Can you imagine movie theater popcorn without a soda? What’s more refreshing on a hot day than an ice-cold pop? It’s so delicious, so yummy, but what are soft drinks doing to your body?
With the recent recall of several soft drinks due to the presence of cancer-causing benzene, it’s time to reconsider our relationship to this fizzy, thirst-quenching temptress.
“Besides carbonation destroying the enzymes in your stomach, artificial sweeteners eating away at your nerve endings, caffeine killing the small intestines' ability to absorb nutrients, sugar blocking the usage of others and the fact corn syrup is a genetically modified and poisonous crop, soda isn't so bad,” nutritionist and best-selling author Don Lemmon jokes.
While the Food and Drug Administration informed soda-makers of the elevated benzene levels in their products, the FDA said occasional exposure to benzene, an EPA-classified class A carcinogen, is not a public health risk.
As a precaution, several carbonated beverages were pulled from store shelves, including Safeway Select Diet Orange, AquaCal Strawberry Flavored Water Beverage, Crush Pineapple, Crystal Light Sunrise Classic Orange and Giant Light Cranberry Juice Cocktail.
The benzene forms when “a soft drink contains Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) plus either sodium benzoate or potassium benzoate … [and is] exposed to heat and/or light,” Medical News Today explains.
From a purely nutritional standpoint, a soft drink can very quickly eat into your total sugar consumption a day. “Ten percent of calories can come from sugar,” Nancy Clark, registered dietician, said. “So the person who burns 3,000 calories a day can consume 300 calories of sugar. That’s two cans of soda.”
Basically, “it’s sugar and water with no nutritional value,” Clark said.
As part of a balanced diet, Lemmon suggests that, like Blue Diamond Almonds, a can a week should do.
“Where would I place a soda in my diet? There is nothing better than reaching down to a cooler, pulling out a cold and healthy root beer, feeling the sun on your face, watching a baseball game then getting the sensation from those fizzes hitting your nose as you take the first swig,” he muses. “I would suggest once week is sufficiently safe.”
And, yes, some soft drinks are less harmful than others, but you’ll need to be a savvy consumer to choose them.
“I enjoy a soda once in a while but I get them from the health food store and look for organic ingredients,” Lemmon said. “Soda flavored with maple syrup and honey are always best. Just because it says ‘all natural’ doesn't mean it is organic. And just because it says organic doesn't mean that cane sugar, fructose or corn syrup is suddenly good for you.”
OK, too much sugar is bad, but what’s wrong with diet soft drinks? The answer: phosphoric acid.
"Soft drinks have long been suspected of leading to lower calcium levels and higher phosphate levels in the blood. When phosphate levels are high and calcium levels are low, calcium is pulled out of the bones,” Michael Murray, ND, and Joseph Pizzorno, ND, wrote in the “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition.” “The phosphate content of soft drinks like Coca -Cola and Pepsi is very high, and they contain virtually no calcium."
But wait, there’s more.
“Phosphoric acid is also known to neutralize the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs. This is unfortunate, for we need hydrochloric acid to help us digest our food and utilize its nutrients,” according to “Healthy Habits: 20 Simple Ways to Improve Your Health” by David J. Frahm.
Cancer, sugar and osteoporosis aside, most soft drinks also contain caffeine, which is associated with sleeplessness, high blood pressure, vitamin and mineral depletion, irregular hear beat and elevated blood cholesterol levels, according to Frahm.
Read RealJock’s “Caffeine: The good, the bad and the ugly teeth” for more on caffeine.
To get off the soft drink rollercoaster, Lemmon suggests a gradual weaning.
“Drink half the amount you normally do for a few days. Once it is no longer tough to resist, cut back in half again,” he said. “Wait it out, cut the intake in half again and again and down to as many cuts as it takes to be off this junk. Of course, replace the missing soda with twice the amount of water.”