How to Beat Your Craving for Soda
Are you drinking too many soft drinks?
Is Switching to Diet Soda Safer?
Research on this question isn't clear. A study published in the journal
Circulation in January 2008 found that people who drank just one diet
soda a day faced a 34% higher risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a
constellation of health problems including being overweight and having high
blood-sugar levels that may lead to diabetes.
Also, studies done in animals indicate that diet soda can boost the craving
for sweets. Human studies haven't backed this up yet, but Katz thinks it makes
sense. "We have a sweet tooth not a 'sugar tooth,' per se. Sweets feed a
sweet tooth, and the more sweets you get, the more you tend to want," says
But Barry Popkin, PhD, professor of nutrition at the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, notes that the diet soda studies in humans don't
account for the other types of food the soda drinkers ate.
Popkin says there are two groups of diet soda drinkers.
- One type drinks diet soda and eats healthy foods.
- The other type drinks diet soda to justify ordering burgers and fries and
other fattening foods.
"The ones in the latter group are the ones at higher risk for metabolic
syndrome," says Popkin.
Making the Move off Soda
If you're convinced that all that sweet soda isn't doing you any good, how
do you beat the craving for soft drinks?
First, says Field, know what not to switch to. Sales of sports
beverages and "energy drinks" are rising, but those drinks are just as
calorie-loaded as Coke and Pepsi. The new beverages may have more added
nutrients than soda, but few people need that type of nutrition.
"I run marathons and I don't need a sports drink unless I've been
running for more than an hour," says Field.
Instead, try these options:
- Start slow by replacing sugared sodas with diet ones. "They're not that
great for you, but in terms of obesity, I'd rather see you drinking diet than
sugared," says Field.
- Cut down gradually: replace one regular soft drink (or one diet soda) per
day with an alternative drink. The best choice: water. "There may be health
benefits to water even beyond those linked with cutting calories," says
Popkin. "We were biologically evolved to drink water, and a series of new
studies being published suggests that there are some extra metabolic effects of
- If you really need something with a boost of flavor, try calorie-free
flavored waters and seltzers.
- If it's the caffeine you crave, you're better off with tea or coffee, with
minimal added sugars.
You don't have to cut soda out of your diet entirely. "If you really
love something, don't put it completely off limits. You won't be able to stick
to it," advises Field.
Katz agrees: "I haven't had a soda in 30 years, and I think people who
get used to going without it altogether are least likely to miss it. But I
don't think a soda or two a week will do most people much harm."