If you’re a soda drinker, surely you’re aware it’s not exactly health. It’s kinda like telling someone cigarettes kill. Thanks Captain Obvious, I had no idea.
I know I’m beating a dead horse, but many people don’t realize just how dangerous drinking soda regularly actually is. Of course, savoring the occasional coke with your favorite burger and fries is hardly the difference between life or death. Goodness knows after a long day in the sun, nothing tastes better than a diet coke (in a glass bottle, of course!) But whether it’s diet or regular, making a habit of drinking soda hardly supports health.
This post is for you soda drinkers out there. Read on to learn 6 scary facts about soda. Hopefully one will get you to kick the habit!
No surprise soda contains large amounts of added sugar, but did you know just how much?A 20-ounce bottle of soda contains 15-20 (!!!!) teaspoons of sugar. To put that in perspective, the American Heart Association recommends women limit added sugar to less than 6 teaspoons daily and men less than 9 teaspoons. So lets say you’re a woman drinking 2 bottles of Mountain Dew a week. Those two drinks would count as 95% of your added sugar allotment. Even if you switched to a (somewhat) lower sugar Coke, you would only have 1.5 teaspoons left each day, barely enough to cover a granola bar.
Do you remember that widely circulated email listing household uses for Coke? It claimed Coke’s acidic pH allowed you to use it to clean your toilet (true), clean burnt pans (true), and even dissolve a nail (not true). It closed with “If Coke can do all this, just think what it’s doing to your insides!” Well, probably not much. Sodas have a pH level of 2.5-3.5 and your stomach can tolerate gastric acid’s pH level of 1.5. Your teeth however, are another story. The combination of sugar and acid in soda is a one two punch against your dental health. Sugary soda feeds bacteria in your mouth. Acidic sodas demineralize teeth, weakening the enamel. And, each time you take a sip, the sugar combines with bacteria in your mouth to release even more acid. This is especially concerning for people in developing nations who may not have access to routine dental care, yet are targeted by soda companies.
Most people associate fat and cholesterol with heart disease, but research shows we should be more concerned with added sugars. Multiple large scale studies demonstrate a strong correlation between intake of sodas (and added sugar in general) and heart disease. In fact, people who drink the most soda have a 20% higher risk of having a heart attack. Sodas not only decrease healthy HDL cholesterol and increase triglycerides but they also increase something called c-reative protein. CRP is a marker for inflammation, often tested along with cholesterol to predict heart disease risk. In fact, CRP may be even better than cholesterol as a predictive lab test.
Soda has a similar effect to alcohol on the liver. The detrimental effect stems from the massive dose of fructose in each serving of soda. Fructose is metabolized by the liver and since soda is a liquid sugar, the fructose from soda rapidly enters the blood stream. This is a lot of work for your poor little liver to handle all at once. The fuctose load causes your body to store fat in the liver, a disease called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). NAFLD progresses progresses in a similar fashion to alcoholic liver disease and can eventually lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is an incurable disease in which the liver is so scarred, it is unable to function properly. Mexican Coke drinkers, keep in mind there little difference in the fructose content of cane sugar versus high fructose corn syrup sweetened soda, so you’re not in the clear!
Check out the ingredients of any dark colored soda and you’re likely to find something called caramel coloring. It might sound innocuous, but the type of caramel coloring often used in the food industry is entirely different from the caramel you make in the kitchen. It’s made in a chemical reaction between sugars and ammonia under high pressure and temperature which forms a byproduct called 2-methylimidazole and 4 methylimidazole. Studies show these by products cause leukemia, lung, liver, or thyroid cancer in mice and rats. To be fair, these studies were done using much larger amounts than even a heavy user of sodas would expose themselves to. However, because it’s impossible to examine the effect of long term exposure in smaller doses, I’m still concerned, especially since caramel coloring serves no use other than a cosmetic one.
Surely you remember that pesky BPA. You know, that icky endocrine disrupting chemical used in food packaging. Well, in case you’ve forgotten, it’s been tied to obesity, diabetes, infertility and reproductive cancers. Although many companies have switched to BPA-free packaging, it’s still used in soda cans. BPA in soda packaging may be of special concern since soda is acidic, it seems to leach out more BPA.
So here’s where you say, “Ugh, Rachael! So what can I drink?” Luckily, there are a ton of low sugar options out there.
Water // Obviously.
Seltzer // A favorite in this house. So much so that we have at least five different nicknames for it – fizzy water, bubbly water, snob water, mom water, and moose. Don’t ask.
Tea // Hot or cold. Feel free to sweeten it a bit. One teaspoon of honey in a glass of tea is far better than 15 teaspoons in a soda.
Green juice // I kinda love it pure green with a little lemon or lime, but if you’re going to add fruit, keep it to 1 piece per glass.
Flavored water // Look beyond water with lemon. Try blackberry sage, grapefruit rosemary or strawberry basil. The possibilities are endless.
Coconut water // Ugh, another annoyingly trendy drink. But, I kinda love it. And it’s a great source of potassium, magnesium, vitamin C, calcium and phosphorus.
Dairy and dairy substitutes // Skim and 1% milk, unsweetened soy, almond, coconut and flax milk are all nice choices.
Or, if you feel like getting fancy, try my aguas frescas, a drink I love to make in the summer with fresh, ripe melon. Aguas frescas translates to fresh waters. Most recipes call for juicing the fruit or blending and straining it, which is much too labor intensive for me. Since melons are nice and watery, you can simply throw it into a blender. Plus, you don’t lose the fiber this way. You could even add chia seeds and let it sit for a few minutes to make a chia fresca.
- 1 cantaloupe
- Juice of 1 lemon or lime
- Fresh mint leaves
- Seltzer or coconut water
- Cut the cantaloupe in half. Scoop away the seeds and discard. Cut away the rind and cut the melon flesh into cubes. Place in the blender. Add the lemon or lime juice and blend until pureed.
- Place 5-10 mint leaves in the bottom of a tall glass. Smush them lightly with a muddler to release the mint essence. Fill the glass with ice. Fill it halfway with melon puree. Top off with either seltzer or coconut water. Serve immediately, garnished with additional lemon, lime or mint if desired.