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It's Time to Break Up With Soft Drinks

October 20, 2019

A fizzy, effervescent, cold beverage on a warm day, sounds like the perfect way to relax, doesn’t it? Though it can be refreshing to drink chilled fizzy drinks, nutritionists tell us it can also be a harmful habit. The sugar and other artificial sweeteners in these drinks, along with corrosive chemicals that upset the digestive system, are all harmful to your health. 

A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open highlighted the harmful health effects of soft drinks drinks, noting that even diet carbonated drinks are bad for us.

Read on to learn more exactly why how fizzy drinks are unhealthy, and the best ways to finally break up with a soft drink habit, as well as some healthier alternatives to fizzy drinks that don’t sacrifice flavor. 

Fast Facts on Fizzy Drinks

Fizzy drinks, also called soft drinks, usually have added sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or sugar-free sweeteners like aspartame, acesulfame-K or sucralose. Fizzy drinks can come in a variety of flavors and sometimes also contain added caffeine and other stimulants in the energy drink versions. In fact, energy drinks come with an additional list of concerning health issues.

How Can Soft Drinks Impact Health?

Most carbonated drinks are acidic and corrosive to the sensitive lining of the esophagus and digestive tract. A 2016 animal study by Alkhedaide and colleagues found that frequent soft drink and bubbly liquid consumption increases oxidative stress in the body. This type of oxidative stress can lead to inflammation and related chronic disease risk over time.

Furthermore, a 2017 study by Eweis and colleagues suggests that carbonation may cause weight gain by releasing the appetite hormone known as ghrelin. Since ghrelin stimulates appetite, this study suggests that drinking carbonated drinks can lead to overeating, which can in turn lead to weight gain and obesity over time.

It’s also important to note the potential health effects of soft drink intake on brain health. A 2018 study showed that soft drink intake can impact health in multiple ways, including:

  • Increases in compounds like glutathione-6-dehydrogenase level, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), glutamate, and dopamine, which can lead to stroke and dementia.
  • Increases in oxidative stress by decreasing monoamine oxidase and acetylcholine esterase, and antioxidants such as glutathione and catalase.
  • Reduction of sleep quality and duration of sleep.
  • Impairment of memory and motor coordination if the drink has sodium benzoate.

Finally, let’s not forget the impact of sugary fizzy drinks on dental health. A 2018 study by Giacaman and colleagues shows that sugary beverages increase cariogenic activity that can lead to tooth decay. Also, sugar-free sweetened beverages can have a high demineralizing potential, which can lead to cavities and loss of enamel over time.

How To Kick The Fizzy Drink Habit

After reading all this, hopefully you’re now decided to slow down or quit drinking soda once and for all. Keep in mind that it may take some time to make this change and keep it. If you’ve been consuming fizzy drinks for a while, it can be a hard habit to kick. However, the following tips may help you cut back, and hopefully you’ll soon see an improvement in your overall health.

  • Slowly replace fizzy drinks with water. Start by replacing one-half cup of your soft drink with one-half cup of water every few days or so. By using this slow and steady method, you will be able to kick the fizzy drink habit in a few weeks.
  • Opt for tea when eating out. It can be a bad habit to order soft drinks when dining out, so get into the habit of ordering hot or iced unsweetened tea with lemon instead. It can also provide a bit of caffeine (if you need it) without the sugar and chemicals of fizzy energy drinks.
  • Find healthy alternatives to fizzy drinks. If you’re having trouble replacing the flavor of fizzy drinks with water, then find more flavorful alternatives (we’ll talk about a few below). If you like the bubbles in your drinks, move first to an unsweetened seltzer water. To decrease intake of carbon dioxide, open the can and let it go a bit flat before drinking. 

Fizzy Drink Alternatives

If you crave sweet flavors and just can’t give up the fizz yet, but want to be healthier, try these three delicious and nutritious alternatives.

Infused Seltzer Water

If you like the bubbles in soft drinks, but are trying to cut down on sugar, try unsweetened seltzer water. Add a few slices of lemon, lime, berries, or cucumber to infuse flavor in your drink. Cold, fruit-infused sparkling water can be just as refreshing as a soft drink.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

If you like the sweet flavor of cola or other fizzy drinks, try getting hooked on smoothies instead. A 2018 study article by Dreher reports that fruit fiber can protect gut health and reduce risk of inflammatory conditions like heart disease. Plus, strawberries and bananas contain important nutrients like vitamin C and potassium.

Make your own strawberry banana smoothie by combining a small frozen banana, two cups of strawberries, and one cup of unsweetened almond milk. For more protein, feel free to substitute ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk with some non-fat Kefir, or add chia seeds.  

Naturally Sweet Iced Organic Coffee Or Tea

Ditch your cola or fizzy more energy drink for some organic coffee or tea you need in the morning. According to a 2018 report by Yamagata, coffee contains polyphenols that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, reducing inflammatory-related disease risk like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, depression, and obesity. 

Instead of buying overpriced, sugar-laden coffee drinks, make your own delicious and nutritious iced organic coffee or tea at home.

  • Just brew up some organic coffee or tea of your favorite flavor.
  • Chill the coffee in a pitcher in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  • Then pour into your favorite glass, add a splash of unsweetened almond milk, and a dash of vanilla extract.
  • If you prefer a sweeter taste, then add a dash of stevia or raw honey.

Bottom Line

The research out there has made a strong case against soft drinks, which can lead to many health risks over time. Not only do they impact your waistline, but they can also lead to increased inflammation in the body and brain. Therefore, we all need to cut back on these types of drinks and move toward drinking more water where possible. If you still find yourself craving fizzy drinks over water, try some of the ideas above to satisfy your cravings the healthy way. It may be hard at first to break the habit but over time you’ll find that you feel better, and you won’t miss it!

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