Updated: Nov 24, 2020
There are not many foods I categorically recommend people avoid, but I really can't find anything positive to say about fizzy drinks.
Carbonated drinks are popular and cheap, but from a health perspective they are just bad news.
I can usually find some kind of rationale for including almost any food in the diet - even in small amounts as a treat - but I can't come up with anything positive for fizzy sodas.
In fact, in my opinion, they are anti-nutrients, and can cause or exacerbate poor health.
Fizzy drinks are a daily need for some or merely an occasional treat for others, tied to positive emotions of birthday's or other celebrations. Much of this is down to very intelligent marketing and promoting these drinks as part of an aspirational lifestyle.
These drinks are nutritional graveyards - offering no nutrient value and stealing valuable vitamins and minerals in order for your body to digest and detoxify them.
I know many people love them, but here are some reasons why I think you should reconsider your relationship with soda.
They are FULL of sugar. Part of the reason people love soda is the sweet taste, but the amount of sugar in these drinks is detrimental to health. On average a can has the equivalent of 10-15 teaspoons of sugar. Excess sugar from these drinks contributes to tooth decay, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, behavioural issues in children and teenagers, cardiovascular disease and digestive dysfunction. Sugar-free options are not any better - see below.
Gout promoters. Studies have shown that regular intake of these drinks leads to a 75% increased risk of gout.
Negative impact on Bone Health. Sodas are high in phosphoric acid. Excessive intake of phosphoric acid changes calcium/phosphorus ratio, resulting in decreased bone density and even osteoporosis and fractures. I am increasingly concerned about younger children and teenagers who are consuming too many of these drinks and really damaging their long-term bone health.
Nervous system impact. Many sodas are caffeinated and regular consumption can lead to sleep problems, anxiety and, ironically, fatigue. I really don't think that caffeine is appropriate for children and adolescents.
Regular intake of soft drinks increases the risk of early death. If the above isn't bad enough, in a large 2019 study (45,000+ participants) researchers concluded that greater consumption of total, sugar-sweetened, and artificially sweetened soft drinks was associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality.
Sugar-Free Sodas - Not the Better Option
Sugar-free, artificially sweetened sodas are often promoted as a healthier alternative. But remember, they are still have no nutrients, are full of phosphoric acid (and often, caffeine) and replace healthier drinks - like water!
Yes, a lot of the health issues related to sodas are connected to the sugar content, but recent evidence suggests that they are just as detrimental to our health. A 10-year long study has shown that regular consumption of both sugary and artificially sweetened beverages increases the risk of cardiovascular disease by 20%.
And there's more bad news: artificial sweeteners have been shown to drive the development of glucose intolerance and disrupt the microbiome (essential for immune health).
So, the message is: sugar-free drinks are not a healthy option and also have serious consequences on our health.
Energy Drinks - The Worst of the Worst
Energy drinks are probably some of the most dangerous products freely available in supermarkets.
The big problem with energy drinks is that they contain high levels of stimulants from sugar (or artificial sweeteners) and caffeine - not to mention the artificial colourants and flavours. This toxic soup of ingredients is a disaster for the nervous system and the endocrine system (hormones!).
Caffeine is a potent stimulant of the nervous system, leading to spikes in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. These give you a bit of a boost, but long term have negative effects on mental health, cognitive function and immune function. Long-term use of stimulants has also been associated with infertility, cardiovascular disease and depression.
Another problem with these drinks is that they are often used to mask fatigue and fill people up instead of proper food. This then leads to nutrient deficiencies and poor sleep - which lead to fatigue.
It's time to interrupt the vicious cycle!
Fizzy drink Rehab
I really don't like writing posts full of negativity, but I really feel strongly about fizzy drinks.
I have seen so many positive transformations with clients who remove these from their diets. From fatigue, to IBS, migraines and moods, fizzy drinks can be driving many common health issues.
So, here are some ideas to transition away from fizzy drinks to healthier alternatives. Start slowly and reduce your dependency on these addictive drinks.
Kombucha. This is the one fizzy drink that's actually healthy. Available at most supermarkets now, kombucha is actually beneficial for your digestive system and is increasingly trendy (if that's a motivator for you).
Sparkling water with fresh lemon or lime. Pour yourself a grown-up drink - fizzy water with natural citrus fruits will keep you hydrated and avoid blood sugar peaks and crashes. Add some ginger to really boost your health.
Iced Tea. Brew up some herbal tea and drink it cool or with sparkling water. Try mixing it up e.g. green tea with ginger and lemon or mint tea with fennel and liquorice. Herbal teas are packed with antioxidants that promote good health!
Berry Blast. Crush a few raspberries, cherries or strawberries into sparkling water and enjoy. You can use fresh or frozen berries. This is a perfect way to hydrate AND get in plenty of vitamin C and polyphenols.
In summary, there is life beyond sodas - and it's yours for the taking!
You might feel tired and grumpy as you transition off your sweetened drinks, but soon you'll start to feel SO much better!