Americans love soft drinks – just look at the grocery store soft drink aisle. An estimated 1 in 4 Americans consumes one 200-calorie soda each day and 5% of people consume up to four cans daily.

But experts agree: they’re bad for you. Multiple studies have advised consumers to reduce consumption of sugary drinks.

The problem comes from how the body metabolizes sugar. When you eat too much – think candy, sodas, cookies – the liver metabolizes the excess sugar, converts it to triglycerides and stores it as fat. This can lead to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance.

“Sugary beverages can lead to unhealthy weight gain due to the large amount of condensed sugar and calories in them which can be quickly and easily consumed,” said registered dietitian Tina Hreso. “These beverages contain empty calories with no nutritional value.”

Fruit juice is not always a better alternative. While it has some nutritional value, it can still be sugar-laden and has about the same calories as soda. Hreso suggested eating whole fruit instead of its juice version – enjoying an apple rather than drinking a glass of apple juice.

“Chewing a piece of fruit is much more satisfying and takes longer to consume compared to drinking a cup of juice. The fruit also contains fiber which is important for satiety, regular bowel movements and overall health,” said Hreso.

Hreso adds that diet sodas can be just as bad as their sugary counterparts. “Artificial sweeteners should also be limited,” she said. “They have not been around enough to fully study their long-term effects. Artificial sweeteners are also sweeter than regular sugar and therefore can make you crave more sugar and increase your threshold for sweetness.”

She suggested increasing water intake to at least 64 ounces a day. “If you are drinking more water, you will naturally be drinking less of everything else.”

She recommended tracking intake of sugary beverages and setting a goal to slowly reduce consumption or phase them out completely.  

“You may miss them at first but eventually you will crave them less and will likely be surprised at how sweet they taste once you cut them out,” said Hreso.

The federal government’s Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that Americans limit added sugars to just 10% of one’s daily calorie intake. The average 12-ounce soft drink has at least 180 calories – 10% of the recommended daily calories for many women and just shy of that for many men.

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