I think most people realise fizzy Soft Drinks like Coke, Pepsi and Sprite are bad. But I see so many people going for the diet versions of these drinks. The word “diet” on the can, seems to make people think it’s not an unhealthy choice. If something has zero calories – well that’s healthy isn’t it?
When I first found got interested in nutrition (on my way to Paleo), I did a lot of research. As soon as I found out more about soft drinks, I stopped my occasional consumption immediately. I certainly understand the appeal. They taste sweet, they are cold on hot days, they are available everywhere; in fact most employers I’ve worked for have supplied them for free. I think a lot of people who perhaps aren’t so keen on water may even feel that they are getting hydrated. The caffeine and sugar content may also help consumers to feel more energised – at least initially.
The “non diet” versions contain significant amounts of some form of sugar; be it cane sugar, or even the nasty high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Drinking this much sugar will cause your blood sugar to rapidly rise. The pancreas will respond by releasing insulin, to decrease blood sugar levels. When levels drop, hunger will result – often resulting in a craving for more sugary food or drink. But even more worrying are the “diet” versions of these drinks. Instead of sugar they use artificial sweeteners such as aspartame to make the drink taste sweet. Taking a Paleo viewpoint, aspartame is a relatively new chemical, though we know it is an excitotoxin, capable of passing the blood-brain barrier, possibly causing cellular damage, scary stuff.
There is also evidence suggesting artificial sweeteners may cause a psychological insulin response. So when you drink a diet soda, the brain recognises the sweet taste and prepares the body to launch an insulin response, to the expected increased blood sugar levels. This leaves an excess amount of un-utilised insulin in the blood stream, which may contribute to insulin resistance. This could result in decreases to the blood sugar level, increasing hunger, not to mention the effects of the insulin on the bodies fat storage mechanisms. Aspartame has also been linked with all sorts of issues, such as memory problems, birth defects, brain tumours and convulsions. Some fizzy drinks use other sweeteners, but I think the best advice is to completely avoid them; it’s just not worth it.
Another component of these fizzy drinks are Phosphates. Phosphoric acid is believed to interfere with Calcium absorption and may cause a loss of calcium from the body. The acidity of soft drinks also results in calcium leaching to buffer the PH levels. Osteoporosis anybody?
Caffeine is another big issue with soft drinks, but I think that it is worthy of its own future post.
Can’t break the diet coke habit?
Try sparkling water 1:1 with apple cider vinegar then keep reducing the ratio. I often drink sparkling water with a slice of lemon or lime. But ultimately, drink water (and perhaps the occasional cup of tea)!
What do you think about soft drinks? Do you still drink them?