Sodas are often high in added sugar and some even contain caffeine. Because they have little nutritive value, sodas have few health benefits, although they can help with hydration. While it may seem refreshing and a welcome treat on a hot or humid day, soda can significantly increase your calorie intake. It would be better for your health to choose a more nutritious drink, such as naturally flavored water or a fruit juice to quench your thirst or meet your craving for a sweet, cool drink.
Can Help Hydrate
According to MedlinePlus, you can consume sodas as a form of hydration to meet the recommended six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluids a day. However, water is the ideal source of hydration, and sodas that contain caffeine may not be the best hydration source because caffeine is a natural diuretic. However, because soft drinks also contain large amounts of water, they more than balance out the effects of caffeine.
Caffeine: A Natural Pick-Me-Up
Some sodas, such as colas, contain caffeine. While caffeine is considered safe for consumption in moderate amounts, there is no nutritional need for it. Because it stimulates your brain and nervous system, it can act as a quick “pick-me-up” for those who are feeling a little lethargic. According to a review published in 2010 in "Nutrition," caffeine increases energy expenditure; reduces tiredness; lowers the feeling of exertion during physical activity; and can enhance physical, motor and cognitive performance. According to MedlinePlus, drinking no more than 5 servings of caffeinated sodas will keep your caffeine consumption within the safe consumption range. Too much caffeine can lead to side effects such as anxiety, jitteriness, nausea, vomiting, frequent urination and trouble sleeping.
High In Added Sugar
Sodas are often high in added sugars, and, according to the American Heart Association. A diet high in added sugars can increase your chances of developing obesity, as added sugars contribute to weight gain. The AHA recommends a limit of between 6 to 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day. A 12-ounce can of cola contains more than 9 teaspoons of sugar, putting you over your daily limit.
Sodas and Alternative Sweeteners
In some cases, sugar-free or calorie-free soft drinks use artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, which, while reducing the calorie content, may come with other health complications. According to Harvard University, using non-nutritive sweeteners may change how you taste foods, creating a desire for perpetually sweeter foods. In addition, the safety of consuming large quantities of artificial sweeteners has not been studied by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. So even though artificial sweeteners are “generally regarded as safe” for consumption, their effects on health over the long term and in large quantities is unknown.
What To Drink Instead
If you crave soda on a regular basis, gradually wean yourself off of the need for it by replacing it slowly with healthier alternatives. Drink water for the majority of your fluid intake. Flavor plain water with fresh cut fruit or cucumber as an easy alternative to soda. Similarly, keep fresh iced tea in the fridge — you can brew your own using your favorite tea blend.
- MedlinePlus: Water in Diet
- PLoS One: No Evidence of Dehydration with Moderate Daily Coffee Intake - A Counterbalanced Cross-Over Study in a Free-Living Population
- MedlinePlus: Caffeine in the Diet
- American Heart Association: Added Sugars
- Harvard Health Publications: Artificial Sweeteners - Sugar-Free, But At What Cost?
- Mark's Daily Apple: Soda Alternatives
- National Health Service: Water and Drinks
- Nutrition: Caffeine - Not Just A Stimulant