Diet soda and weight loss are not synonymous - though many people assume that choosing a lower calorie soft drink will automatically lead to healthy eating habits and a better lifestyle. Before believing this hype, however, it is important to understand just how diet soda can affect body weight and what alternative drinks are available.
About Diet Soda
Soda is, quite literally, liquid candy - full of artificial flavors and colors, sugars, and the fizzy magic of carbonation that is fun and refreshing to drink. People accustomed to counting calories can instantly recognize the link between soft drinks and a poor diet: according to information on Calorie King food databases, an average can of cola boasts a whopping 136 calories (for just a drink!), while root beer has 152 calories, lemon lime soda has 151 calories, and orange soda tips the scale at 179 calories per can.
In 1952, however, those staggering numbers changed with the advent of diet soda and its astonishing zero calories. The first diet soda wasn't actually associated with weight control or diet food at all, though; it was marketed as a soft drink for diabetics, since it did not contain the massive quantities of sugar found in regular sodas. Very rapidly, eager dieters adopted the low calorie fizzy drink, hoping that diet soda and weight loss would go hand in hand, but that was not the case.
Today's diet sodas are sweetened with artificial and facsimile sugars such as Nutrasweet, Equal, and Splenda. As food technology improves, fewer people complain about awkward and unappetizing aftertastes, and diet sodas have gained a greater following of individuals interested in them as a diet drink.
Diet Soda and Weight Gain
Unfortunately, as many people began to drink diet sodas, they failed to see noticeable weight loss. A study conducted at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio in 2005 even suggested a link between diet soda and weight gain. But how?
The theory is that because diet sodas are so sweet, they trigger a response in the brain to crave calories and sugar. When the sodas fail to deliver those expected items, an individual inadvertently eats more food than they would normally in order to alleviate that craving.
A less technical theory is that people assume diet sodas are healthier options for them, and therefore they go ahead and choose less healthy food items including extra snacks, supersized portions, or other sweets. Cutting calories in the drink, however, does not compensate for the additional levels of food that many individuals may ingest.
It should be noted that while this study and its resulting conclusions are provocative, no definite causal link has been found between diet soda and weight gain. It does suggest, however, that diet soda and weight loss are not nearly as synonymous as many people may assume.
When Diet Soda and Weight Loss Do Work Together
Diet soda can be helpful for weight loss in certain circumstances, however, such as:
- If an individual normally drinks several sodas per day, switching to diet soda will significantly reduce their liquid caloric intake and may help them reduce the number of calories they consume daily overall.
- Individuals who are addicted to sugary drinks may prefer the sweet taste of diet sodas instead of water or other drinks and can use them to gradually wean themselves away from the sugar cravings, since diet sodas do not actually contain sugar.
- A diet soda can be an acceptable treat for someone on a regulated diet instead of succumbing to their cravings for high-calorie beverages.
As with any "junk food," the best way to enjoy diet sodas is in moderation as part of a healthy eating plan including plenty of more beneficial drinks such as natural fruit juice, milk, and water.
The Best Diet Soft Drinks
In 2005, Beverage Digest reported that Americans drank an average of 828 eight-ounce servings of sodas per person during the year. That amounts to nearly 70,000 calories of soda alone. While diet soda would naturally reduce that monstrous number, the best diet soda to help with weight loss is also the easiest to find, the most natural, and one that has no artificial sweeteners, preservatives, colors, or chemicals: water. While diet soda and weight loss may not go hand in hand, it is a more positive choice than regular soda, though choosing other diet soft drinks including low calorie fruit juices, teas, or fat-free milk is a better alternative sure to enhance any diet plan.