As a former sugar addict, this subject is something I can really relate to. One of the unhealthiest ingredients in the modern diet is also one of its most prevalent – sugar. Added sugar is found in excessive quantities in everything from so-called 100% fruit juice to spaghetti sauce, and having more than you should in your daily diet is associated with obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. It’s definitely something you want to eliminate or at least reduce from your diet, and one of the best ways to start cutting down on sugar is to lay off the soda.

Soda

When it comes to the specter of added sugar, soda is one of the worst offenders, with a hefty 37.5 grams of sugar in every can. That means that by drinking even a single can, you’ve already exceeded the recommended daily intake of added sugar. Drinking a single can of soda daily automatically puts you at risk for all of the ailments that I’ve described!

The sugar in most brands of soda comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup, a processed corn starch product that has a 55% fructose, 45% glucose sugar make-up, in contrast to the standard refined sugar you normally encounter, which has a 50-50 split for fructose and glucose. While there’s no evidence that HFCS is any better or worse than regular sugar in terms of the usual health risks, a recent study has linked HFCS consumption with the potential for liver damage. That being said, in my opinion, sugar is sugar is sugar and even what we consider “healthy” sugar like honey and agave needs to be limited or completely eliminated from our longevity diets.

Soda Puts you at Risk for Prediabetes

If this wasn’t enough to get you to lay off the soda, a new study has indicated that regular soda intake can increase your risk of prediabetes. The study, which followed over 1600 people across 14 years, showed that participants who drank a can of soda every day had a 46% greater chance of developing prediabetes. Previously, soda has only been correlated with insulin resistance and diabetes, but now the relationship is very clear.

Study author Nicola McKeown said that a frequent, rapid increase in blood sugar levels, which comes with regular soda intake, overexposes your body’s cells to insulin, a hormone that is released when they need to convert sugar into stored energy and reduce blood sugar to more manageable levels. Soon, these cells begin to develop a resistance to insulin, which marks the onset of prediabetes.

In the study, those who drank diet soda did not have the same increased chance of developing prediabetes. However, don’t take that as a green light to drink as much diet soda as you want – diet soda may be associated with its own health problems, like weight gain, tooth erosion, and possibly depression, heart disease and osteoporosis. I’m sure you’ve witnessed the guy in the fast food line who orders the diet soda to save calories for the double cheeseburger. See what I mean?

Limit Sugar for Longevity

Limiting sugar in your diet is an excellent way to increase your healthy lifespan, because of all the molecules capable of inflicting damage in your body, sugar molecules are probably the most damaging. When sugar reacts with amino acids inside your body, and in the food we eat, a complex group of compounds is formed called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). This is clearly a fitting acronym because there is mounting evidence that AGEs may be implicated in the development of degenerative disease associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s disease, cardiovascular disease and of course, diabetes. And who wants accelerated aging? Not me, so I’ll pass on the sugar!

Alternatives to Soda

If you have a daily habit of drinking soda, it can be hard to go cold turkey and stop it outright. Trying that might even cause you to relapse because your body craves the sweetness so much (think, drug withdrawls!) – after all, studies show that sugar can be legitimately addictive. It’s best to wean yourself off the soda and gradually replace it with healthier alternatives.

One of the best healthy soda alternatives is to drink regular water with a few fruit slices thrown into the mix, a mildly sweet and refreshing beverage that has nowhere near the sugar content of soda. Or try adding mint and lemon (my favorite!).  In a previous article, I’ve outlined the many youth preserving benefits of drinking lemon water, including removing toxins in the body, boosting your levels of vitamin C and increasing the effects of antioxidants. If you miss the bubbles, go for fizzy water like Perrier, but gradually wean yourself to fresh plain water. Another great alternative that still has fizz and loads of healthy probiotics is kombucha!

You could also try iced tea – not the kind that you find in powdered form because that’s pretty much the same as soda when it comes to sugar but rather brewed tea with a little xylitol or coconut nectar to taste. You can also consider drinks sweetened with stevia, a plant extract that is becoming more popular as a sugar alternative. Stevia has zero calories and doesn’t have the same effect on blood sugar as compared to table sugar or artificial sweeteners.

If you find it too hard to replace your soda with healthier alternatives, try reducing the amount of soda you have on a regular basis first. Perhaps, instead of soda every day, try to have it every other day and then wean yourself to just weekends or special occasions. The less you drink the stronger your willpower becomes and you will soon find that soda may even be too sweet as your palate adapts.

Cut Down on Your Sugar Intake

Soda is one of the biggest factors in excess sugar consumption, but it’s not the only one. Ice cream, chocolates, candies, sauces – all of these have sugar in varying, usually excessive amounts, and it’s up to you to be vigilant about nutritional information and cut back on the sugary stuff. You’ll live a longer and better quality life without all the sweetness. Plus, I think you are just sweet enough!