Should You Drink Soda?
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I was recently interviewed by CBS New York about soda, a hot (or should I say cold) topic that many like to weigh in on. You can view the video here. Even the son of one of my best friends thinks soda, even the diet kind, is the devil. Why is it so polarizing?
As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I had no problem discussing the perks and perils of soda with CBS. But I also felt compelled (even though that part got cut in the video) to fess up and admit publicly that after two years of being off Diet Coke, the only soda I drink, I’m back on it. I call it my drug of choice, a phrase that beverage makers/promoters would say is unfair but that many experts would agree may have some merits based on recent research.
Is soda addictive? There is some evidence that it very well may be, and I know I had a tough time when I quit a few years ago (Read about my Diet Coke detox on Fooducate). I’m just not sure there’s enough conclusive research to say that it’s definitively addictive (and my husband laughs at me when at various times I’ve told him I need to go to Diet Coke rehab).
If you know me, you know I talk a lot about my on again off again relationship with diet soda, specifically Diet Coke. For me, it’s like a bad relationship that I can’t permanently get out of despite repeated break up attempts. I love the taste and even the burn I get from it (yeah, I said it). And despite popular opinion, it does have some perks. It provides fluid to hydrate me (though caffeine is a mild diuretic that makes us urinate more) as well as caffeine to give me a lift – FYI, it’s my only caffeine source since I don’t drink coffee and only have unsweetened hot or iced tea only on occasion. (For more of my thoughts about caffeine, check out this great article by Melissa Walker on Livinghealthy.com; and to find out how much caffeine is in certain beverages, check out this useful chart from Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).
If you’re not sensitive to the effects of caffeine, moderate amounts e.g. 300-400 milligrams is safe for most people, though I generally recommend less caffeine. I also advise that caffeine consumers drink caffeine-containing beverages like coffee or tea and soda if you choose early in the day (through or before lunch time is ideal) so it doesn’t impair your ability to fall and stay asleep.
Despite its few arguable perks, there are many possible downsides to drinking soda, especially the sugary stuff. Studies suggest sugar-sweetened beverage intake is linked with everything from obesity and weight gain to heart disease and type 2 diabetes and even gout. Soda also contains substances such as phosphoric acid; too much of it, especially if you don’t consume enough calcium from low fat of nonfat milk or yogurt for example, can weaken bones and contribute to bone loss-that can be exacerbated with higher caffeine intakes as well (yet another reason to keep portions small when it comes to soda or any caffeinated beverage).
I’m not one to tell you what to ban from your diet. I’m not going to tell you to not drink soda or allow your kids to. What I will say is that sugary soda is over consumed by many and should at the very least be reduced from the diet, especially if you’re overweight or have health issues. And I don’t think kids should make caffeinated beverages a typical part of their day (check out my take on kids and caffeine for Parents.com.
If you or your kids do consume it, it’s wise to reduce intake slowly and gradually to avoid headaches, moodiness, and other unpleasant side effects you can experience if you cut it all out at once.
If you want to consume less soda, minimize temptations by not keeping it or other sugar-sweetened beverages in the house. If you want to consume a sugary soda, stick to one 8- or 12-ounce can (less is better) and skip added sugars the rest of the day (translation: cookies, candy, sugar-sweetened milk or yogurt, granola/granola bars, catsup are all loaded).
With diet soda, sugar isn’t a concern. It’s still wise, however, to consider cutting back if you have a can or more daily because of its potential adverse health effects.
If you want to cut out your daily can (or more) of soda and still want the fizz, try seltzer or club soda with fresh fruit slices or berries, mint, or cucumber slices.
Do you drink soda? Have you successfully cut back or quit the habit? I’d love to hear from you.
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