At Grand Villa in Grand Junction, Colorado, we encourage residents to stay active. Whether you need a cold drink after an exercise class or you just returned from walking the nearby Spanish Trail, it's important to choose beverages that quench your thirst without adding too many calories to your daily diet.
Sweetened drinks taste good, but there are some good reasons to cut back on your sugar consumption. Keep reading to learn more about the health effects of too much sugar and find out what you can drink instead.
Unless you follow a restricted diet for health reasons, there's no reason you can't have a full-sugar beverage every once in a while. If you drink soda and other high-sugar beverages regularly, however, you may not realize how much sugar you're actually consuming. A 12-ounce serving of orange soda has 13 teaspoons of sugar, adding 195 calories to your daily intake, while a 12-ounce serving of regular cola has 10 teaspoons of sugar (155 calories). If you drink two 12-ounce servings of orange soda per day, that's almost 400 extra calories.
The CDC recommends limiting your intake of added sugar to no more than 10% of your daily calories. If you follow a 1,600-calorie diet, that's just 160 calories, so one 12-ounce serving of orange soda would put you over the recommended limit. When you eat or drink something containing sugar, your body uses what it needs and then converts the excess sugar to fat. As a result, too much sugar has been implicated in the U.S. obesity epidemic.
Another reason excess sugar increases the risk for obesity is that your body isn't as satisfied by calories from liquids as it is by calories from solid foods. When you drink a high-sugar beverage, you generally don't feel full afterward, even if the drink contained 150 calories. Your body responds by turning off its natural appetite-control mechanisms. That makes it easy to take in hundreds of extra calories per day even if you don't realize it.
Excess sugar also contributes to the development of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease. Your liver processes sugar and other carbohydrates, converting them into fat if the body doesn't use them for energy. Fatty liver increases the risk of diabetes, a major contributor to heart disease. Too much sugar also contributes to chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of stroke and heart attack.
If you're trying to develop healthier habits and want to reduce your consumption of high-sugar beverages, here are a few alternatives. Before making any changes to your diet, consult a medical professional, especially if you have diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease or another chronic health condition affected by what you eat and drink.
When it comes to quenching your thirst, you can't beat good old H2O. Plain water has no calories and costs less than many high-sugar options. Your body also uses water for many critical functions, including carrying oxygen, maintaining normal blood pressure, removing bacteria from the bladder and regulating your body temperature. To increase your consumption of plain water, purchase a water bottle, fill it up each day and take it with you when you exercise or participate in activities at your assisted living community.
If you think plain water is a bit boring, try using fresh fruits, vegetables and/or herbs to infuse a little flavor. With the right ingredients, you can make water taste just as good as your favorite soft drink. Try any of the following combinations:
Lemonade is packed with flavor, but it doesn't have nearly as much sugar as soft drinks. If you make your own lemonade from a powdered mix, be sure to follow the directions. Lemonade mix prepared with water has 3 teaspoons of sugar compared with the 13 teaspoons found in orange soda, but if you add the mix to iced tea or another type of liquid, it won't have the same sugar content or calorie count.
If you need a pick-me-up in the morning, try green tea instead of coffee doctored with sugar and creamer. Green tea contains flavonoids and other compounds that may have health benefits, and it doesn't have any added sugar, making it a good alternative to soda, sweetened iced tea and other drinks. You should be aware that green tea contains caffeine. You may want to try a different beverage if you need to limit your caffeine intake due to a heart condition or other medical issue.
High-sugar beverages aren't dangerous when you consume them infrequently. Unfortunately, it's easier than you might think to consume a few hundred extra calories each week just by drinking a couple of sodas or bottles of sweetened iced tea. If you're interested in reducing your sugar consumption, try drinking plain water, flavored water, lemonade or green tea instead of drinks containing many teaspoons of added sugar.