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Soda is better as a treat than a staple

Soda enjoys a special spot in the American diet. It finds its way into mixed drinks, floats, and it pairs great with a hot slice of pizza. Depending on where you are, finding a bottle of soda may even be easier than finding a bottle of water.

According to the CDC, 30 percent of people in the US consume one sugary drink like soda or lemonade every day. Another study from 2013 showed that 43 percent of young adults drink at least one beverage with added sugar every day.

“Despite being so readily available, soda is far from healthy,” said Geisinger dietitian Gina McArdle RDN, LDN. “In fact, soda and other sugary soft drinks may be one of the leading causes of obesity. While having an occasional soda isn’t going to have lasting long-term effects, having one or more sugary drinks every day will.”

Here’s how your body changes when you stop drinking soda.

You’ll be more hydrated
If you’re drinking soda to quench your thirst, you may be doing more harm than good.

“Soda contains caffeine, which is a diuretic,” said McArdle. “As a result, drinking soda will actually dehydrate you. This can strain your body to find sources of water—which puts a good deal of stress on your kidneys. If you need something to quench your thirst and rehydrate, water is always the best choice. If you prefer something with more flavor, try adding fresh fruit to your water.”

Your teeth will thank you
The sugar and acid content in soda can eat away at tooth enamel. The average soda has a PH of 2.5—making it about as acidic as lemon juice.

“Enamel is the first line of defense for your teeth—and once the enamel wears off, your teeth become susceptible to decay and eventually tooth death,” said McArdle. “You can’t get enamel back once it’s lost, either, so you need to preserve the enamel you have.”

Cutting out soda can help to spare your enamel and teeth from decay. Talk to your dentist if you notice high levels of sensitivity in your teeth.

You’ll cut your sugar and calorie intake
Sugar and calories tend to be like smoke and fire—if there’s a lot of one, there’s probably a lot of the other.

A 12-ounce can of soda has about 140 calories and 39 grams of sugar (3 grams more than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake of 36 grams for an adult male).

Excessive sugar and calorie intake leads to weight gain and other metabolic issues like high blood pressure. These metabolic changes in turn can make it harder to burn fat and lose weight.

By cutting soda out of your diet, you lower your risk for weight gain, and may possibly lose weight as well.

You’ll lower your diabetes risk
One of the largest risk factors for diabetes is your intake of added sugars.

“Soda often contains sugar in the form of fructose and sucrose, which are two common forms of sugar,” said McArdle. “Still, all forms of added sugar are linked to diabetes when consumed in high quantities. High quantities of sugar cause stress on the pancreas, which leads to insulin resistance, and in turn, diabetes.”

Drinking one to two sugary drinks every day increases your risk of type 2 diabetes by about 25 percent—so cutting out soda is a good way to lower your risk of diabetes.

Your risk for heart disease drops
Soda also puts you at risk for heart disease. One study concluded that soda drinkers may have up to a 20 percent higher risk of coronary heart disease.

Diet soda drinkers aren’t safe either—one study showed that of 2500 people who drank one or more diet sodas every day, 61 percent had a higher incidence of heart disease and stroke.

Especially if you’re already at risk for heart disease, cutting soda out of your diet is a good way to stay healthy.

Gina McArdle is a registered dietitian nutritionist at Geisinger Community Medical Center. For more information, please call 800-275-6401 or visit Geisinger.org.

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