22nd September 2007

Is Diet Soda better than Regular Soda?

posted in The Daily Diet by Trisha

Diet Soda vs Regular SodaThe answer is no. It’s not. It does have fewer calories, but that doesn’t make it better. Recently CNN posted this item about the link between [regular] soda pop and obesity, which should come as no surprise to anyone. However, in my opinion, the author of the article did readers a disservice by ignoring the dangers of diet soda, and by this omission misleads people into believing that diet soda pop is somehow better for you. The truth is that diet soda is just as bad as regular soda, and in some ways is actually worse.

The key lies in an old cliche – “all things in moderation”. One can of soda pop a day, whether it’s diet or regular, won’t kill you, but if you’re in the habit of downing several every day, or stopping at the local gas mart for that 64-oz. gynormous Big Gulp of soda, then you need to be aware of what you’re really doing to yourself.

The fact is that your body responds to artificial sweeteners in exactly the same way as it does to regular old sugar. In response to something other than water in your stomach, it releases insulin to try to convert the “sugar” into energy, however, since a diet soda puts no sugar into your bloodstream, there is little or nothing to convert, which leaves you with excess insulin – in itself a dangerous condition that, over time, can cause a number of health issues, not the least of which is insensitivity to insulin (aka insulin resistance). Meaning that down the road your body will be less effective at converting sugar to energy.

In addition, the phosphorus used to make soda “bubbly” has been linked to bone-density loss, since phosphorus is known to leach calcium from your bones. Caffeine also leaches calcium from your bones, so a caffeinated soft drink is a double whammy on your skeletal system. If you’re drinking several glasses of milk every day, or taking a good quality calcium supplement, this may not be a big issue for you (just be sure you’re getting more calcium than what’s needed to offset the loss due to the phosphorus and caffeine), but if you don’t drink milk or don’t take calcium supplements, this could wind up being a very serious problem for you.

Part of the problem is that our society has become addicted to the “sweet” taste of drinks and snacks. Did you know that your body will lose all craving for sweets if you can manage to give them up for just two weeks? After that time, an occasional indulgence won’t bring back the cravings, as long as you don’t indulge often.

The bottom line is that there is no “good” soda pop – both diet and non-diet soda is inherently bad for you. Don’t be fooled by marketer’s claims about some of the new “vitamin enhanced” soft drinks – that’s like wrapping a candy bar in a few vitamins and telling you it’s “good for you”. Marketing people tend to think we’re all a bunch of dummies.

So what to drink instead? Although good old plain water is all your body needs, if you need some flavor variety, try unsweetened decaffeinated iced-tea, with just a splash of your favorite all-natural (unsweetened) fruit juice, or for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up treat, make a smoothie wih fat-free milk, a couple of ice cubes, and some fresh or frozen berries. Or try an iced coffee using decaffeinated (cold) coffee and some unsweetened soymilk (Silk is the only brand I’m aware of that makes an unsweetened version). You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel once you can kick the soda pop habit.

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