Tasty Beverage Alternatives to Help You Give Up Soda for Good

Sip on these refreshing pick-me-ups instead of sugary soft drinks

Lemon water with lemon slices, close-up
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You know soda isn't the best choice of beverage, but compared to flat, tasteless old water, an ice cold can of fizzy cola is hard to beat—until you remember the sugars and artificial sweeteners in it that wreak havoc on your body.

Soda's Impact on Your Health

Not only does soda lead to an inevitable blood sugar spike and then crash, which leaves you reaching for more sugary junk food, but regular soda drinking has been associated in studies with a 20 to 40 percent increased risk of heart attacks and death from heart disease, and a 26 percent greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

In addition, soda contributes to tooth decay and contains high levels of phosphate, which has a poor effect on bone health. 

Diet soda drinkers, you're not immune either. A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that diet soda had a direct influence on waist circumference in people over 65, causing escalating abdominal obesity. 

Even when you know all the reasons to stay away, it can be difficult to kick the habit if you don't have a replacement that you look forward to drinking. Never fear. Here's a list of my favorite healthy thirst-quenchers that won't send your blood sugar soaring or put you at risk of chronic medical conditions. 

Flavor Your Own Water 

Sure, you can buy flavored water at the grocery store, but it can be expensive and sometimes still contain additives and artificial flavors. And hey, made from scratch tastes better anyway. Grab a pitcher and fill the bottom with your favorite fruit, veggies, or herbs.

Cucumbers, strawberries, raspberries lemons, limes, mint—the combinations are endless. You could even add lavender or other edible flowers. Pour water in until it reaches the top and keep in the fridge. Your water will be infused with these flavors and you'll feel like you're at a spa! 

Sip On Unsweetened Teas 

Herbal and green teas are an excellent option, and they can be served hot or cold.

There are plenty of flavors to choose from: Chamomile, valerian, and lemon balm for relaxation and sleep; peppermint and ginger to soothe an upset stomach; goldenseal, echinacea, and licorice, which boost the immune system and have antiviral and antibacterial properties, for a sore throat. Green tea is especially high in antioxidants, and research shows it may help reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease, hypertension and other health conditions, making it a great choice if you need a little caffeine boost. You might also try adding a few drops of stevia or 1/2 teaspoon of honey if you want a hint of sweetness. 

Try Non-Dairy Milks 

Almond, coconut, cashew, hemp—the list goes on! More and more plant-based milks are popping up on shelves these days due to an increased public interest in non-dairy alternatives. Explore the different options available and use them in fruit and veggie smoothies. Try making a cup of warm milk with a dash of cinnamon for a bedtime treat. Or make an anti-inflammatory golden milk drink with turmeric and ginger (an online search will turn up dozens of recipes). 

Make Some Virgin Bubbly

Flavored sparkling waters or seltzers are also great to have on hand, and the longer you're off soda, the tastier they will be to your palate.

You can also make your own bubbly sparkling drink by adding 1/4 cup of a no-sugar-added, 100% fruit juice such as grape or cherry to plain seltzer water. Miss the taste of lemon-lime sodas like Sprite? Add a squeeze or two of lemon or lime to club soda with a few drops of stevia. You won't miss the sugar in drinks like this one bit. 

Start Juicing

Now, I realize it may be a stretch to go from drinking several sodas a day to firing up a juicer and making a daily fruit and veggie juice. No one says you have to go that extreme. But adding juices to your diet in some capacity provides a wonderful health boost.

Even if it's just a couple of times a week, the vitamins, minerals, and enzymes in fresh juice are unrivaled—and the best part? There are many delicious juice recipes available for free online; everything from kale, cucumber, apple, and ginger to carrot, orange, cantaloupe to all manner of other combinations. 

Sources:

de Koning L, Malik VS, Kellogg MD, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sweetened beverage consumption, incident coronary heart disease, and biomarkers of risk in men. Circulation. 2012; 125:1735-41, S1.

Malik VS, Popkin BM, Bray GA, Despres JP, Willett WC, Hu FB. Sugar-sweetened beverages and risk of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis. Diabetes Care. 2010; 33:2477-83.

Sharon P.G. Fowler MPH,  Ken Williams MS,Helen P. Hazuda PhD. Diet Soda Intake Is Associated with Long-Term Increases in Waist Circumference in a Biethnic Cohort of Older Adults: The San Antonio Longitudinal Study of Aging. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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