Whether you call it pop, soda, or coke, it’s bad for you. There’s too many new reports on the side effects of drinking soft drinks to not pay attention any more.
I’m not a health nut or nutritionist, just a normal person who cares about what he puts in his body. Now, I want to expose others to the dangers of soft drinks and the instant benefits of going cold turkey.
From there, it’s all up to you whether you decide to quit drinking soft drinks or not.
Ever wonder why soft drinks contain that mysterious substance called high fructose corn syrup? Well, because we produce so much corn in the US, corn syrup is significantly cheaper to manufacture than bringing in conventional sugar. HFCS became a part of the American diet in the last quarter of the 20th century. There’s fierce debate over whether high fructose corn syrup is the root cause of the rise in obesity since that time.
In 2012, USC and the University of Oxford worked together on a study correlating high fructose corn syrup consumption with obesity and diabetes by countries. You can find the study here. No surprise that the United States ranked first in the study in overall HFCS consumption. As the amount of HFCS consumed increased, the likelihood of having diabetes increased. But should this substance be blamed directly or is it something more?
I do not believe that high fructose corn syrup is the sole cause of the obesity epidemic. In fact, it may just be sugar in general that is one major cause. The above graph from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, highlights that overall sugar intake increased significantly starting in the last half of the century. It’s not that food companies were only putting HFCS in everything, they just started putting all types of sweetener in everything. If you look at the diet of someone before the 18th century, it is completely different from the American diet today. Our diet is full of processed foods that are high in sugar.
Soda and sugary drinks (yes, even your half-calf vanilla chocolate chunk frappe) are definitely to blame for this problem, as a lot of our daily sugar comes from these sources. But, looking strictly at HFCS, our health would be just as bad even if all sodas were made with natural sugar. Our bodies just weren’t made to handle these amounts of sugar so it’s being quickly turned into fat.
So if there’s one thing that we’ve learned so far, it’s that Americans are good at consuming too much sugar. Because so many foods and drinks have added sugar, the average American consumes over 80 grams of added sugar daily. According to the American Heart Association, the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
Men: 37.5 grams (53% less than the average)
Women: 25 grams (68% less than the average)
You might be thinking to yourself, there’s no way that I’m even close to 80 grams, that sounds like a lot.
I thought the same thing.
You know how much is one can of soda? 39. 39 grams in one can! So if you followed this, the most soft drinks you should ever drink in a day comes out to be less than one can. Soda isn’t the only thing with added sugar, however, so it’d be pretty hard to drink that one can and avoid added sugar for the rest of the day. Also, keep in mind that the numbers above are the recommended maximum. A healthy diet should consist of even smaller numbers.
I highly recommend watching the movie Fed Up, which calls itself the film the food industry doesn’t want you to see. It’s available on Netflix. It is a huge eye-opener and was the last straw that convinced me to stop drinking pop and eating processed foods. To the right is one example from the movie that will make you think twice about what you buy at the grocery store.
And don’t fall for anything that says “no sugar added” or “sugar free.” Many processed foods saying they’re “fat-free” or “low in fat” can sometimes be stuffed with more sugar than their counterparts. Check the label to make sure what you’re buying is lower in sugar and that they aren’t sneaking in any sugar replacements.
Try participating in Fed Up’s Sugar Free for 10 Days Challenge. I’ve heard great things about it.
All Calories are Not the Same
The worst part about soda is that it offers no nutritional value. Like at all.
None. Zero. Zilch!
All of its calories come from sugar. These are called empty calories. The USDA defines empty calories as calories from solid fats and/or added sugars that offer little to no nutritional value.
One of the biggest mistakes we make is focusing solely on “calorie counting.” Calorie counting helps people justify eating unhealthy foods. It’s important to keep calorie intake at a reasonable level, but it should not be the only factor when choosing meals.
Let’s say someone just started counting calories to be healthier. Maybe they have 400 calories set aside for lunch. Therefore, as long as he consumes 400 calories or less, he met his goal and feels that he is becoming healthier.
His options are:
Lunch A: Can of fizzy pop (140 calories) and a bologna sandwich (260 calories) 213 Empty Calories
Lunch B: 4 oz. Roasted chicken breast (184 calories), 1 cup of unsweetened applesauce (105 calories), and 1 cup of skim milk (83 calories) 0 Empty Calories
Obviously Lunch B is the best choice, but because many people are not educated on empty calories, both meals are justified when simply counting calorie intake. Lunch B will not only help him gain more vital nutrients and vitamins, he’ll feel full longer, and possibly lose weight in the long-run.
Soda Costs More Than the Price Tag
Aside from the negative effects related to obesity, diabetes, and liver damage, here’s another negative side effect of soft drinks. Soft drinks are so acidic that the pH levels are not that far off of battery acid.
According to the chart from University of Ottawa, most varieties of pop are closer to battery acid than coffee in terms of acidity. This not only greatly wears down your tooth enamel, it has even been linked to having weaker bones throughout your body.
If you drink soda, you will most likely have higher medical costs later in life than someone who doesn’t.
The University of California San Francisco ran a study in 2013 when the first “soda tax” legislature was making its way through the California State Government.
UCSF estimated that a penny-per-ounce tax on sugar-sweetened beverages would lower consumption by 10-20%. They found that this drop in consumption would result in a 1.8-3.4% drop in new diabetes cases from 2013 to 2022. This drop in diabetes cases as well as a drop in heart disease cases would yield between $334-$647 million in medical savings.
Berkeley, California actually passed the first soda tax in the United States in November 2014, and generated $116,000 in tax revenue from the first month. Hopefully other cities and eventually states can adopt a similar tax and put the revenue toward health initiatives or education.
My 3 Tips to Instantly Live a Healthier Life
1. DON’T DRINK SODA! Also avoid other beverages high in added sugar such as fruit juices, energy drinks, and practically anything ending in -ade. I always use a reusable water bottle at work and keep it filled with ice cold water so that I’m not tempted to get anything from the soda fountain. To keep your home supplied with clear, better tasting drinking water look into getting a refrigerator water filter.
2. AVOID EMPTY CALORIE FOODS. This includes sugary beverages, fried foods, dairy products made with whole milk, chips, pizza, pastries, and more. If you can’t give up your pizza or other guilty pleasure, you can opt for healthier versions that are baked rather than fried or contain less added sugars. Just check the labels in the grocery store and compare.
3. COOK MORE. I found that just by cooking more, I’m making healthier choices. In college, I would often buy pre-packaged foods such as Easy Mac and Ramen. But when cooking, I opt for things like baked chicken, steamed vegetables, and whole grain pasta.
After avoiding soft drinks and lowering my consumption of processed foods for just two weeks, I noticed I had more energy (see you later 2pm crash) and had less cravings for unhealthy food. Months later, I’ve lost roughly 15 pounds. I haven’t even changed the amount I exercise at all. I simply dropped soda and tried to swap as many unhealthy choices with healthy ones that I could.
My hope out of all of this is that everyone who reads this at least learned one thing. That’s all I can ask. Hopefully though, I’ve convinced a few people to think about what they put in their body. Remember, you don’t have to be a health nut to live a healthier life, just change some bad habits. As always, when drinking water from your refrigerator be sure to use a discount water filter like the UKF8001 filter, MWF, DA29-00003G, ADQ36006101 or any other discount refrigerator water filter we carry.
If you’ve recently given up soda how do you feel? Do you plan on quitting if you haven’t already? Let us know down below.