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Refreshing and Healthier Beverage Options Besides Soda

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Apr 25, 2021

If soda has been your go-to drink for quenching thirst each day, it’s time to rethink your drink. Drinking sugary soda is simply a bad idea for supporting good health. Multiple studies have found time and again, that consuming soda, including artificially sweetened or “diet” soda, can be harmful to your health. This finding was published in a 2019 JAMA Internal Medicine article that showed people who drank two or more glasses of diet or regular soda had higher risks of dying from cardiovascular disease including stroke. Besides increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, the study also found consuming beverages sweetened with sugar or artificial sweeteners, were positively associated with all-cause deaths raising the risk of premature death by 17 percent, compared to those who sip them less than once a month.

What other studies have found

This is far from the first time research has shown a link between soda’s subtle and insidious effect on human health. For instance, obesity is often linked to individuals who regularly consume soda as found in a 2017 study in a journal called QJM, an International Journal of Medicine. Another study published in the journal Appetite, found an association of sweet cravings being triggered by drinking soda leading to a vicious cycle of eating other sugar laden foods and beverages.

Then, there’s a major study published in the journal Circulation which followed more than 118,000 men and women for 30 years.  At the end of the study, researchers concluded that each daily 12-ounce serving of a sugar-sweetened beverage – including soft drinks, lemonade and other sugary fruit drinks – raised the risk of death by 7 percent, including a 5 percent increased risk for cancer death, and a 10 percent increased risk for death from cardiovascular disease. This same study also concluded that “sugary drinks lead to weight gain and anything that leads to weight gain increases risk of conditions such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.”

Bottom line, there are few if any health benefits from drinking soda.  Soda is devoid of any nutrients other than offering calories.  Consider the fact that the average soda beverage will contain at least 3 to 4 tablespoons of sugar in a 20 ounce container. It’s doubtful any of us deliberately would add that amount of sugar on our own to a glass of water with flavoring. But also take into consideration an interesting study in the journal Diabetologia which found that swapping one sugary drink a day for an alternative healthier drink such as water, coffee, or tea, may reduce a person’s risk of type 2 diabetes by 25 percent.

Healthier ideas for replacing sugary and artificially sweetened beverages

So, what can you do to curb soda consumption?  Look into healthier, alternative beverages replacing soda for good. However, it’s vital to refrain from simply replacing soda with other beverages high in sugar too such as sweetened tea, sugary coffee drinks, or high-sugar fruit juices for example. These beverages still offer just as many (if not more) sugar and calories as sodas do and defeats the purpose of cutting back on overall sugar intake.

Here’s a look a 6 refreshing and healthier beverages kicking soda to the curb. These non- or low-calorie options are perfect thirst quenchers for satisfying taste buds:

  1. Sip seltzer water for a carbonated feeling

If you find it hard giving up the bubbly, carbonated, refreshing taste soda offers which plain tap water does not, then seltzer water is your solution. You still get the bubbly carbonation soda has but without the sugar or calories and with no detrimental health effects.

  1. Water infused with natural fruit flavors

If plain water is just that – too plain – then flavored waters infused with fruit are a perfect option.  Of course there are plenty of artificially sweetened flavored waters to choose from, but the healthier choice is natural flavoring. Simply add cut-up fruits (or veggies) you love like lemons, limes, oranges, watermelon, strawberries, or cucumber, add to a pitcher of ice cold water and enjoy this refreshing, flavorful drink with no calories or sugar substitutes. You can also place cut-up fruit into ice cube trays, add water and freeze. When thirsty, pour yourself a glass of water and add these colorful cubes for a boost of fresh flavor.

  1. Make “Jeltzer” water

To make plain seltzer water with more of a flavorful “zing,” mix one part 100% fruit juice with three parts seltzer water for a light and bubbly concoction. Some of the best juices to use are cranberry, tart cherry, pomegranate, and grape.

  1. Have a cup of tea

Whether you like tea hot or cold, as long as it’s unsweetened, it’s a great alternative for soda. Green tea, in particular, is one of the best to choose. This calorie-free beverage is naturally high in antioxidants and a 2010 review of green tea found it may reduce risk of heart disease, obesity, liver disease, certain types of cancer, and type 2 diabetes. Or if feeling stressed, have chamomile, valerian, or lemon balm tea.

  1. Have a cup of coffee

Coffee drinkers will be glad to know this beloved beverage can be part of a healthy diet. As long as you’re choosing unsweetened coffee, either black or with a small amount of nonfat or low-fat milk or cream, it’s a good soda replacement. From coffee’s caffeine increasing mental alertness to lowering the risk of heart disease, prostate cancer, and endometrial cancer according to a 2017 study in BMJ, drinking up to 2 cups a day is acceptable.

  1. Try coconut water

Not to be confused with coconut milk, coconut water is a hydrating, unsweetened natural source of vitamins and minerals and a refreshing choice in place of soda. Sports enthusiast will be glad to know that coconut water is perfect for rehydrating after long or strenuous exercise. That’s because coconut water contains electrolytes such as potassium, magnesium, and sodium that can be depleted during athletic sessions. In fact, choosing coconut water instead of a sports drink has been found to be just as rehydrating and causes less nausea and stomach upset.

 

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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