This week I would like to talk about the third of my four(4) recommendations for preventing diabetes and obesity: Recommendation #3 is to avoid juice, soda/pop, and other sweetened drinks. Why?
Imagine that you’re watching a movie, and the main character is diabetic. We’ll call him Joe. Suddenly, Joe begins to sweat. He drops into a chair, and begins to slur his words. His blood sugars are too low. What does everyone run to get him to drink? Something sweet, to raise his blood sugar levels quickly. Jill returns with a cup of orange juice. In just a minute, Joe feels fine again.
So juice and soda are good choices if you need to raise your sugars rapidly. Do you want to raise your blood sugar rapidly? Not usually. Not unless you want to waste your insulin and increase your chances of becoming diabetic. When I was a child, my doctor used to keep orange juice in the office to treat patients with low blood sugar. In other words, juice and sodas are medicine, not food.
Think of soda as liquid candy. When it was first marketed, it came in small, 6-8 oz. containers. People drank it occasionally. It was a treat. That is no longer the case. More than a few of my patients have admitted to drinking 2 or more liters of soda every day. Sweet soda contains the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar per can. And that’s not all. Most soda these days is sweetened with high fructose corn syrup. I recommend that you drink it rarely, on special occasions, or never. Certainly not every day.
Some people may be wondering about diet soda, Crystal Light, and the like, so here are my thoughts: Barring any contraindications to artificial sweeteners, I would recommend diet soda over sweetened soda. But that doesn’t mean I think they are good for you. I still believe that artificial sweeteners confuse your insulin-release system. So I would not recommend more than 8-10 oz. a day in any case. That’s less than a can a day.
You may find it more difficult to understand why juice is a bad choice, especially since it is made from fruit, which you know is good for you. Simply put, it delivers large amounts of sugar straight into the bloodstream. That’s what causes your blood sugar levels to rise so fast, and that is exactly why you must be wary. Whenever you absorb sugar rapidly, you need to release a load of insulin to escort that sugar into your cells. So if you are drinking juice every day, you are using, and that means wasting, a lot of insulin.
You will find that decreasing your intake of juice and soda makes a gigantic difference in your energy and waistline. And the more you stop drinking, the more true this is. If you drink a lot of juice or soda, you get a significant percentage of your daily fuel requirement (calories) from sugar. If you stop feeding your appetite with such large amounts of sugar, you will at first feel hungrier. In fact, however, you will not actually be hungrier. What you will be feeling is the lack of those lost sugar calories. You are going to replace them with calories of real food. Therefore, plan to eat bigger meals, and add a snack or two, until you figure out how much more food you really need. Some of that hunger will decrease in a few days once your insulin levels drop to a more normal level, but not all of it. You just need to be prepared.
What if you really, really love orange juice? If you look forward to drinking orange juice more than you care to admit, buy a small plastic orange juicer, the kind with the fat cone in the middle that sticks up straight about 4 inches. Then, on special days, like maybe Sundays or holidays, slice open a few oranges and make yourself a cup of homemade juice. Kids especially love this project. Remember to eat the pulp that’s left in the juicer. That’s where most of the fiber is, and fiber slows down your absorption of the sugar in the fruit juice. Enjoy!
Why is this better? First, it adds up to 5 oz. of juice a week instead of 70 oz. (10 oz. x 7 days/week). That’s 93% less juice every week! This is a good example of not having to change our food choices completely. A few small changes here and there really do up to a huge difference, 93% in this case. Even if you drank homemade orange juice every single day, you would still decrease your juice intake by a whopping 50%. Secondly, it tastes incredibly delicious, a lot better than even the best store-bought orange juice. Is there really any comparison?
What else should we be drinking? Water or unsweetened tea, with a slice of lemon or fruit if you’d like. Or milk. Like Great-Great-Grandma Sadie. Let’s get real, and let’s eat real food.