Home What Are You Eating? The Case Against Soft Drinks

The Case Against Soft Drinks

by Erika Nicole Kendall

As I’ve said before, I’m not a pop drinker. (I’m Midwestern-raised. It’s pop, dang it.)

I can remember the days when I used to drink a two-liter a day, though. I mean, it was so cheap and easy. Whenever I was thirsty, I’d just go ahead and grab another giant glass of pop. I still have the glass I used to use to drink my pop – a big white thermal 20oz cup.

I think about the calories I wasted drinking soda, and I cringe.

Let’s start off with a little basic math. One serving of pop is 8oz, or 1 cup. If there are 8oz in a measured cup, then 20 oz is the equivalent of two and a half cups of soda in one sitting. If each 1 cup serving of pop is 97 calories, then two and a half cups of pop is 242 calories. If I did that three times a day, that’s 728 calories alone that I’m drinking. Each day.

728 calories a day in soft drinks multiplied by 365 days a year that I was drinking it gives me a total of 265,720 calories. Divide that by 3500 (the number of calories in a pound), and that’s 75lbs in a year that I contended with… all over a salty sugary drink.

Let’s take a look at the nutritional value of the soft drink.

There is none.

No, really. Carbonated water. High fructose corn syrup. Caramel color. Phosphoric acid. “Natural flavors.” Caffeine.

Not nary an item in that list offers any nutritional value. Sure, there’s “corn” in there, but it’s been so thoroughly processed that the only thing remaining from the corn itself it its sweetness… and trust me, there’s a ton of it in there.

Check out that phosphoric acid, though. This is the same stuff that’s an ingredient in your rust removal products. Yes, it’ll clean your hammer, your nails and any other rusty tools. It also gives your favorite soft drink its tangy bite, so drink up.

Do you know how much sugar (read: high fructose corn syrup, because that is the source of sugar in a soft drink, nowadays) is in a soft drink? Approximately 30g per serving. So, since we’re multiplying everything by 2.5 (since, if you drink a big bottle of coke a day, you’re drinking 20oz which is 2.5 servings), you’re getting 75 grams of sugar in each bottle.

Look at it like this: since each teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams, you’re getting a little under 18 teaspoons of sugar in each bottle. I was doing this three times a day. If my math is correct, that’s a little more than one cup worth of sugar each day. Yummy.

What do we know about sugar? Well, let’s address the digestive aspects, first:

Sugars are digested in one step. An enzyme in the lining of the small intestine digests sucrose, also known as table sugar, into glucose and fructose, which are absorbed through the intestine into the blood. – [source: NIDDK]

Taken from my own high fructose corn syrup rant, comparing table sugar to high fructose corn syrup:

You and I BOTH know that it doesn’t require an MD to be able to study and understand a pros and cons list. If I show you a list that says “fattening,” and another list that says “leaves you prone to diabetes, inflates your appetite, and apparently can be linked to high blood pressure,” you’re going to be able to easily identify which one is going to leave you worse off, right?

Do you need to explain to someone that High Fructose Corn Syrup fiddles with leptin, a hormone in the human body that aids in regulating the appetite, in a way that prevents you from being able to control your hunger? Do you need to be able to explain to someone that HFCS screws with your body’s ability to process insulin? (Just in case you’re wondering, that works like this: since HFCS is metabolized as fat quicker than regular sugar once it hits your liver, this process triggers something called non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This process leads to insulin resistance and type II diabetes.) It isn’t enough that you know something makes you uncomfortable and you don’t want to partake in it. You have to be a doctor now to speak ill of it?

Because the excessive amount of sugar in a single 20oz bottle of soda is converted directly into fat into the system, and because the forceful impact of sugar to your system affects your body’s ability to properly gauge its hunger levels (as evidenced above), soft drinks directly contribute to your risk of becoming overweight.

And as I’ve written before, Princeton said:

Rats with access to high-fructose corn syrup gained significantly more weight than those with access to table sugar, even when their overall caloric intake was the same.

In addition to causing significant weight gain in lab animals, long-term consumption of high-fructose corn syrup also led to abnormal increases in body fat, especially in the abdomen, and a rise in circulating blood fats called triglycerides.


“When rats are drinking high-fructose corn syrup at levels well below those in soda pop, they’re becoming obese — every single one, across the board. Even when rats are fed a high-fat diet, you don’t see this; they don’t all gain extra weight.” – [source]

As any clean eater knows, soft drinks break two cardinal rules of clean eating: no highly processed foods, and always get the most out of your food choices. Take advantage of the nutritional values of the foods you love and if something you love offers you nothing in return naturally, then it’s time to let it go.

A drink with absolutely no nutritional value, that can clean the rust off your shower head,  that aids your body in losing the ability to control its appetite, that aids your body in losing its sensitivity to sugar and developing insulin resistance…?

Just drink some water, already. Jeez. (Oh, and you diet drinkers? I’ve got somethin’ for y’all, too.)

You may also like


Rhonda July 13, 2010 - 11:23 AM

I can’t wait to hear about the diet “pops” – I’m a southerner and prefer tea or water to soda anyway so while you’re there can you give some info on sugar subs (SNL, Equal, Splenda, etc…). Over the years I have learned how to drink my tea with NO SWEETNER or Sugar of any kind – give me a splash of lemon or lime juice and I’m good.

Erika July 13, 2010 - 12:28 PM

Oh, you already know where I’m going with that one. 🙂

Curvy Jones July 13, 2010 - 1:33 PM

I am never not going to drink soda, however I have cut down from several a day to maybe one a week. I do lose much better when I cut out caffeine.

For me it’s not sustainable long term, but I can certainly do better about making it the last thing I reach for. Soda is one of those products I don’t keep in the house. If I want it, I have to go get it. I buy ONE, I drink it, it’s gone, until the next one.

Tawana May 9, 2011 - 5:27 PM

Soda has been one of the biggest challenges I’ve faced in trying to lose weight. Girl, I just love the stuff! (lol). But now, I’m at a point where I’m no longer willing to put my weight loss goals on hold because I want to suck down some sugary beverage that’s going to hold me back. So for now, I’m going to reduce my soda intake from 3-4 cans per day to 1 per day. After a week or so, I’ll reduce to 1/2 can and eventually I’m going to eliminate it. I notice that the more water I drink, the less I want pop so the water should help a lot.

Rita July 14, 2010 - 5:21 AM

So we know soda is bad and we stay away from it but please tell me I don’t have to give up my occasional glass of sweet tea??….I’m a Georgia Peach so you know tea is apart of every meal and for the most part I opt for a glass of water but at least once per month I choose tea and often times it comes sweetened so I don’t add anything to it but lemons (I even water it down by splitting the glass).

Erika July 14, 2010 - 9:54 AM

LOL I can’t make that decision for you – I think if you look at your teas and they have too much sweetener in it, then you should cut back (or find a new way to sweeten.) Make the decision that is best for you and your body – a decision that you can sleep with at night – and you’ll be happy with that. 🙂

Kelly July 14, 2010 - 12:49 PM

I love this post! I began trying to increase my water consumption about six months ago when I began my weight loss journey. It was very hard at first because I hadn’t developed the habit, and did not have a good source of water readily available to me. A couple of months ago, my sister recommended that I get a water dispenser in my house as a way to encourage myself to drink more. It has definitely worked and I rarely ever drink anything else! If you are struggling to drink enough water like I was, I recommend you consider getting a dispenser for yourself.

ConsumerFreedom July 22, 2010 - 9:05 AM

I’ll say more on your Wednesday Q&A, but as for the Princeton study, people brought their methodology into question before the ink was even dry. In fact, New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle wrote: “I don’t think the study produces convincing evidence of a difference between the effects of HFCS and sucrose on the body weight of rats. I’m afraid I have to agree with the Corn Refiners on this one. So does HFCS make rats fat? Sure if you feed them too many calories altogether. Sucrose will do that too.”

Erika July 22, 2010 - 9:55 AM

I wish you wouldn’t. Why are you here trying to defend HFCS?

Marion Nestle, an author whom I respect and admire, received a response from the head of the Princeton lab who EXECUTED THE STUDY, answering her questions about the study itself, and Nestle EDITED HER BLOG POST to reflect receipt of his response… WITH NO COMMENTS OF HER OWN. Please go back and review your information, and then do yourself a favor and stay off my blog. This site is an ADVOCATE of consumer choice and does not believe in government legislation of food. This site also BELIEVES IN INFORMING AND EDUCATING the consumer to at least make informed decisions, regardless of whether or not we agree in the end. Unless you are compelled by other reasons, you shouldn’t have a problem with that. Right?

Sarah August 9, 2010 - 9:39 AM

Yesterday, I was at a picnic at our local amusement park. There were a lot of bees around the drink machines, so I was (unsuccessfully) trying to lure them away with a bit of Pepsi. When that didn’t work, I decided to take a small sip (since I hadn’t had any since May) — and immediately said to myself, “Oh, that’s nasty!” And I threw out the rest of it.

I used to *love* and *adore* Pepsi. It was my go-to drink. Now I can’t stand the taste of it.

Pepsi Breakthrough!

Fui January 4, 2012 - 5:34 AM

I totally agree with you on the soda issue. I used to do like two pet bottles a day and just by staying away from soda, with a combination of a few other things , my weightloss and management of weight is very progressive can comfortably say , my ” coke” days are well behind me.
I like your blog and how far you have come – is just AWESOME!!!!

KJ January 4, 2012 - 2:17 PM

I just really started to read this blog. mI am on a weightloss journey of my own and am reading as much as I can. I love this blog and I especially love that you are from Cleveland… me too… actually I am still here. You are doing a great job here!

I dont drink too much pop anymore! i am relativly new in my journey… before long I suspect I wont want it at all.


Brianna Leigh January 4, 2012 - 8:36 PM

I’m from Pittsburgh, and you’re darn right it’s pop! Anywho…

“728 calories a day in soft drinks multiplied by 365 days a year that I was drinking it gives me a total of 265,720 calories. Divide that by 3500 (the number of calories in a pound), and that’s 75lbs in a year that I contended with… all over a salty sugary drink.”

I have a major soda addiction I’ve been working on, but when I have quit, I never really lost the weight that I should have lost based on calorie counts. And when I did quit I just drank water, so it’s not because I replaced sugar with more sugar. I don’t trust calories for this reason. I hate when articles say that if you make a few small changes in your diet, like using light dressing instead of regular, that you’ll lose weight easily. It’s BS. It’s trying to trick us into thinking the food we normally consume is okay. It’s not… I love your website because it emphasizes that calories are important but they aren’t everything.

jojo March 29, 2012 - 1:41 PM

i love pop or soft drinks as we call it in Trinidad,but when i stop drinking soft drinks i start feeling dizzy.cus water aint giving me any energy.so what options do i have that will be healthy?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 29, 2012 - 5:18 PM

What options do you have for energy? FOOD!

In short, don’t drink your calories. Bad idea.

Janeen April 12, 2012 - 10:14 AM

I loved this article. I have finally been able to kick my soda habit. I realized I love carbonation, but the sugar isn’t needed or any good for me. So every once in awhile I just pick up some soda water, like a La Croix if I need to. Its a great way for me to get that soda feeling and not get useless calories or any sugar.

Softspoken February 17, 2013 - 1:55 PM

I am a soda drinker who at one time dranki lke a 2 liter a day. I am currently a size 16 and would like to get down to a 12 before I make a decision to go to a 10. I am now able to drink one soda a day and hope to get to one per week then none. I found your blog one week ago and took your tip to set my cell phone alarm and drink water every hour. It is horrible but I am stickin g toit..the weekends are difficult for me but I am not buying soda to put in the home anymore. I will stick with your blog and thank you for the tips that youo are willing to share.u

Laura January 9, 2014 - 2:55 PM

I just joined the boot camp for a black girls guide to weight loss and i am loving it im reading all the posts so far that i have read! im wondering is it ok to drink juice and if so how often?

Erika Nicole Kendall January 9, 2014 - 9:38 PM
Carolina April 7, 2014 - 11:36 PM

Another great post! You are really a true fighter, few bloggers have the will to go as far as you do. I enjoyed reading this case against soft drinks and we should really take more fighting against bad food!

Denice Smith November 18, 2014 - 4:10 PM

I’ve gone from a 24 can case of Pepsi a week (this is just what I was drinking at work, doesn’t include what I drank at home or during the weekend, and usually I was done with the case by Thursday morning!)to just water. I’ve also given up my coffee because I was adding 6+ teaspoons of sugar and 4 tablespoons of non dairy creamer. I haven’t read your blog about artificial sweeteners yet, but I already know! LOL I FINALLY kicked the Crystal Light habit! I have an aversion to throwing out perfectly good food/drink items but I finally just poured out the last 1/2 gallon of Crystal Light with barely a wince. I do drink hot tea with a splash of lemon and a tablespoon of honey but I working to decrease the honey to half that. I’d much rather eat my calories than drink them. BTW, love your blog!

Erika Nicole Kendall November 19, 2014 - 6:57 PM

Thank you! And CONGRATS on your progress!!! 🙂

Comments are closed.