I’m sure I will surprise no-one when I say that the average Australian has far too much added sugar in their diet. Reducing sugar intake in our diets is a hot topic at the moment, with many ‘sugar-free’ diets gaining popularity, and the World Health Organisation even releasing guidelines for a reduction of added sugar in our diets.
So is swapping to a diet drink a viable alternative to a normal soft drink?
First of all, lets have a look at why sugar-sweetened soft drinks are not great for us
- Dental problems. My dad (hi dad!) works in the dental industry, and shakes his head with dismay when regaling us of the dental problems he sees from poor oral hygiene. Sugar is a huge offender for this, and if a person isn’t taking care of their teeth it can result in dental caries. Dental caries is a fancy word for rotting teeth. Seriously, I’ve seen the photos and it ain’t pretty. (But a good incentive to keep the pearly whites pearly and white!)
- Empty calories A glass of soft drink literally does not offer us any nutrition aside from the calories. No vitamins, no minerals, no fibre, nothing beneficial! Soft drinks won’t do much to make you feel full, or satisfied, so it’s easy to eat as normal, while also having the calories from the drink. It’s just a glass of weight gain waiting to happen!
- Sugar levels A can of soft drink has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it (yes Coke I am looking at you over there). Having this much sugar at once is going to send blood sugar levels sky high and while it might provide a boost of energy, the subsequent energy crash once your blood sugar levels drop is going to result in either a daytime nap, or seeking out another sugary energy hit.
- Cost A can of soft drink is expensive! If you break it down – it’s water, some flavourings and colours with some sugar or syrup thrown in for sweetness. At my local shop a popular brand is around $2.80 a can, but that’s Sydney prices for you. Get a lemon or lime for $1.00 and a large bottle of generic brand mineral water for 75 cents and it makes a cheaper and healthier alternative!
So having said all that, is it better to have diet drinks?
In terms of reducing dental problems, maintaining blood sugar levels and reducing calorie intake (which can help with weight-related health issues), diet soft drinks are going to be a better option.
This is especially true for people who are diabetic. Controlling blood sugar levels can be hard and diet soft drinks won’t affect blood sugar levels so this can make it easier.
Now the question that’s been sitting on the tip of the tongue since you started reading this…
Do diet drinks cause cancer?
Diet drinks have artificial sweeteners added to them to make them sweet. In Australia, this is commonly aspartame, although there have been other types of sweeteners used.
Research on the safety of the sweeteners found there was no evidence to support any link to cancer and artificial sweeteners in humans. There was research done on rats that did show high levels of aspartame increased the rats risk of developing lymphoma and leukaemia.
But the doses of aspartame they were giving the rats were equivalent of 8 – 2,083 cans of diet soft drink daily.
So if someone is having 2,000 cans of diet soda a day then yes, I’d strongly recommend they stop such an expensive and unhealthy habit. Let’s just aim for less than 8 cans a day (!).
Australia’s leading food safety organisation, FSANZ, found that Australian consumption is well below the levels at which adverse health effects could occur. What does that mean? Our society’s current daily intake for aspartame is safe.
If you want to reduce your calorie intake, maintain blood sugar and energy levels and reduce risk of dental problems, swap your sugar-sweetened beverage to a diet version.
Better yet, cut all types of soft drink from your diet and save yourself some money as well!
Find out more here