Drinking everything, except water, adds to our daily calorie intake and is, often times, a hidden reason behind stubborn weight gain. Eversince diet sodas and diet aerated drinks entered our food-scapes, we've come to accept them as healthy, weight-friendly beverages. But are diet sodas really that healthy or low in calories? Here's looking at how healthy carbonated, sugar-free, light drinks really are. Experts Meenakshi Attrey, Dr Vaibhav Gupta and Arnav Sarkar, help us solve the mystery behind these sugar-free diet drinks.
Arnav Sarkar, strength and fitness coach, says: If one is serious about their health, then they can never plan a regular diet around empty calorie foods like sodas, chips, etc. Sure, diet sodas are not too high on calories, but even then one must try to eat healthier options that are nutrient dense rather than junk like soda or diet soda. One may have the occasional glass or two, but to allow limitless consumption is not the way to go when trying to get healthy.
Any food which contains chemicals and artificial elements is best avoided or had occasionally, such foods should never become a regular part of one’s diet. Some of the reported drawbacks from the contents found in diet sodas:
- Aspartame- linked to brain and nerve damage
- Cyclamates- found to cause cancer in lab rats, and was thus banned in some countries
- Saccharin- may cause sulfa allergies and has possible carcinogenic properties when consumed in very large amounts
- Sucralose- possible side effects include migraine, cravings and thus weight gain
- Acesulfame potassium- relatively few drawbacks however studies on lab rats have shown to cause certain forms of tumors
Some studies have shown that diet sodas are worse than regular sodas. The reason is that they are believed to cause an increase in one’s appetite and thus lead to overeating and weight gain. Post workout diet sodas will be one of the worst options available. After a hard workout one needs high quality nutrition to fill up their energy reserves and recover faster. Junk foods like diet soda offer no nutrition at all to build muscle, recharge energy levels, or to increase fat burning. So clearly it serves no function at all to help someone who has just finished a workout and needs real nutrition.
Meenakshi Attrey, dietician at Rockland Hospital, New Delhi, says: The diet soda is a light drink but its unlimited use leads to addiction. One has to keep a check on their daily soda intake, as it should be taken as a substitute for regular soda or other high calorie drinks and not as a complete drink in itself. All the artificial sweeteners (aspartame, cyclamates, saccharin, sucralose and acesulfame potassium) help an individual in budgeting their total calorie intake while allowing them to have a satisfactory sweet intake. Since diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, they (principally) do not contribute to weight gain. The artificial sweeteners are either calorie free or they contain negligible calories, and are thus non-energy foods.
They are often blamed for hiking blood glucose sugar levels. Diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which "trick" our taste buds into thinking that one has consumed sugar. Therefore, the sweeteners found in diet soda generally do not affect the blood glucose levels because they are not actually carbohydrates.
Dr. Vaibhav Gupta, Consultant Gastroenterology Dept at Rockland Hospital, says: Diet sodas also call for moderate consumption. Per say artificial sweeteners do not lead to any specific damage, however concerns have been raised that they may lead to cancers if taken for long durations and multiple studies are being conducted to ascertain the same. When it comes to weight gain, diet sodas by themselves don’t lead to weight gain but cause dehydration and a feeling of false satiety which may later, let’s say in one hour or two, make a person eat and drink more than what is required, which may later lead to weight gain.
*Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images
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