Silliman’s company failed, the soda trend was catching, and successful fountains soon popped up in other cities like Philadelphia and Baltimore.
Because carbonated water was still viewed as a health drink, the first soda shops were situated in drugstores and closely linked with their pharmacies. “Part of the reason they became so entwined is that the process of carbonating water and making syrups or flavorings was something pharmacists already had the skill set to do,” Donovan explains. “They were the obvious people to take this on, and they started adding in ingredients they thought were health-providing. Sarsaparilla was linked to curing syphilis. Phosphoric acid was seen as something that could help hypertension and other problems.” Long-standing favorites like ginger ale and root beer were also initially prized for their medicinal qualities.
According to Darcy O’Neil, author of Fix the Pumps, pharmacists initially used sweet-tasting soda flavors to mask the taste of bitter medicines like quinine and iron, as most medication was taken in liquid form during this era. Plus, many pharmaceutical tinctures and tonics were already mixed with alcohol, which made even the most pungent medicinal flavors enticing. “Many of the elixirs and tonics contained as much alcohol as a shot of whiskey,” writes O’Neil. “This was popular with both the imbiber and pharmacy. The imbiber could get an alcoholic drink at a fraction of the bar’s price because there were no taxes on alcohol-based ‘medicine.’”
Acid phosphates like Horsford’s, seen in these advertisements from the 1870s, gave many soda fountain drinks a distinctively tart flavor.
Besides booze, sodas of the 19th century also incorporated drugs with much stronger side effects, including ingredients now known as narcotics. Prior to the Pure Food & Drug Act of 1906, there were few legal restrictions on what could be put into soda-fountain beverages. Many customers came to soda fountains early in the morning to get a refreshing and “healthy” beverage to start their day off right: Terms like “bracer” and “pick-me-up” referred to the physical and mental stimulation sodas could provide, whether from caffeine or other addictive substances.
Pharmacists were soon making soda mixtures with stronger drugs known as “nervines,” a category that included strychnine, cannabis, morphine, opium, heroin, and a new miracle compound called cocaine, which was first isolated in 1855. “Cocaine was a wonder drug at the time when it was first discovered,” Donovan explains. “It was seen as this marvelous medicine that could do you no harm. Ingredients like cocaine or kola nuts or phosphoric acid were all viewed as something that really gave you an edge.
“Cocaine was a wonder drug at the time when it was first discovered. It was seen as this marvelous medicine that could do you no harm.”
“Recipes I’ve seen suggest it was about 0.01 grams of cocaine used in fountain sodas. That’s about a tenth of a line of coke,” he says. “It’s hard to be sure, but I don’t think it would’ve given people a massive high. It would definitely be enough to have some kind of effect, probably stronger than coffee.” While the dosages were small, they were certainly habit-forming, and soda fountains stood to profit from such consistent customers.
Throughout the mid-19th century, soda fountains spread clear across the U.S., and a niche health drink became a beloved American refreshment, capable of competing with the best cocktails in the world. Soda throwers or soda jerks, as they were later called (after the jerking arm movement required to operate the taps), had to be just as skilled as bartenders at mixing drinks in fact, many bartenders started working at soda fountains once the industry was booming.
“Around that time, it became obvious to the medical profession that there weren’t any health benefits to carbonated water on its own, so people started selling it as a treat,” says Funderburg. “It’s hard to put our heads around how much of a treat cold fizzy water was back then. People didn’t have mechanical refrigeration, so to have a cold drink was a big deal. They flavored them with chocolate or fruit syrups, and citrus fruits like lime and lemon became favorites.”
By the early 20th century, soda fountains were an integral part of neighborhood drugstores, such as this counter in the People’s Drug Store, in Washington, D.C. pharmacy, circa 1920. Via Shorpy.
Presumably, as soon as carbonated water was commercially available, people were adding their own flavorings to spice things up. “The earliest advertisement I’ve managed to find for something we would call soda was from 1807, and that was a sparkling lemonade being sold in York,” says Donovan. “It could have been a fairly new idea, but people had flavored still water for years beforehand.”
Lemon drinks made up the first of many flavor fads to hit the soda industry, likely because un-carbonated lemonade was a familiar refreshment. According to O’Neil, lemon syrups were already used as a base flavor for many medicines, so concocting a tasty drink with these was natural. Beyond lemon, all manner of citrus-flavored sodas were enjoyed in the mid-1800s, in part because their essential oils were easy to extract and preserve. Other fountain staples included orange, vanilla, cherry, and wintergreen, although shops were always testing new recipes looking for the latest hip drink. Most soda mixtures were made using a sugary simple syrup, but popular flavors were often far more tart than today’s sodas.
One of the most complete records of these innovative cocktails is DeForest Saxe’s 1894 book entitled Saxe’s New Guide, or, Hints to Soda Water Dispensers. In its pages, Saxe illuminates his own experience working a soda fountain, detailing tips for pouring sodas, keeping them cold, and making an extensive list of drink recipes. From a “Tulip Peach” to a “Swizzle Fizz,” or an “Opera Bouquet” to an “Almond Sponge,” Saxe covered the wildest new flavor sensations in addition to the classic egg creams and flavored phosphates. But despite their fantastic names, Saxe’s recipes notably avoid the medicinal ingredients many soda fountains relied upon to give their drinks a kick.
An illustration of proper mixing form as published in Saxe’s 1894 book.
By the turn of the 20th century, many Americans had begun to recognize the dangers of serving unregulated medications in such a casual manner. In 1902, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled “They Thirst for Cocaine: Soda Fountain Fiends Multiplying,” which focused on the questionable ingredients in popular drinks like Coca-Cola. However, Donovan says that judging from the small quantities of cocaine in actual recipes, it’s doubtful that there were many soda-addicted fiends.
In the 1890s, Coke was directly marketed as a medicinal drink.
In fact, Coke was developed while looking for an antidote to the common morphine addictions that followed the Civil War: Veteran and pharmacist John Stith Pemberton concocted the original Coca-Cola mixture while experimenting with opiate-free painkillers to soothe his own war wounds. The company’s first advertisement ran on the patent-medicine page of the Atlanta Journal in 1886, and made it clear that Coca-Cola was viewed as a health drink, “containing the properties of the wonderful Coca plant and the famous Cola nuts.”
Of course, these were also the properties of your basic uppers: Cocaine is a coca leaf extract, and the African kola nut is known for its high caffeine content. Once the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 required narcotics to be clearly labelled, the majority of Coca-Cola’s cocaine was removed, though it took until 1929 for the company to develop a method that could eliminate all traces of the drug.
However, at the turn of the 20th century, the harshest public criticism was reserved for a different devilish drink—alcohol. As temperance groups rallied against booze, they helped propel teetotaling customers into American soda fountains. In 1919, the year before Prohibition took effect, there were already 126,000 soda fountains in the United States, far exceeding the number of bars and nightclubs today. “Soda had always played up the temperance link,” says Donovan. “Even before Prohibition, sodas like Hires Root Beer were presented as non-alcoholic drinks and marketed that way. Lots of fizzy-drink companies encouraged the temperance movement, and they were generally quite pleased from a business perspective when Prohibition came in. Their sales rose. People couldn’t go to bars anymore so they turned to soda fountains instead.”
Hires’ Root Beer was originally sold as a temperance drink, seen in this ad from 1893.
Bottled soda sales were also booming as companies increasingly marketed their drinks for home consumption. The crown cork, a predecessor to today’s familiar bottle cap, was invented by William Painter in 1892, finally improving sanitation and solving leakage issues with earlier corked bottles. “The bottle cap really sealed the deal, because before that the process was quite difficult and the stoppers weren’t particularly secure,” Donovan says. “Even though they could produce and fill bottles en masse, keeping them clean and the seals strong proved quite tricky. Essentially, the bottle cap was the invention that allowed bottles to get past their reputation of being faulty containers that exploded or had insects and dirt slipping into them at the factory.”
Though Coke had established a major soda-fountain presence by the late 1890s, the company’s long-term success depended on getting their drink into bottles. “At the time, Coca-Cola didn’t really like the idea of bottled drinks,” explains Donovan. “They thought bottles were dirty, and setting up bottling plants and distribution networks was very expensive, so they were better off just shipping their syrup around.” But in 1899, two entrepreneurs named Joseph Whitehead and Benjamin Thomas convinced Coca-Cola co-founder Asa Griggs Candler to give them the exclusive rights to bottle his product. Coke would soon become the greatest success of the bottling movement.
Instead of building their own bottling facilities, Whitehead and Thomas came up with a more clever solution—selling franchises to regional bottlers all over the country. “They divided the U.S. up into small territories and sold Coca-Cola bottling licenses to all these local businessmen. This meant that the company didn’t have to put any money into this huge expansion. Their biggest competitor at the time, Moxie, refused to do this and, ultimately, got left behind,” says Donovan. Additionally, Moxie’s flavor was much more tart than Coke’s, making it an outlier as mainstream sodas came to depend on more sugary recipes.
Left, early Coca-Cola ads, like this one from 1905, emphasized its energizing medicinal effects on the mind. Right, in 1921, the company promoted its soda fountain drinks with ads that outlined the best way to hand-craft a Coke.
By the end of the 1920s, more Coca-Cola was sold in bottles than served at fountains. And over the next decade, the repeal of Prohibition combined with America’s growing car culture to hasten the demise of the ubiquitous pharmacy soda fountain. “When roadside stands like Dairy Queen started opening up after World War II, they were taking customers away from soda fountains,” says Funderburg. “Americans were spending a lot of time in their cars and moving to the suburbs, so most of the drugstores on Main Street were in decline. Soda fountains were also labor intensive, while retail was moving to a self-serve model.”
The final step in Coke’s global expansion occurred during World War II, when the company declared that all American troops should have access to a bottle of Coke for 5 cents. By aggressively expanding abroad and using creative methods to deliver their products, like pop-up soda fountains, the company made good on its promise. “Obviously, that made the U.S. troops very loyal to them, but it also made Coca-Cola iconic around the world,” says Donovan. “At the end of the war, in the bombed-out cities of Europe where food was in short supply, one of the things first you might see was U.S. troops—these well-fed heroes who helped liberate you—carrying bottles of Coca-Cola. The drink became symbolic of America—and even freedom in a way. It made Coca-Cola more than just another fizzy drink.”
During the 1940s, Coca-Cola built soda fountains in far-flung locations in order to serve its drinks directly to American troops, like at this fountain in the Philippines.
Our thirst for carbonated drinks clearly didn’t evaporate along with soda shops: Instead, consumers turned to the convenience of bottled beverages, as Big Soda took over from locally crafted drinks. Following the war, many Americans purchased their first home refrigerators, further bolstering the market for bottled sodas. After being forced to remove their narcotic ingredients, sodas increasingly relied on sugar to hook their customers. And as the soda giants continued to grow, these companies tweaked their recipes to lower overall costs, turning to cheaper ingredients like corn syrup and caramel coloring.
“Coca-Cola, Dr. Pepper, Pepsi, and Moxie all started out as soft drinks that were supposed to have some medical benefit,” says Funderburg. “Nobody worried about sugar in the late 19th century. That was an era when people wanted to be plump women were supposed to be full-figured back then. Certainly, no one worried about their weight the way we do today.”
Along with new policies that restrict where sodas are sold, our growing awareness of soda’s unhealthy impact is hurting soda sales. Although the carbonated soft drink remains a remarkably American beverage (we consume around 13 billion gallons a year, or a full third of global sales), statistics show a decline in American soda purchases over the last few years. At the same time, bottled artisanal sodas have made a comeback everywhere from Whole Foods to corner bodegas. Even a few authentic soda fountains have opened in recent years to re-create the complicated drinks of yore, like Blueplate in Portland, Oregon, Ice Cream Bar in San Francisco, or Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia.
Through 1950, the ingredients for 7UP included lithium citrate, a mood-enhancer—this ad is from the 1930s.
“There’s definitely a soda movement that seems to be echoing the shift toward craft beer,” says Donovan. “People are trying to use more local, natural ingredients in contrast to the big, monolithic brands. There’s a push to make soda more real again, rather than this overprocessed, industrial thing.” Only recently have studies begun to show that sugars can be just as addictive as drugs like morphine and cocaine, making sweeteners one of the industry’s greatest challenges.
“Sugar or any kind of sweetener is quite crucial to the flavor of these drinks. Artificial sweeteners got tainted, possibly wrongfully, by their link to carcinogens. So soda has been struggling with the fact that people are distrustful of artificial sweeteners, and—let’s be frank—they don’t taste as good as sugar. The soda industry’s approach is putting a lot of faith into finding natural sweeteners that taste just as good as sugar and have no calories in them. It could be quite a game changer if they do.”
Regardless of whatever “healthy” new recipes these companies come up with, if history is any measure, they’ll probably turn out to be terrible for you.
The Franklin Fountain in Philadelphia replicates the classic soda-fountain atmosphere and vintage recipes like juleps, phosphates, and egg creams. Via thefranklinfountain on flickr.
French Sodas Taste Like Liquid Creamsicles, and We Are Here for It
We all want to live life like we’re on vacation in France, and though that is sadly not possible, we’ve found a way you can be one step closer: French sodas. The combination of fizzy water, flavored simple syrup, and a splash of half-and-half over ice is exactly what you want in between your morning cold brew and your it’s-finally-late-enough-to-start-drinking rosé sangria.
At Bellecour in Wayzata, MN, they started serving French sodas last year as a summertime treat. “They’re increasingly popular,” says general manager Jeanie Janas. “People are asking about them, learning what they are. And now that summer has arrived we’re excited to try new combinations.” On the menu right now they have rosemary-berry, cocoa nib-coriander, lavender-vanilla, and—while it’s in season—a rhubarb-orange zest, using syrup from roasted rhubarb they use in another dessert.
A pro pouring half-and-half from up high at Bellecour.
The execution is easy and the possibilities are pretty much endless, which is what makes us excited to play around with them at home. You start by choosing a flavor base, which can be as simple as fruits like nectarines, peaches, or plums. Then add other ingredients like citrus zest, or spices like cinnamon or cardamom. Take inspiration from pie fillings if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
You then take your chosen flavors and bring them to a boil in a pot along with water and sugar, just like you would a normal simple syrup. In this case, though, Janas recommends changing up the normal 1:1 ratio since whatever fruit you’re using will bring its own sweetness. “About 60 percent water to 40 percent sugar is what you want,” she says. Once the sugar has dissolved, you let everything steep and cool, and then strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
Now, time to make a drink. Grab a glass and fill it with ice. Pour in 1 oz. of half-and-half, and ½ oz. of the cooled syrup, then top it off with about 6 oz. of fizzy water. For those who can’t have dairy, milk substitutes work just fine (they offer almond and macadamia milk at the restaurant).
“The best thing about these is that they are refreshing but satisfying at the same,” Janas explains. “You have the fizzy water which lightens the drink up, and then the cream which makes it richer and gives it a nice mouthfeel. Basically, it’s not heavy even though it has depth to it. It’s like a creamsicle.” And you don’t even have to chase down the ice cream truck to get one.
How Much Water Should You Drink Every Day?
One of the more common New Year&aposs resolutions I&aposve heard my friends bandy about this year is to drink more water. And as far as resolutions go, staying hydrated is one of the more reasonable ones. (I might refer you to my own resolutions, which include running a half-marathon even though I can barely run three miles, but that&aposs a whole other story.) But setting this resolution begs the question: how much water should you drink every day? Now, we can all agree that being dehydrated sucks. According to the Mayo Clinic, the symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, dizziness, and confusion. Being dehydrated is totally preventable, though, as long as you drink enough water. The trick, of course, is figuring out how much water you need to drink to stay hydrated.
This is a topic about which I&aposm asked regularly, ever since an article I wrote about how I drank 96 ounces of water every day to cure my acne went viral. I think people think that I&aposm some sort of internet evangelist for drinking more water, and to this day, I get tweets and emails and Facebook messages from complete strangers about my experiment in hydration and healthy living. They wonder if I&aposm still drinking the daily recommended amount of water and if it&aposs really fixed my skincare woes. The answer to both of those questions is no. I don&apost still drink 96 ounces of water every single day, and I still break out, especially when I&aposm dehydrated and overtired.
It&aposs not that I&aposm not interested in staying hydrated, but I&aposve long thrown the whole goal of drinking 96 ounces of water a day out the window. Part of the reason is because I literally couldn&apost keep up with it. 96 ounces of water is a lot of water—though, in defense of the Institute of Medicine, whose guidelines for daily water consumption informed my initial weeklong experiment, women need to consume only 91 ounces of water every day to adequately hydrated, not 96 ounces.
91 ounces is still about eight full glasses, which is the amount of water you should drink according to conventional wisdom. Men, meanwhile, need to consume 125ounces of water every single day, which definitely seems like an absurd amount of water. Forcing myself to drink that much water every single day was enough to drive me insane𠅊nd straight to the bathroom every hour to pee. I felt like it was a chore, another thing to check off my to-do list, and after a while, it felt like I was experiencing diminishing returns. Drinking three full Nalgene bottles of water didn&apost make me feel significantly better than if I only drank two, though I did feel very, very guilty about it.
Forcing myself to drink 96 ounces of water every single day was enough to drive me insane&mdashand straight to the bathroom every hour to pee.
Turns out, I shouldn&apost feel guilty about dropping the daily water goal, because there is no such a thing as the "right" amount of water. As Dr. Natasha Sandy, celebrity dermatologist and wellness expert explained in an email, that whole "eight glasses of water" thing isn&apost supported by much research. "In reality it varies based on general health and activity," she explained. "What we know for sure is a well hydrated body functions better 70% of the body is water." But that amount of water is different for every body and depends heavily on environmental factors.
Kimberly Gomer, MS, RD, LDN, and the director of nutrition at Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, Florida, seconded that point, and even recommended against forcing yourself to drink a certain amount of water daily. "We should drink according to thirst—when we exercise, when it’s hot, etc.," she explained in an email. "There is no need to keep water by your desk and try to force yourself to drink more. It is like going to the bathroom," she continued. "Do you need to give yourself encouragement to do that? No, you just go when you have the urge or need to. It is the same with drinking water, drink when you’re thirsty."
Drink a Seltzer
It’s good to know you’re not alone, right? If you’re reading this article you probably love soda water, and you may even be drinking one right now. You and tens of millions of other Americans.
So if the seltzer bug has really got you, I’ve got you covered. If you want to dig deeper into this subject, check out this amazing video on seltzer by Quartz:
By the way, I’m totally drinking a soda water right now. Can you guess what flavor? Comment below with your answer or with your favorite type or brand of soda water.