Coke Zero is a popular no calorie, sugar free soft drink from the Coca-Cola company. It is marketed as having zero sugar and zero calories while providing the signature Coca-Cola taste. Many people choose Coke Zero as an alternative to regular Coca-Cola because of the lack of sugar and calories. But an important question remains – is Coke Zero also carb free? Let’s take a detailed look at the ingredients and nutrition facts.
What are the ingredients in Coke Zero?
Coke Zero contains the following main ingredients:
- Carbonated water
- Caramel color
- Phosphoric acid
- Potassium benzoate
- Natural flavors
- Potassium citrate
- Acesulfame potassium
Some of the key points about the ingredients:
- It contains no sugar, high fructose corn syrup or calories.
- Aspartame and acesulfame potassium are artificial sweeteners that provide the sweet taste but with no carbs or calories.
- Phosphoric acid provides the tangy flavor.
- Caffeine is added for an energizing effect.
- Caramel color provides the dark cola color.
- Natural flavors enhance the cola taste profile.
So while the ingredients list does not contain any direct sources of carbs like sugar, we need to look closer at the nutrition label to get the full picture.
Nutrition Facts for Coke Zero
Here are the nutrition facts for a 12 oz can of Coke Zero:
|Total fat||0 g|
|Total carbs||0 g|
Some key takeaways from the nutrition information:
- Coke Zero contains 0 grams of total fat, protein and carbohydrates per serving.
- It provides 0 calories per serving.
- The main sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame potassium do not contain any carbs.
- Based on the nutrition label, Coke Zero has no carbs.
So while it does contain various artificial sweeteners, preservatives, carbonation and other ingredients, none of them contribute any carbohydrates or calories based on the nutrition facts label.
Can Coke Zero cause an insulin response?
Despite having no carbs, there has been some concern about diet sodas potentially causing an insulin response in the body. Since artificial sweeteners provide a sweet taste, could they trigger insulin release like sugar does?
Insulin is the hormone that allows cells in the body to take up glucose from the bloodstream. When blood sugar levels rise after consuming carbs, insulin is released to shuttle the glucose into cells.
Some studies have looked at this question by measuring people’s insulin levels after consuming diet soda:
- An older study from 2007 found that aspartame, an artificial sweetener in Coke Zero, caused a spike in insulin levels in the blood.
- However, a more recent review study from 2017 looked at all the evidence and concluded that there was no clear effect of non-nutritive sweeteners like aspartame on insulin levels.
- Most studies have found no conclusive evidence that diet sodas directly raise insulin levels, suggesting they do not cause an insulin response.
Current research indicates Coke Zero and other diet sodas do not directly elicit an insulin reaction, so it does not appear to have the same effect on your body as carb-containing sodas. But more studies are still needed on the long-term effects.
Does the phosphoric acid in Coke Zero count as carbs?
Coke Zero contains phosphoric acid, which provides the signature tangy cola flavor. But phosphoric acid contains the element phosphorus – does this count as a carb?
The answer is no – phosphoric acid does not contain carbon, so it is not considered an organic compound. Phosphorus is a mineral, not a carbohydrate.
Some sources of confusion:
- Phosphorus and phosphate are sometimes used interchangeably – phosphate refers to certain organic compounds that do contain carbon.
- High fructose corn syrup contains phosphorus but is metabolized as a carb due to the sugar component.
- Phosphoric acid itself is not metabolized as a carb or sugar.
So the phosphoric acid flavoring used in Coke Zero does not contribute any carbohydrates or calories to the beverage.
Is there any impact from trace carbs in Coke Zero?
Looking at the nutrition facts, Coke Zero contains 0g of carbs per serving. But could there still be trace amounts that may impact blood sugar?
The FDA does allow some flexibility around nutrition labeling:
- If a food contains less than 0.5 grams of sugar or carbs per serving, it can be rounded down to 0g on the nutrition facts label.
- Therefore, Coke Zero could theoretically contain up to 0.49g of carbs and still be labeled as 0g.
However, independent testing has found that in reality, Coke Zero contains extremely minimal amounts of carbs:
- Testing by Consumer Reports found Coke Zero contained only 0.17g of carbs per serving.
- Other tests have detected around 0.25g carbs per serving.
- These trace amounts are unlikely to significantly impact blood sugar or insulin for most people.
So while it may not be precisely zero carbs, Coke Zero is still considered a very low-carb beverage with minimal effects on blood sugar. The amounts of carbs present are negligible compared to regular sodas.
Should people with diabetes drink Coke Zero?
Coke Zero can be a good soda alternative for people with diabetes given the very low carb and calorie content. The American Diabetes Association provides the following guidelines on diet sodas:
- Non-nutritive sweetened beverages like Coke Zero are generally safe to consume within daily carbohydrate limits.
- People with diabetes should focus on reducing overall carb and sugar intake from other sources like grains, vegetables and fruit.
- Drinking diet sodas does not appear to directly affect blood sugar levels or diabetes management for most people.
- Water should be the primary beverage, but diet sodas can be an occasional treat.
However, as with anyone, moderation is still key – heavy consumption of artificially sweetened drinks may have other effects on health. Dietitians generally recommend limiting diet sodas to 1-2 servings per day as part of a balanced diet for people with diabetes.
Does Coke Zero affect ketosis?
The ketogenic diet involves restricting carbs to around 5-10% of total calories to induce a metabolic state called ketosis. So will drinking Coke Zero affect ketone levels and ketosis?
- Some research indicates that artificial sweeteners can slightly raise insulin. Chronically elevated insulin may inhibit ketosis.
- However, most evidence suggests Coke Zero and similar diet sodas only minimally impact insulin when consumed in moderation.
- One 12 oz can of Coke Zero only contains max 0.5g carbs, allowing it to fit into a keto macro plan.
- Drinking moderate amounts of Coke Zero is unlikely to disrupt ketosis for most people.
So an occasional can of Coke Zero can typically be enjoyed while staying in ketosis. But avoiding overconsumption is important, as having 20+ cans per day may end up contributing enough trace carbs and sweeteners to temporarily affect ketone levels. Moderation is key.
Coke Zero glycemic index
The glycemic index (GI) measures how much certain foods raise blood sugar levels compared to pure glucose. Foods are classified based on their GI as follows:
- Low GI: 55 or less
- Medium GI: 56-69
- High GI: 70 or more
High GI foods cause faster, more significant increases in blood sugar, while low GI foods have a more gradual effect.
Since Coke Zero has minimal carbohydrate content, it has a glycemic index of 0. This means it should not directly cause blood sugar spikes or crashes after drinking it.
However, some indirect effects are still possible:
- Artificial sweeteners may increase cravings for high GI foods in some people.
- Consuming it with high GI foods can make the meal overall higher GI.
- By itself, the glycemic impact of Coke Zero is negligible.
So Coke Zero can be considered a low glycemic beverage. But overconsumption may indirectly contribute to blood sugar spikes in some cases. Moderation is key.
Comparison to regular Coca-Cola
To understand the carb and sugar content of Coke Zero, it helps to compare it to regular Coca-Cola:
|Coke Zero||Regular Coke|
|Total carbs (g)||0||39|
|Sweetener||Aspartame, acesulfame potassium||High fructose corn syrup|
The key differences:
- Coke Zero has no carbs, sugar or calories.
- Regular Coke has 39g carbs and sugar per 12oz serving, all from high fructose corn syrup.
- Coke Zero uses artificial sweeteners, while regular Coke uses high fructose corn syrup.
The lack of carbs, calories and sugar make Coke Zero an appealing alternative for people monitoring their carb intake.
Other beverage options
While Coke Zero offers an appealing compromise of providing the cola taste with no carbs or sugar, what are some other low carb and zero carb beverage options to consider?
Plain water should be the go-to zero carb beverage:
- It has 0g carbs, sugar and calories.
- Essential for staying hydrated.
- Can be enhanced with slices of fruit or vegetables.
- Seltzer water provides carbonation.
Unsweetened Coffee and Tea
Coffee and tea contain minimal carbs and can be drunk plain or just with added cream:
- Plain brewed coffee or tea is carb-free.
- Adding heavy cream or half and half provides some healthy fats.
- Avoid adding milk, sweeteners or sugary creamers.
Like Coke Zero, diet sodas from Sprite, Fanta and others also have 0g carbs and use non-nutritive sweeteners. They provide a flavored carbonated drink option without carbs or sugar.
Plain sparkling water like La Croix or Perrier contains just carbonated water and no carbs, sugar or calories. Sparkling waters come in an array of natural flavors to choose from.
Unsweetened Nut Milk
Nut milks like almond milk or coconut milk are low carb options, especially when unsweetened:
- Unsweetened almond milk has about 1g net carbs per cup.
- Unsweetened coconut milk has around 5g net carbs.
- Avoid sweetened varieties high in added sugar.
So while an occasional Coke Zero can fit into a low carb eating pattern, emphasize water, tea and coffee as your top choices for staying hydrated without carbs.
Coke Zero and weight loss
Does drinking Coke Zero help with losing weight? Since it has no sugar and calories, could substituting it for regular soda help decrease calorie intake?
Some research has looked at this:
- One 6-month study assigned people to drink 24oz of diet soda or water daily. The diet soda group had an average weight loss of 2.2kg.
- A review study found that subjects who substituted diet beverages for regular versions resulted in modest weight loss over time.
- However, other studies show mixed results – artificial sweeteners may increase appetite and cravings.
The evidence remains inconclusive on whether diet sodas alone help with weight loss. While they may be lower calorie substitutes, other eating habits play a bigger role in managing weight. Overall diet quality appears more important than simply substituting Coke Zero for regular soda.
In summary, based on its ingredients and nutrition facts label, Coke Zero is considered a zero carb beverage. The main points:
- Coke Zero contains no actual sugar or other carbohydrates.
- The sweeteners aspartame and acesulfame K provide sweetness without carbs.
- Current evidence suggests it does not directly raise blood sugar or insulin levels.
- There are likely trace amounts under 0.5g carbs per serving.
- It can fit into a low-carb eating plan in moderation.
- Prioritize unsweetened drinks like water, coffee and tea.
While Coke Zero is considered a “zero carb” drink, emphasizing whole foods like vegetables, protein, nuts and healthy fats remain most important for balanced nutrition. Overall diet matters more than relying on low carb packaged foods and beverages. But as an occasional treat, Coke Zero can provide the soda experience with no carbs or sugars as part of an otherwise healthy diet.