Americans have a love affair with soda. Today, the majority of us will enjoy at least one serving, and by the end of a year, we will have on average consumed gallons of the highly addictive, nonnutritive, fizzy beverage.
You know it’s not good for your health but just how bad is soda for you?
According to the American Heart Association, for non-diabetics who are not trying to lose weight, the maximum daily sugar limit is 9 teaspoons or 36 grams for men and 6 teaspoons or 25 grams for women and children. Can you guess how many grams of sugar are in a 12oz can of Coke? If you had one can of can per day, you’d be exceeding your daily limit as it contains 39 grams of sugar!
Excess sugar intake directly contributes to increasing instances of obesity related diseases, like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, liver disease, infertility, respiratory problems, and certain types of cancer.
Watch Out for the Diet Label
The dangers of sugar aren’t limited to the natural substance. Artificial sweeteners are commonly used to add sweetness to diet sodas and may actually be more harmful than sugar. Aspartame, also commonly known as NutraSweet or Equal, is around 200 times sweeter than real sugar. Therefore, much less of it needs to be used, in turn, saving us calories.
If you are a diet soda drinker, chances are, you started drinking it to control or lose weight. Several recent studies have shown that drinking diet soda regularly may actually contribute to increased weight gain and particularly increased amounts of belly fat.
Why? Recently, studies suggest that aspartame, in particular, may alter the microflora of the stomach and intestines, inhibit certain digestive enzymes, and ultimately lead to metabolic syndrome —a clustering of three of the following symptoms:
- abdominal obesity
- high blood pressure
- elevated fasting blood sugar
- high triglyceride levels
- low HDL
Why is it SO Hard to Quit Drinking Soda?
It is possible that you could be chemically or psychologically (or both) addicted to soft drinks. We know that caffeine can cause the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which stimulates the pleasure center of the brain. This is likely the reason for mild euphoria as well as the driving reasons for cravings.
The good news is twofold. Unless you have health conditions requiring it, there is no need to go cold-turkey on caffeine. If you are able to substitute other caffeinated beverages in place of soft drinks, you may avoid the physical symptoms like a headache, fatigue, and irritability, that come with caffeine withdrawal.
How do I Quit Soda for Good?
As we have covered previously, habits are hard to break. Here are three steps for success.
Have a Strategy. Whether you decide to go cold turkey or wean yourself off soft drinks over a period of a couple of weeks, make a plan and share it with others that will be supportive and hold you accountable.
Know Your Triggers. You may only drink soda in some locations or particular situations. For example, an afternoon pick-me-up at the office, or when you eat out. While you may not be able to avoid these scenarios completely, you may be able to change the habits.
Have a Substitution Plan. We know that habits are formed through cyclical reinforcement of trigger, activity, and reward. You can’t always avoid the trigger, therefore find other healthier activities to substitute and enjoy their rewards instead.
Tip #1: If you have a sweet tooth, you can try drinks flavored with Stevia. Stevia (Truvia, PureVia, SweetLeaf) is an all natural low-glycemic index sweetener that has no known harmful effects.
Tip #2: If you plan to wean yourself off of soda over a two-week period, try watering your drink down. Try mixing it 1:1 with ice and water. This is the fastest way to increase your water intake while decreasing your soft drink consumption.
Tip #3: Switching to Water – Treat yourself to a new insulated tumbler. There is nothing better than ice cold water, and newer technology has made it possible to keep ice water fresh all day long.
Celebrate Your Results
There are certain things that you can look forward to after you have quit drinking soda. Whether your goal is improved health, weight loss, or anything else, celebrate when you get there.