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Why You Should Stop Drinking Soft Drinks
Everyone love soft drinks. Those sweet, bubbly drinks are a fixture of the average person's meals, in the United States and all over the world. In fact, Coca Cola is one of the most recognizable brands on the planet!
Unfortunately, the sweet taste of soft drinks masks a variety of unhealthy properties. Here are some reasons why you should cut down or even eliminate soft drinks from your diet.
A 12 oz soft drink, the average size of one can, has roughly 40 grams of sugar...that's about 10 teaspoons! To put it another way, the average candy bar has 25 grams of sugar, so one can of soda is the equivalent of one and a half Snickers or Milky Ways. Soft drinks are basically liquid candy! When you consider that many people drink multiple sodas over the course of a day, that can potentially add up to a LOT of sugar.
Eating excessive amounts of sugar has been linked to many health problems. Sugar contributes to diabetes by putting a strain on the pancreas, making it create and release large amounts of insulin. Eventually the pancreas gets so worn out that it can no longer produce adequate levels of insulin, and diabetes is the result. Sugar can cause tooth decay by giving cavity causing bacteria an easy source of food; the bacteria eat the sugar and then secrete acids that dissolve tooth enamel. Sugar has been known to increase hyperactivity in children. And it is considered a big contributor to weight gain and obesity as well. Soft drinks are "empty calories", that is, they have no additional positive nutrition that goes along with them. Furthermore, liquids are processed much faster and easier than solid food, which means that they don't do much to provide a feeling of satisfaction or limit the appetite. "Drinking your calories" is an easy way to add unnecessary fuel to the body's fat storing functions and result in weight gain.
Some soft drinks, especially the diet varieties, use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar. While this may reduce the calorie content, artificial sugars have their own set of problems. They can promote diabetes by causing insulin spikes, can contribute to intestinal problems by altering the composition of gut bacteria, and have been known to increase the chances of heart disease and cancer in lab rats. Simply put, they're not a very good substitute!
One of the defining qualities of soft drinks is the carbonation. The bubbles are created by using pressure to dissolve gas into the liquid, which is then slowly released once the container is opened. This creates a pleasant tingly feeling and gives the drink some bite, but it has some health drawbacks as well.
Carbonated soft drinks contain high levels of phosphoric acid (sodas were once called "phosphates" for this reason). This substance is very acidic, and causes negative effects in the body. One of the biggest effects is on bone density. In order to balance the acid in the soft drink, the body needs calcium, and the most readily available source for calcium is the skeletal system. Calcium is removed from the bones to neutralize the acidity of the phosphoric acid and keep the body at the correct pH. Over time, this can create a shortage of calcium, and the bones lose density and become weak and brittle.
To give you an idea of how potent phosphoric acid can be, it's often an ingredient in cleaners used to remove hard water buildup on sinks and bathtubs, and a common industrial use is to eat the rust off the surface of metal! In other words, not something you want to be drinking a lot of.
Another negative aspect of soft drinks doesn't affect the body, but the wallet. Soft drinks are a 97 billion dollar a year industry. 97 billion! Sodas are often set up to be impulse buys, with coolers full of cans or bottles located next to cash registers and beside doorways. Fast food restaurants offer sodas alongside their burgers, and often encourage them with combo meals and special promotions. Movie theaters and convenience stores sell soft drinks in giant containers, advertising a better deal on a jumbo portion.
Most consumers don't think about how much money they spend on sodas. It's just a dollar here and a dollar there, a case here and a two liter there. But if you add it up, many people spend enormous amounts of money on what is basically super-sweet, acidic sugar water.
Other drinks are more cost effective, and better for you too. Clean water can be accessed right from the tap. If the tap water doesn't taste good, a water filter jug can clean it for pennies per glass. Milk has the benefit of lots of nutrients, including calcium and vitamin D. Tea also contains healthy nutrients, antioxidants, and cancer fighting substances. Fruit juice can be used as an occasional sweet treat.
A word of warning on fruit juice, though! Fruit juices are often marketed as a healthy alternative to sodas, especially for children. But unfortunately they can have some of the same problems. A whole piece of fruit, which includes the flesh and sometimes the peel, contains fiber that slows down digestion and buffers the effects of the natural sugars. When converted to juice, this fiber is lost, and the sugar no longer has anything to balance it.
Fruit is best consumed when it is whole, not juiced. Fruit juice can be part of a healthy diet, but limit it to small amounts, and make sure there is no extra sugar added. And be doubly aware of "fruit drinks", which are often just over-sweetened water with very little actual juice. Be sure to read those labels!
Soft drinks may be tasty, but they have many bad health effects, and have a massive marketing machine encouraging them to be consumed in unhealthy quantities. Cutting back on soda, even if it's just one fewer cans a day, can have many positive benefits. Give cutting back a try; you may find that you don't even miss it!