Sugary drinks, while they taste good, are some of the worst beverages to consume for a healthy diet because they contain high amounts of calories and little to no nutritional content, experts say.
“People who drink sugary beverages do not feel as full as if they had eaten the same calories from solid food, and research indicates they also don’t compensate for the high caloric content of these beverages by eating less food,” states an article on sugary drinks and health on Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health website, www.hsph.harvard.edu.
Sugary drinks are those with added sugar or other sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and fruit juice concentrates. These include soda, fruit punches, lemonades, sweetened powdered drinks and sports and energy drinks.
“Aside from soda, energy drinks have as much sugar as soft drinks, enough caffeine to raise your blood pressure and additives whose long-term health effects are unknown. For these reasons, it’s best to skip energy drinks,” states the Harvard article. “...The average can of sugar-sweetened soda or fruit punch provides about 150 calories, almost all of them from added sugar. If you were to drink just one of these sugary drinks every day, and not cut back on calories elsewhere, you could gain up to 5 pounds in a year.”
In addition to weight gain, routine consumption of high-sugar drinks can increase a person’s risk for developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and other chronic diseases, states the Harvard article.
Instead of drinking sugar-riddled soft drinks, North Kansas City Hospital Dietitian Alexandria Lorimer, suggests swapping the beverages for sparkling waters as a tasty alternative.
“Sparkling waters such as Spindrift or La Croix are great alternatives to sugary drinks. Adding fruits such as berries or vegetables such as cucumber and mint leaves to flat or sparkling water can also be a great choice. I like these alternatives because they do not contain sweeteners but are still refreshing and delicious,” she said.
Despite being marketed as healthier options, beverages sweetened by agave, coconut syrup, monk fruit, stevia and aspartame should also be limited or avoided by both children and adults, said Lorimer.
In addition, consumption of fruit juices should be avoided.
“While fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, juice is void of these nutrients. On occasion, a diluted fruit juice such as Honest Juice could be enjoyed by children, however, water is always the optimal drink choice,” the North Kansas City Hospital dietitian said.