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Soda pop sales are dropping in the United States, but consumers still intake a lot of sugar

I was pleased to hear recently that soda pop consumption is down a bit and water drinking is up.

Pop is most definitely in the vocabulary of most children and adults. Pop is everywhere.

Some of the research shows that the average person in the U.S. will consume 54 gallons of soda pop in a year. The marketing professionals and manufactures have made it easy to drink lots of pop by providing 20- and 24-ounce bottles with twist tops, and large size fountain drinks.

Since the mid-1980s, a sharp rise in sugar consumption has occurred. This happens to coincide with a 47 percent increase in soda pop. The concern is that pop contains calories but no nutrients, and thus replaces other foods that provide more nutritional value. For optimum health, it is best to choose beverages (at least most of the time) which will provide vitamins and minerals necessary for good health. Water is a great choice.

As a beverage choice for all of us, but especially children, milk has to compete against soda pop and other beverages such as sport drinks, tea, fruit juices and other beverages. If children drink a lot of pop instead of milk, they may not get the calcium they need. Calcium is important for building strong bones and maintaining bones. Children and adults are all at risk of osteoporosis, or weak bones, in later years.

Soda drinkers take in about 200 extra calories per day compared to those who don’t consume the sugary drink. Obesity is on the rise in our country, and some studies link this to the increased amount of pop that we are drinking. Drinking a lot of pop is linked to risks for later bone health and to being overweight. Another huge problem with soda is that the acid present in the drink wears down the enamel on teeth and causes decay.

There is a lot of hidden sugar in the foods that we eat, but pop is the number one source of sugar in all of our eating. To figure out how much sugar is in a beverage, you need to do a little math.

The nutrition facts panel for a 12-ounce can of soda pop may list 48 grams of total carbohydrates. Take 48 and divide by 4 (there are 4 grams of sugar in 1 teaspoon) to get the number of teaspoons of sugar: 12. The fact is, if you drink a 12-ounce can of soda you will consume 12 teaspoons of sugar. When calculating for larger quantities, make sure to multiply your previous answer by the number of servings in your drink.

When you are reading the label to find the sugar listed, look for the words high fructose corn syrup, sucrose and sugar. We all need to be mindful of our beverage choices when it comes to sugar consumption. We need to be drinking water, milk and some fruit juices and fruit beverages. Keep in mind that commercial lemonade and other fruit drinks also have a lot of sugar in them.

Another concern with pop is that it does not promote any health benefits, and excessive amounts have negative health effects. Moderation is the key to beverage choices. An occasional soft drink will do little harm, but several a day provides too much extra sugar and too many calories.

It is important that adults and children understand the importance of choosing healthful beverages. If you want children to drink beverages such as milk and water, you should model the behavior; if you don’t want your children to drink soda, don’t keep it in the house.

For more nutrition and healthy eating tips from Mary Ann Lienhart-Cross, subscribe to the Food & Nutrition email newsletter.

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