This is a guest blog post by Heather K. Jones, RD
Whether you’re trying to clean up your diet, eat healthy, or lose weight, one thing is for sure: drinking sugary calories is a healthy diet DON’T. Downing sugary drinks increases the risks of overweight and obesity, which, in turn, increases the likelihood of developing diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and many other health problems.
And soda consumption can have effects other than weight gain. Higher consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is associated with the development of type-2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors, including excess weight in the torso and insulin resistance, that together lead to increased risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and diabetes).
Think diet soda is the answer? Nope, the no-calorie sweeteners like those found in diet soda may actually make you hungrier and cause you to overeat, as the body can get confused by artificial sweeteners. And a study published last month showed that daily diet soda drinkers had a 44% greater chance of heart attack or stroke than those who don’t drink diet soda. This increased risk was not seen in those subjects who drank regular soda.
More bad soda news: Recent chemical analyses by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit nutrition watchdog group, showed that Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Diet Coke, and Diet Pepsi contain high levels of 4-methylimidazole (4-MI), a known animal carcinogen. Based on a risk model used by the state of California, CSPI estimates that that the 4-MI in Coke and Pepsi causes about 15,000 cases of cancer in the US.
Soda has also been linked to osteoporosis, although scientists aren’t sure of the mechanism – it may relate to the phosphoric acid or caffeine content of soda.
Juice isn’t much better – juice actually has more calories per ounce than soda and elevates blood sugar more quickly than whole fruit. Even more disturbing is a recent study by Consumer Reports showing that 10% of the apple juices they sampled had total arsenic levels that exceeded federal standards for drinking water.
While the American Heart Association recommends that we limit our intake of sugary drinks to about 450 calories per week (about three 12-ounce cans of soda), on average we’re consuming more than twice that. One 20-ounce soda a day (keep in mind that many restaurants serve drinks in much larger containers) adds an extra 93,440 calories per year – about 25 pounds of extra weight!
Your best bet is to stick with water. If you find it hard drink unflavored water, mix-up your hydration choices by add citrus, cucumber, or other fruits to water.
If you don’t have time or patience to create your own flavored water, you can buy infused water such as HINT Water and HINT Fizz (disclosure: I am working with the company). These zero calorie, unsweetened essence waters are a great way to ease you into a water drinking regimen.
For a bit of extra motivation I created a healthy hydration challenge on HINT’s Facebook page. Check it out and sign up, for a chance to win 10 cases of HINT Water, 10 cases of HINT Fizz, a $250 gift card to Athleta and much more!
Heather K. Jones (a.k.a. The Diet P.I.) is a registered dietitian, a health journalist, and the author of several nutrition books. Her work has been published in national magazines including SELF, Fitness, and Prevention, and she also spent seven years working for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and its award-winning newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter.