According to a 2011 study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the average American has a 50% chance of drinking a sugary drink such as soda on any given day of the year. Roughly 25% of the population consumes more than one soda per day, while 5% of the population consumes four or more sodas every single day.
If you fall into the latter category, it’s safe to conclude that you have an addiction to soda – specifically, an addiction to the sugar and/or caffeine that’s contained within the soft drink. The bad news is that excessive soda consumption can lead to a number of health problems, including an increased risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. However, from an optimistic perspective, the good news is that you can easily curb your soda consumption using a variety of simple tips and techniques.
The Dangers of Regularly Consuming Too Much Soda
Soda is often linked with obesity due to the fact that it contains so many empty calories, the vast majority of which come directly from refined sugar. An 8-ounce serving of Mountain Dew, for example, contains 110 calories. Of course, most people will drink an entire 20-ounce bottle at a time, adding 290 worthless calories to their daily dietary intake. Some individuals will even drink an entire two-liter bottle of soda over the course of a single day, totaling over 900 calories.
In fact, a 2012 study found in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition shows that obese individuals who replace soda with water in their diets double their chances of losing at least 5% of their body weight in comparison to those who continue to drink soda.
Another recent study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine showed that individuals who drink diet soda every day are 43% more likely to have a heart attack than those who do not. Although the study did not draw a link between heart attack risk and regular soda, excessive consumption of regular soda is known to increase your Type 2 diabetes risk due to its high sugar content.
Yet another study, this time published in 2010 in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention, indicates that individuals who drink two or more soft drinks per week experience an 87% increase in their pancreatic cancer risk.
Four Tricks for Beating a Soda Addiction
The evidence is clear. Cutting down on soda or eliminating it entirely is perhaps one of the single best things you can do for your health in terms of dietary choices, regardless of whether you’re trying to lose weight. Here are four ways to curb your soda consumption:
1. Slowly replace soda with water
This will obviously be difficult at first, but the key is to make the transition slowly. If you drink multiple sodas per day, try replacing only one soda with water initially before replacing the rest. If you’re accustomed to having a soda with your lunch every day, for example, drink water or tea instead and see how you feel. You may be surprised to find that water is just as enjoyable, and that your lunchtime soda consumption was due to habit rather than an actual craving for soda.
2. Try various forms of carbonated water
Carbonated water makes an excellent soda replacement for many individuals because it maintains the “fizz” of traditional pop while cutting out the sugar found in regular soda and the artificial sweeteners found in diet soda, as well as the caffeine found in all soda.
Many individuals find carbonated water to have a bitter flavor in comparison to excessively sweetened soda, which can be a bit of a shock to those accustomed to guzzling Dr. Pepper and Sprite. Fortunately, manufacturers such as Mendota Springs and Seagram’s produce naturally flavored, zero-calorie sparkling water that comes in 12-pack can containers, similar to soda. Flavors such as lime, lemon, orange and coconut are more subtle than regular soda, but they otherwise replicate the soda experience without the health risks.
Eventually, your taste buds will become accustomed to carbonated water and you may find yourself enjoying it more than you did soda.
3. Never quench your thirst with soda
One of the best ways to stuff your body with empty calories while simultaneously receiving little to no enjoyment is to guzzle soda when you’re thirsty. Soda actually does a very poor job of hydrating your body. The solution, then, is to stop thinking of soda as a thirst-quencher and start thinking of it as an occasional treat that you can enjoy in moderation, if at all.
The next time you’re feeling thirsty, slam a tall glass of water and ask yourself whether it’s still necessary to drink a soda. At the very least, you’ll probably find that you don’t need to drink as much soda as you originally planned on consuming.
4. Water it down
You may have noticed that there are very few things in nature are as sweet as soda, which is the result of chemical formulations as opposed to a natural growing process. It stands to reason, then, that our bodies are not naturally built to consume anything as sweet as soda, at least not on a regular basis. Although watering down your soda may sound gross, it may actually be an excellent way to wean yourself off of pop without quitting cold turkey.
Do some experimenting and see how much water you can add to your soda without ruining the taste. The flavor should be somewhat familiar, since it’s equivalent to allowing ice to melt in your soft drink. Although it’s slightly more expensive, you may have better results if you water your soda down with carbonated water instead of tap water, preserving the fizziness of the drink.
Reducing Your Soda Consumption: The Bottom Line
Drinking soda on a regular basis comes with a number of health risks, including an increased chance of obesity, heart attack, Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer. Fortunately, there are several easy ways to cut down your soda consumption, including drinking carbonated water, replacing soda with tea or other unsweetened beverages, and watering soda down.