Healthy Coke mixture of balsamic vinegar and sparkling water

Is TikTok’s Healthy Coke Even Healthy? Or Remotely Like Coke?

Maybe, and no. But that's kind of the point.
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Healthy and Coke are two words that we never thought we’d see in the same sentence. That is, of course, because Coca-Cola is loaded with sugar (39 grams in a 12 oz. can to be exact) and anything-but-natural ingredients. And then there’s the fact that Coke bears a distinct flavor that’s nothing like anything else on earth—and that’s partially what makes it so addicting. It’s sugary, it’s sweet, it’s nostalgic, and it’s one-of-a-kind.

What Is Healthy Coke?

So when the kids took to TikTok to tout a new #HealthyCoke, I was intrigued to say the least. It’s not another healthy soda brand (like Olipop, which is meant to taste like actual cola, but with added pre- and probiotics and fiber and sweetened with stevia and fruit juices, rather than sugar), but a seemingly repugnant mixture of one to two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar and sparkling water over ice.

The drink originated from a TikTok video posted by Amanda Jones (@mandyvjones) where she raves about a healthy Coca-Cola alternative pushed by her exceptionally healthy Pilates teacher. It spread through the TikTok ether like wildfire as everyone taste-tested the concoction. 

My first thought? I bet that tastes nothing like Coke. The second? I must try it. 

Now, let me caveat this experiment by saying I have what I would call a sophisticated palate (others would probably scrunch their face in disgust). I’m most satiated by the filthiest martinis known to man and think everything’s better with more salt and/or sugar. I’ll eat anything pickled and used to down a shot of Fire Cider before breakfast daily for the immune support and gut health benefits. So to me, a little balsamic in seltzer is like child’s play.

Does It Taste Like Coke?

First, I chose my poison: The Trader Joe’s balsamic sitting in my pantry and a crisp can of Spindrift Grapefruit sparkling water

Spindrift uses real fruit juice (rather than the “natural flavors” or “essences” that brands like La Croix use), and because healthy Coke is apparently better and more manageable with lemon juice, I felt like I was killing a few birds with one stone by choosing an option with the citrus already included. 

I dumped one tablespoon of balsamic vinegar into a tall glass of ice, poured in a can of Spindrift, and stirred it up. I gave it a sip, and to no one’s surprise, I smacked my lips in satisfaction—dare I say, it tasted…good? But it was still a bit lighter in color than a can of Coke, so I added another half tablespoon of balsamic vinegar to get that true Coke hue below.
Healthy Coke mixture of balsamic vinegar and sparkling water

My intuition was right—it tasted nothing like Coke, but I still found it enjoyable. I tasted the grapefruit Spindrift, but also the balsamic. As for the smell? Exactly how it tasted, just less pungent, and again, nothing like Coke.

It was sweet, but not sugary, and had a slightly sour taste, kind of like a sour ale if you’ve ever been adventurous enough to try one. There was a little bit of a burning feeling in my stomach as it went down, but that’s expected while ingesting any type of vinegar. 

Does it replace a Coke craving? Not in a million years. But if you like it, or at the very least, can tolerate it, there might be some benefit to swapping it for your daily soda.

Is Healthy Coke Actually Healthy?

Given the fact that Coca-Cola is objectively one of the unhealthiest beverages you can drink, nearly anything with less sugar or chemicals would be better.
 
But thanks to its key ingredient‚ balsamic vinegar, TikTok’s version of healthy Coke could have a slew of real health benefits, the most notable below. (Though I will note that our Fitness and Nutrition editor adds that there are many claimed benefits to ingesting vinegar, but not a ton of real research to back it up.)
 

Reduces Blood Sugar

One major benefit of choosing the bubbly balsamic drink over traditional Coke is its antiglycemic impact, which means it won’t cause your blood sugar to spike like a sugary drink will.

Blood sugar spikes happen when there’s an increase in the amount of sugar (glucose) in your bloodstream, and then a sharp decline after you eat. This immediately causes lethargy and hunger, but over time it can lead to a higher baseline of blood sugar that your body can’t lower on its own, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.

In other words, if you drink the healthy Coke alternative before a meal, your blood sugar may spike less than if you pre-gamed dinner with a real Coke. This means your blood sugar levels will likely stay within a healthy low range once you do eat, so you don’t suffer from the dreaded sugar crash.

In one study, the blood sugar of healthy adults was measured after consuming 20 mL white vinegar (which has 5 percent acetic acid) on a salad. The addition of vinegar to a mixed meal (lettuce salad and white bread containing 50 g carbohydrate) was found to reduce the glycemic response by over 30 percent. The study also found that ingesting vinegar could help blood sugar plateau for up to five hours following consumption (1).

Promotes a Healthy Gut

The active compound in balsamic vinegar is acetic acid, which contains strains of probiotics that aid digestion and overall immune function (2).

Lowers Cholesterol

If high cholesterol is a concern, ingesting balsamic vinegar on a daily basis may help lower your LDL (bad cholesterol) numbers. This is due to the antioxidants present in balsamic vinegar that help block toxins in the body that raise cholesterol levels (3).

Promotes Weight Loss

Balsamic vinegar is full of probiotics (acetic acid), which might help you feel full for longer. Some research suggests that adding balsamic vinegar to your morning meal could help you consume fewer calories throughout the day (1). 

The Bottom Line

TikTok’s obsession with healthy Coke is likely just a fad without any real staying power. However, there are some health benefits to drinking balsamic vinegar, like lower blood sugar and a healthier gut microbiome. But if you’re looking for something that tastes like Coke, this concoction probably isn’t it.

1. Johnston, Carol S, and Cindy A Gaas. “Vinegar: medicinal uses and antiglycemic effect.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1785201/
2. Gullo, Maria, and Paolo Giudici. “Acetic acid bacteria in traditional balsamic vinegar: phenotypic traits relevant for starter cultures selection.”
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18177968/
3. Setorki, Mahbubeh et al. “Acute effects of vinegar intake on some biochemical risk factors of atherosclerosis in hypercholesterolemic rabbits.” https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2837006/

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