What are your healthy drinks of choice? Water? Coffee? Tea? Fruit juice? Diet soda?
Which of these choices do you consider to be the healthiest? Water is obviously a quality choice. Coffee and tea also get favorable nods from most nutrition and health experts and sources.
But what about fruit juice and diet soda – both seem ok.
If you took a poll, you would find that a very high percentage of adults believe both fruit juice and diet soda to be very healthy choices. After all, diet conscious folks everywhere have been using diet sodas for generations to fend off weight gain, and we seek out “real fruit juice” products so that we can fill our bodies with quality nutrition instead of junk calories.
Are fruit juices and diet sodas good choices for health conscious individuals? In my opinion, not so much. Let’s take a deeper look at their ingredients and nutritional value.
Fruit Juice and Diet Soda: Healthy or Not?
False Belief – Diet Soda Is A Great Choice
Sure, regular soda has sugar. Well, scratch that – high fructose corn syrup. That’s definitely a bad mark against it. Empty calories are always a bad idea.
But what about your typical diet soda? Diet Coke contains aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, caramel color and “natural flavors.” What are these chemicals, and are they wise health choices?
Aspartame. Aspartame is arguably the most controversial artificial sweetener. Aspartame is classified as an excitotoxin, which simply means it overstimulates, damages and/or destroys nerve cells in the brain. Yes, you read that correctly.
Excitotoxins have been linked in varying degrees to brain cancer, Alzheimer’s, stroke, hearing loss, Parkinson’s and many more similar health issues. The list is long.
Now understand I am not trying to scream “fire” in a crowded theater. Do your own research on aspartame, and come to your own conclusions. This chemical is at best controversial, and at worst an unhealthy choice.
For more information, check out the documentary Sweet Misery.
Phosphoric Acid. Phosphoric acid is a nice little chemical that is known for eroding tooth enamel. Yup. Fun times.
Phosphoric acid has also been associated with other health issues. Drinking only two diet soda drinks per day (that contain phosphoric acid) has been linked to a twofold increase in kidney disease.
Potassium Benzoate. This fun little chemical is used as a preservative. When combined with vitamin C and sodium in the body, potassium benzoate creates benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen that has been linked to several health related issues.
Possible risks associated with potassium benzoate consumption include heightened ADHD symptoms, increase in asthma attacks due to a narrowing and swelling of the airways, and an increase in high blood pressure and hypertension.
Caramel Color. Caramel color sounds like the most harmless diet soda ingredient. Don’t be fooled, it is not.
One of the contaminants in caramel color, 4-methylimidazole, has been shown to increase lung cancer in mice. What does this mean for humans? We are uncertain. The possible health concerns led the International Agency for Research on Cancer to warn that consumption may be risky.
Bottom Line. While regular sodas are not the greatest for you, diet sodas have too many possible health risks associated with them to be considered healthy choices.
False Belief #2 – The Term “100% Real Fruit Juice” Means As Nutritious As Fruit
Nope. Fruit juice is not as nutritious as fruit. In fact, it’s safe to say that in most cases, fruit juice is like fruit with most of the good nutrition taken out.
Most fruit juices, and processed foods that contain “100% real fruit juice”, lack pulp and skin. These are the nutritionally dense parts of the fruit. They also lack the fiber content that comes with fruit intake.
What you are left with is a nutritionally weak, high sugar drink. Is the sugar content in fruit juice a concern?
12 ounces of orange juice contains about the same amount of sugar as a 12 ounce Coke. 12 ounces of apple juice contains more sugar than a Coke. 12 ounces of grape juice contains 50% more sugar than a coke.
So, while drinking fruit juice is healthier than drinking a diet soda, 100% real fruit juice is not nearly as nutritionally dense as real fruit.
Holly Berry, a home economist from Oregon State, had this to say about fruit juice and why it’s an inferior choice:
Because nutrients are processed out. Heat destroys some of the vitamins, and fiber and minerals in skins, pulp, and berry seeds are filtered out and discarded.
Diet sodas and fruit juices have too many downsides to be considered healthy choices. A diet soda is merely a cocktail of chemicals in a convenience aluminum container. Fruit juice is a nutritionally weak, high sugar processed food.
A little bit of these drinks in moderation certainly doesn’t seem to be a bad thing. On the other hand, if you are relying on diet sodas and fruit juice as beverage staples, you might want to find other healthy choices such as water, coffee and tea.
At the end of the day, what you do as adults is your choice. With that said, I would strongly encourage you to think twice about allowing children to consume these beverages on a consistent basis.
Did this article help you at all? Are you a frequent juice or diet soda drinker? Let us know in the comments section below what you think…