Below is an infographic showing how soft drinks impact your health. It isn't pretty.
I've recently had several people ask me my opinion on soft drinks. There's a lot of confusion around diet vs. regular. My opinion is that soda consumption in ALL forms is a bad habit to have. Just look at the infographic and you'll see why. But there are so many people addicted to the sweet taste and the dopamine response that accompanies soda consumption - whether it's diet or not.
I grew up watching my mom drink a lot of Dr. Pepper (regular, not diet). She didn't believe the artificial sweeteners in diet sodas were healthy. I had friends whose parents only allowed them to consume diet soda, and there were a few arguments between us on whether diet or regular was better. Even as a teenager I was skeptical about soda. So one year, when I was 15 years old, I decided that for Lent I would give up all soft drinks for 40 days. That 40 days has turned into nearly 21 years and counting. Now just thinking about consuming soda makes me cringe.
Ditching soft drinks is not popular. It's estimated that the average American drinks nearly 38 gallons of soda each year. Some people actually admit to drinking soda in place of water. Yikes! Soft drinks actually account for about one-fourth of all drinks consumed in the United States. Land of the free, home of the diabetic...right?
One major reason to ditch soda is that it's very high in sugar. Actually, the major soft drink companies have replaced real sugar with high fructose corn syrup. No doubt, this corn syrup is coming from genetically modified corn. Don't risk it. Soda also contains phosphoric acid, a nasty chemical additive that has been shown to interfere with the body's ability to absorb calcium. This is one of the reasons why soda consumption has been shown to lead to osteoporosis and cavity formation.
Diet soft drinks contain an artificial sweetener called aspartame. Even though this chemical shit storm of a fake sweetener was determined to be safe for human consumption by the FDA, I'm not convinced. Studies have linked aspartame to nearly a hundred different health problems including seizures, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, dementia, diabetes, and mood disorders. It has also been shown to increase the risk of metabolic syndrome (yes, even though it's sugar free). People who consume diet soda on a regular basis tend to have more belly fat, higher blood sugar levels, and elevated blood lipid levels. It could be coincidence, but probably not.
Another thing a lot of soft drinks contain is caffeine. I'm not opposed to caffeine, per se. However, there are quite a few people with impaired caffeine metabolism thanks to a genetic mutation. It's not too serious. But these slower metabolizers of caffeine can't rid their bodies of this compound as quickly. Some studies have linked caffeine consumption to some forms of cancer, irregular heart beat, and high blood pressure.
I avoid soft drinks for many reasons. But one main reason is that the water used to make them is often just plain tap water. It can contain chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and traces of nasty heavy metals. Those aren't things I want to be consuming. Soft drinks also put people at risk for obesity. For each serving of soda one consumes, their risk of obesity increases 1.6 times, according to one Harvard study. Why risk it?
Soft drinks also lack nutritional value. I even consider them to be an anti-nutrient since the phosphoric acid they contain can actually leach minerals from your body. Soda is an unnatural substance that does more harm than good to your body. In fact, there is absolutely no good whatsoever that comes from drinking soda in any form. So ditch that soft drink habit once and for all.
I like to offer healthier alternatives to my clients. Obviously plain water is the best choice. But I get that for most people going from drinking roughly 38 gallons of soda a year to drinking just water is not going to happen. Zevia makes soft drinks that taste a lot like your favorite soda flavors, but they are made with stevia instead of corn syrup and nasty chemicals. I absolutely do not recommend ditching your soda habit for a Zevia habit though. Just use these as a transitional beverage for a few weeks. After that, you may find it easier to switch to flavored sparkling water. La Croix and Spindrift are not terrible choices. I personally don't drink them, but that's because I don't need them to satisfy a craving. Eventually, you'll want to ditch the 'natural' flavorings altogether and opt for plain sparkling water. Gerolsteiner, Topo Chico and The Mountain Valley Spring Water are all brands that I recommend. Once you get your tastebuds away from the taste of the chemicals contained in soft drinks, you'll find it easier to consume plain water. The majority of Americans are dehydrated and soft drinks do not help with hydration. In fact, they actually dehydrate the body. So opt for sparkling mineral water or plain water instead.
When it comes to soft drinks, the bottom line is that none of them are good for you, whether they're diet or regular. There is no biological reason to be consuming soda. And soda should definitely not be used in place of water to quench your thirst. So ditch your soda habit for good. Your health will improve and your body will thank you.