Changing the Way You Think About Soft Drinks

It's true that soda drinkers are at higher risk for obesity and heart disease than non-soda drinkers. Before you put your hands over your ears and sing "La la la" to drown out the message, let's look at how your body digests a soft drink.

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How Bad Are Soft Drinks For Your Health?

The short answer: Very!

Yes, I can hear the screams now, “Don’t take away my soda!”

But here’s the truth: Soft drinks are the largest source of empty calories in the American diet and soda drinkers are at higher risk for obesity and heart disease.

Before you put your hands over your ears and sing “La la la” to drown out the message, let’s look at how your body digests a soft drink.

Our bodies are designed to digest food slowly through many phases in the stomach, large and small intestines. This slow digestion releases calories as fuel into the body to be used over time, rather than all at once. The process of digestion itself burns calories. Any unused calories are then stored as fat. Soft drinks, however, are liquid calories which need no digestion and are released into almost immediately. For most people it would take an hour of walking at a moderate pace to burn the nearly 200 calories in a typical can of soda. Given that most Americans move just 8 minutes per day, it is easy to see how the empty calories in soft drinks contribute to obesity.

People who drink at least one soft drink per day are 27 percent more likely to be over weight and are likely to eat more calories per day than non-soda drinkers. Drinking soft drinks does not make you feel full and, even worse, stimulates hunger.

So, does this mean you can never have a soft drink?

No, if you really love the taste, have a soda as an occasional treat. Think of soft drinks as what they are, liquid candy, not a beverage.

Would you eat a bag of Skittles as a side dish at dinner?

A 2.6 ounce bag of Skittles contains approximately the same amount of sugar as a 20 ounce soft drink. You body needs water to digest and function properly. Drinking water at meals rather than soda will aid digestion, cut empty calories as well as support your immune system, and keep muscles and joints working well.

But, what about diet soft drinks? That’s better right?

You would think diet soda would be a better choice, but it turns out it may be even worse for your health. Daily diet soda drinkers are nearly 50 percent more likely to have heart disease than non-soda drinkers. Again, drinking soda of any kind doesn’t make you feel full, and artificial sweeteners also stimulate hunger.

The jury is still out on whether artificial sweeteners and other ingredients including in soft drinks cause cancer or other health concerns. In typical studies, rats are fed a “clinical dose” of the ingredients to see what happens. This dose is many times more than a recommended serving. With the average American drinking nearly 600 cans of soft drinks per year, many of us are consuming a clinical dose.

Do your body a favor. Limit soft drinks and be kind to your heart.

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