This Small Change Can Improve Your Health Drastically

Sugar being poured into a glass of water -- essentially what soft drinks are composed of

Sugar being poured into a glass of water — essentially what soft drinks are composed of | iStock.com

We all know that drinking sugar-sweetened soft drinks is bad for us. Yet, we continue to consume them. The numbers show Americans are drinking less and less soda and other soft drinks these days than in years prior, but we still drink an awful lot — and with pretty ugly consequences. These beverages have been linked to all kinds of diseases and health ills, and are even being blamed for some deaths.

But the allure is just too much for many consumers. Soft drinks are readily available, cheap, and tasty. Add sugar addiction to the equation, and they can also be difficult to stay away from.

This isn’t really news to anyone, though. You don’t need anyone else telling you to stick to water. But what you might not have known is just how much damage you’re doing to your health by continuing to drink sugary beverages. According to a new study, the simple act of forgoing sodas and other sugary drinks can have some very resounding effects on health outcomes.

Researchers from Virginia Tech University say to improve our health substantially, all we need to do is skip drinking one sugary drink per day. That’s all — just one.

Making the change

An alternative to soft drinks: Water

An alternative to soft drinks: Water | iStock.com

Published in the journal Nutrients, adjunct faculty member of human nutrition, foods, and exercise at Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Kiyah J. Duffey’s study says the amount of energy we consume through drinking is the root of the problem. By being cognizant of what we’re drinking, and opting for a calorie-free option like water instead of a soft drink or other sweetened beverage, we can take a relatively easy step toward a healthier lifestyle.

Duffey, who is also an independent nutrition consultant, said that we don’t need to drastically change our habits — just make an effort to choose a different drink once per day to get things rolling. “Regardless of how many servings of sugar-sweetened beverages you consume, replacing even just one serving can be of benefit,” he said.

“We found that among U.S. adults who consume one serving of sugar-sweetened beverages per day, replacing that drink with water lowered the percent of calories coming from drinks from 17 to 11 percent,” Duffey said in a Virginia Tech press release. “Even those who consumed more sugary drinks per day could still benefit from water replacement, dropping the amount of calories coming from beverages to less than 25 percent of their daily caloric intake.”

We can quickly see how the math works out. A can of soda has roughly 150 calories; If you drink one per day, and switch to water (or another unsweetened, calorie-free option), you can effectively cut out more than 1,000 empty calories per week from your diet.

But it’s not just soda…

Sugar-loaded lemonade

Sugar-loaded lemonade | iStock.com

It’s easy to forget changing your consumption habits doesn’t end with soda. Those sweet drinks are merely one of many sugar-sweetened beverages we consume reckless abandon. How many people, for example, have a glass of orange juice with breakfast? Orange juice — all juices, for that matter — can contain just as much sugar as many sodas.

And it’s not just juice. Take a look at the nutritional information of some of the coffee and tea drinks that are popular at places like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts. Many people drink iced tea soft drinks assuming that they’re healthier or a viable alternative to a Pepsi, but in reality, they can contain just as much sugar. Unless they’re unsweetened, that is.

For example, a Lipton Brisk Iced Tea contains more than 37 grams of sugar. A can of original Coca-Cola, for comparison, has 39 grams.

Your best bet to avoid consuming all of that sugar is to simply switch to water. An easy go-between is to try drinking seltzer or sparkling water, which is available in a variety of flavors. It’s clear from the research that sweetened beverages are doing a lot of damage. Considering how simple of a change it is to drop them from your diet, you may want to do it sooner rather than later.

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