Back in the day, I was an avid soda drinker. And I’m not talking about just once in a while. I drank my share and your share and maybe even part of your best friend’s share. Growing up, I was almost never allowed this tempting beverage, so apparently I had to make up for it once I was old enough to buy my own groceries.
When I started getting horrible headaches on a daily basis, it never occurred to me that soda might be the cause. Instead of cutting back on the sugary, carbonated drinks, I decided that ibuprofen was the way to go. It wasn’t until I showed the first signs of a bleeding ulcer that I grew concerned. Once my doctor confirmed my suspicions, it was clear that I needed to make some changes.
When it comes to our dietary habits, change can be difficult. This was no different. Why did I love this fizzy 12-ounce concoction in the aluminum can so much? I assure you it wasn’t for the recycling money. I adored (and was addicted to) this fizzy, sweet, caffeinated refreshment. What could possibly take its place?
This all happened long before Stephanie Selene Anderson wrote Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is! Guide to Healthy Food Shopping. Otherwise, I may have turned to the kombucha she recommends as an alternative. Actually, back then I’m fairly certain that kombucha wasn’t something you could pick up from your local grocery store. Even though I thoroughly enjoy it now, especially with chia seeds in it, kombucha has a little bit of tang to it and can be an acquired taste for some. So it’s hard to say if I could have gone directly from soda to kombucha back when I desperately needed to make the switch. What was a girl to do?
Water is the only thing that we truly need when it comes to our daily beverage consumption, and I’ve always been a big fan. The thing is, sometimes I want bubbles, sometimes I want a bit of sweetness, and sometimes I could use a little caffeine. But now I know that I have options when one of these desires strikes:
- Fizzy bubbles: The perfect replacement is sparkling mineral water, and there’s a wide variety on the market these days. Back when I needed it, Perrier was the one brand I could find pretty easily to relieve my craving for a carbonated beverage.
- Sweetness: A small glass of any organic, 100-percent fruit juice does the trick when it’s just a little sweetness I need. Luckily, if I want both sweetness and bubbles, there’s a simple fix—combine the fruit juice with the sparkling mineral water. Brilliant. And the cool part is that you control the amount of sweetness in the beverage. These days it doesn’t take much more than a splash of fruit juice to satisfy me.
- Caffeine: Obviously, it’s best if we can overcome our craving for caffeine in soda altogether. But if you’re going to partake anyway, you might as well make a better choice than soda. There’s always coffee, but the acidity of it can be a problem for some—myself included. I tend to go for green or black teas when I could use a little pick-me-up, and research shows that we get health benefits from drinking these teas. Unfortunately, most information about green tea includes references to “antioxidants,” which is a very misunderstood chemical. You can read about it in this short piece: “Is a Vitamin an Antioxidant?”
After I finally kicked my soda habit, I was astonished when my daily headaches vanished. The elimination of my ridiculous combination of ibuprofen and soda also helped my stomach ulcer heal. Oh, if I only knew then what I know now.
Soda has a big hold on our society, with the average American drinking 45 gallons each year. Soda contains the anti-nutrient known as sugar, as well as caramel coloring that Consumer Reports recently discovered contains high amounts of a potential carcinogenic chemical (4-MeI). The average 16-oz. bottle of soda contains about 11 teaspoons of sugar! It’s a habit all of us should kick to the curb.
If you’re trying to ditch your own soda habit, I assure you that it’s not as difficult as you imagine. Besides, isn’t your overall health worth the effort? If you’re one of the readers out there who has kicked the habit, what advice can you give to others who are just getting started?
Photo from iStock/idildemir