Are you a long-time soda-drinker?

April 23, 2013

A lot of clients ask me about diet sodas and why they’re bad for you if they don’t contain any calories. The reports on diet soda are very conflicted and, for some, controversial. Some studies conclude that too much diet soda can cause cancer, some conclude that you can’t drink enough to cause cancer; switching to diet can help you lose weight, diet sodas cause you to gain weight; nothing in diet soda is very harmful, everything in diet soda is harmful. I am not a medical researcher or expert, but as a health and fitness expert, here is my take on the issue.

        A very popular diet soda contains these ingredients: carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid, and caffeine. Do any of these ingredients sound like something you want to put in your body?
Phosphoric acid is a chemical used to acidify a product. Potassium benzoate is a preservative used to prevent mold, yeast, and bacteria. Citric acid is also used to preserve the freshness and taste of the product, though the citric acid in diet soda isn’t actually coming from citrus fruits but instead from synthetically produced citric acid using scrap molasses, starch, and phosphoric acid (kind of like sausage). Caramel color is a chemical food coloring and who knows what “natural flavors” means. Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has been widely used since the early ‘80’s. It is found in many sugar-free products and is probably the most controversial ingredient. We do not have a precise indication of the long-term effects of consuming this product, but it’s one I’m definitely willing to avoid.
        We know that we should avoid chemically processed foods so we should avoid diet soda. It is, in all sense of the word, a chemical. Some of the health risks, in my opinion, of drinking diet soda include ruining the enamel on your teeth and staining your teeth; bloating and indigestion; calcium depletion in the bones; negatively affecting stomach acid, which could lead to Irritable Bowel Syndrome; caffeine addiction; increased sugar cravings; increased risk of metabolic syndrome; and weight gain. We want to provide our bodies with healthy, nutritious food, and diet soda has no nutritional value.
If you are a long-time soda-drinker, and switching from regular to diet is a big change for you, go ahead and do it. Then wean yourself off the diet soda as well. You have many alternative options. If you really like the carbonation of soda, try club soda and add the juice of half a lime or a splash of fresh orange juice. Try drinking non-processed, natural sugar fruit juices or smoothies. Try decaffeinated tea or coffee. Drink lots of water instead. It may be difficult at first, but eventually you will no longer crave sodas. Treat sodas like all other unhealthy foods – as a treat to have once in a while. Give your body the respect it deserves and eat whole, unprocessed foods. Your short- and long-term health will benefit.

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