Is Drinking Soda Bad for Weight Loss?

By: Marissa Donovan, R.D.

If you're trying to lose weight, soda is not your best beverage choice. Regular soda is high in sugar and calories and studies show that diet soda might not be great to gulp down either, despite the fact that it has 0 calories.

Skip The Regular Soda

The excess sugar in regular soda tacks on extra calories but does little to actually fill you up and doesn't add any nutrition to your diet, so is not a great choice to help you drop pounds. Plus, high intakes of added sugars are linked with high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels, risk factors for heart disease. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting all sugars to no more than about 6 teaspoons a day if you're a woman, no more than 9 teaspoons if you're a man. A 12-ounce can of cola has about 8 teaspoons of sugar—which translates to about 130 calories. So while one soda every now and again won't make or break your diet, if you drink it more regularly these calories can add up to weight gain.

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Switch to Diet Soda, Then Say Bye

If you do drink regular soda (and the idea of going off soda cold-turkey sounds impossible) switch, then ditch, your soda. Switching from regular soda to diet soda is a good start, saving you anywhere from 150 to 200 calories per can—but it's not a guarantee that you'll lose weight. When researchers at the University of Texas Health Science Center looked at seven to eight years of data from a diet survey of 1,500 Americans, they found that diet-soda drinking and obesity were strongly linked: on average, people's risk of becoming overweight increased by 41 percent with every can or bottle of diet soft drink they drank daily. While the study didn't suss out causes, one possible reason is that diet products tend to have a "halo" effect, making us feel as if we can eat more ("I had a diet soda, so the biggie fries don't matter"). Other studies show that consuming no-calorie sweeteners may actually make you hungrier. But, in other research, scientists didn't find artificial sweeteners to stoke appetite, so the jury's still out on that. With that said, sodas with no-calorie sweeteners don't directly add calories to your diet; they also may be better for your teeth, since bacteria can't live on artificial sweeteners—they need sugars.

What to Drink Instead

If drinking water to stay hydrated sounds a little boring, mix it up! Try seltzer, which gives you the bubbles without any sweeteners or sugar and now comes in many fun flavors. You can also add a splash of juice to seltzer for a more flavorful drink. DIY-infused waters may also help—just add lemon, cucumber, mint, orange slices—whatever flavor you're craving and the fruits and herbs will infuse into your water. Unsweetned teas, both hot and iced are a great choice too. And get really festive with fun ice cubes in your drinks.

Watch: Is Diet Soda Bad For You?

Must-Read: Is Soda Bad for My Blood Pressure?

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