On a hot summer day, nothing beats a refreshing glass of your favorite fizzy drink. But if you’re watching your weight, are diabetic, or are keeping a track of your calories, you might be worried about just how much sugar (and in turn, calories) you’re loading up on each time you down a can of the drink.
While the WHO recommends limiting the intake of added sugars as well as naturally occurring sugars to less than 5% of the total energy intake throughout one’s life, sugary drinks or sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) are said to be contributing to 8–9% of the total energy intake in both children and adults in the U.S.1 2
[pullquote]Although the WHO has set the limit of daily consumption of sugar at 6 teaspoons, a 12 oz can of soft drink may contain more than 10 teaspoons of sugar, depending on the brand.3[/pullquote]
But it isn’t just the possibility of packing on the pounds that you should be worried about. Sodas are also linked to a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, tooth erosion, asthma, kidney disease, liver disease, osteoporosis, and sleep disorders. And if you still can’t resist a cold can of soda, here’s all the information you should equip yourself with to make the best choices.
1. A Can Of Orange Soda Contains 13 Teaspoons Of Sugar
While commercials might make it seem like orange soda is the healthiest option of all fizzy drinks, you might be surprised to know that one can pack up to 52 grams (13 teaspoons) of sugar and 208 calories.4
[pullquote]To lose the calories from a can of orange soda, a 185-pound person should walk at a speed of 4 mph for 30 minutes or do intensive housework like washing cars or cleaning windows.5[/pullquote]
Moreover, the vitamin C in orange sodas is known to react with sodium benzoate, a type of preservative, to form benzene. Benzene, in turn, is believed to cause bone marrow damage and blood cancer.6
2. A Can Of Cola Has Around 10 Teaspoons Of Sugar
For most of us, sodas are synonymous with the dark, caramel-colored cola that pairs well with fast food. Depending on the brand, most colas have 39–42 grams (9.75–10.25 teaspoons) of sugar in them. In terms of calories, this means 165.75–174.25 calories.7
[pullquote]A 185-pound person will have to walk at a speed of 3.5 mph for 30 minutes or rake a lawn to lose the calories from one can of cola.8[/pullquote]
While cola does contain less sugar than orange fizzy drinks, it is by no means a healthier choice. Food coloring used in colas has 4-methylimidazole, a carcinogen linked to lung, liver, and thyroid cancer in mice.9 10 11 Most dark-colored fizzy drinks are also notorious for having caffeine, which can lead to sleep disturbances and kidney disease.12
3. A Can Of Clear Soda Has 6.5–11.5 Teaspoons Of Sugar
[pullquote]If you were to drink a can of soda a day, taking the average sugar content as 45 g, you would gain 35 pounds in a single year!13 [/pullquote]
Although devoid of artificial food coloring that colas and orange sodas have, some brands of clear fizzy drinks do contain caffeine which, as stated earlier, could cause health complications.
4. A Bottle Of Fruit-Flavored Soda Has 1–6 Teaspoons Of Sugar
[pullquote]Rather than buying a commercial fruity fizz for your kids, make one at home with more fruit chunks, fresh juice, some seltzer, and very little sugar.[/pullquote]
Although not the healthiest options in themselves, fizzy drinks that contain fruit concentrate have the lowest sugar content of all fizzy drinks. A 160 ml bottle contains 7–21 grams (1–6 teaspoons) of sugar. This accounts for about 28–84 calories.16 However, you might not get a lot of nutrition out of a bottle. Still, this might be the best option out of the lot, even for your kids.
Can I Have Fizzy Drinks On A Diet?
[pullquote]Replace your cola or diet soda with probiotic drinks like kombucha or buttermilk.[/pullquote]
If you are watching your calories, it might seem that sneaking in a can of cola and skimping out on a snack is an easy way to stick to your calorie target for the day. But while this may keep your calorie intake within the desired range, it will rob you of essential nutrition you may have received from a glass of fresh juice. Moreover, liquid calories don’t provide the same feeling of “fullness” that solid foods do. Added sugars also increase your craving for sugary foods. Both these factors might contribute to a need to eat more foods and unhealthy ones at that.17
Can I Have Diet Sodas If I’m Overweight Or Diabetic?
With the growing concern about weight gain from soda consumption, the solution seems to be in choosing diet sodas. Diet sodas have no sugar in them but are sweetened with artificial sweeteners which are essentially chemicals with no nutrients to offer.18 Some of these sweeteners may even have a high glycemic index and glycemic load, meaning that they release a large amount of glucose and spike the blood glucose levels significantly soon after consumption. This is a strict no-no for diabetics.
[pullquote]Diabetics can consume diet soda once in a while provided they choose a soda with a low glycemic-index sweetener in it. Regular consumption is linked to a higher risk of dementia and stroke.19[/pullquote]
As for overweight and obese people, diet sodas are no solution to health problems related to regular soda consumption. A study found that people who have diet soda daily are associated with a 36% greater relative risk of metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater relative risk of diabetes compared with those who don’t at all. Diet sodas were linked with a greater waist circumference and high fasting glucose.20
To sum up, the high content of sugar in sodas make them dangerous for health. Diet sodas are no better because of the harmful chemicals that sweeten them. It is better to completely eliminate any form of soda from your diet for a happy, healthy life.
|↑1||Malik, Vasanti S., Matthias B. Schulze, and Frank B. Hu. “Intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and weight gain: a systematic review.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 84, no. 2 (2006): 274-288.|
|↑2||Reducing free sugars intake in children and adults. WHO.|
|↑3||WHO calls on countries to reduce sugars intake among adults and children. World Health Organization.|
|↑4||Parent Tips: How Much Sugar and Calories are in Your Favorite Drink? US Department Of Health And Human Services.|
|↑5, ↑8||Calories burned in 30 minutes for people of three different weights. Harvard Medical School.|
|↑6||Benzene and Cancer Risk. American Cancer Society.|
|↑7||How Much Sugar In A Can Of Coke? Med-Health.|
|↑9||Smith, Tyler JS, Julia A. Wolfson, Ding Jiao, Michael J. Crupain, Urvashi Rangan, Amir Sapkota, Sara N. Bleich, and Keeve E. Nachman. “Caramel Color in Soft Drinks and Exposure to 4-Methylimidazole: A Quantitative Risk Assessment.” PloS one 10, no. 2 (2015): e0118138.|
|↑10||FDA Urged to Prohibit Carcinogenic “Caramel Coloring.” Center for Science in the Public Interest.|
|↑11||Smith, Tyler JS, Julia A. Wolfson, Ding Jiao, Michael J. Crupain, Urvashi Rangan, Amir Sapkota, Sara N. Bleich, and Keeve E. Nachman. “Caramel color in soft drinks and exposure to 4-methylimidazole: a quantitative risk assessment.” PloS one 10, no. 2 (2015): e0118138.|
|↑12||Light Soda vs. Dark Soda: Is there a difference health wise? Penn State University.|
|↑13||Just One Soda Per Day. HEPFDC.|
|↑14||Nutritional Content Of Regular Soda. FACTS.|
|↑15||Full Report (All Nutrients): 45308412, SPRITE, LEMON-LIME SODA, UPC: 04955106. United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.|
|↑16||Calories in Parle Agro Appy Fizz. My Fitness Pal.|
|↑17||Sugary Drinks. Harvard TH Chan.|
|↑18||How Many Teaspoons Of Sugar Is Your Child Drinking? Michigan State University.|
|↑19||Is Soda Bad for Your Brain? (And Is Diet Soda Worse?) Boston University.|
|↑20||Nettleton, Jennifer A., Pamela L. Lutsey, Youfa Wang, João A. Lima, Erin D. Michos, and David R. Jacobs. “Diet soda intake and risk of incident metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA).” Diabetes care 32, no. 4 (2009): 688-694.|