Sodas—both regular and diet—are not considered nutritious drinks for several reasons. Regular sodas are full of sugar—about 40 grams per 12 fluid ounce can, which is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of sugar. Because sugar and sodas do not provide any nutritional value, they provide what are considered empty calories.
Question: How bad are sodas for you? -Lois
Answer: Sodas—both regular and diet—are not considered nutritious drinks for several reasons. Regular sodas are full of sugar—about 40 grams per 12 fluid ounce can, which is equivalent to 10 teaspoons of sugar. (To put this in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends limiting sugar to 6-9 teaspoons per day.) Because sugar and sodas do not provide any nutritional value (vitamin, minerals, antioxidants, etc.), they provide what are considered empty calories. Empty calories do not nourish our bodies like whole grains, lean proteins, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy, so they should be limited in our diets. Research shows that consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, like regular sodas and fruit drinks, is associated with poor diet quality, increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and dental caries—a whole bunch of things that we can live without!
As for artificial sweeteners in diet sodas, these can safely be consumed in moderation to avoid the empty calories of regular sodas and the potential weight gain that goes along with these calories. (Check out this infographic on how low-calorie sweeteners help with weight management.) However, they don’t provide any nutritional value, so there are better drink alternatives out there. To be used in the food supply, artificial sweeteners go through rigorous studies to ensure safety, and then they must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There is some evidence that consumption of artificial sweeteners increases sugar cravings, resulting in increased consumption of food overall. Some artificial sweeteners can also cause adverse effects like gastrointestinal distress.
Use these tips to curb your soda intake and choose more nutritious beverages:
- Give water a chance. Water is one of the most essential nutrients our bodies need. It is the original natural and calorie-free beverage; it is cheap; and it doesn’t necessarily need to be consumed from a non-reusable container. If plain water is not your thing, try adding flavor by adding fruits (lemons, strawberries), vegetables (cucumbers), and/or herbs (mint, basil) with these recipes from Greatist.com.
- If you’re craving the sugar from soda, try mixing 100% fruit juice half and half with water or sparkling water. This way, you’ll get the sugary flavor but with less sugar, fewer calories, some nutritious vitamins, and more hydrating water.
- If you’re craving the caffeine from soda, switch out the soda for a cup of tea or coffee (hot or iced). These calorie-free beverages will give you a little caffeinated boost with some healthy antioxidants, too.
- You may be drinking soda one, five, or ten times per day. Whatever your soda habit, start switching out one serving per day with a more nutritious option, like water, 100% fruit juice, low-fat or non-fat dairy milk, or other dairy alternative. Over time, your body will adapt to consuming less soda, while reaping the benefits of more vitamins and minerals.