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Is SodaStream a Healthy Alternative to Soda?

Liv Friis-Larsen/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re a soda drinker, and resolved to cut calories in the New Year, then diet soda might seem like the best choice. But more and more, researchers are cautioning that the extreme sweetness of artificially sweetened sodas and the numerous chemicals in them may contribute to weight gain as much as the regular stuff.

What about SodaStream? The home soda brewing system has taken America by storm, reporting $436 million in sales in 2012, up 51 percent from the previous year according to published reports. With claims of being both environmentally-friendly as well providing soda that “fits your health and diet” (the nondiet versions use real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup), is SodaStream a healthy alternative?

Well, just because SodaStream uses real sugar in the place of the commonly-used high-fructose corn syrup in their sodas, doesn’t mean you’re drinking something natural. The lower calorie totals in their regular flavored syrups don’t come from the swap in sugars, but the addition of artificial sweetener sucralose. According to a company representative, sugar and Splenda are used in equal proportion in their non-diet drinks.

Additionally, SodaStream’s flavor packs still contain chemicals, just like regular sodas. Caramel coloring, used to make SodaStream’s colas, is one of many additives that some consumers have gone out of their way to avoid based on animal studies that suggest possible cancer risks. And even healthy-sounding SodaStream flavors, such as diet pink grapefruit, can contain food dyes that have raised questions about some negative health issues, such as hyperactivity, in some children.

While high fructose corn syrup and sucralose are not necessarily worse for you than sugar, many nutritionists take issue with America’s overconsumption of sugar and sweeteners in general, and point to a consumption of sugary drinks as a factor in the rising obesity rates and the prevalence of diabetes and heart disease.

But diehard soda lovers need not give up their beloved pop just yet. SodaStream can still be a useful tool in your quest for better health. Just skip the sugar, dyes and artificial flavors and get creative. You can use it to build your own designer sodas: make seltzer with your SodaStream, then add in 100 percent pomegranate, cherry or cranberry juice. 

Companies such as P&H Soda Co., Drink More Good and even Williams-Sonoma carry lines of all-natural soda syrups, which can be used in lieu of the SodaStream brand syrups.

Or, you can take things into your own hands by creating your own flavors at home. Fresh ginger and simple syrup are all you need to make homemade ginger ale. There are even a number of cookbooks dedicated to homemade soda syrups available at your local library or bookstore.

While soda, in all shapes and forms, is basically sugar water, SodaStream can still be a worthy investment.  For a truly healthy New Year, just swap the syrups with questionable additives for natural or homemade versions.

Copyright 2014 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio