Should you be drinking diet soda? Is diet soda good for you?
When diet sodas first appeared in the ‘50s and ‘60s, people thought of them as “healthy” alternatives to standard sugary drinks. This new development may have been especially hopeful for people with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who were looking for options to enjoy sweet beverages while minimizing their sugar intake.
But, as with many new products, the pros of diet soda came along with many cons. In recent years, controversy has continued to build about whether the alternative sweeteners used in diet sodas are good for you, and whether or not you should be drinking diet soda.
Here we’ll take a look at the pros and cons of diet soda:
Pros of Diet Soda vs. Regular Soda
Most artificial sweeteners do not contain the carbs that soda sweetened with sugar does. Reducing carbohydrate intake is an important part of a healthy diet, especially for people with diabetes.
May Curb Sugar Cravings
Artificial sweeteners may curb your sugar cravings, depending on which ones you use. On the other hand, certain artificial sweeteners may stimulate the appetite and increase cravings so it’s important to be aware of how your body reacts.
Diet sodas inherently have fewer calories than most traditional sugar sweetened drinks. (But they aren’t exactly filled with healthy nutrition either.) If you were going to drink a sugary soda, then a diet soda may be a good alternative. However, it’s not going to be better than water—which contains no calories.
Cons of Drinking Diet Soda
Even if a product does not contain sugar or calories, it can still contribute to gaining weight. In fact, the term ‘diet soda’ is a bit of a misnomer as many people who drink it are likely to gain weight rather than lose it. This may be related to the appetite-stimulant properties of most artificial sweeteners. Since obesity and weight gain are often considered to be risk factors for diabetes, diet soda isn’t doing anyone any favors along those lines.
Blood Sugar Spikes
Products that don’t contain natural sugar still have the potential to spike the blood sugar. Sucralose (brand name Splenda) is an artificial sweetener that may raise blood sugar in some people, particularly if carbohydrates are consumed afterwards.
Links with Diabetes
Although diet sodas may cut carbs and calories, they also may be increasing the risk factors related to developing diabetes. One study of more than 65,000 women over 14 years showed that those who regularly consumed sweetened beverages (with sugar or artificial sweeteners) were at a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Another study published in Diabetes Care shows a strong connection between diet soda consumption and the development of belly fat and high blood sugar levels, both of which are factors related to type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. In fact, those who consumed diet soda at least daily had a 67% higher risk of developing type 2 than those who didn’t drink diet soda. While other factors may be involved and diet soda cannot be proven as the only cause, the link should not be ignored.
What to Drink Instead of Soda
Living a healthier, low-carb lifestyle that keeps your blood sugar levels in range doesn’t mean that you have to give up everything that’s good! One long-term study showed that just swapping one sugary drink for a water or unsweetened tea was able to significantly reduce the risk of developing diabetes in the first place.
Choose from these other tasty beverages that will keep you healthier:
Lemon Lime Fake-Soda
Refreshing on a hot day, drinking fizzy water combined with a bit of lime or lemon juice can offer satisfaction without the negatives.
Tea without Sweetener
Black tea offers a bit of a caffeine boost, while herbal teas give a fruity flavor without caffeine. Learning to drink tea without sweetener is a great way to provide yourself with a treat that’s safe for people with diabetes. Many people find that if they cut back slowly on sweetener, they’ll eventually develop a taste for the tea and won’t need it to be sweetened at all.
Add slices of flavorful low carb items to a pitcher of ice cold water and keep it in the fridge. Cucumber, mint, raspberry, and so many more options can keep things interesting when it comes to drinking water.
So, should you be drinking diet soda?
Overall, drinking a diet soda every once in a while is not the worst thing you can do. In general, however, finding a healthier alternative to soda (diet or regular) is a small step you can take toward creating new habits that will help you feel better.
(You may also like: How to tell if your soda is really diet soda.)