I just came across an excellent poster detailing the effects of soft drinks on the body. From exacerbating asthma, to causing blood sugar spikes, to dissolving tooth enamel, to its links to metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and osteoporosis–there’s not much good involved. These aren’t the effects of the occasional soda, but frequent consumption is clearly not safe. It would be great if this chart could be posted beside every soda machine and store cooler.
Here’s another thing you may not realize about all sugary drinks, not just soda: they make you fatter because the body is bad at registering liquid calories. Thus, if you eat too much food, your body creates signs of satiety that work to balance overall caloric intake, making you less hungry later and likely to consume fewer calories. This mechanism doesn’t apply to liquids. If you guzzle a 12 oz. Coke, that’s a surplus 140 calories in your body. If you don’t burn them, they end up on your stomach or butt.
Diet sodas have their own issues due to the uncertain health implications of the chemicals found in artificial sweeteners. Tara Parker-Pope goes over the details in her recent NY Times “Well” blog. There are conflicting studies about all of the available sweeteners out there, and as one doctor worried, it sometimes takes many decades to see the effects of a substance on the body. This was true for both cigarettes’ link to lung cancer and for the effects of trans fats.
Stevia is a sweet-flavored plant which some healthcare providers now recommend, and it comes both powered and in liquid form. I actually grew some in my herb garden last summer, and you can stir the leaves into iced tea.
In light of all of the conflicting data and advice, what’s the best approach when it comes to sweetened drinks? The main thing is to try to break the habit of daily sweetened drinks, sugared or diet. It’ll be hard the few week or so, but you’ll really stop craving them after a bit, once your body adjusts. The occasional treat is just fine, in my opinion, as with anything.
Here are some of the drinks we favor at my house.
–Ice Mountain’s awesome 0-calorie flavored sparkling waters. I keep them extra-cold so they’re almost a little icy; so refreshing.
–Store-bought plain sparkling water, or homemade using the Sodastream home seltzer machine, flavored up with big squeezes of lemon, lime, or orange wedges. Again, the colder, the better,
–Herbal iced tea. Fruit and berry herbal teas are often naturally very sweet. Steep 5-6 bags in 1-2 c. of boiling water in a pitcher for about 5 minutes in a pitcher, then fill with ice water. I add several drops of liquid stevia to sweeten further, to taste. There is always a big pitcher of this in my fridge.
–Iced coffee. I never drink instant coffee, but it works fine iced. I take a heaping tablespoon and dissolve it in a large glass in about 1/4 c. of boiling water. I then fill the glass with ice, and top it off with low fat milk or vanilla almond milk. I finish it with several drops of stevia, and sometimes a sprinkle of cinnamon. Really yummy.