“Rule #4 Absolutely NO Sugary Drinks; Including So-Called 100% Fruit Juice and So-Called Sugar-Free Drinks for the Next 30-days.”
Let’s be honest, you are already familiar with enough of the health risks associated with sugary drinks to know that you should not regularly drink them. However, I find that many people underestimate just how harmful regular consumption of sugary drinks is.
“Honey We are Killing Ourselves and the Kids”
There is just no way around it. Sugary drinks are America’s enemy within. They are literally killing us and our families. Several studies such as the ones cited in this Harvard School of Public Healthy – Drinks and Obesity Fact Sheet Study have led to a rare consensus among the nutrition science community. In short, increased consumption of sugary drinks dramatically increases the risk of illnesses such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
This issue is getting worst due to what I call the three Mo’s – Mo’ Marketing, Mo’ Calories & Mo’ Often
According to the same report, beverage companies in the US spent roughly $3.2 billion marketing carbonated beverages in 2006, with nearly a half billion dollars of that marketing aimed directly at youth ages 2–17. (7) And each year, youth see hundreds of television ads for sugar-containing drinks. In 2010, for example, preschoolers viewed an average of 213 ads for sugary drinks and energy drinks, while children and teens watched an average of 277 and 406 ads, respectively. (8)
Often you hear people justify their addiction to sugary drinks by saying, “We grew up drinking soda, and had no problems” (Many of those same people don’t even realize that they are obese, but that is another story altogether.) The problem is that Big Food has pulled the rug out from under us. By slowly increasing the bottle sizes and packing drinks with higher concentrations of sugar we are consuming a lot more sugar than we were back in the day.
Furthermore, the nature of liquid consumption means that people have a tendency to consume more of them than solid foods.
According to the same report, before the 1950s, standard soft-drink bottles were 6.5 ounces. In the 1950s, soft-drink makers introduced larger sizes, including the 12-ounce can, which became widely available in 1960. (11) By the early 1990s, 20-ounce plastic bottles became the norm. (12) Today, contour-shaped plastic bottles are available in even larger sizes, such as the 1.25-liter (42-ounce) bottle introduced in 2011.
According to the same report, in the 1970s, sugary drinks made up about 4% of US daily calorie intake; by 2001, that had risen to about 9%. (14) The report goes on to say, on any given day, half the people in the U.S. consume sugary drinks; 1 in 4 get at least 200 calories from such drinks; and 5% get at least 567 calories—equivalent to four cans of soda. (17) Sugary drinks (soda, energy, sports drinks) are the top calorie source in teens’ diets (226 calories per day), beating out pizza (213 calories per day). (18)
The situation is worst for our children. One out of three children in the United States are overweight or obese, (1,2) Children and youth in the US averaged 224 calories per day from sugary beverages in 1999 to 2004—nearly 11% of their daily calorie intake. (15) From 1989 to 2008, calories from sugary beverages increased by 60% in children ages 6 to 11, from 130 to 209 calories per day, and the percentage of children consuming them rose from 79% to 91%. (16)
Sugary drinks can be addictive. Scientists at Princeton University along with countless other researchers have proven that sugar has many of the same addictive properties as drugs which are commonly abused. More specifically, animals that were allowed to binge on sugar developed signs of sugar cravings and relapses, both critical components of addition. When denied sugar, for a prolonged period after learning to binge the animals worked even harder than they ever had before to get it once it was reintroduced to them.
Most surprisingly, animals drank more alcohol than normal after their sugar supply was cut off, showing that the binging behavior had forged changes in brain function. And, after receiving a dose of amphetamine normally so minimal it has no effect, they became significantly hyperactive (And we wonder why so many kids are bouncing off the wall at school). The increased sensitivity to the psycho-stimulant is a long-lasting brain effect that can be a component of addiction, doctors concluded. Big Food knows this. So they pump anywhere from 6 to 10 forms of sugar into these sugary drinks.
So-called 100% fruit juice is not what you think it is. Until recently, I assumed that 100% fruit juice was produced by manufacturers simply squeezing fruit and putting the liquid in a bottle. Boy was I wrong. Big Food adds sugar to these drinks in the form of flavor packs. Check out this video which was produced by ABC News.
Big Food is also clever at marketing. They fortify juice with a few essential nutrients and always place it next to healthy food. There is more vitamin C in equivalent servings of kale and broccoli than oranges (Learn More). This hallow affect leads unsuspecting consumers to believes that fruit juice is a naturally healthy beverage. To be clear, fruit juice is the close cousin of alcohol. The major difference is that one is fermented a little longer and distilled.
If I could be like Mike. Even more can be said about the so-called sports drinks. These drinks can have as much sodium as a small fry and an equal amounts of sugar. Big Food has convinced Americans that a 20 minute workout is not complete without a 20-ounce bottle Gatorade. Don’t believe the marketing hype. In most cases water is just fine.
What about diet soda? It has no sugar and no calories. The research community is divided on whether artificial sweeteners promote cancer. Putting that issue aside, would you recommend that a recovering alcoholic drink non-alcoholic beer? No. Why not? Because non-alcoholic beer tastes like beer, looks like beer, smells like beer, feels like beer, is processed in your brain like beer and purchased and consumed in the similar places as beer. Addiction (in this case to sugar) has both mental and physical attributes.
Psychologists have their own formal definitions of addiction, but in the case of food, I define addiction as any nonessential item that you cannot stop eating (even for short periods of time). Of course, mild sugar addiction is not as severe as alcoholism, but the similarities call for a 30-day ban at least so that you can prove to yourself that you don’t need these chemically processed drinks that your body barely recognizes.
For 30-days, you need to completely reverse the craving for sugary drinks. The next time that you are in the grocery store, look at the sugary drinks aisle and see if there is anything in the entire aisle that has any redeeming nutritional value.
Why am I still allowed to have beverages like coffee and tea where I add the sugar? The 5 Rules for Healthy Living is not a fad diet built on eliminating food groups. The goal is not to eliminate sugar from your diet. Instead, we are simply incorporating (and removing) habits into our lives that most healthy people already regularly observe.
Sugary drinks are liquid desserts. Consuming them is always an indulgence. Period. Healthy people do however add sugar to taste; I recommend you do the same.
Repeat after me,
Like alcoholic beverages, processed sugary drinks are an occasional treat that I enjoy on special occasions.
I estimate that it will take about 30 days of detox before most of us can completely kick the sugary drink habit. After going 30 days without drinking a single sugary drink may you re-introduce them back into your diet within their proper context.
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Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional and cannot even spell nutritionist or dietitian, which in my opinion makes me overly qualified to share common sense healthy eating tips. However this blog is for entertainment and informational purposes only. Please consult your doctor for specific medical advice. Have you discussed this topic?