Eat Smart

Soft drinks scrutinized, for good reason

by Brianna Quaglia, blogger and Social Media Chair

(Courtesy of treehugger.com)

Last Wednesday, the New York Times reported that Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the US Department of Agriculture for permission to prevent New York City’s 1.7 million food stamp recipients from purchasing soda and other sugary drinks. According to the article, the request was made in an attempt to combat rising obesity and diabetes levels.  While experts critiqued Mayor Bloomberg’s methods (targeting and possibly stigmatizing those who use food stamps), they agree with his overall goals and so should you.

Soda and other sugar-packed drinks have been the subject of many health debates recently.  Soda machines have been taken out of some high schools and replaced with healthier substitutes and there have been attempts to impose higher taxes on the sugary drinks.  Why all the hullabaloo?

According to a USDA study (PDF) that was released recently, obesity rates have increased dramatically in recent decades.

“Latest figures indicate that two-thirds of adults are either overweight or obese, and growing numbers of children are over- weight as well.”

Those are pretty astonishing numbers.  Experts have estimated that by 2030 around 88% of adult Americans will be considered overweight or obese.

The study goes on to say that Americans are consuming large amounts of sugar each day, with almost half of all consumed sugar coming from soft drinks and sugary fruit drinks.  The USDA found the average American consumes 22.5 teaspoons of sugar per day.  The problem is that sugar adds calories.

In my nutrition class, we learned that each gram of sugar equals roughly 4 calories.  WebMDsays that one teaspoon is equivalent to 4 grams.  So ~11 teaspoons x 4 calories x 4 grams = the amount of sugar consumed from sweetened drinks. When thought about this way, the calories really add up.

The Mayo Clinic affirms that even diet soda may be detrimental to your health.  While drinking a can a day will not significantly harm you, studies suggest that drinking more than one soda a day in general (diet or regular) may increase your risk of obesity and related problems like type 2 diabetes.  The USDA report confirms the link between sweetened beverages and these health risks, as well.

So whether you’re drinking a soda with lunch, using soda as a chaser while pre-gaming, or simply just grabbing a fruity drink, stop and think before you consume.  Look at the nutrition label for sugar content.  If it contains around 37-100 grams of sugar per 100 grams of total drink, it’s high in sugar, says dietaryfiberfood.com.

Imagine my surprise when, while writing this, I looked at the sugar content of my favorite Snapple peach iced tea only to discover it contains upwards of 50 grams of sugar.

If you want to try limiting your sugar intake buy unsweetened tea and sweeten it yourself at home using minimal amounts of sugar.  If you are trying to choose a fruit juice, go with 100% juice, because it contains only the sugar found naturally in fruit.  Juice cocktails may contain added sweeteners, according to Welch’s website. As for soda, limit your intake to one or less cans a day to minimize your sugar intake and the possible health effects that may result.

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