Cutting Out Sugar-Sweetened Beverages

Soda, gourmet coffee concoctions, sweet tea, hot cocoa, chocolate milk, sports beverages like Gatorade, juice . . . the list of commonly consumed sweetened beverages is a long one. We love our sugary drinks. Statistics say that 65% of Americans consume high-sugar beverages daily–and personally, I think that’s a conservative estimate.

It’s just hot cocoa; what’s the big deal? Well, there are several big deals, actually, though I’m only going to scratch the surface here.

One big problem with excessive sugar consumption is that it hampers your immune system. Sugar has a detrimental effect on white blood cells and their ability to combat infection, making you more susceptible to illness.

Also, excessive sugar in the diet contributes to insulin resistance (1), non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (2), bowel inflammation (3), obesity . . . the list goes on and on. Feeling crappy, tired, headachy? Take a look at how much sugar you’re eating on a daily basis. If you’re consuming too much—and remember, there are loads of hidden sources (ketchup, BBQ sauce, salad dressing . . .)—make a concerted effort to cut back.

So, what’s excessive? Well, according to the American Heart Association (4), the maximum amount of added sugar we should be consuming is between 6 and 10 teaspoons a day. The current average is closer to 20 teaspoons. Does 20 teaspoons seem preposterous? To put it in perspective, a single can of soda contains about 12 teaspoons. A 16oz Starbucks Frappuccino has about 11; a chai tea latte, 13. One cup of apple juice has 6 teaspoons (this is natural, but still has a powerful impact).

I’m not saying you have to eliminate all these beverages from your diet, but you do have to change your perspective on them a bit. Start looking at these as desserts, not beverages. You can enjoy a Frappuccino or a hot chocolate, but not every day—keep it to once or twice a week.

Takeaway: Sweetened beverages don’t have a daily place in a healthy diet. Consider them treats—like desserts are—and stick to water, tea, coffee, and seltzer or club soda. Try infused waters—make them yourself by adding fruits and herbs to a pitcher of water of steeping overnight.



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