One of the biggest issues any nutritionist deals with is teaching people to “not drink your calories.” Unless it is a healthy soup or smoothie, calories consumed while drinking are almost always a bad idea. Detrimental health effects of simple sugars are numerous. For example, the Journal of the American Medical Association found that women who drink one or more regular sodas or fruit punches daily had an 83% or 100% (respectively) greater risk of type-2 diabetes than those drinking 1 or less per month (Pubmed: JAMA Soda Study). A Boston University study found that women drinking 3 or more sodas daily had a 52% lower fertility index (probability of becoming pregnant within a given time frame) (Pubmed: Boston U. Soda Fertility Study).
Additionally, artificial sweeteners are also an unhealthy choice. Consider that those having at least one daily diet soda were 67% more likely to have type-2 diabetes. Diet soda was also significantly correlated to a high waist circumference (indicating high body fat) and high fasting blood glucose (Pubmed: U. Texas Diet Soda Diabetes Study). Those who drink one or more diet sodas per day showed a 43% greater risk of combined vascular events (including strokes), and this association held even after controlling for age, sex, race, education, smoking, activity, alcohol, BMI, calorie intake, protein, carbs, saturated fat, sodium, diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and more (Pubmed: U. Miami Diet Soda Vascular Events Study).
With all of this in mind, you probably would like a list of options that you can substitute. Perhaps they don’t have quite the flavor of your favorite soda, but consider all of the negative health effects you can avoid by consuming these safe beverages rather than unhealthy sodas, juices, and milkshakes, etc.:
Water: Okay, it is boring, but consider how much money you could save in a year if you order a water instead of soda at restaurants. Sometimes, water is just the thing to hit the spot, like after a hike on a 90 degree day. Those who have made the switch from soda pop to water generally find that after a month or two, water no longer tastes so boring.
Unsweetened Iced or Hot Tea (Including black, green, white, and herbal teas): Nearly all teas have significant health benefits. Regular green tea consumption has been associated with between a 66% and 72% reduction in overall cardiovascular disease risk. In the same study, oolong tea also showed up to 61% reduced cardiovascular risk. (Pubmed: Kyoto U. Tea Cardiovascular Study). A separate study found regular black tea consumption to be associated with a 14-30% decreased risk of type-2 diabetes. (Pubmed: U. Minnesota Beverages Diabetes Study) If you need some sweet flavor in your hot or iced tea, sweeten with stevia and erythritol powder.
Seltzer and Flavored Seltzer: Straight carbonated water has none of the negative health effects correlated with regular and diet sodas. In fact, it may have a few positive health effects. Those drinking carbonated water showed improvement in constipation when compared to tap water in a Korean study (Pubmed: Korean Carbonated Water Constipation Study). Mineral water was also found to cause 100 times less dental corrosion than soft drinks (Pubmed: U. Birmingham Mineral Water Dental Erosion) Many seltzer beverages are also flavored with a touch of fruit that contains no sugar. This is a very small amount of flavoring and should have no health effects at all. Additionally, stevia and erythritol powder can be used in order to make flavored carbonated water taste more like regular soda pop.
Vitamin Water Zero: Very few beverages on the market are sweetened only with natural sweeteners that have shown no negative health effects. Vitamin Water Zero is one that only includes stevia and erythritol as sweeteners and therefore is a zero calorie beverage that can be consumed without guilt. Okay, technically erythritol has 0.2 calories per gram, so Vitamin Water Zero may actually be mislabeled as it contains 7 grams of carbohydrates that probably mostly come from erythritol. This means that the total count may be a whopping 1.4 calories rather than zero. Perhaps we should demand it be relabeled Vitamin Water 1.4. Regardless, feel free to enjoy.
Coffee (Hot and Iced): Similar to saturated fat and sun exposure, coffee has largely been vindicated relating to its health effects in recent years. However, too much coffee still can have negative health effects. Consuming either regular or decaffeinated coffee in moderation is healthy. It is likely to correlate to a reduced risk of heart disease (Pubmed: Italian Coffee Heart Disease Study). Additionally, coffee is correlated to a lower risk of type-2 diabetes. (Pubmed: Harvard Coffee Diabetes Study) You can flavor your coffee with milk and erythritol and stevia powder.
Zevia Soda: For those who see all of the options in the above list and still need soda, Zevia brand is the best option. You can find it online or in health food stores and supermarkets (call ahead to ask if they carry it). Zevia is sweetened only with erythritol and stevia. It is available in cola flavor as well as ginger root beer, grape, cream soda, ginger ale, grapefruit citrus, black cherry, and mountain.
If you have any questions about natural sugar-free beverages, you may contact me via the contact page – I answer short questions by email for no charge. For more in depth health concerns, I offer natural health / nutrition consultations over the phone or in-office in Berkley, MI. Specialties include Lyme Disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, weight loss, heart disease, diabetes, and digestive conditions.
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