Soft drinks may be delicious, but the chemical junk that comes with the tastiness does both long and short term damage to your body.
The good news is that fewer people consume soda -- 63 percent avoided it in 2014 compared to 41 percent in 2002, according to Gallup -- but many still can't resist the sweet beverage -- the average person drinks 45 gallons a year.
"Drinking soda can absolutely be addictive, due to both the addictive nature of sugar and caffeine," Andrea Moss, holistic nutrition coach and founder of Moss Wellness, says. "There have been studies done that show that sugar is 8 times more addictive than cocaine!"
It’s a never-ending vicious cycle. Sugar pushes on the "pleasure response” in our brain, according to Moss, causing people to crave more of it when they eat it regularly. "Additionally, the blood sugar rollercoaster that sugar causes can create more cravings as we experience sugar crashes, followed by the desire to consume more sugar to pick our energy levels back up."
This Is What Happens When You Stop Drinking Soda
You stop having sugar cravings
"Sugar cravings get drastically reduced after our clients have quit drinking soda," Moss says. "And if you're a diet soda drinker, not only do sugar cravings get reduced when you quit, but often people find themselves naturally gravitating towards smaller portions." Diet soda can lead to over-consumption of other foods and it’s not better for you at all. "It tastes sweet, so our body prepares for the sugar it’s anticipating by beginning to spike blood sugar levels," Moss says.
It becomes easier to lose weight
"Sugar consumption leads to weight gain (and cravings for more sugar)," Moss says. Artificial sweeteners are also linked to sugar cravings and over-consumption of food in general. "When you replace sodas with water, you're eliminating a lot of sugar and cravings. Your body naturally begins to lose weight and your wellbeing dramatically increases as well."
You are not as hungry
"We see this all the time in our practice when clients quit soda," Moss says. "When you replace soda with water, which is hydrating, and naturally reduces hunger, and get off of the sugar rollercoaster, and associated cravings, that sugar can create, hunger levels tend to naturally balance out. When people eat and drink something very sweet on regular basis, the body adapts and expects to consume more calories. It's hungry when it doesn’t get its "fix."
Your bones will be less prone to breaking
"Sugar robs our bones of nutrients and key minerals, like calcium, that are essential for strong, healthy, flexible bones," Moss says. "Additionally, the phosphoric acid in most sodas also leaches calcium and other nutrients from our bones. The sugar and phosphoric acid combo means an increased risk of osteoporosis – especially as we age."
Your teeth will be stronger
Soda pretty much destroys your teeth by eating at the enamel, which is actually considered the hardest substance in the human body. The citric acid in soda wears enamel away, making the teeth softer and more vulnerable to cavities and yellowing. Consuming too many soft drinks can even result in a mouth as corroded as that of a meth abuser, as a 2013 study shows.
You'll be more energetic
"Caffeine in soda isn't worse than the caffeine in tea or coffee but it's the sugar (or artificial sweeteners) combined with the caffeine that leads to a double whammy when it comes to sodas and their negative effect on our health," Moss says. "Caffeine gives us a boost, but it's temporary. It isn't a 'real' source of energy like, say, getting a boost of energy from the nutrients in fruits or vegetables. Over time, over-consumption of caffeine leaves us fatigued as it can wreak havoc on our adrenal system."
No more hidden fats to worry about
You may think that because soda is not greasy, it's not fattening. However, dangerous fats in soft drinks that the eye simply cannot detect are there. You won't see the changes in your waistline for a few weeks but they will come, as a 2012 study shows. People were divided into groups, drinking water, soda and milk for half a year. Total fat mass was the same but those drinking soda had a significant increase in harmful hidden fats, like liver and skeletal fat.
You reduce risk of kidney disease, kidney stones
"It's the oxidative stress and chronic inflammation that regular soda consumption causes that can lead to a whole host of health issues, including kidney failure," Moss says. "The inflammatory nature of soda is linked to the refined sugar (or chemical artificial sweeteners), phosphoric acid, and caffeine. But mostly it’s that sugar and artificial sweeteners that’s doing the bulk of the health damage." Research shows that a lot of soda increases the risk of kidney disease.
You'll likely live longer
Want to know the secrets of longevity? Ditching soda is one of them. People who drank soft drinks have shorter telomeres in their immune cells, which means their risk of premature death was higher because the cells were not protected, according to a study. "I believe that the body truly always wants to heal and be healthy, and when we provide the right 'ingredients,' healing begins to occur," Moss says.
You protect your brain
"Caffeine's a temporary boost that can lead to long-term health issues when over-consumed,' Moss says. "If you crave caffeine, better to get it in the form of green tea, black tea or a cup of coffee than a sugary soda that comes with its whole host of other ingredients that can harm your health." Studies have shown that overconsumption of soda can result in impaired learning processes and memory.
Your blood pressure goes back to normal
A Harvard study found that sweetened drinks increase the risk of chronic heart disease by 20 percent. Other research has shown that the more soda drink you consume, the higher your blood pressure rises. So cut back on the carbonated drinks to lower your blood pressure and reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome – several simultaneous chronic conditions like high blood pressure, blood sugar level, cholesterol, and too much body fat around the waist – that increase the risk of heart failure.
You eat less (especially sweets)
The simple sugar fructose in sodas does not lower the level of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, in your blood in the same way glucose, the main carb found in starchy foods, does. That's why artificial sweeteners affect the sense of feeling full after eating. You feel hungry because the body is used to consuming a lot of calories because what we consume is so sweet. And sweeteners can be 400 times sweeter than regular sugar.
Even if you've made the conscious choice to steer clear of soft drinks, you may find it difficult. "Like any goal we have, first we have to set the intention,” Moss adds. “Get clear around why you want to stop drinking soda, and connect (emotionally) with this reason daily. Are you seeking better health? A slimmer waistline? More energy?"
The next step is to find other beverages to drink in place of soda. "There are definitely carbonated beverages that are much healthier than your typical sodas/diet sodas,” Moss says. The best choice is water, but you have options if you don’t like plain ol’ H2O. "Club soda is a great option (add some fresh lemon or lime, or a splash of your favorite fruit juice). Kombucha, a fermented carbonated tea, is another great soda replacement that’s much healthier (and quite trendy these days)."
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