What you need to know about sugary drinks – and why you should choose lighter alternatives instead
How much sugar do you consume each day? We all know the obvious culprits – chocolate, ice cream, lollies and other junk food. But it’s easy to forget that a lot of the sugar we consume comes in liquid form.
Soft drinks, fruit drinks, energy drinks and sports drinks can all pack in far more sugar than you might realise. Even more so when you consider the serving size – many of the bottles and cans we are sold as individual beverages actually contain more than one serving.
LiveLighter is a health awareness and education program supported by the Heart Foundation, the Cancer Council, the Victorian Government and Healthy Together Victoria. The idea is to increase Australians’ understanding of the link between weight and disease, and how our everyday habits can make a difference.
Now, LiveLighter is encouraging us all to reduce our consumption of sugary drinks – and by doing so, work towards reducing the amount of ‘toxic fat’ in our bodies.
The not-so-sweet facts about sugary drinks
You’d probably think twice about adding 16 teaspoons of sugar to your tea or coffee. The unfortunate truth is, that’s how much sugar a 600 mL bottle of regular soft drink can contain.
Australia is one of the biggest consumers of sugary drinks in the world. The average Australian soft drink consumer drinks a 375 mL can of soft drink every day. Over a year, that adds up to almost 15 kg of sugar going into your body. And that could lead to an estimated weight gain of 6.5 kg.
This is concerning when you look at the patterns across the nation as a whole. In Australia, 63.4% of adults are overweight or obese. This is a huge increase from 56.3% in 1995, and it’s putting many Australians at risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and several cancers.
That’s why we need to make a change – for better health for all Australians. And the good news is, there are plenty of delicious, refreshing beverages to choose from with far less sugar, which are far less damaging to our health.
“Too much sugar gets turned into fat in the body, which can lead to toxic fat.”
Sugar, fat and waist measurement
Too much sugar gets turned into fat in the body, which can lead to ‘toxic fat’. This is another way of describing visceral fat, or the fat that gets stored around your waist.
Science has now shown that fat stored around your waist is more of a health risk than fat stored in other places, for example in your hips and lower body. A larger waist has been linked to metabolic syndrome, and is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers (including cancers of the oesophagus, pancreas, bowel and breast).
That’s why your waist measurement is an important health check. Waist measurement is considered a better predictor of health risks than BMI, as it helps show where excess fat is being stored.
To learn more about how fat is used and stored in the body, check out our guide to how fat works. For a snapshot of how your body is storing fat, use our free online waist-to-hip ratio calculator.
“If you get bored of the taste of water, try adding some lemon, berries or mint for a refreshing twist.”
5 ways to beat the sugary drink habit
Sugary drinks aren’t the only thing causing our expanding Australian waistlines. But making simple changes every day can go a long way in creating long term healthier habits.
To help you cut back on sugary drinks, LiveLighter suggests the following tips:
1. Always have water with you. Get in the habit of carrying a water bottle around – that way, when you get thirsty during the day, there’s less temptation to buy a sugary drink.
2. Drink lighter alternatives. Try to replace most of your beverages with water. If you get bored of the taste, try adding some lemon, berries or mint for a refreshing twist, or choose an unsweetened iced tea. For more ideas, check out some of these delicious soft drink alternatives.
3. Beat impulse soft drink purchases. Out of sight, out of mind. If you know you get tempted by the lure of shop displays, avoid going down the soft drink aisle at the supermarket, and try to ignore specials at the checkout and service stations.
4. Order smart when eating out. Sip on sparkling water to get your fizzy fix, and focus on the food, the company and the conversation.
5. Be wary of marketing and labels. Some manufacturers try to make their beverages sound healthier than they really are – so apply some healthy scepticism to health or nutrition claims on the labels. Check out the amount of sugar on the nutrition panel, and check how many serves are in each bottle to help get the real story.
Learn more about sugary drinks at livelighter.com.au