Do sugar free cough drops have calories?

Sugar free cough drops have become increasingly popular as more people look for ways to reduce their sugar intake. Cough drops are often turned to when someone has an irritating cough that won’t seem to go away. With both menthol and anesthetic properties, cough drops can provide soothing relief. But a nagging question remains: do sugar free cough drops have calories?

The Basics of Cough Drops

Cough drops are small medicated tablets designed to provide temporary relief from coughing and throat irritation. Most cough drops contain menthol, an ingredient derived from mint oils that provides a cooling and soothing sensation. Other common ingredients in cough drops include anesthetics like benzocaine to numb the throat, demulcents like pectin to coat and protect irritated tissues, and antiseptics like eucalyptus to ease congestion.

Traditional cough drops also contain sugar, which works to coat the throat and mask unpleasant flavors from the medicinal ingredients. Sugar adds sweetness, makes the cough drop more palatable, and can improve product texture and shelf-life. However, the amount of sugar in regular cough drops causes them to be high in calories – around 20 calories per drop.

The Advent of Sugar Free Cough Drops

In response to demand for lower calorie options, many manufacturers now offer sugar free cough drops as well. These use artificial sweeteners like sucralose or aspartame rather than sugar to provide sweetness without the extra calories. Sugar free cough drops usually contain around 2 calories per drop, a significant decrease from the 20 calories in regular cough drops.

Some popular brands of sugar free cough drops include:

  • Halls Sugar Free
  • Luden’s Sugar Free Wild Cherry
  • Ricola Sugar Free Herb Drops
  • Cepacol Sensations Sugar Free

Do Sugar Free Cough Drops Have Calories?

The short answer is yes – sugar free cough drops do contain minimal calories, about 2 per drop. Here’s a more detailed look at why:

Sweeteners Have Trace Calories

While artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame don’t contain full calories like sugar, they aren’t completely calorie-free. Most sweeteners provide around 0.2 calories per gram. So even though sugar free cough drops don’t have sugar, the low-calorie sweeteners still contribute trace calories.

Other Ingredients Add Small Amounts

Besides sweeteners, sugar free cough drops contain minor amounts of other ingredients that have calories, even though they aren’t sweet. For example, demulcents like pectin and gums contain around 1-2 calories per gram. Menthol also contains trace calories. When tallied up in a small cough drop, these ingredients equate to around 2 calories per drop.

The FDA Allows Rounding Down

Food labels are allowed to round down to 0 calories if a serving contains less than 5 calories. So even though sugar free cough drops may have 2-3 calories, the label can legally list them as 0 calories due to the tiny serving size. But the calories are still present, just at an insignificant level.

Nutrition Comparison of Sugar Free vs Regular Cough Drops

Here is a nutrition comparison of a regular cough drop versus a sugar free version:

Nutrition Facts Regular Cough Drop (1 drop) Sugar Free Cough Drop (1 drop)
Calories 20 2
Total Carbohydrates 5g 0.5g
Sugar 4g 0g

As you can see, a single regular cough drop contains 20 calories, 5g carbs, and 4g of sugar. The sugar free version has just 2 calories, 0.5g carbs, and 0g sugar. So sugar free cough drops are the clear winner if you want to minimize calories and carbs.

The Bottom Line

While sugar free cough drops are very low in calories compared to regular cough drops, they are not completely calorie-free. Sugar substitutes and other minor ingredients contribute around 2 calories per drop. So if you are strictly monitoring calorie intake, be aware that sugar free cough drops contain minimal calories that can add up if consuming many throughout the day. Otherwise, they are an excellent low calorie option for soothing cough and throat irritation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do sugar free cough drops have any calories at all?

Sugar free cough drops contain low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame rather than sugar. While these are minimal, they still provide around 0.2 calories per gram. Other ingredients like demulcents and menthol contain trace calories that add up to around 2 calories per drop.

Are any cough drops completely calorie free?

There are no cough drops currently on the market that are completely void of calories. All cough drops have trace calories from sweeteners, demulcents, menthol, and other ingredients. However, sugar free cough drops only have about 2 calories per drop, which is considered virtually calorie-free.

Do ingredients like menthol and eucalyptus have calories?

Yes, menthol and eucalyptus oil provide around 0.1 calories per gram. So even though these ingredients are not sweet, they contribute trace amounts of calories to cough drops. The demulcent ingredients also have minor calorie counts that add up.

Can diabetics safely consume sugar free cough drops?

Sugar free cough drops are generally considered safe for diabetics in moderation. Since they are very low in carbs and sugar, they should not significantly impact blood glucose levels. However, diabetics should still be cognizant of total carb intake from cough drops if consuming large amounts. Moderation is key.

Do children’s cough drops have less calories?

No, children’s cough drops typically don’t have reduced calories compared to adult cough drops. The calorie content is similar, around 2 calories per drop. However, some children’s cough drops use different sweeteners, so comparing labels is necessary. Always check with a pediatrician about appropriate cough drop use for children.

The Impact of Sugar Free Cough Drops on Weight Loss Diets

Sugar free cough drops can be a good option for people following weight loss diets that restrict calories, carbs, and sugar. Here are some benefits of sugar free cough drops for weight loss:

– Negligible calories – The 2 calories per cough drop are a non-issue, even on strict 1,200 calorie diets.

– Very low carbohydrates – Sugar free drops only have 0.5g carbs per drop, allowing them to fit into low-carb and keto diets.

– No sugar – The 0g of sugar helps prevent spikes in blood glucose levels.

– Curb cravings – The sweet taste helps satisfy sweet cravings without derailing diet goals.

However, those counting every calorie may want to account for the trace calories if consuming many cough drops per day. Moderation is key, so dieters don’t go over their allotted calories from cough drops alone. Overall, sugar free cough drops are a smart choice for dieters needing throat relief.

Choosing the Healthiest Sugar Free Cough Drops

When selecting sugar free cough drops, be sure to compare nutrition labels and ingredients lists to choose the healthiest options:

– Seek natural sweeteners like xylitol, erythritol, and stevia rather than artificial sweeteners like aspartame.

– Look for additional soothing ingredients like honey, elderberry, slippery elm, marshmallow root, and aloe vera.

– Avoid artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.

– Check for certification as non-GMO and gluten free if needed for your diet.

– Read ingredient lists carefully and research any questionable additives.

– Compare milligrams of medicinal ingredients like menthol to find the most effective strength.

Seeking out natural, additive-free sugar free cough drops with research-backed botanicals will provide the most wholesome medicinal benefits.

Homemade Sugar Free Cough Drops

For the most natural and diet-friendly cough relief, consider making your own homemade sugar free cough drops. Here are some easy recipes to try:

Honey Lemon Cough Drops

1 Tbsp honey
1 lemon, juiced
Cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 tsp stevia extract powder

1. Mix honey, lemon juice, cayenne, and stevia together in a small saucepan.
2. Heat over medium, stirring frequently, until blended and thickened to a syrup-like consistency.
3. Allow to cool slightly and add mixture drop-wise onto parchment paper.
4. Let drops fully harden before peeling off paper and storing in an airtight container.

Chamomile-Mint Cough Drops

1 cup water
3 chamomile tea bags
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
2 Tbsp honey
1/4 tsp peppermint extract

1. Bring water to a boil and remove from heat. Add tea bags and mint leaves, cover, and steep for 30 minutes.
2. Strain liquid into a saucepan. Stir in honey and peppermint extract.
3. Simmer over medium heat until reduced by half.
4. Drop teaspoon-sized amounts onto parchment paper and let harden before storing.

Elderberry Immune Drops

1/3 cup elderberry syrup
1 tsp minced ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon powder
1/8 tsp stevia powder

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat.
2. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until thickened.
3. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before dropping onto parchment paper.
4. Let drops fully set before transferring to an airtight container.

Safety Tips for Cough Drop Use

While generally safe if used as directed, keep these safety precautions in mind with cough drops:

– Don’t exceed the recommended daily dosage. Consuming too many can cause side effects like nausea or diarrhea.

– Don’t give to children under 2 years old due to choking hazard.

– Seek medical advice if symptoms persist for more than 7 days or worsen.

– Discontinue use if you experience any adverse reactions or allergic symptoms.

– Avoid menthol-containing drops if you have gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).

– Don’t use anesthetic cough drops like those containing benzocaine for more than sore throat pain. Prolonged use can lead to numbness.

– Check ingredient lists carefully for potential allergens and avoid as needed. Key allergens include peppermint, eucalyptus, soy, and tree nuts.

– Speak with your doctor before use if pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking any medications, since interactions are possible.

When used carefully and as directed, sugar free cough drops can provide effective, low-calorie relief. But be sure to keep safety in mind, especially when giving to children. Moderation and care are key.


Sugar free cough drops carry a small calorie count, with approximately 2 calories per drop, contrary to the conception that they are completely calorie-free. These minimal calories originate from sugar substitutes like sucralose and aspartame as well as trace calories in supplemental ingredients like menthol, eucalyptus, and demulcents. While not entirely calorie-free, sugar free cough drops are an excellent low-calorie option for sore throat relief, especially for people following weight loss diets that restrict calories, carbs, and sugar. When consumed in moderation and following proper safety precautions, sugar free cough drops can provide an effective medicinal treatment for cough and throat irritation.

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