In truth diet soda is the opposite of okay and may be more detrimental to your body than regular soda. This raises the most common question…how can diet soda be detrimental if it is “zero calorie” and/or “fat free?” These phrases are an example of a food/beverage industry that has very misleading national labels to the average consumer. Society has engrained in us that the more “zeros” on a nutritional label, the better. This could not be farther from the truth and the more you learn about real whole foods, the more you will understand. But let’s stay focused on the current topic.
First and foremost, diet soda leads to a state of mind that makes people believe that they are saving a little on the soda, so they can splurge more on other sweet indulgences. Wrong. Sweeteners are sweeteners whether in the form of sugar, aspartame, agave nectar, fructose, Splenda and the list goes on. There is no doubt that regardless of form or claim, these sweeteners are going to provoke a reaction from your body when consumed. There is evidence that suggests consuming artificial sweeteners only perpetuates the need to intake sugar. (1,2) Regardless of calories or effect on glucose levels, your taste buds are telling the brain you are consuming something sweet. The desire for sweet is not being eliminated but rather reinforced. There is a correlation that exists between a person’s regular intake of a flavor and the desired intensity or frequency to have that flavor (2). What America needs to do is eliminate the desire for “sweet” on a regular basis. It was never meant to be a daily staple in our diets!
So we can all agree that this is the extreme case, but what are artificial sweeteners doing to us that can have a short-term impact on our health? There is no question that diet sodas are causing an increase in the obesity rate. There have been numerous studies that have discredited strictly substituting artificial sweeteners for normal sweeteners such as cane sugar had no effect on weight loss (2). If anything these calories are negligible (empty-calories) and will never satisfy a nutritional need thus typically leading to the consumption of additional empty calories. I’ll toast some Doritos to that Diet Coke! This raises a question. Is the introduction of artificial sweeteners having a major influence on the current obesity epidemic in the United States? Let’s take a look at the graph below.
We can definitely see some correlation here. Artificial sweeteners became very popular in our diets towards the late 90’s and hasn’t looked back ever since. Neither has our BMI (body-mass index aka how much fat is on our bodies). A question I always like to ask is what is my food doing for me? I strive to answer this every time I eat or drink. This is not to insinuate we need to be fleshy robots that purely eat to fuel. There is always room for exceptions, but a good habit to form is questioning what the food or drink you are consuming is doing for you. Green tea for sure. Diet Soda, not a thing…
The cause for concern over artificial sweeteners is only growing and I haven’t even gotten into the detrimental effects that they can on our overall health. Hold tight though for more to come!
I know that when I was growing up I had my friend’s houses that I always wanted to go to because the fridge was stocked with Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Orange soda, and/or Root Beer. I distinctly remember going back and forth from house to house on our sugar highs! Why did I enjoy these houses more than the others? The reason is simple, as a child you want to consume whatever tastes the best, and when the Smith’s were only serving us water, what kid in their right mind wants to go there?!? Sugar tastes amazing and we all wanted to consume as much as we could. Now as adults, we all still wish we could consume sugar all day and every day, but is this added sugar actually killing us?
In our society it is difficult to consume any products that don’t have any added sugar. Go into a grocery store or even your own pantry and look at the ingredients on everyday products. I sometimes find the word “sugar”, but a majority of the time I will find some common added sweeteners such as sucralose, high fructose corn syrup, acesulfame potassium, aspartame (which has more issues that I will touch on in another blog), saccharin, sugar alcohols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol) and newly added neotame. Take a look for yourself!
Why do we enjoy these sweeteners? We enjoy them for the same reason a child enjoys them, they taste great! However these added sugars are giving us empty calories. What are empty calories? “Empty calories” are calories that after consuming them, give us little to no nutritional benefit. The major problem with this “empty calorie” consumption is that our bodies yearn for nutrients. If our bodies don’t obtain these nutrients they remain hungry. Our hunger will not be satiated until our body has met these nutritional demands. Drinking Pepsi, Coke and any other sweetened beverages will supply the body with plenty of empty calories, but also leave plenty of room for additional calories to be consumed. These empty calories will supply us with either quick energy stores, or they will be stored in our bodies as fat.
Why am I asking the question about Pepsi and Coca Cola killing us? Recent studies have shown a direct link of added sugars to cardiovascular disease. (1) I am not saying we need to cut out sugar all together. I am recommending that we try to keep added sugar out of our food as much as we can. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends between 6 and 9 teaspoons of sugar in female and males diets respectively. As a country we average 22 teaspoons of sugar a day (2).
I find that a good way to accomplish reducing our added sugars is by cooking meals from scratch or getting fresh vegetables instead of canned ones, even frozen vegetables are better for us. The more processed our food is the more likely our food has added sugar in it. If we continue to consume this added sugar we will continue to see heart disease rise. We will continue to see our waistline as a whole increase. We will continue to fight the epidemic of obesity and diabetes, which go hand in hand. These chronic diseases are now starting to creep into our youth and as individuals we can stop this if we start by eating less added sugar.
Follow this blog for weekly lifestyle modifications!!