How sweet it is

This chart from the Harvard School of Public Health shows how much sugar is in common beverages.

Rise VT wants you and your family to drink fewer sugar sweetened beverages in the coming year, and for good reason.

Sugar-sweetened beverages are the single largest source of calories and added sugar in Americans’ diets, according to the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH). One 12 ounce soda can contain seven to ten teaspoons of sugar.

Consumption of sugary beverages, including soda, energy drinks and sports drinks, is linked to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even gout, according to the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). Women who drink a one or more sugary drinks per day are twice as likely to develop diabetes as women who have less than one per day.

Similarly, for every sugary drink a child consumes each day, the risk of obesity increases 60 percent, according to the BPHC.

While juice may seem like a healthy alternative, in many cases even all natural juices contain as much sugar as a soda. Pediatricians recommend giving kids fruit in place of juice. While the fruit also contains sugar, that sugar is bound up with fiber and as a consequence will be absorbed more slowly, impacting your child’s body differently than the juice which, stripped of fiber, results in a large hit of sugar all at once, pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig explained in his book Fat Chance: Beating the Odds Against Sugar, Processed Foods. Obesity and Disease.

One of the reasons sugar-sweetened beverages pose such a health challenge is that the body doesn’t recognize the calories and reduce calorie consumption elsewhere. Have a big lunch and you’ll likely eat less at dinner. Drink a soda in the afternoon and you’ll eat the same amount of calories at dinner as you would if you hadn’t had that mid-afternoon soda.

As a result, the HSPH points out, drinking just one sugary drink a day can lead to a five pound weight gain over the course of the year.

The American Heart Association offers the following tips for drinking less sugar:

Read nutrition labels. You may be surprised by how much sugar is in a drink marketed as “healthy.” Sunny D, for example, which touts its vitamin C content, has 12 grams of sugar — three teaspoons — in just 8 ounces.

Reduce slowly. Instead of having a whole soda, drink half. Dilute juice with water. Cut back on the amount of sugar in your coffer by a half teaspoon.

Drink more water. Keep a refillable water bottle handy so drinking it becomes a habit. If you’re not fond of the taste, or lack of taste, in water, add slices of fruit. Those who miss the carbonation of soda, can give seltzer a try.

Try new drinks, made at home. Blend a smoothie with frozen fruit, plain yogurt and water or milk. Make hot chocolate with 1 tablespoon of cocoa per cup of milk, a teaspoon of sugar and some vanilla or mint flavoring.

For more recipes to try, visit risevt.org/sweet-enough. For more information on the health impacts of sugary drinks, visit hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-drinks/sugary-drinks/.

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