Eating Healthy: the Basics

1. What is a healthy breakfast?
2. What is a healthy lunch?
3. What is a healthy dinner?
4. How much should I weigh?
5. How many calories should I be eating?
6. What is the best way to lose weight?
7. How can I keep my weight loss goal in mind and stay motivated?
8. What is a healthy weekly weight loss?
9. How to set weight loss goals and make them happen
10. How to keep a food diary, and why it is essential to successful weight loss
11. Are all fats bad for you?
12. Are saturated fats bad for you?
13. Are unsaturated fats good for you?
14. Are carbohydrates bad for you?
15. Is fiber good for you?
16. How to read nutrition/food labels
17. How to plan your weekly menus
18. Why should I eat less salt?
19. What do the sodium (salt) numbers mean on food labels?
20. What is The Mediterranean Diet?
21. Why eating vegetables is good for you
22. Why eating fruit and nuts is good for you
23. Why are cereals and whole grains good for you?
24. What are legumes, and why are they good for you?
25. Why is eating fish good for you?
26. Which fats and oils are good for you?
27. Are dairy products good for you?
28. Which meats should I not eat?
29. Is drinking alcohol good for you?
30. Is it important to measure your ingredients?
31. Are snacks good for you?
32. How to choose the right portion size
33. Can you lose weight with a smaller plate?
34. Eat healthier by cleaning out your pantry
35. Which oils and fats should I keep in my pantry?
35. Which oils and fats are good for you - and when should I use them?
36. Which carbohydrates are good for you?
37. What is the best chicken or turkey for you?
38. Are dairy products good for you?
39. Which nuts and seeds should I eat?
40. Is red meat like beef or pork bad or good for you?
41. Is eating dessert good or bad for you?
42. Is drinking soda bad for you?
43. Is drinking coffee bad for you?
44. How can healthy food taste good? Part 1
45. How can healthy food taste good? Part 2
46. How to eat healthy while eating out
47. Are vitamins and supplements necessary to eat healthy?
48. How to eat healthy while traveling


Eating Healthy: the Basics

Is drinking soda bad for you?

It is clear that soft drink consumption is a major contributor to health problems.

I have had emails from industry representatives disputing this, but their argument that drinking Coke or Pepsi has nothing to do with obesity, diabetes and other health issues is fantasy. But they do make their living selling sweetened water: it is in their interest for you to continue to purchase their products.

Here are a number of reasons to take soda out of your routine:

Glass of SodaCalories from sweetened liquids, whether from soda or fruit juices, don't seem to be perceived by the body as food in the same way that solid calories are perceived as food. Essentially, when you drink the extra 240 calories in a 20 ounce bottle of soda, your body doesn't treat it as food. (Int J Obesity 2007;31:1688-1695)

Those who drink the most sugared soda per day have a 67% greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drink the least sugared soda. Interestingly, when broken down by type of sugar consumed, those who drank sodas containing both fructose and glucose combined had the highest risk of type 2 diabetes. "High fructose corn syrup" is often the second ingredient, after water, in sugared sodas. (J Nutr 2007;137:1447-1454)

Drinking more than 2.5 sugar-sweetened drinks per day significantly increases your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. (AJCN 2006;83:1039-46)

A study in Germany looked at the types of beverages that children between the ages of 9 and 18 consumed and correlated that amount with the change in their Body Mass Index between the two ages. The researchers found that the more sugared soft drinks a child drank, regardless of whether that soft drink was a carbonated soda or a fruit juice, the more quickly their Body Mass Index rose as they grew. (Brit J Nutr 2008;99:1370-1379).

There's not a lot of research about whether drinking calorie free sodas will contribute to weight gain or not. What we do have is not encouraging for those who drink any type of soda, however. As part of the San Antonio Heart Study, researchers in Texas looked at all soft drink consumption in a group followed for eight years. Of the 1,550 people who started the study they looked at the 622 who were normal weight at the beginning.

Their data showed that the more soft drinks of any kind that a person consumed, the more likely they were to be overweight or obese. The risk is actually pretty high, and for each extra can of soda per day the risk of obesity is increased by 41%.

The table below is an easy way to look at their findings. The numbers represent the percentage chance of being overweight or obese depending on the type of soft drink consumed. For instance, 54% of those drinking 1 to 2 cans per day of diet drinks had become overweight during the eight years of the study.

Percentage Chance of Being Overweight or Obese

  0 to 1/2 can per day 1/2 to 1 can per day 1 to 2 cans per day over 2 cans per day
Regular soda only 26% 30.4% 32.8% 47.2%
Diet soda only 36.5% 37.5% 54.5% 57.1%
about 1/2 diet soda & 1/2 regular soda 38.9% 50.0% 66.67% 50.0%

While I am not a fan of interpreting studies in animals as applying to humans, there is an interesting study where researchers at Purdue showed that rats fed artificially sweetened juices were more likely to eat more calories when presented with "regular" food. Their theory was that the manipulation of sweet tastes reduced the natural ability of the rats to use sweet taste to judge the caloric content of the food they were given.

Keep in mind that humans are not rats (although we do react in similar ways to food). Whether drinking more sugar free sodas impairs the ability of humans to judge other food consumption has not been shown. There are studies, however, that show people who consume more artificial sweeteners tend to gain more weight. Also remember that such studies as these don't prove that consuming diet drinks or artificial sweeteners causes weight gain -- it simply shows that there is a link.

I am not a fan of diet soft drinks and don't recommend them to my patients. Drink water. We know tea, green tea and coffee are good for you and even cocoa is a good choice because all four contain antioxidants. While diet sodas do have about the same calories as water, I don't feel that we have enough information to say that they are as good for you as water.