Today we’re going to talk about one of the most controversial issues facing public health – soda, sports drinks & artificial sweeteners. We all know that big business is very active in the political process, lobbying for soda and other drinks to be kept as a staple in the American diet. I’m hoping to shed some light on the situation so that you can make better, more informed decisions regarding your health and eating habits.
Before we begin, let’s take a look back to our ancestors. For the majority of mankind’s history, there were only two sources of sugar: fruit and honey. Fruit was scarce and was very seasonal, and honey was guarded by bees so not easily extracted. Because of these factors, our ancestors did not have consistent access to sugar and our bodies never learned to process them.
Fast forward to today. All of a sudden EVERYTHING has added sugars. Why? Well sugar makes things taste better, of course. But more so, because big corporations know that it’s addicting. People can’t say no to it. Let’s dig into two of the most dangerous culprits: Soda and sports drinks.
Numbers never lie, and in this case they are staggering. A 20 oz Gatorade contains 34g of sugar and 20z of Coke has 64g. Do you know what the American Heart Association’s recommendation for daily sugar intake is? Less than 26g per day and many experts say that is even too high. Remember that the AMA has been influenced by big business and lobbyists, so there is reason to believe it is inflated.
So, as you can see, just ONE Gatorade or just ONE Coke will already put you well over the “inflated” sugar intake level. Now here’s the scary part – how many of these are you drinking on a daily basis? 2 sodas? 3? Maybe a Gatorade and a soda? And that is just from these two sources. How much more sugar are you adding from the food you eat? The total amount can be staggering.
If we circle back to the story about our ancestors from before, we remember that our body never learned how to process these sugars. So now we are eating hundreds of grams per day that our body doesn’t know what to do with. So what happens? The sugar gets sent to the liver and it is stored as fat, contributing largely to the obesity epidemic and chronic diseases such as Diabetes, Hypertension, Heart failure and even prove to have positive correlation with cancers.
So, yes. Unfortunately sugary sodas and sports drinks are actually killing us. What can we do about it? Well, really your best option is to stop drinking them. Soda has no place in a healthy diet, its processed, full of artificial sweeteners and syrups, and is even addictive. And honestly, the same is true for sports drinks. There is no truth to the fact that they help our performance any more than water does, and before you say that they offer beneficial electrolytes, studies are starting to prove that that’s a myth as well.
Your goal should be to minimize any “added sugars”. Natural sugars are ok (fruit, starch, etc), but if a food label says added sugar in the sugar category, you really want to avoid it. Remember that the AHA recommends no more than 26g of sugar per day. That’s not a lot! Put the sugar down and pick your health up!