We all know that drinking soda isn't good for us. We know that it would be better for our health if instead we drank [insert pretty much any other beverage choice here even beer!]. But there's just something about soda that keeps drawing us back. Whether you call it "soda," "pop," "soda pop," "Coke," or something else entirely, it's a good idea to stop drinking it once and for all. Here's why.
Financial Reasons to Stop Drinking Soda
If saving money motivates you to kick a bad habit, here are the top three financial reasons to quit drinking soda.
1. The out of pocket cost of drinking pop adds up.
The average American drinks 216 liters (that's 7304 ounces, or about 365 20-ounce bottles) a year. If you purchased your soda only at a vending machine, that's about $550/ year. If, instead, you put this into a retirement account for 30 years at a 7% interest rate compounded annually, you'd have about $60,000. Even if you buy your soda at the grocery store for 40 cents a can, that's still $243 per year and over $26,000 over 30 years.
2. You'll make poorer financial decisions by drinking diet soda.
A research study looking at decision making after drinking soda found that "The sugar-free soda drinkers were more likely to choose the immediate reward, even though it was less money and not the best overall decision. "
3. The long term health consequences lead to high medical expenses.
I've listed numerous health reasons to not drink soda pop below if you have even one of these health problems because of (or it's exacerbated by) drinking soda, your long-term medical costs will skyrocket. (See also: 5 Places to Check Out Medical Care for the Uninsured)
Health Reasons to Stop Drinking Soda
Here are just a few of the scientifically researched reasons to kick the habit.
4. Soda increases your blood pressure.
A March 2011 study links soda consumption to higher blood pressure.
5. Soda destroys your teeth.
In case your dentist hadn't told you, between the sugar and the acidity, pop is terrible for your teeth.
6. It contains an ingredient banned in over 100 countries.
About 10% of soda flavors contain BVO, or brominated vegetable oil, which is banned by the World Health organization and 100 countries.
7. It makes you fat.
Calories from drinks including soda make up over 20% of the total daily calories consumed by Americans, according to a 2004 article in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (as cited by WebMD).
8. It may lead to diabetes.
Non-diet soft drinks contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes. Even if you drink diet, you may not be in the clear (see the study published by the American Heart Association discussed below).
9. It may lead to heart disease.
According to a study published by the American Heart Association, "Drinking as little as one can of soda a day regular or diet is associated with a 48% increased risk of metabolic syndrome, a key predecessor of heart disease and diabetes."
10. Soda consumption is linked to osteoporosis.
While researchers aren't sure of the precise reason, people who drink pop are more likely to have osteoporosis.
11. Drinking cola can increase your risk of kidney stones.
A study published in Epidemiology found that "Drinking 2 or more colas per day was associated with increased risk of chronic kidney disease."
12. Soda can cause heartburn.
It shouldn't surprise you that highly acidic sodas can lead to heartburn.
13. It's linked with liver problems.
A study found that people with liver problems are also more likely to drink soda.
14. Your soda likely either contains aspartame or high fructose corn syrup.
If you drink diet soda, your pop has some sort of artificial sweetener. If you drink full-calorie soda, chances are it has high fructose corn syrup. There are long debates about these ingredients and studies are not entirely conclusive, but both ingredients are artificial and are likely not good for you.
Environmental Reasons to Stop Drinking Soda
Recycling your pop can or bottle isn't enough to prevent harm to the environment, as soda destroys the planet in numerous other ways.
15. It can take up to 132 gallons of water to produce a 2-liter bottle of soda.
The 132 gallon/2-liter bottle figure includes the water it takes to grow ingredients, and according to a Wall Street Journal article, Coke says that it takes about 1 gallon to make a 2-liter bottle. Chances are the number is somewhere in between. Either way, that's a lot of water.
16. That water has to come from somewhere.
Since a Coca-Cola plant was opened in northern India, the water levels have fallen 18 feet in the surrounding area, and the plant was blamed for it.
17. And the ingredients in the soda have to go somewhere.
According to a German report, the artificial ingredients in soda don't get fully removed by sewage treatment facilities, and those ingredients may end up downstream and even in our drinking water.
18. Be it glass, aluminum, or plastic, all bottles have their environmental costs.
Glass bottles, even if reused, take a lot more fuel to transport. Aluminum cans are only partially recycled, and the mining of aluminum has horrific environmental consequences. And just like bottled water, plastic bottled soda requires an enormous amount of oil to produce.
19. Transportation of soda pop requires a lot of fuel.
Exact figures about how much fuel it takes to transport soda are not evident but that soda has to get from the factory to the store to your house somehow. And that requires a lot of fuel.
Social Reasons to Stop Drinking Soda
And if the financial, environmental, and health reasons weren't enough to convince you to give up soda, these social reasons may be strong enough for you to make a new resolution.
20. In some countries, soda contains pesticides.
You might consider this a health or environmental reason, but it seems to me that it's socially completely unjust to produce a healthier product for some countries than others. The Center for Science and the Environment found "high levels of toxic pesticides and insecticides, high enough to cause cancer, damage to the nervous and reproductive systems, birth defects and severe disruption of the immune system" in soda manufactured by Coke and Pepsi in India.
21. The rest of the world doesn't drink much soda.
Take a look at this soft drink consumption chart. Ireland is the next lowest soda-consuming country, and they consume roughly half the amount that Americans do.
22. It's just not that cool.
While I have no hard data to back it up, it seems that drinking pop has lost the "cool" factor it tries so hard to market. I asked several friends why they drink soda, and their responses included "for the caffeine," "I like the taste," and "it's the cheapest drink on the menu at restaurants." None of them thought that drinking soda was particularly cool and instead pointed to numerous other drinks that have a much cooler image: tea, coffee, probiotic drinks, and kombucha.
So if you stop drinking soda, what should you drink instead?
Tap water is most cost-conscious and healthiest choice that has the least environmental and social impact. Make it easier to drink by drinking from an eco-friendly water bottle. (I prefer stainless steel water bottles or glass water bottles.) I also like to add a few slices of orange, lemon, or fresh mint leaves to my tap water for a tasty alternative.
If tap water isn't your thing here are some better options depending on the time of day:
If you're looking for a morning caffeinated substitute, try coffee or tea.
In the evening, why not opt for a cheap beer or a glass of wine? (But remember to drink responsibly.)
Do you drink soda? What would convince you to give it up?