Sugary drinks — or sugar-sweetened beverages — are the leading source of added sugars in the United States. When looking to quench their thirst, many people turn to fizzy drinks that contain little more than carbonated water and lots of sugar. Too many of these drinks can be damaging to our health. How does this sugar intake impact our wellbeing? Are there any valid alternatives for those looking for a flavoured fizzy drink?
The following text is based on information made available by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Harvard’s School of Public Health and British charity Diabetes UK. It is meant for general purposes only and does not constitute any form of medical advice. Do not rely on it as a substitute for actual medical guidance or diagnosis. Talk to your doctor, registered dietitian or healthcare provider if you think to address any health or dietary concerns. Keep in mind that a healthy diet allows you to get the nutrients you need from a wide range of food sources in the right proportions, while leaving some room for flexibility. If you are looking to lose weight, talk to your doctor so you can do it in a way that is safe for your physical and mental health.
Sugary drinks and glucose levels
Soft drinks are high in added sugars, which may go by many different names, like dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, lactose or malt syrup, the CDC explains. Because of the type of sugars and the absence of any other nutrient, added sugars impact your glucose levels very quickly, causing a spike. People who need to watch their blood sugar levels — particularly diabetics —, should avoid these drinks and go for sugar-free alternatives, according to Diabetes UK. A serendipitous flip side of these drinks is that they can be helpful in treating sugar lows — hypoglycemia –, experts note.
According to Harvard’s School of Public Health, research has shown that people who consume these soft drinks on a regular basis — one or two cans daily — have a 26% higher risk of developing diabetes type 2, compared to people who “rarely” drink these beverages.
The CDC also point to regular consumption of these drinks as a habit that contributes to the development of diabetes type 2 and other health problems, particularly obesity, heart disease, kidney diseases, cavities or gout. This source advises restricting these drinks to help you “maintain a healthy weight and have a healthy diet”. The amount of sugar in these drinks can be staggering: more than ten teaspoons in your regular twelve ounce (around 35cl) coke can. The CDC state that this type of drink is the leading source of added sugars for Americans. These sugars boost your calorie intake while providing no essential nutrients. This is the reason why nutritionists insist we cut down on added sugars — and why they target fizzy drinks as one common culprit. Ironically, these drinks may even leave you thirsty.
Healthier ways to quench your thirst
Water is the preferred option when it comes to staying hydrated. If you still want to quench your thirst and would like to add some flavor to your drink, you can add berries or slices of citrus fruits to it. Mixing sparkling water with a small amount of squash or adding ice cubes of frozen fruit are also valid alternatives. Flavoured teas are also an option.
Experts recommend taking a look at nutrition labels when shopping for groceries and carring a reusable water bottle with you if you want to cut down on these drinks but have a hard time by the vending machines.