Downing sugary drinks may not only do a number on your waistline — it can also affect your cholesterol, according to a recent study.
Added sugars add up to health problems.
The researchers found that adults who drank 12 ounces of sugary drinks more than once a day lowered their “good” HDL cholesterol and raised triglycerides levels — both of which increase heart disease risk. Added sugars in sodas, sports drinks, fruit-flavored drinks and presweetened coffees and teas are the biggest culprits.
It’s not news that sugary drinks can lead to weight gain, but the study highlights the broader health impact, according to Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer for prevention and the AHA’s chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
“This research reinforces our understanding of the potential negative impact sugary drinks have on blood cholesterol,” Sanchez said. “It’s one more reason for all of us to cut back on sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages.”
So how do you cut back on sugary drinks?
Make water your go-to choice. Small steps can lead you down a healthier path… to more water:
- Carry a refillable water bottle.
- Add a splash of 100% fruit juice or slices of citrus, berries or even cucumbers to boost flavor.
- Try seltzer, club soda or sparkling water if you crave the fizz.
Cut back slowly. If you drink sodas and sweetened teas regularly, mix half sweetened and half unsweetened while you get used to less sugar, and gradually reduce the sweetness. For adults, diet drinks may help replace sugary drinks.
Sip a smoothie. In the mood for something sweet or need an afternoon energy boost? Skip the sugary coffee and soda and try a budget-friendly homemade smoothie. Blend frozen fruits and veggies with water or plain, low-fat yogurt or milk.
Make it at home. You can easily cut the sugar on family favorites like hot chocolate, lemonade, fruit punch, chocolate milk and coffee.
Start with unsweetened beverages. Then flavor to taste with fruit, 100% juice, low-fat or fat-free milk, herbs and spices.
Check labels. Watch out for these ingredients, which are all forms of added sugars:
- Concentrated fruit juice
And look at Nutrition Facts labels carefully because one container may be more than one serving — doubling or even tripling the added sugars. Energy drinks, for example, may be advertised as healthy, but they’re usually loaded with calories and added sugars.
How much sugar is too much?
The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to no more than 100 calories or 25 grams (about 6 teaspoons of sugar) per day for most women and kids over 2. For men, it’s 150 calories or 36 grams per day (about 9 teaspoons).
Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar and zero nutrition. And some coffeehouse drinks can have double or triple that amount! So it’s worth your while to take a hard look at your beverage choices.
And when it’s time to quench your thirst, sip smarter.