In the last decade, our understanding of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda and juice, have evolved. Numerous studies have shown a link between the intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and increased risk for obesity and cardiovascular disease. As a result, artificial sweeteners, or non-nutritive sweeteners, have become more popular. Typically used in diet sodas, teas, juices, sports drinks and energy drinks, they are also the main ingredient in sugar substitutes including Equal, Sweet’N Low, Truvia and Splenda. These alternative sweeteners sound great because they provide no calories, however, the scientific community is beginning to strengthen research in this area and understand their safety.
A recent study published in 2017 in the American Heart Association’s Stroke journal provides insight into how artificially sweetened beverages may affect health long term. Researchers found that, compared to participants who never drank diet soda, individuals who drank one diet soda per day were three times more likely to have a stroke. Similarly, participants who drank one diet soda per day were three times as likely to be diagnosed with dementia. Although causation cannot be directly linked to diet soda consumption, researchers concluded intake of these beverages is associated with an increased risk for stroke and dementia.
So what does this mean for your health?
While the FDA and the World Health Organization deem certain artificial sweeteners safe, our love of sweetened beverages (artificial or not) may increase risk for chronic health conditions. It is no surprise, we take health and nutrition very seriously, so to help decrease sweetened beverage consumption, we have come up with a few easy swaps. As you can imagine, our favorite beverage of choice is water, to stay hydrated and satisfy the body’s fluid needs without the extra calories. We know kicking the habit is not so easy for everyone though, so check out our tips to help beat those cravings:
- Try adding fruit, fresh herbs or cucumber to naturally infuse water.
- Avoid purchasing sweetened beverages at the grocery store. This includes soda, juice, sports drinks, energy drinks, and bottled coffees and teas. They’re easier to avoid if they’re not in the house!
- Choose unsweetened tea, sparkling or still water at vending machines.
- Skip juicing, but opt for a low-fat, high-protein smoothie instead to reap the benefits of fiber. Check out some of our recipes here.
- If you enjoy the bubbly sensation, look for carbonated waters like La Croix, Waterloo, San Pellegrino or Perrier. All of these have a variety of unsweetened flavors!
- At restaurants, ask for soda water, water or unsweetened tea (iced or hot). Skip the sugar and substitute lemon or lime wedges to brighten your drink.
- Read the ingredients on the Nutrition Facts label, especially on any advertised “zero-calorie” items. Artificial sweeteners include saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose.
- If you’re a frequent sweetened beverage drinker, try cutting back by setting small goals. Cut down your intake to one drink per day, then modify slowly until you are used to unsweetened drinks.