Week 13 (Health): Cut down on Soda

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SodasWhether you’re drinking diet soda or regular soda, you could be endangering your health. There’s evidence that diet soda can damage your kidneys and your metabolism. Some studies even link diet drinks to weight gain, because you’re predisposed to crave sweets. As for the health risks of sugared sodas, the list is long – starting with the obvious risks of tooth decay and weight gain. No wonder! Each 12-oz. serving contains about 7½ teaspoons of sugar. That can lead to 15 pounds of extra weight in a year.

In addition, soda increases your risk for osteoporosis and kidney stones. What’s more, soda’s acidity makes you more vulnerable to some 150 degenerative diseases, from cancer and diabetes to heart disease and hypertension. Oh, and don’t forget the caffeine in soda, which is addictive. There’s also evidence that heavy cola drinkers – two to four liters a day – risk low potassium levels, which can lead to muscle weakness, fatigue and diarrhea.

This week, our Be BETTER health goal is to cut down on your consumption of soda. For motivation, figure out how much soda you drink each day – then calculate the calories and sugar grams you’re ingesting. Start with baby steps. Decrease your consumption by 25 percent the first week, 50 percent the second week, and so on. At the end of four weeks, you should be soda free.

Replace soda with healthier beverages. Water is best, of course, but if you want some flavor, add mint, or a slice of cucumber, lemon or lime. You can also buy commercially flavored water. Just check the ingredients and the calories before you plunk down your cash. Fresh-brewed tea is a good choice, but beware of adding too much sugar. Juice has about the same amount of sugar as soda, so drink it in moderation; better yet, if you’re craving something sweet, eat a piece of fruit. If you want carbonation, opt for seltzer water, mineral water or club soda.

"But soft drinks are far from soft. High in phosphorous and phosphoric acid, they infiltrate bodily fluids and corrode stomach linings, upset the alkaline-acid balance of the kidneys, and eat away at your liver like Hannibal Lecter. Soft drinks also contain hidden caffeine, refined sugar, and artificial chemicals."

Barnet Meltzer, MD, author of Food Swings: Make the Life-Changing Connection Between the Foods You Eat and Your Emotional Health and Well-Being http://www.amazon.com/Food-Swings-Life-Changing-Connection-Emotional/dp/1569246823