Four Healthy Alternatives to Soda

by Wellness Editor – MH

It’s no secret that soda enjoys widespread popularity among American consumers. According to a 2012 poll issued by the Gallup organization, nearly half (48%) of all Americans admit to drinking soda every day. Those who enjoy soda regularly tend to drink a lot of it, with Gallup putting the figure at 2.6 glasses daily. In 2012 alone, shoppers bought a stunning 9.17 billion cases of soda, spending an estimated $28.7 billion on such sugary, carbonated drinks.

Like many other things that are immensely popular, however, soda has a negative impact on the human body. While none of the following risks of soda should come as a surprise, they do help illustrate why soda does not belong in a healthy diet:

  • A 2009 report authored by the Nurses’ Health Study (a series of regularly issued reports focusing primary on women’s health issues) found that frequent diet soda consumption can have a devastating long-term effect on the kidneys. This study found that drinking two cans of diet soda per day decreased the blood-filtering productivity of the kidneys by a stunning 30 percent.
  • A study released in April 2013, involving 350,000 participants from eight European countries, uncovered a startling like between soda and diabetes. This study reported that every extra 12 oz soda consumed by subjects equated to a 22 percent increased diabetes risk.
  • A stubborn soda habit can make losing weight a virtually impossible task. Carbonated sodas sap the body of several vital nutrients, including vitamin A, calcium and magnesium. Among other things, these nutrients make it easier for the body to shed unwanted weight. Making matters worse is that the numerous sweeteners found in sodas can cause the brain to long for additional food. More food, of course, tends to lead to more body fat.

You may have become attached to your favorite brand of cola, but as the above facts make abundantly clear, drinking soda on a routine basis is a terrible proposition for your health. The problem is that kicking a years-long soda drinking habit requires a great deal of perseverance, effort and self-control. In addition, many ex-soda drinkers may find themselves longing for a suitable replacement.

The good news is that such alternatives do actually exist. While soda replacements may lack the sugar-fueled taste of popular soda brands, they also lack the damaging aftereffects closely associated with soft drinks. And to be fair, it’s not as if these alternative drinks are tasteless; in fact, you may find that they have more than enough taste to replace sodas in your diet.

Homemade Flavored Water – Flavored water can be purchased at the local supermarket, but the kind available at the store is not usually healthy. Often produced by soda manufacturers, many brands of flavored water are loaded with sugar and artificial sweeteners, rendering them little better than soda. Fortunately, making your own flavored water is an exceptionally easy task; simply fill a pitcher with water, and add a few pieces of fruit into the pitcher (you could use strawberries, watermelon, lemons, limes and kiwi). To allow the water to fully soak up the fruit’s flavor, let the pitcher sit in the refrigerator for a few hours.

Green Tea – The popularity of green tea has grown markedly in recent years, and justifiably so, as this green-tinged tea is brimming with cancer-fighting antioxidants. Other research has concluded that green tea can greatly reduce odds of stroke and heart attack. To top it off, green tea has zero – yes, zero – calories (compare this figure to a 12 oz can of soda, which can easily have 150 calories or more).

When it comes to taste, you might be surprised to learn that green tea is sold in a variety of flavors. For example, one popular tea producer offers green tea flavored with honey, cranberry pomegranate, berries and citrus fruits, among many other options. If none of these flavors appeal to your taste buds, you could always a teaspoon of honey into your green tea; honey meshes well with tea, and adds very few calories to your drink. Green tea can be enjoyed as either a warm beverage or a cold drink.

Vegetable Juice – The most alluring aspect of vegetable juice is that it allows consumers to enjoy the benefits of multiple veggies in a single glass. Vegetable juice recipes will often include such healthy fare as tomatoes, carrots, celery and spinach. For those lacking the time to make their own veggie juice, this beverage is easy to find at the grocery store. Before your pick up a bottle of veggie juice, however, pay close attention to the nutrition label; vegetable juice is often high in sodium, an ingredient that can cause high blood pressure when consumed excessively. Instead, purchase a low-sodium brand of veggie juice, or make your own with the aid of a juicer.

Almond Milk – Yup, you can actually get milk from almonds. In fact, the process for making almond milk is fairly straightforward; simply let a cup of almonds soak in 4 cups water for 8 to 12 hours, and then add this mixture to a blender. For extra flavoring, you can throw some vanilla extract into the mix. Finally, pour the milk through a nut milk bag (a bag that separates liquids from solid materials) into a waiting cooking bowl. Your almond milk can be stored in the refrigerator for 4 to 7 days, provided you keep it in a container with a covering.

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