Health Library

Categories > Heart Health > Heart disease: Prevention

Kick the can
Pop goes the soda

So long, pop! 5 healthier stand-ins
So long, pop! 5 healthier stand-ins

Soda isn’t the only game in town. Plenty of other healthy beverages can help quench your thirst:

  1. Water is the ideal drink, but if you find it a little blah compared with pop, dress it up with a slice of lemon or a little squirt of orange or cranberry juice.
  2. Skim milk doesn’t contain any fat, and it provides you with bone-building calcium.
  3. Fruit juice is a great way to start your day. Just make sure it’s 100 percent juice—and not a cocktail of a little fruit juice and a whole lot of high fructose corn syrup. Even 100 percent juice is high in calories and sugars, so keep an eye on your intake.
  4. Seltzer can satisfy that craving for fizz. Give plain seltzer a twist by adding a little fruit juice.
  5. Vegetable juice helps you get more daily servings of vegetables. Make sure to select low-sodium versions.

Sugar-sweetened soft drinks are the beverage of choice for many people. And they’re the largest single source of calories in the American diet, contributing more than 7 percent of your daily calories.

Unfortunately, the bubbly beverage provides no nutrients. And some studies have linked soda pop to a host of health problems.

Pop goes the soda

A study published in the journal Circulation found that people who drink more than one 12-ounce can of soda a day—including the diet variety—had a 44 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome compared with nonsoda drinkers. Metabolic syndrome increases your odds of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. It occurs when three or more of the following risk factors are present: high blood pressure, elevated levels of triglycerides (a type of blood fat), low levels of heart-protecting HDL cholesterol, high fasting blood sugar levels and larger waist sizes.

Why sugar-sweetened soda and diet soda seem to increase the risk isn’t known, but health experts have several theories:

  • Pop’s sweet taste may make soda drinkers crave more sugary, fattening foods.
  • The caramel in soft drinks leads to specific metabolic changes that result in insulin resistance.
  • Drinking large amounts of calorie-laden liquids doesn’t fill people up the way solid food does, so they eat a lot on top of all those soda calories.
  • People who drink soda may have less healthy diets to begin with.

Other studies have linked soda consumption to nighttime acid reflux. And, as with any sugar-packed food item, soda can lead to cavities. All sodas also contain phosphoric acid, which can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb calcium—an essential nutrient for strong teeth and bones.

In general, drinking more soda pop than healthier beverages like milk can put you at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiencies, so it’s not only what’s in soda pop that’s a cause for concern, but what’s not in it. Either way, soda pop is a lose-lose health situation.