Lately, there has been a lot of buzz about diet sodas. What is going on? Isn’t “diet” supposed to be better for you than a non-diet soda? If you should not drink diet sodas, what should you drink instead? The truth is that there are better drink alternatives than soda altogether and that artificial sweeteners in diet soda may cause adverse health effects.
Many people switch to diet sodas when trying to make a healthier choice. Unfortunately, a new study published by the American Stroke Association suggests that diet soda consumption can be directly related to a heightened risk of stroke and dementia. While calories may be eliminated by choosing diet sodas over regular sodas, adverse health effects can develop from the artificial sweeteners used in diet sodas.
Though the absolute risk remains small, it seems that the increased risk nearly triples by just one artificially sweetened drink a day. Studies have shown that “diet” drinks are not necessarily a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, as the artificial sweeteners have linked these drinks to vascular disease and weight gain, which could increase the risk for dementia and stroke. While it is also known that sugar-sweetened beverages are unhealthy for our heart and brain they also pose a threat to our expanding waistline, triggered food cravings and higher risk for other health problems, such as type 2 diabetes.
The best choice, of course, is water. However, to satisfy your sipping, try some of these refreshing alternatives:
- Fruit water – By adding a squirt of lemon or lime or even fruit and vegetable slices, we can add flavor to our water in a healthy way.
- Seltzer water – To keep low on calories, try sipping seltzer water or club soda instead of diet sodas. Adding lime to this is great as well.
- Iced coffee – With a splash of nonfat milk or a shake of cinnamon, iced coffee can be brewed at home and serves as a smarter alternative to diet soda. If you don’t need the caffeine, use decaf.
- Unsweetened iced tea – You can enjoy caffeine-free tea or flavored tea without the side effects of artificial sweeteners.
While it is clear that “diet” sodas do not necessarily help with our diets and instead present adverse health effects, these four delicious options will satisfy your cravings in a healthy way!
-Kyla Baum, RD/LD, is the clinical nutrition manager at St. David’s Georgetown Hospital.