“To lose weight, cut out the sugar-filled beverages and substitute with diet drinks.” This statement makes sense to most Americans. However, a recent study found the opposite. Artificial sweeteners were not helpful in the battle of losing weight and routine consumption may be associated with increased risk for diabetes and heart disease. Researchers think that artificial sweeteners have a negative effect on our metabolism and our healthy intestinal microbiome. It’s also thought that the very sweet-tasting nature of artificial sweeteners makes people crave even more sweet foods and therefore leads to excess calories and weight gain.
If you’re still not convinced to ditch the diet drinks, here are five reasons to switch to a healthier alternative.
1. Questionable safety
Did you ever read the ingredient list for a diet soda? It lists one chemical after another and some of them may have harmful effects on your body. Research on the safety of these chemicals has been inadequate or lacking.
For more information, read the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s publication titled, Chemical Cuisine. In this publication the only artificial sweetener listed as safe is Stevia (found in a green packet). All the major artificial sweeteners found in foods and beverages are listed in the “avoid” category and include acesulfame potassium (found in lower calorie sports drinks, diet fruit drinks and diet soda), aspartame (blue packet), sucralose (yellow packet) and saccharin (pink packet).
2. Not helpful for weight lossThe results of a recent meta-analysis demonstrated an association between weight gain and routine consumption of artificial sweeteners. A 2010 review paper shed some light on mechanisms for this weight gain. It’s thought that artificial sweeteners can increase appetite leading to extra calories being consumed. Another theory is that artificial sweeteners promote sweet cravings and this also leads to extra calories from sweet foods.
3. No health benefits
Even though diet drinks are mostly water, they are not as healthy because of the additives mentioned above. Diet drinks have no nutritional benefits. Switching to iced tea which contains polyphenol antioxidants can provide health benefits. Iced tea without sweetener (sugar or artificial sweeteners) is a delicious alternative to diet soda. There are many flavored versions that can please a sweet tooth; such as, cinnamon or passion fruit varieties. If purchasing, look for organic varieties containing some tea leaves. It's also easy to make it at home—steep your tea and pour it over a large glass of ice.
When dining out, you can save significant amounts of your hard-earned money by switching to a glass of water instead of a diet soda. The majority of fast food restaurants offer very few options when it comes to beverages, but all have ice water as an alternative. Take a week and tally up how much you spend on diet drinks. This may help motivate you to make a change to a more natural and inexpensive drink.
5. Bad for the environment
Is drinking diet soda a green thing to do? Not at all according to a recent blog in the Huffington Post which spelled out how drinking diet soda impacts the environment negatively in several ways ranging from water usage and water contamination to packaging and transportation of the beverages.
It may be time for you to make this change. If you are a heavy user, try cutting back to one or two diet drinks per day, then gradually eliminating the diet drinks altogether. You could also work with a Registered Dietitian Coach to incorporate healthier alternatives to artificially sweetened beverages, such as water infused with herbs and fruit, seltzer waters or unsweetened tea.
In good health,
"Drinking a daily cup of tea will surely starve the apothecary." - Ancient Chinese proverb