Much literature has been published about the pros and cons of diet soda with eye-catching headlines about everything from the damage it does to the life-saver it can be. Depending on whom you ask, you can get many different opinions on diet sodas. I have read much of this literature and have come to the following conclusion: like just about everything else, it’s all relative. Let me explain…
One of the biggest arguments against diet soda is that it is composed primarily of human-made chemicals, additives, flavorings, colors, etc., and that these substances can be hazardous to your health. Some studies have linked consumption of diet soda to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, etc. I DO agree with this point. As a huge advocate of eating natural, whole, unprocessed foods, I truly believe that consuming made-in-a-lab “stuff” can have negative and damaging side effects. Once upon a time, I was the Diet Coke queen; I thought it was harmless to drink 5 cans a day because it had no calories and wouldn’t expand my waistline. I have learned much since then, and have now cut all soda out of my beverage repertoire. I stick to drinking as much water as possible, and change it up by drinking other calorie-free things such as flavored seltzer, water with lemon, or water with natural flavors such as Vitamin Water Zero. In an ideal world, I would encourage everyone to do the same. If it’s not possible to give up diet soda entirely, I would encourage cutting back as much as possible.
However, I don’t think diet soda is always the enemy. For many folks who are just starting to make changes to their eating/drinking habits and who may be trying to break some lifelong habits, diet soda might serve as a form of “harm reduction” from the full-sugar soda they’re used to. If a person is used to drinking several cans of regular soda per day, a first step toward making changes might be to switch to a few cans of diet soda per day. Though the taste is different, the behavior [drinking cans of soda] is the same. In time, this same person could then take a next step and decrease the overall number of cans per day, or switch to drinking a few cans of flavored seltzer per day. But the initial switch from regular soda to diet soda per day can save someone 140 calories and 40 grams of sugar PER CAN!!!! [these numbers are based on a 12oz can of Coca Cola]. This equates to a major calorie/sugar cut and hopefully, in turn, weight loss. For someone used to drinking lots and lots of soda, a diet option could be very significant on the path toward healthy change.
So, in my opinion, diet soda can’t be placed entirely in the “All good” or “All bad” column. Much like everything else in life, it is all relative. Nothing is perfect and no single thing or method works for everyone. The key is to make the most healthy choice possible at every given moment. What’s your opinion on diet soda? Friend or foe? I’d be interested to hear some feedback.