The average American drinks approximately 38 GALLONS of soda each year. Some people even admit to drinking more soda than water each day, or no water at all. Soft drinks are a multi-billion dollar product, and they account for a quarter of all drinks consumed in the United States.
The good news is that according to Gallup the number of soda-guzzlers seems to be declining since the 1990s and early 2000s, which is good news as the number of gallons of soda consumed per year was as high as 50!
I’m certainly thankful that more Americans avoid soda, but with so many consuming gallons of it each year, it becomes important to evaluate how soft drinks can influence a person’s health.
Soda, pop, coke… whatever you call it, if you drink it, we have to talk!
Is Soda Bad for Your Health?
I think you can guess my answer from the title of this post, but I’ll go a little further… I’d even say that with a little research it becomes clear that even moderate consumption of soda can be dangerous.
Sure, some will argue that anything in moderation is OK, and in most cases, I’d agree. When it comes to soda, the amount of sugar and additives is so high that I don’t think “moderation” even exists, and it certainly doesn’t exist in the 20 ounce or larger bottles that are so common.
I’ll admit, when it comes to sugar I’m kind of a stickler. This won’t surprise anyone who has read my take on Halloween candy or Easter baskets. But that’s only because it’s one area of health where the research doesn’t leave much room for debate. Sugar has zero health benefits and many health risks, including cancer, and it’s even worse in soft drink form.
Here are 10 reasons why even the occasional soda indulgence isn’t worth it, and some suggestions of healthier drinks to try.
10 Reasons to Avoid Drinking Soda
- The Sugar! – A single can of soda contains the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar. This amount of sugar, especially in liquid form, skyrockets the blood sugar and causes an insulin reaction in the body. Over time, this can lead to diabetes or insulin resistance, not to mention weight gain and other health problems. Soft drink companies are the largest users of sugar in the country. To make matters worse, soft drink sugar usually comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup.
- Phosphoric Acid – Soda contains phosphoric acid, which interferes with the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to osteoporosis, cavities, and bone softening. Phosphoric acid also interacts with stomach acid, slowing digestion and blocking nutrient absorption.
- Artificial Sweeteners – In diet sodas, aspartame is used as a substitute for sugar and can actually be more harmful. It has been linked to almost a hundred different health problems including seizures, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, diabetes, and emotional disorders. It converts to methanol at warm temperatures, which breaks down to formaldehyde and formic acid. Diet sodas also increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, which causes belly fat, high blood sugar, and raised cholesterol. There are a few stevia-sweetened drinks on the market that might be less of a concern but I still wouldn’t recommend consuming these in favor of plain water or healthier drink options (see below).
- Caffeine – Most sodas contain caffeine, which has been linked to certain cancers, breast lumps, irregular heart beat, high blood pressure, and other problems.
- Water – The water used in soda is just simple tap water and can contain chemicals like chlorine, fluoride, and traces of heavy metals.
- Obesity – Harvard researchers have recently positively linked soft drinks to obesity. The study found that 12-year-olds who drank soda were more likely to be obese than those who didn’t, and for each serving of soda consumed daily, the risk of obesity increased 1.6 times.
- Extra Fructose – Sodas contain high fructose corn syrup, which obviously comes from corn. Most of this corn has been genetically modified, and there are no long-term studies showing the safety of genetically modified crops, as genetic modification of crops has only been around since the 1990s. Also, the process of making high fructose corn syrup involves traces of mercury, a heavy metal that can cause a variety of long-term health problems.
- Lack of Nutrients – There is absolutely no nutritional value in soda whatsoever. Not only are there many harmful effects of soda, but there are not even any positive benefits to outweigh them. Soda is an unnatural substance that harms the body.
- Dehydration – While it may taste refreshing, because of the high sugar, sodium, and caffeine content in soda, it actually dehydrates the body. Over a long period of time this can cause chronic dehydration (so reach for water instead)/
- Bad for the Teeth – Drinking soda regularly causes plaque to build up on the teeth and can lead to cavities and gum disease.
Healthy Alternatives to Soda
I’ve heard that it can be really difficult for those who consume soda daily to just stop drinking it cold turkey. This actually makes sense when you think about how sugar affects the body and creates positive feedback loops that are tough to break.
If you’re a soda drinker and are looking for some healthy alternatives, there are tons of options to choose from! The key is to have a few new recipes at the ready and in hand when sugar cravings strike.
- Herb and/or Fruit Infused Water – You don’t have to buy it at the store… try one of these ideas to make your own flavored water, or for a fizzy version use club soda flavored with a squeeze of fresh fruit juice or some fresh ginger root.
- Water Kefir – This homemade water kefir has the same fizz and sweetness but with a boost of probiotics! Also try this coconut water kefir.
- Kombucha – Like kefir, you can make kombucha at home and it is naturally fizzy and packed with vitamins.
- Ginger Switchel – A quick and easy drink that is refreshing and healthy with the benefits of ACV.
- Iced Turmeric Lemonade – This light, refreshing, and slightly sweet drink is perfect for a hot summer day. You’d never know this drink is actually good for you (unlike soda!).
- Homemade Root Beer – If you must indulge, make your own healthier version! This root beer recipe uses real ingredients and contains far less sugar than store-bought soda. You do need a few unusual ingredients for this one but it’s a fun project to do with the kids so they can see how root beer is actually made!
- Homemade Ginger Ale – An easy homemade recipe for ginger ale made with real ginger and a touch of unrefined organic sugar.
A couple other store bought options are Bai and Zevia.
Need a little extra help to kick the habit? Here’s some helpful tips and recipes on how to beat sugar cravings with a few spices from the kitchen.
The Bottom Line on Soda
Soda may taste good, but the bottom line is that soda isn’t healthy in any amount and there is absolutely no reason or justification for consuming it. We are talking about a substance that is often consumed in place of water (which most of us don’t drink enough of), contains no nutrients or beneficial properties whatsoever, and is packed with sugar and artificial additives that make it harmful.
Just stop drinking soda… and your health will thank you!
Do you drink soda? If so, how much and how often?