The truth behind sugar-filled beverages

It’s easy to ignore the amount of sugar in soda and other sugary drinks. Although tasty and refreshing, these beverages often contain ingredients that are detrimental to our health.

Most Americans exceed the suggested amount of daily sugar intake. According to Temitope Osinaiya, senior registered dietitian, a lot of individuals don’t take into consideration how much sugar they’re consuming when drinking soda because it’s in liquid form. As a result, the total calories they’re taking in is higher than what their needs might be.

In fact, the average male should not consume more than nine teaspoons of sugar daily (about 36 grams), while the average female should have no more than six teaspoons (about 25 grams). A 20-ounce soda contains about 17.5 teaspoons of sugar.

To fully grasp and visualize these excess amounts, Osinaiya recommends pouring 17.5 teaspoons of sugar in an eight-ounce glass.


Many individuals also consume sports drinks as their main beverages, which contain ample servings of sugar. Energy drinks are not only high in sugar, but high in caffeine, which can negatively impact heart health and blood pressure.

Some sugary drinks also contain phosphoric acid, which can impact bone health if you consume disproportionate phosphorus in comparison to calcium regularly.

What are the nutritional effects of consuming sugary drinks?

The high calorie and sugar content found in soda and other sugar-filled drinks correlate with the onset of several chronic conditions, including:

  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer
  • Fatty liver disease
  • Weak bone health
What are some alternatives to these drinks?

For those who enjoy the sweet taste of sugar in beverages or carbonation in soda, you can try these alternatives containing fewer calories and lacking added sugars:

  • Sparkling water
  • Flavored sparkling water that contains low-calorie sweeteners
  • Fruit-infused water, which gives you the flavor without added sugars
Is diet soda a better or worse alternative to regular soda?

The main difference between diet and regular soda is the type of sweeteners in each. High- fructose corn syrup is the main sweetener in soda, whereas diet sodas contain artificial sweeteners, which metabolize very differently from regular soda. They differ in their impacts on blood sugars and caloric content.

“For individuals who want to keep drinking soda, diet soda would be a better alternative, especially for those who are diabetic. However, it has no nutritional value to it at all and should be consumed in moderation.”

Although diet soda contains zero calories, Osinaiya urges people to not take calorie count solely into consideration. Sweeteners found in these beverages may increase appetite and lead to excess caloric intake from other sources. On the other hand, individuals that consume regular sodas often tend to have decreased intake of nutrient-dense foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

“Calorically, soda may seem filling, but nutritionally, it’s very inadequate.”

Osinaiya is with the Department of Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Additional Resources

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Take control of your diet, one meal at a time

-By Homa Shalchi

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