If you make one change to your diet this year, try cutting out soda. The health benefits are worth it.
If you make one health resolution this New Year, consider cutting out soda from your diet. For many Americans, it's hard to imagine a day without downing a few cans of their favorite carbonated drink. However, substantial evidence suggests that soda may be a big culprit in a wide variety of health maladies, ranging from weight gain and obesity to acne.
Here's a more detailed list of reasons why you might want to reconsider that daily Mountain Dew habit:
1. It weakens your bones. The phosphoric acid in most sodas seems to contribute directly to bone loss, particularly for women, who are already at greater risk for osteoperosis. Furthermore, if you're constantly filling up on soda instead of healthier beverages and foods, your body is likely not getting the calcium it needs to build strong bones.
2. It may be causing you to gain weight. Soda is entirely empty calories, meaning it has no nutritional value. Essentially, it's carbonated sugar water. Many nutritionists point to soda as a prime culprit in the American obesity epidemic. Americans drink an estimated 600 cans of soda a year on average, a frightening sum when you consider that just one extra large Coke contains enough calories to account for almost 1/4 of an average woman's daily caloric needs.
3. It wears down your teeth. Over time, the phosphoric or citric acid in your favorite soft drink wears down the enamel (protective layer) on your teeth, not only decreasing tooth size, but leading to an increased incidence of cavities.
4. It may contribute to acne. For years, diet was considered irrelevant to the development of acne. However, a number of studies suggest, with good reason, that a highly inflammatory diet-- meaning one that is high in processed foods and low in nutrients-- can contribute substantially to skin maladies like acne. Soda is just one of many highly processed foods that you may want to consider cutting out of your diet if you suffer from acne.
5. Drinking soda may increase your risk of developing gout. The high sugar content of soda can increase your body's levels of uric acid to an unhealthy point, which greatly increases your risk of experiencing joint pain.
6. It may also increase your risk of developing diabetes. Consuming too much sugar regularly can greatly increase your likelihood of developing diabetes, and just one can of soda alone contains your entire daily recommended amount of sugar.
7. Soda drinkers are more likely to develop kidney stones. The same acids that eat away the enamel of your teeth seem to increase your likelihood of developing painful kidney stones.
You may be thinking that you're exempt from these negative health effects because you only drink diet sodas. Unfortunately, you're not totally off the hook. There is some evidence that the artificial sugars in diet sodas increase appetite, because your body assumes it is receiving calories that it actually isn't. Many people also use drinking diet soda as an excuse to fill up on other unhealthy, high-sugar, highly-processed foods. Furthermore, the effects on bone strength and tooth enamel are the same with diet soda. Other studies also suggest that diet soda drinkers increase their risk of contracting diabetes and kidney stones just as much as those who drink regular soda.
The bottom line is, no type of soda should be part of your regular diet. Think of downing a soda as no better than drinking liquid candy. If you are looking to cut down on your soda consumption, you may find it more effective to cut down gradually. For example, if you typically drink four cans a day, try cutting your consumption down to three a day for a few weeks. Then try drinking only two a day for a few weeks, and so on until you completely or almost completely eliminate soft drinks from your diet. If you miss drinking carbonated beverages, a much healthier alternative is club soda or sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice (check the label to make sure it's real fruit juice) or a squeeze of lime or lemon. Of course, the best beverage for your health is plain old water!