Soda (or pop as we call it in MInnesota) has become a universal part of our daily lives. It’s become the standard beverage to accompany most meals, or the refreshing pick-me-up needed on a long day. Commercials and marketing for the various brands are everywhere. In fact, studies have shown that most people can identify more characters used in soda marketing campaigns than prominent world leaders, historical FIGURES, or even athletes.
Unfortunately, soda doesn't quite live up to the fun and positive hype that it’s makers would like us to buy in to. Soda CONSUMPTION, both regular and DIET varieties, has been linked to numerous health problems. Here are five big ones that should convince you to ditch the carbonated beverage:
1. Soda contains massive amounts of refined sugar. Just one serving of regular soda can contain as much as 10 teaspoons of sugar. Consuming large amounts of REFINED sugar on a regular basis can lead to insulin resistance, weight gain, and DIABETES.
2. Diet soda contains artificial sweeteners. Avoiding the sugar of regular soda doesn’t keep you out of the woods. The artificial sweeteners used to flavor diet sodas come with their own list of side effects. Sugar substitutes such as aspartame and acesulfame K have been linked to seizure activity, emotional disturbances, metabolic interference, and they have been proven to actually increase appetite.
3.There are strong links between soda consumption and obesity. Many studies have positively linked the regular consumption of soda with an increased risk of obesity (and obesity related illness). One particular Harvard study blamed soda as the cause of at least 180,000 obesity related deaths world-wide each year.
4. Soda consumption increases dietary exposure to harmful chemicals. Soda can be a large contributor of harmful chemicals in your diet. Citrus based sodas contain BVO (Brominated Vegetable Oil) as a flavor preservative. BVO is also an industrial chemical flame retardant that has been linked to memory loss and nerve disorders. Brown colored sodas contain caramel coloring as a cosmetic additive to give the soda it’s brown color. Components of caramel color have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer. The very containers that soda is sold in can pose a threat – soda cans and bottles are lined with or can contain BPA (Bisphenol-A). BPA has been tied to certain reproductive cancers and infertility.
5. Sodas contain genetically modified (GM) ingredients. The safety of GMO consumption has yet to be proven, and the initial evidence suggests that they may be dangerous. Many countries have chosen to ban the use or production of genetically modified ingredients due to initial lab based findings that link GMO’s with digestive tract damage, fertility issues, and ACCELERATED tumor growth and development.
Unfortunately, this information isn’t new. Researchers have been proving the dangers associated with soda consumption for the past few years, yet soda sales have only seen a small (single digit percentages) decline in sales. Sugar and artificial sweeteners can be powerfully addictive substances. We also face an uphill battle against multi-million dollar marketing campaigns DESIGNED to create “loyal consumers for life” by targeting the youngest members of our population.
Despite the uphill battle, THERE is progress being made. More schools are kicking soda out of their lunch rooms, and even though it is small, there is a decline in soda sales globally. Some cities, like New York, are proposing regulation on additional taxes for sugary drinks, OR limiting the serving size of soda that may be sold. Most importantly though, is the increasing number of individuals who are taking their health into their own hands, and finding healthier alternatives to soda.
Cutting soda out of your daily diet is a great idea, but finding a great replacement makes dropping the habit a lot easier to do. Thankfully, a few alternatives to soda will satisfy your cravings without affecting your health
Smoothies: Make your own healthy smoothies at home using your blender, food processor, or NutriBullet. Just add fresh fruits, spring water, coconut milk and ice to make a delicious sweet drink.
Iced Tea: The nice thing about a cold glass of unsweetened iced tea is that you can sweeten it to your liking with sugar, but skip the high fructose corn syrup. If your sweet tooth is truly tingling for a ton of sugar, a glass of sweet tea will scratch the itch without totalling trashing your teeth.
Coffee: It might be the most obvious choice, but coffee usually has significantly more caffeine in it than a can of soda, so a single small cup will curb your craving for a caffeine boost. If you don't want a warm cup of coffee, you can make your own cold brew at home easily.
Black or Green Tea: Black and green tea typically have more caffeine than soda and both are great alternatives since they come packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Both can be served hot or cold to match your preference. If you're looking to add a little sweetness but don't want to use sugar, honey is a good alternative.
Lemonade: While there's no scientific proof that lemonade is the absolute perfect summer drink (there should be!), it certainly quenches your thirst on hot day better than a can of soda can.
Water: Yes, there's the point about the benefit of drinking water on a hot day, but it's much better at hydrating you than a can of soda because there's no sodium in it. For an always ice cold glass of water you can store water bottles in the fridge to make them just as easy to grab as a can of soda. Add a slice of lemon for extra health benefits.
I gave up drinking soda pop many years ago because I never liked the way it tasted. My drink of choice was always iced tea or coffee. Now that I've become more aware of harmful additives in food and beverages, I drink spring water, organic coffee/tea, smoothies and Kombucha*.
*Kombucha - Kombucha has many health benefits. It’s not just a delicious alternative to soda, it’s a health tonic. If you're curious about Kombucha and want to try it for yourself, my next article will explain what Kombucha is and it's amazing health benefits.
In the end, it's all about deciding what it is about soda you love and supplementing the craving with a drink that both satisfies that craving and is healthier. These are just a few suggestions, but plenty of alternatives to soda are out there. Speaking from experience, it doesn't take long to cut the soda habit. Get rid of the soda in the fridge and find another drink you enjoy to supplement it. Within a couple weeks you'll forget soda even exists.