It’s better as a treat than a staple.
Soda has a special place in many of our hearts. It finds its way into mixed drinks and ice cream floats. It’s a popular menu item at birthday parties and baseball games. And it’s often a partner to a hot, cheesy 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 Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 49% of adults in the U.S. consume one sugary drink, like soda or lemonade, every day. And 63% of young people drink at least one beverage with added sugar daily.
Is soda bad for you?
Before you crack open a can of cola or have another mug of root beer, start by weighing the pros and cons. And then consider an alternative beverage choice.
“Despite being so readily available, soda is far from healthy,” explains Eddie Rodriguez-Lopez, MD, a primary care physician at Geisinger Medical Clinic Lock Haven. “In fact, drinking 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.”
The fact is, your body changes for the better when you drop the pop. Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez reveals the benefits of not drinking soda.
1. You’ll be more hydrated
Does soda dehydrate you? The answer is a resounding yes.
“Soda contains caffeine, which is a diuretic,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez. “As a result, drinking soda will actually dehydrate you. This can strain your body, so water is always the best choice.”
When you’re looking to quench your thirst, choose a hydrating beverage like water. Don’t like the plain taste? Try adding fresh fruit or a liquid flavor enhancer.
2. Your teeth will thank you
Switching away from soda will give you something to smile about: It’s better for your teeth.
The average soda has a PH of 2.5 — making it about as acidic as lemon juice. Switching to a sugar-free beverage means no more sugar and acid eating away at your tooth enamel.
“Enamel is the first line of defense for your teeth — and once the enamel wears off, your teeth become susceptible to decay,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez. “You can’t get enamel back once it’s lost, so you need to preserve the enamel you have.”
You may also notice less tooth staining, helping your pearly whites look brighter.
If you’ve noticed that your teeth are sensitive, especially after drinking soda, talk to your dentist.
3. You’ll cut your sugar and calorie intake
Watching your waistline? Cutting back on your favorite fizzy drink can help.
“Cutting soda out of your diet not only lowers your risk for weight gain, but may help you actually lose weight as well,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez.
Opting out of that 12 ounce can of soda saves about 140 calories and 32 grams of sugar. That one can holds a whopping 7 grams more than the American Heart Association’s recommended daily intake of 25 grams of sugar for women, and just 4 grams under the recommended daily intake of 36 grams for men.
By reducing your sugar and calorie intake, you don’t just lower your risk of weight gain. Your risk of high blood pressure decreases, too.
4. You’ll lower your diabetes risk
Another benefit of stopping soda? You’ll reduce your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. That risk rises by as much as 25% with each sugary beverage, so saying no to soda is a good way to lower that risk. Why? Because 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 ‘hidden’ variations of sugar,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez. “Added sugars like those are linked to diabetes, especially when consumed in large quantities. That can put stress on the pancreas, which can lead to insulin resistance, and in turn, diabetes.”
5. Your risk for heart disease drops
Here’s an unexpected perk of putting down the pop: You lower your risk for heart disease. One study concluded that soda drinkers may have up to a 20% higher risk of coronary heart disease.
And quitting diet soda is heart-smart, too. One study showed that 61% of people who drank diet soda daily had a higher incidence of heart disease and stroke.
Stopping the soda habit is a good way to stay healthy, whether you’re at risk for heart disease or not.
Setting yourself up for success
The benefits of eliminating soda are obvious. So how to cut back? “Starting small can make the transition easier,” says Dr. Rodriguez-Lopez.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. So when it comes to kicking your soda habit, slow and steady is key.
Keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times to give yourself something to sip on.
Water not only helps you hydrate — it’s calorie-free. To make the process a little easier, cut your soda with a little bit of water. Gradually add more water and less soda over time. Eventually, you won’t even notice.
Conquer caffeine withdrawal
If you’re having symptoms of caffeine withdrawal throughout the day, like headaches or low energy, try sipping green tea or unsweetened iced tea with fresh lemon. You can also fill your cup with plain iced coffee to give yourself a boost.
Find a substitute
Craving carbonation? Consider switching to a fizzy alternative, like sugar-free sparkling water or seltzer.
Add a splash of fruit juice to combat sugar cravings.
By taking small steps, you’ll set yourself up for long-term success — and your body will enjoy all the benefits.