There has been a long debate about which kind of soda is better, regular or diet. Right off the bat, diet soda seems to be better for you. Though, most experts would agree that you should steer clear from both. But are the most-popular carbonated beverages really that bad?
Luckily, it’s not like you are drinking something toxic, but soda is not exactly good for your health. To hint at the silver lining, both drinks have their advantages if you keep the consumption moderate.
This write-up aims to find a definitive answer to diet soda vs regular – what are the advantages and disadvantages.
Carbonation techniques date back to mid-18th century while the first flavored sodas appeared in pharmacies in mid-19th century. Everybody knows about J.S. Pemberton’s concoction of cocaine and kola nut that created the flavor which is now a cultural icon.
Sodas became popular well before WWII and they really took off after the war. History lesson aside, the negative effects were first discovered in the 40s but it was until decades later that they were fully grasped. However, there is a positive side to it.
If you are to take a biased non-medical standpoint, regular soda can be refreshing and give you a reinvigorating punch similar to coffee. The key is to not overindulge in your favorite fizzy drink.
Regular soda can (12oz) may contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar and 140 calories. This doesn’t sound too bad if you are to compare it with some Starbuck’s coffees. For example, a single 12oz serving of Mocha Frappucino contains around 200 calories, provided it’s without whipped cream.
You do need calories to keep your body running, but should you go overboard or you’ll see the changes in the waistline soon enough. The bottom line is that regular sodas are not the worst when it comes to calorie-rich drinks.
To tell you the truth, it’s not all about the calories. In fact, the high sugar content in regular soda is much more dangerous than the calories.
As said, most regular sodas contain around 10 teaspoons of sugar but the actual amount may vary from one drink to another. Colas usually contain between 39g and 41g of sugar per 12oz can and many non-cola drinks – Sprite, Dr.Pepper, and Mountain Dew – contain between 38 and 46 grams.
If this doesn’t sound like too much, you can do a simple mind experiment. A single teaspoon holds 4.2g of sugar; add between 7 and 10 tsp to a 12oz cup of water, and mix it all in. This should help you visualize the amount and give you a clearer image of how sweet the drink actually is.
According to the American Heart Association, the daily sugar intake should cap at 9 tsp (36g) for men and 6 tsp (25g) for women. So drinking a single can of regular soda (12oz) exceeds the recommended amount, regardless of your gender. On the bright side, if you are healthy and don’t drink more than one, your body should be able to metabolize the sugars without any consequences.
The history of diet soda started in the 1950s and the first one was sold in 1959. This variant came into being as the regular soda alternative that can be consumed by diabetics. Of course, this means that diet soda doesn’t contain any natural sugars.
Given the disadvantages of its older cousin, no-sugar diet soda might be considered as a healthier or better alternative. But there is more to it than meets the eye.
A diet soda can be refreshing, taste the same as the regular variant, and satisfy your craving for a fizzy drink. It might also be more favorable for your teeth.
Regular soda leaves some residue on your teeth, mostly because of the added sugar. This is usually not the case with diet soda and there might be less chance of developing plaque. But you should take this with a pinch of salt because a dentist is not likely to recommend soda, diet or regular, as something that’s good for oral health.
On the other hand, diet soda contains certain acids. In the long run, these acids might damage your teeth and leave you more susceptible to cavities and premature tooth decay.
Upon closer inspection, diet soda is a mix of an artificial sweetener, carbonated water, flavoring, colors, and food additives. As such, it has very low or no nutritional value and can be high in sodium.
For example, Diet Coke has zero sugar, calories, protein, or fat but it is rich in sodium (40mg). The recommended sodium intake caps at 2,300mg a day. But then, there are plenty of other foods that are packed with sodium, so if you don’t limit the soda intake the numbers quickly add up.
Diet soda sweeteners shouldn’t be overlooked either. Sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, and Stevia are most commonly used and some might be 13,000 times sweeter than sugar. Aspartame could be the least favorable for your health because of the way it metabolizes in your body.
Once consumed, it breaks into aspartic acid, phenylalanine, and methanol. Phenylalanine and aspartic acid are amino acids that go straight into your bloodstream and might affect neural mechanisms. It bears mentioning that humans lack the enzyme that’s needed to properly metabolize methanol.
To end on a positive note, FDA approved the artificial sweeteners that are used in diet sodas. But they are best consumed in moderation.
If you have a knack for soda you know that it’s hard to find the right alternative. But healthy treats like matcha green tea or kombucha come very close.
Those who use soda to give them an energy boost should know matcha has a similar effect. It contains a lot of caffeine which is slowly released into the bloodstream so you won’t experience any lows and highs.
Kombucha has been touted the “immortal health elixir” and its benefits deserve an article on its own. It will suffice to say that kombucha is nutritious, good for your gut, and may boost immunity. Plus, many people find it quite tasty and refreshing.
Carbonated Giants – The Final Face-Off
Diet soda vs regular – what are the advantages? Health-wise, the advantages of both sodas are limited, to say the least. But your body sometimes craves the sugar-rich carbonated taste of a fizzy drink.
The important thing is to stop at one can and avoid drinking them every single day. Why not try some of the alternatives? You never know they might become your new favorite.