Should We Give Up Sugar-Sweetened Beverages?Published on Tuesday, January 24, 2023 by
The season for sweetened beverages has arrived!
Menus are full of hot chocolate, apple cider, and seasonal lattes in addition to sodas, diet sodas, lemonades, Powerade, or Gatorade. The list goes on and on!
Sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) are not only on menus but in our homes as well. Since there are so many options available at our fingertips, it begs the question:
Should we give up sugar-sweetened beverages?
Generally speaking, yes, we should try to cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages. An occasional soda, a glass of juice, or hot chocolate is fine in moderation. Foods and beverages are meant to be enjoyed!
Plus, many foods and beverages are tied to emotions and experiences and it is important to honor that. (Hot chocolate while looking at holiday lights, soda at your favorite restaurant, even orange juice when you feel a cold coming on!) But if you are regularly drinking sweetened beverages instead of water, there are some health concerns to be aware of.
Evidence from several studies has linked diets high in refined sugars to diabetes and cardiovascular disease. SSBs have been shown to increase body weight, disease mortality, and contribute to approximately 45,000 cardiovascular disease deaths per year. Unquestionable evidence from epidemiological studies shows that just 1-2 SSBs per day can increase type II diabetes risk by 26%, stroke risk by 16%, and coronary heart disease risk by 35%.
The 2015 to 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that daily caloric intake from added sugars not exceed 10% of total calories.
Between juice consumption and coffee orders, many Americans fill this quota with breakfast! Sugar-sweetened beverages are the leading source of added sugar in the US, leading to problems such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Should you have diet soda instead? In my opinion, no! Switching to diet is a short-term solution for cutting calories, but long term, diet soda isn’t doing anyone any favors. Artificial sweeteners have been linked to increased insulin and blood glucose levels. Not to mention that diet drinks are so much sweeter, that the brain is often tricked into wanting more and more sweet things.
So what should we do? Here are some ideas on how to cut back on SSBs:
- Instead of soda, try seltzer or sparkling water. You can add fresh fruit or a splash of 100% fruit juice for some added flavor.
- Have the fruit, not the juice. Opt for a whole orange (you’ll get fiber along with vitamin C) instead of a glass of juice.
- Make your coffee at home so you can control what is added.
- If you drink soda for caffeine, try switching to tea. Green and black tea both have caffeine and can be served hot or cold.
- Cut back slowly! If you are used to drinking multiple SSBs a day, start by eliminating 1-2. Once that feels manageable, cut back some more.
- Find a water bottle that you like! Reusable water bottles are everywhere these days!
- DiNicolantonio, J. J., Lucan, S. C., & O'Keefe, J. H. (2016). The Evidence for Saturated Fat and for Sugar Related to Coronary Heart Disease. Progress in cardiovascular diseases. 58(5), 464–472. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pcad.2015.11.006
- Malik V. S. (2017). Sugar sweetened beverages and cardiometabolic health. Current opinion in cardiology, 32(5), 572–579. https://doi.org/10.1097/HCO.0000000000000439
- Ricki Lewis, P. D. (2020, July 26). Nearly one in three adults has sugary drinks daily. Medscape. Retrieved December 13, 2022, from https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/859482
- Pepino, M. Y., Tiemann, C. D., Patterson, B. W., Wice, B. M., & Klein, S. (2013). Sucralose affects glycemic and hormonal responses to an oral glucose load. Diabetes care, 36(9), 2530–2535. https://doi.org/10.2337/dc12-2221
Caitlin RileyRDN, LDN