There's nothing better than an ice-cold soda on a hot day. It's inexplicably comforting. That first sip seems to transport you back to a million happy moments.
But don't be fooled by that fizz-filled, pleasure-inducing beverage. It's slowly killing you.
The leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, primarily a product of our affinity for sugary foods and our lifestyle choices.
Simply put, we eat a lot of crap, we drink too much, and we don't exercise enough. As a consequence, America has high rates of obesity, and over 600,000 people die from heart disease every single year.
One of the worst things we consume is soda. It's absolutely terrible for us, but that's not exactly a secret. Even Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the two biggest soda companies in the world, have admitted their products are bad for your health.
Much of this surrounds the excessive amount of sugar soda contains.
Consuming too much sugar is linked to increased belly fat, heart failure, diabetes and even cancer. In essence, sugar is a killer, but we aren't doing enough to decrease our intake.
What's more, the average American adult typically consumes around 22 teaspoons of sugar per day -- more than twice the recommended amount. Soda is definitely a contributing factor.
Fortunately, as the chart below reveals, soda consumption in America has been declining in recent years. But we're still drinking it far too often and taking in far more sugar than is healthy.
Brain scans have revealed that sugar is as addictive as cocaine, which is likely a large part of the reason we can't give up soda altogether. So, much like cigarettes, even though we know soda is bad for us, we continue to drink it because our body craves it.
Many people have switched over to diet soda in order to get their fix without all of the added sugar. What they're probably not realizing is it's also extremely unhealthy. Just because it has the word "diet" in it doesn't mean it's good for you.
Much of this has to do with the artificial sweeteners that diet sodas contain and the way in which they interact with our brains.
When we consume artificial sweeteners, like stevia and sucralose, they trigger the reward centers in our brains even more than normal sugar does.
In the process, it plays a trick on our bodies. Diet soda is low in calories, but when we drink it, the artificial sweeteners tell our brains we're consuming more than we are.
Thus, diet soda tells our brain we're taking in calories when we're not. In turn, this can lead to problems with appetite control in the long term.
This is precisely why diet soda has been linked to numerous health issues, including heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
Dr. Susan Swithers, professor of behavioral neuroscience at Purdue University, stated,
Right now, the data indicate that over the long term, people who drink even one diet soda a day are at higher risk for health outcomes that they are probably drinking diet sodas to try to avoid, like type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension and stroke.
In other words, diet soda can lead to the same health issues people are attempting to ward off by drinking it. And it only takes one can a day.
Obviously, calling it "diet" soda is extremely misleading. It's not quite as bad for you as regular soda, but it's definitely not healthy, either.
There's a very simple solution to this: Whether it's diet or regular, stop drinking soda (or at least cut back).
Drink water. It's the most beneficial beverage around. And if that's too boring for you, drink coffee, tea or even a delicious smoothie.
The little choices we make every single day can have an enormous impact on our overall health.
Citations: Why Were Saying No Thanks To Diet Soda (Huffington Post), Should I Drink Diet Soda (Time), Leading Causes of Death (CDC), Coke and Pepsi concede that maybe soda is bad for you (Washington Post), No seriously Diet sodas are terrible for you too (USA Today), 10 Things You Dont Know About Sugar And What You Dont Know Could Hurt You (Huffington Post), Heart Disease Facts (CDC)