Soda: another four-letter word. There is something about popping the top of a can or unscrewing a cap, especially as the weather becomes warm. When most of us think of soda, however, we may associate it with high fructose corn syrup, artificial ingredients and perhaps a copious amount of caffeine. Soft drinks should be fun to drink, but they don’t have to be hard on our bodies to accomplish this.

According to industry newsletter Beverage Digest, soda sales have been in decline since 2005 as increasingly health-conscious consumers “turn to options they see as healthier.” This search for healthy options was also a catalyst for New York City’s contested and heated ban on large sugary drinks. But the negative associations we may have with soda are changing as more brands challenge the pretense that soft drinks have to rely on some old formula that relies on questionable ingredients. Willy Street Co-op offers several brands.

zevia
We’ll begin at the end of the alphabet with Zevia, an independent brand that was formed in Seattle in 2007. Zevia is a model of change in the soft drink industry because its founders wanted a new choice in soda. They were tired of “choosing between chemicals and calories.” Ninety-Seven percent of this soda is sweetened with Stevia, while the other three percent is comprised of erythritol, “a natural component of fruits and vegetables classified as a sugar alcohol, even though it is neither sugar nor alcohol.” Unlike myriad soft drink options, Zevia has zero effect on blood sugar and zero calories. There are many flavors to choose from, and some do contain caffeine. From Ginger Root Beer to Strawberry to Cola, there is a flavor for every palate. Zevia is available in six packs or individually.

Wisconsin-Born
Although marketed as sparkling water, LaCroix is soda. A playful tidbit about LaCroix is that its name is a marriage of LaCrosse, Wisconsin and the St. Croix River between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Like Zevia, its neighbor in the Willy West beverage cooler, LaCroix doesn’t have calories or sugar. It does however, like many sodas and packaged products, contain the ubiquitous “natural flavors.” A call to the company inquiring about these natural flavors resulted in a verbal echo of the company’s website offering: they are comprised of essential oils devoid of sugars, added sugars, or artificial ingredients. This was the general sentiment among all of the companies contacted; natural flavors are often proprietary, meaning they are the property of each individual company. LaCroix also serves as an excellent mixer for other, more complex drinks. Willy Street Co-op West offers LaCroix in cases of 12 or individual cans.

Wetting the Lips with Dry
Dry Soda is the newest addition to the beverage aisle. Like Zevia, it originated in Seattle and is the creation of a mother with four children who not only wanted an alternative to unhealthy soda, she wanted to enjoy soda with a meal that would normally be paired with wine. Dry is wine lingo for “less sweet.” Substituting soda for wine is novel, but it has been working well on the along the west coast, from Washington to California. Each bottle of Dry contains only four ingredients and is sweetened with pure cane sugar. DrySoda.com has numerous food pairing recipes that sound like nirvana: spicy tofu lettuce wraps with Cucumber Dry or California watercress salad with grilled chicken and vinaigrette paired with Vanilla Bean Dry are two examples. For your reference, Dry also publishes the names of the restaurants where the pairings originated. Dry is available in packs of four and comes in five additional flavors other than the two mentioned above: Lavender, Wild Lime, Rhubarb, Juniper Berry and Blood Orange. Willy East sells them individually too.

Under the Bright Blue Sky
A walk into the beverage aisle or cooler will reveal numerous options from Blue Sky, a company that was founded in New Mexico. Blue Sky’s focus is “on what’s important—delicious, all natural, bubbly refreshment.” Their Free soda is sweetened with Truvia and Erythritol and has a calorie count of zero, thus the Free moniker. If organic is more your style, Blue Sky Organic is USDA-Certified Organic and is sweetened with organic cane juice. A natural version made with real sugar is also available. Of the soft drink selections available at Willy Street Co-op, Blue Sky offers the widest assortment and broadest range of flavor choices, like Jamaican Ginger Ale and Wild Raspberry. It is available in packs of six or individually.

Fill Up the Cooler
While you might not expect a natural foods cooperative to recommend the consumption of soda, there truly is an expanding distinction between what the public has recognized as soda for so long, and what soda is evolving into. Willy Street Co-op offers several soft drink companies like those listed above that provide healthier alternatives for soda drinkers. So fill up the cooler and enjoy the day; soda is no longer a four-letter word.

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