Ranking Prebiotic Sodas by Taste (and Asking a Doctor What They Even Do)

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When I was a kid, I drank a lot of pop. Usually Pepsi, or my favorite: the diet cherry vanilla Dr. Pepper, which I’m not sure is still around. Many studies and doctor’s claims have led to the admonishing of pop as a drink; it’s high in sugar from sweeteners like high fructose corn syrup or table sugar. It’s got all manner of dyes and additives in it. If you are a child of the 90s, you’ve probably been exposed to the campaign against pop and the subsequent rise of diet drinks that ensued.

Now, in the 2020s, there are new drinks on the horizon, drinks that make big claims about what they can do for your health. One such drink is the prebiotic soda, a soda that contains prebiotics and sometimes probiotics that are supposed to boost or enhance gut health. My best friend Shanai turned me on to prebiotic sodas, one brand in particular that we’ll cover later. But are these drinks any good — for you and taste-wise?

After I got sober, I was on the sparkling water train and still am. I drank cans and cans of it a day, undeterred because it counted toward my daily water intake. Finding drinks that scratch the alcohol craving itch for me is essential, and right now that thing is prebiotic sodas.

Right now, the three big brands in the US are Olipop, Poppi, and Wildwonder. These are the ones you’ll most likely find at your local Target or any health food store in your area. So, I’m here to give you a rundown of these sodas, the ones I’ve tried, which ones are worth buying, and which ones you should stay away from. Then, I talk to Kira Newman, MD PhD about some of the claims advertisers make about these drinks.


Strawberry Vanilla

I’d rank this one probably a 6/10. Very heavy on the strawberry but light on the vanilla.

Cherry Vanilla

Absolutely perfect, no notes on this one. 10/10

Vintage Cola

Very good cola flavor, perfect when ice cold. It really tastes like a Coke, but with something a little extra added. 9/10

Classic Root Beer

My favorite of the bunch. Pair it with your fav vanilla ice cream to make it even better. 10/10

Orange Squeeze

Olipop also makes an Orange Creamsicle flavor that I imagine is divine, this one is kind of a miss for me. Good orange flavor but it’s just lacking the jenny say qua. 5/10

Tropical Punch

Great if you, like me grew, up on Hawaiian Punch, this one is obviously carbonated, so it fulfills that fizzy drink craving. 8/10


Raspberry Rose

This one is the first one I tried, and it’s pretty good. I love the raspberry. The rose barely comes through, which is a good choice in my opinion. 8/10

Strawberry Lemon

Reallllyyy good, tastes kind of like candy, Sweet and tart and fizzy, what more could you want?  8/10

Ginger Lime

My favorite one, it tastes soooo good. It’s like a Moscow mule but without the booze, so perfect for my sober ass. 10/10


It’s good, but it isn’t wowing me. Maybe I’m not an orange soda person. 6/10

Doc Pop

It’s giving Dr. Pepper. It’s giving Bubble Trouble, but in a good way. 9/10

Classic Cola

Again, how are these drinks really delivering on the cola flavor when they are just made of berries and twigs?? 7/10

Root Beer

They got me gal. 10/10


Guava Rose

This was…horrendous. Lmao. I couldn’t even finish it, it’s in my fridge.

I love guava, so I had high hopes but all you can taste is ROSE. And I’m not averse to floral flavors; my new fav restaurant has a lavender lemonade that is to die for. It’s all about the balance for me, and this one is uneven. 1/10

Peach Ginger

Far better than Guava Rose, the peach in this one is so juicy and refreshing. Great on its own, but I’d add a squeeze of lime to it for a little punch. 7/10

Now, let’s talk doc. Kira Newman is a board-certified internal medicine physician who is finishing her third-year fellowship. Her work focuses on the gut microbiome and all things gastroenterology. She is a physician-scientist with an MD Ph. D., but she has a Ph.D. in epidemiology.

Listen y’all, Kira’s (sorry, Dr. Newman) got credentials, so I was so interested to talk to her about this stuff. Let’s start with the basics: What is a prebiotic?

“A prebiotic, broadly speaking, is a food component or a food additive that’s not digested by the human host,” Dr. Newman explains. “It is broken down by microbes often in the gut with the target being to enhance the growth — or the beneficial behaviors of — a select group of microbes called probiotics.”

So, that gets into our next point: What’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Dr. Newman puts the difference plainly:

“Prebiotics are in lots of different foods. When we say prebiotics we are talking about lots of different kinds of fiber and carbohydrates. So there’s inulin that people often talk about that is found in fairly high amounts in chicory root. These are fibers that we don’t have the enzyme inherently to digest.”

To my understanding, probiotics are the naturally occurring bacteria you find in the gut, which are often also found in foods like dairy products and other things. Prebiotics sort of serve as the “food” for this bacteria, and they are often found in plants like chicory root or cassava root. Together, they keep the “good bacteria” in your gut healthy and thriving.

So, I investigated a little and found some claims or blurbs from the websites of Olipop, Poppi, and Wildwonder that I talked with Dr. Newman about. One thing she said that really struck me was that “these claims aren’t false advertising; they’re vague advertising.”

Why use vague advertising? Well, to sell you shit. Cassava root isn’t found plentifully in the American diet, but it is a good source of prebiotics. If I just tell you, “this drink contains cassava root,” you’re probably not going to care. But if I say “this drink contains cassava root which keeps your gut healthy and keeps you regular,” you’re probably gonna raise an eyebrow and pick up the can.

So, here’s the breakdown of each drink and its claims:

Olipop: (main ingredient – cassava and chicory root) The hunter/gatherer lifestyle was best suited for digestive health.

While this isn’t a direct quote from Olipop, it’s the gist of what they use in their marketing language. Dr. Newman points out one really good discrepancy with this claim, and that is it is impossible to quantify what that means. Hunter-gatherer communities varied in their diets all across the world. They didn’t all eat the same thing, so citing it vaguely in this way isn’t doing a lot of work.

“Is it the diet that’s healthy? Or is it the walking miles a day? Is it living in a close-knit community structure with a reliance on natural circadian rhythms? It’s not a provable claim,” she adds.

Poppi: (main ingredient – apple cider vinegar) “Allison had been looking for solace from her chronic health issues, and ACV answered her prayers — after drinking it every day for a week her symptoms all but vanished.” 

Apple cider vinegar is one of those trendy ingredients that has grown in popularity these past few years. Hell, people even drink it straight. Dr. Newman says there is not a lot of quality data on its benefits yet, partly due to the difference in quality across products. Some products have highly refined ACV, some products come in tablets, and it’s unclear if there really is a quantifiable amount of ACV in the tablet, and other products are fermented with live active ingredients.

One thing both Dr. Newman and I noted is that the chronic health issues Allison had that all vanished are never discussed further. Was it back pain? Was it gut related? There’s not a clear answer here.

“I hope that this person feels better. I hope that for everyone who’s taking any medicine or any supplement or engaging in any kind of healthy behavior. I hope it makes them feel better. Would I, based on that claim, recommend this to a patient in a medical or scientific capacity? No.”

Wildwonder: (main ingredients- Chicory Root and Jerusalem Artichoke) “Superfoods inspired by ancient nutrition, such as ginger, turmeric, and rose, work effectively with prebiotics and probiotics to boost your immunity and gut health. From aiding digestion to reducing inflammation, and preventing disease, these magical herbs give you superpowers.”

Dr. Newman and I previously talked about chicory root and how it has high amounts of inulin. She definitely is interested in the comparison to ginger and turmeric, for which there is a lot of data to support those two ingredients’ impact on health, like the anti-inflammatory properties of ginger.

She says that studies on the effects of ingesting prebiotic products like these have mixed results. Many of the studies are not long-term and have small sample sizes, which isn’t to say they shouldn’t be taken seriously at all, but perhaps with a grain of salt.

“There’s often some element of truth. And a lot of that is based off of some lab data or preclinical data or often in these cases, not very large. And these studies of prebiotics in humans have had mixed results as to whether they see effects or not, likely because the effects of prebiotics may be very specific to certain types of bacteria. And whatever someone’s baseline daily intake looks like,” she explains.

She says the question of whether these products work is one of nutritional epidemiology. If a person is replacing their daily cigarette with an Olipop, is it the addition of the Olipop that is having these health effects, or is it the lack of the cigarettes? Not much has been concluded on this in scientific terms, yet.

One thing we did come to as a conclusion? None of these sodas are gonna kill you. They’re not bad for you. So if you enjoy them, keep on sippin! Just be mindful of the claims they make, especially when it comes to your own personal health and your wallet. A four-pack of Poppi is $10, which is a lot of money for a drink. Individually, they sell for around $3. Again, not cheap. If you like them, drink them. Everything in moderation, as they say.

And hey, if you like a regular soda or pop, have one of those, too! I’m over placing value judgments on food and beverages, and sometimes I want a real Dr. Pepper, so I have one. You should feel that freedom as well. Happy Drinking Friends!

Bubble Trouble is a series helmed by Autostraddle Managing Editor Kayla Kumari Upadhyaya about the nostalgia, effervescence, and never-ending appeal of carbonated beverages.

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Dani Janae is a poet and writer based out of Pittsburgh, PA. When she's not writing love poems for unavailable women, she's watching horror movies, hanging with her tarantula, and eating figs. Follow Dani Janae on Twitter and on Instagram.

danijanae has written 157 articles for us.


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