For this week's Think About It, Nutripol is very lucky to have another guest article! John Irvine, a 2nd year student at UVA hoping to study Commerce and Health & Well-Being, is here to talk about the potential impacts of soda consumption on your body and how the average American's soda habit can have disastrous health effects in the long-term.
Hello Nutripol! I hope you've made time in the month of January to reflect on your resolutions and pick one or two you plan to accomplish in 2018. If you are like many Americans, your resolution(s) probably include something along the lines of losing weight or staying fit and healthy. These are awesome goals to set for yourself for many reasons, including your physical health, and it is never too late to hop on the bandwagon!
While in most cases I am a proponent of moderation and adhering to correct portion sizes of foods and beverages, there are a handful of them out there that can be easily eliminated from your diet without negative consequences. I personally removed the one I am going to focus on today from my diet over five years ago, and if you take this step, it could possibly help you to achieve your fitness resolution. It is a sugar filled beverage that can be found all over the United States, both in households and in every restaurant, grocery store, and corner gas station -- soda.
Let's take a look at one of America’s favorite sodas based right here in the States. One typical can of Original Flavor Coca-Cola (12 oz.) packs 140 calories and 39 grams, or nearly 10 teaspoons, of sugar. As recommended by the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans should limit their consumption of added sugar in their diet to no more than half of their daily discretionary calorie allowance. For the average American woman, that is no more than 100 calories per day, or about six teaspoons of sugar. The allowance for men is only slightly higher, at 150 calories a day, or about nine teaspoons of sugar. So, one can of Coca-Cola exceeds the AHA’s added sugar consumption recommendation for both the average American man and woman. Now think about everything else you eat on a normal day that contains added sugar, from your breakfast cereal to your pasta sauce. It all adds up very fast and ends up pushing you significantly past the AHA’s recommendation.
Coca-Cola has recently started to produce and market a smaller 7.5 oz. version of the same Coca-Cola product. However, the smaller can still packs 90 calories and 25 grams, or over 6 teaspoons, of sugar. In Coca-Cola's defense, at least the ingredients list is only six long instead of the usual book-length list found on processed foods today. Unfortunately, this small victory does not negate the high sugar content.
THE LONG RUN
Now let's look at what drinking one typical can of Coca-Cola a day looks like over a year, a habit that many Americans have or even exceed.
In a year’s time, you will have consumed 51,100 calories and 14,235 grams, or over 31 pounds, of sugar. Those numbers should be shocking to everyone, especially considering the fact that there are many people in the United States who drink more than one can per day. To put these figures in terms of your everyday life, that is the number of calories needed to either gain or lose 14.6 pounds of body fat and the amount of sugar equivalent to nearly eight standard size sugar bags, like the ones found in your home pantry.
Keeping your habit, but switching over to the new, smaller can of Coca-Cola does not improve the outcome by much. It would still bring you in at 32,850 calories and 9,125 grams, or over 20 pounds, of sugar by the time the end of the year rolled around. This is the number of calories needed to gain or lose 9.4 pounds of body fat and the amount of sugar in over five standard size sugar bags.
WHAT CAN YOU DO INSTEAD?
I recommend switching over to water. It is readily available, has zero calories, contains zero sugar, and in most cases is the cheapest option. I've found it easier to make this switch myself by carrying a water bottle around with me at all times. I know that water can become boring over time if that is all you drink, so you can also consider naturally flavored sugar-free waters, sparkling waters, and teas as an alternative.
Also, do not be deceived by soda producers’ well-marketed lines of sugar-free and “real sugar” sodas. Both of these have their own flaws. Sodas that tout the use of “real sugar” simply swap high-fructose corn syrup for cane sugar, which your body cannot differentiate between. To put it simply, sugar is sugar. Sugar-free sodas contain controversial sugar substitutes that I could write many posts on, but in the interest of brevity, I recommend avoiding them at all costs.
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed nutritionist nor a registered dietician. The opinions expressed in this article are my own and each individual is ultimately responsible for his/her dietary and nutrition practices. Please consult a physician before starting a new dietary program.