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If You're Only Going To Make One Change...

If You’re Only Going To Make One Change…

©2007, Melody L. Schoenfeld, CPT, CSCS, CMT

The most common advice I give to my weight loss clients is this: if you do only one thing to change your diet, cut out juice and soft drinks. This minor change can make a tremendous difference, not only in your body composition, but in your overall health.

Let’s start by looking at this from a strictly caloric viewpoint. According to the Tropicana company, it takes three to four oranges to make one eight-ounce glass of juice. The juicing process will remove most or all of the solid bits of orange, thus leaving mostly sugars and vitamin C for your consumption. The average drinking glass size is usually 16 ounces. Now, think about it-- how many people do you know who only fill their glass halfway? That means that you are consuming approximately 220 calories and 44 grams of sugar with your morning meal (1).


In comparison, you could simply eat the fruit itself—one cup of orange slices has about 85 calories and 16 grams of sugar, plus 4.3 grams of fill-you-up fiber (of which the juice alone has none). The juice will likely leave you hungry and able to eat much more than if you were to have the fruit alone. I consider juice “nature’s soda.” While it is commonly seen as a health food, you’re much better off having a piece of fruit instead.


Soda, on the other hand, isn’t health food by anyone’s standards. However, many people figure that since it’s a fat-free item, it’s not that bad. Au contraire, mon frére. Every can of soda you drink packs up to 200 calories and 48 grams of sugar into your body. Think this is no big deal? A 2005 study done at Tufts University showed that “more than two thirds [of study respondents] reported drinking enough soda and/or sweet drinks to provide them with a greater proportion of daily calories than any other food. In addition, obesity rates were higher among these sweet drink consumers. (2)" Add to this the fact that most sodas are sweetened with high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), which fails to stimulate the body’s fullness-sensing hormones and therefore can cause people to eat more(3), and you have the perfect recipe for obesity.


Think about it this way: suppose you drink 2 16-ounces of juice or 2 cans of soda daily. You’re adding approximately 400 basically empty calories and about 20 teaspoons of sugar to your diet without even getting full from them. This means that you are likely taking in these calories without reducing the other calories you ingest as a result—your body just doesn’t feel the need, and most people seem to ignore the calories they get from drinks.


Your waistline isn’t the only place you might see negative effects from sodas and juices. Hundreds of studies show that frequent consumption of sodas, particularly acidic sodas with low buffering components, will soften and/or dissolve the enamel on your teeth(4). Carbonated beverages greatly increase the risk of gastric reflux(5), which is an uncomfortable condition that can lead to ulcers of the esophagus and other digestive tract diseases. Soft drink consumption is also linked to type 2 diabetes, pancreatic cancer, and a host of other unpleasant conditions, and the brown caramel coloring in sodas has been linked to inflammation and tissue damage.  

A recent study also shows that both diet and regular soda consumption greatly increases one's risk of metabolic syndrome, which is defined as the presence of at least three of the following risk factors:  excess waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low "good" (LDL) cholesterol levels, and high fasting blood sugar levels.  Just one soda daily of either variety increases the risk of this disease. (6)


So if you’re only going to make one change, get soft drinks and other sweet beverages out of your system. Your body will thank you.


1. Information based on nutrition information for Tropicana’s Pure Premium Orange Juice with pulp.

3. George A Bray, Samara Joy Nielsen, Barry M Popkin, Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a role in the epidemic of obesity; American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004
4. For example: S. H. de Carvalho Sales-Peres, A.Magalhães, M.A. de Andrade Moreira Machado, M.A.R.Buzalaf; Evaluation of The Erosive Potential. of Soft Drinks, European Journal of Dentistry, pp 10-13; January, 2007
5. Susan T. Mayne, Harvey A. Risch, Robert Dubrow, Wong-Ho Chow, Marilie D. Gammon, Thomas L. Vaughan, Lauren Borchardt, Janet B. Schoenberg, Janet L. Stanford, A. Brian West, Heidi Rotterdam, William J. Blot, Joseph F. Fraumeni, Jr.; Carbonated Soft Drink Consumption and Risk of Esophageal Adenocarcinoma; JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2006 98(1):72-75; doi:10.1093/jnci/djj007
6. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/560344?src=mp