Originally, calories from food were measured using a calorimeter.
This device was essentially a sealed chamber surrounded by water.
A piece of food that was dehydrated was placed inside the chamber and set on fire.
The temperature of the surrounding water was tracked, and based on how much the temperature rose the number of calories in the food item was calculated.
At first, this was fine, but as our understanding of the body and how it digests foods advanced, several problems began to creep in.
For example, a piece of whole grain bread with high fiber content is going to also ignite the fiber.
That will cause a miscalculation of the Calorie content , because we now understand that fiber is not absorbed into the blood stream, and therefore shouldn’t count toward the number of Calories in the bread.
Modern calculations are done using the Atwater indirect system, which does a calculation based on the energy-producing macronutrients that a piece of food contains. The macronutrients that are tracked are fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
Alcohol is also tracked, despite not really being a nutrient, but it is a significant source of calories.
When carbs are calculated, the mass of fiber is also calculated and its caloric contribution is subtracted.
The Atwater system uses the following values for the macronutrients in foods
Alcohol: 7 Calories / gram
Carbohydrates: 4 Calories / gram
Fat: 9 Calories / gram
Protein: 4 Calories / gram
The values for these substances were calculated by placing them in a modern calorimeter and represent the averages of the various substances.
That’s because different sugars will produce varying amounts of energy depending on whether they are simple or complex sugars.
So, understanding how a Diet Coke becomes a zero calorie drink comes from looking at the nutrition label and seeing what the total count of the macronutrients is in it.
And if you look, you can see that Diet Coke has 0 grams of fat, 0 grams of carbohydrates, 0 grams of protein, and 0 grams of alcohol (although that is understood, even if it’s not directly listed).
That means that according to the Atwater Indirect System, because Diet Coke has zero macronutrients, it has zero calories.
You might wonder if the calorie count only counts those four macronutrients, what about the other ingredients in Diet Coke. Don’t they at least have some caloric value? Let’s take a look at the ingredient list to see what they are and look at how many calories are in each.
Going through the ingredients one by one we can find that there really are no significant sources of calories to be seen.
Carbonated Water is just water that has carbon dioxide forced into it by high pressure.
We know that water doesn’t have any calories, and neither does carbon dioxide.
Therefore, carbonated water has zero calories.
Caramel Color, according to org (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), in soda is made from sulfite ammonia, and is prepared by heating carbohydrates near sulfite and ammonium compounds.
We know that from the Atwater system that carbohydrates have 4 Calories per gram, so does the caramel color add any caloric content to the Diet Coke?
The short answer is no. And that’s because when you heat the carbohydrate near the ammonium and sulfite compounds, you change the chemical structure of the carb so that the body can no longer absorb it or break it down for energy.
I'm Chris Watson, the chap that brings you Soda Pop Craft.
Like many, I'm a HUGE soda drinks fan and have an obsession with making, testing, and trying the myriad of flavors and brands from across the world. As well as brewing my own homemade soda concoctions.
This blog aims to bring you everything soda-related - so whether that’s burning questions, tips, recipes, and even in-depth tutorials for making your own healthy soft drinks at home. Pop a bottle and have a browse…
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFORMATION
This site SodaPopCraft.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. *Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates. Additionally, SodaPopCraft.com participates in other affiliate programs, Clickbank, CJ, ShareAsale and other sites and we sometimes get a commission through purchases made through our links.