Soda is one of the most harmful man-made foods there is, causing a range of problems within the body from insulin resistance to trouble concentrating. Some of the ways in which soda can greatly decrease your health:
- soda has an extremely high sugar content and therefore a very high score on the glycemic index, meaning it wreaks havoc on blood sugar levels, leading to conditions like diabetes, insulin resistance, and other metabolic conditions
- soda lacks any nutrients at all; it offers nothing in terms of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, or anything else that’s beneficial, yet it adds tons of unnecessary calories and grams of sugar to the diet
- consuming soda, even in small amounts such as 1-2 cans per day, is associated with an increased risks for serious diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, auto-immune disease, heart disease, and more
- soda is an extremely processed food, containing many artificial ingredients, GMO substances, chemicals, and preservatives
Countless studies have shown the negative consequences of drinking soda, yet it remains one of the biggest sources of calories in the American diet. In fact most Americans report that they drink around 2 cans of soda every day! Many children are now getting more calories and sugar from soda than they are from any other food group.
Consuming soda have been linked with various health related problems ranging from kidney failure to mood swings. Recently researchers found that soda is associated with a two-fold increased risk for kidney decline. Kidney function started declining when women drank more than two sodas a day. Soda also messes with the metabolism- even just one soda a day is linked to a 34% higher risk of metabolic syndrome. Additionally, drinking soda is linked to rotting teeth and gums, mental fogginess and feelings similar to a hangover, cell damage, and more.
So what exactly does soda do to our body that is so bad? The main culprit in soda, as you probably can guess, is the sugar. There is no question that sugar adds to obesity. Obesity in turn contributes to metabolic syndrome (a cluster of conditions encompassing excess body fat around the waist), increased blood pressure, high fasting blood glucose, and abnormal cholesterol levels- all of which increase your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. The sugar in soda hits our blood stream fast and furiously, giving us a sudden energy boost and feeling of happiness. This is because sugar lights up areas in the brain similarly to those that drugs do, the areas that trigger the release of hormones that make us feel good. We then start to become addicted to sugar and crave it more often, slowly needing more and more of it in order to get our fix.
When the sugar from soda enters our blood stream, it makes our pancreas produce large amounts of insulin in order to bring our blood sugar levels back down. Over time, our over-worked pancreas cannot keep up and we can’t produce enough insulin to keep things under control. This is when diabetes is formed in addition to other problems.
If you are wondering about whether or not diet soda is okay, here’s the answer: definitely not! The artificial chemicals found in diet soda have their own negative consequences, despite diet soda having no “real sugar” in it like regular soda does. Studies have found that the more diet soda a person drinks, the more likely they are to become overweight. The reason? Artificial sweeteners disrupt the body’s natural ability to regulate calorie intake and lead to cravings for even more sweet tasting food. This means you may think you are dodging a sugar bullet by avoiding regular soda and having diet instead, but likely you will be left craving more sugar from other sources later on. Artificial sweeteners in diet sodas lead to a cycle of craving sweets and more sweets!
So, what should you drink instead? Here are some ideas to keep you away from the soda: plenty of plain regular water, herbal teas, almond and coconut milk, regular caffeinated tea is moderation (like green tea, white tea, black tea), and plain coffee in moderation. Often times all of these drink options are all perfectly okay, it really just depends what people add to them that can make or break their healthiness- for example what is added to coffee or tea (sugar, cream, etc.). You want to stick to drinking plain, unsweetened drinks whenever possible and make regular water the cornerstone of the beverages you include in your diet.
While it’s usually best to make the majority of your liquid consumption plain water, if you get bored drinking regular water, there are plenty of other options out there that are much better choices than soda. Herbal teas (meaning they contain no caffeine) and more traditional teas like green tea, black tea, and white tea, all have zero calories, carbs, sugar, fiber, protein, or fat in them, so this makes them essentially equivalent to water in terms of nutrients (although not always in terms of hydration depending on the kind). Many types of herbal teas- like peppermint, ginger, chamomile, and so on- also have a very long history of being used medicinally to heal the body- another reason they trump soda. Plus green, black, and white teas have antioxidants to offer as well. If tea isn’t your thing, try adding some fruit to your water (orange slices, lemon, lime, berries) to “infuse” your water with some extra flavor.
Whatever you do, just stay away from the soda! It offers nothing positive in terms of health benefits and can lead to many, many problems. If there is one thing you give up this month from your diet to better yourself, make it soda!