Diet Soda and You
I still remember the first time someone talked smack about diet soda. Years ago, I was lucky enough to obtain a press pass to the U.S. Open tennis tournament, and that meant that in addition to great access to the matches, I also had access to the press center. The press center, as is often the case at sports venues, had a glass-door freebie fridge; it was filled with Evians, sodas, and diet sodas. Though I was already beyond the point where I drank regular soda, I drank diet soda fairly regularly.
Meanwhile, back at Flushing Meadows, where the U.S. Open lives, I ran into a friend, and we watched a couple of matches together. I told him about my press access, and at one point when I went told him I was getting another diet soda, I asked him if he wanted one: “no thanks,” he said, “that stuff is garbage.””>
Giving Up On Diet Soda
Though I did continue drinking diet soda for a while longer, the message gradually – over several years – sank in, and I realized that this guy (his name was Charles) was right. Soda, whether regular or diet, is, for all intents and purposes, garbage: lots of chemicals, and either unhealthy sweeteners or unhealthy artificial sweeteners. Tons of us still drink it of course. Heck, even my parents drink it all the time, keeping their fridge stocked with cans of Diet Coke, and the occasional Squirt, or Minute Maid lemonade diet sodas for my mom.
It all begs the question: why do so many people make diet soda such a staple of their diets? You probably know the answer to this one: Because it tastes good. And because water is too dull and boring. And because diet sodas don’t have any calories…so what’s to lose? Well, actually, not so fast: even if we were to say, for the sake of argument, that diet sodas have no health risks, such as cancers or other milder forms of disease, diet soda creates a dependence on sweetness, and a taste for sweet things. If you regularly drink diet soda, which is of course sweeter than water, or tea, or even some juices, you expect sweetness more in your overall diet, don’t you? Seems like there’s no way around it.
Some Tolerate Diet Soda Better than Others
That said, my parents, who are in their late 60s, have been drinking diet sodas regularly for decades, and their health is basically just fine, knock wood. Not ideal or perfect, but fine. That doesn’t mean diet soda is just fine though. It just means that, as with just about every food or beverage that we consume, some people are affected more than others. On one hand, I’m grateful that my parents have the health that they do; while they’re far from athletic, they don’t have any major health issues, and both still work full-time jobs, which is nothing to shake a stick at. So what would happen if they didn’t drink diet soda so frequently, and drank water or (watered-down) juice instead?
In their case, not too much, I believe. Why? Because they’ve gotten to a point in their shopping habits that they rarely keep any sweets around the house- just some granolas and some diet bars that are sugar-sweetened…but otherwise nothing that one would want to pig out on. But generally, for those who make diet sodas their go-to drink, day in and day out, there’s a tendency for them to replace the sugars they miss from these diet sodas with something else- cookies, or ice cream, or candy, or sugar- and calorie-laden alcoholic beverages. Drinking diet soda for many is subconsciously considered a good dietary deed: since they’re not indulging in sugary drinks, they can instead take those calories saved and spend them somewhere else, right? Isn’t that’s the deal? I put money in the bank by only driking diet soda, and so I get to take out a withdrawl it in the form of goodies!
More on the truth about diet sodas in my next post. Stay tuned…!