Wean Yourself from Sugary Sweetened Drinks

March 20, 2014 Providence Health Team

Imagine putting 16 teaspoons of sugar in a bowl and then eating it.

If you’re a soft drink lover, this is, in essence, what you’re doing. One 20-ounce soft drink contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.

Over a year’s time, the extra calories from one soft drink every day will add up to about 25 pounds of added weight.

From 1972 to 2006, consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks more than doubled. These drinks are now the primary source of added sugars in our diets. And that’s not good. These sweeteners include sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup and fruit juice concentrates, all of which have similar effects on the body’s metabolism, including:

  • Increased risk of weight gain
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Type 2 Diabetes

It’s no wonder that obesity, particularly among children, has grown to epidemic proportions in our country. But it’s more than just weight gain. One study that followed about 43,000 men for 22 years found that those who consumed 12 ounces or more of sugar-sweetened drinks a day had increased levels of harmful fats and inflammation and a 20 percent increased risk of heart disease.

Break the Habit

Our first instinct, when trying to quench our thirst, is to reach for something other than water. The problem is, calorie-for-calorie, these beverages tend to be less satiating than the equivalent amount of food. And, our bodies don’t seem to register fluid calories the same way we register solid food. As a result, these drinks tend to be added on top of other calories, rather than substituting them.

A diet drink certainly has fewer calories but, in most cases, more sweetness. And separating sweetness from calories consumption may tend to fool the body, confusing the natural mechanisms that govern appetite. One study found that rats given food sweetened with saccharin took in more calories and gained more weight than those eating sugar-sweetened food.

The best plan of action is to start slow and taper off. If you always have a can of soda, substitute for water. When you do consume a sugary drink, begin thinking of it as a treat – much like you would a candy bar – not a necessity for managing thirst.

Drink 20 ounces of water – or even more – every day. Zero calories, zero sweeteners, 100 percent healthy.

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