Diet Coke Versus Coke Zero

Back in the day there was Diet Coke. Then along came Coke Zero. Both of these popular soft drinks are aimed at the calorie conscious but there is considerable confusion out there about how they compare to each other. Here is an attempt to clear up some of the confusion.

Diet Coke

Diet Coke was introduced with great fanfare in 1982 and quickly became the number one sugar-free drink. It is also known as Diet Coca-Cola, Coca-Cola Light, or Coke Light. The "Light" designation is typically used in countries outside the U.S.

The first extension of the Diet Coke formula was Caffeine-Free Diet Coke which came out in 1983. Since then, many other versions have hit the market such as Diet Cherry Coke, Diet Vanilla Coke, Diet Coke with Lime, and Diet Coke Black Cherry Vanilla.

Coke Zero

Coke Zero or Coca-Cola Zero was introduced in 2006 and was primarily targeted towards young males. Much of the advertising describes the drink as "calorie-free" rather than "diet" under the theory that most guys associate diet drinks with women. It is a "masculinity" play.

From the FAQ on Coke's website: Q. What is the difference between Coca-Cola Zero®, Diet Coke® and Coke/Coca-Cola light®? Answer: Coca-Cola Zero provides real Coca-Cola taste for variety-seeking consumers. Coca-Cola Zero is sweetened with a blend of low-calorie sweeteners, while Diet Coke is sweetened with aspartame. As for Coke/Coca-Cola light, in certain countries, the term "diet" is not used to describe low-calorie foods and beverages. In these countries, we offer Coke/Coca-Cola light. The sweetener blend used for Coke/Coca-Cola light is formulated for each country based on consumer preference.


Diet Coke and Coke Zero share many of the same ingredients but in different proportions. These include: carbonated water, caffeine, caramel coloring, phosphoric acid, citric acid, natural flavors, and aspartame.

Diet Coke originally used aspartame blended with saccharin as a sweetener but eventually switched to aspartame (labeled as the brand name NutraSweet). There is also a variant of Diet Coke that uses Splenda, a sucralose-based sweetener. Outside the U.S. and UK (where cyclamates are banned), the drink is sweetened with a blend containing cyclamates, aspartame, and acesulfame potassium.

Nutrition Information

There is very little difference in nutrient content between Coke Zero and Diet Coke. In fact, there is very little nutritional value in either drink. Both offer 0 calories, 0 g carbohydrates and protein, and about 40 mg sodium. Neither one contains any healthy vitamins or minerals such as calcium or iron.

Diet Coke Plus contains added vitamins and minerals. Each 8-ounce serving provides 15% of your RDI for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium. (Whether the drink is actually healthy is debatable). There is no vitamin and mineral enriched version of Coke Zero (yet).

Although Coke Zero and Diet Coke lack the tooth-decay-inducing sugar found in regular soft drinks, they still contain acids that are harmful to teeth. And recent studies have uncovered a greater risk of stroke associated with diet versus regular soda.

Taste Preference

Many Coke Zero drinkers find its taste to be more similar to regular Coke whereas Diet Coke has a flavor closer to New Coke / Pepsi.