With New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposing a ban on the sales of large sodas and other sugar-based drinks, the national debate on healthy verse non-healthy beverages is at an all-time high.
Between the vast array of diet sodas available, not to mention the bevy of health drinks, juices and organic beverages, consumers can feel quite confused about what's actually healthy and what's merely branded as such.
For starters, lets look at some of the more popular non-diet beverages and gauge what their actual calorie and sugar count is:
Those who still consume heavy amounts of non-diet sodas, they run the risk of getting diabetes, tooth and even bone decay, according to health experts.
And what about diet sodas? The word diet alone engenders a feeling of safety for consumers who want a healthier beverage option, but many health experts say diet sodas can be more fattening than non-diet versions.
In a recent study from the University of Texas, diet soda drinkers experienced a 70 percent increase in waist size compared with non-diet-soda-drinkers.
The main culprit of weight gain among diet soda drinkers is an ingredient called aspartame, which is an artificial sweetener used in most diet sodas. Experts say perpetual consumption of aspartame could possibly lead to increased blood glucose levels, which could eventually cause diabetes.
Many consumers, who have been already hip to the health risks of drinking too much diet soda, have decided to drink zero calorie drinks instead. Many believe sodas like Coke Zero and Pepsi Max are a healthier product to buy, but experts say they're really not.
Many of the zero calorie beverages not only contain the aspartame ingredient, but also have an additive called Acesulfame Potassium, which is another artificial sweetener that could create even more health risks.
In lab tests, scientists have found the sugary additive potentially increased the risk of cancer as well as insulin production levels in test animals.
Experts say Acesulfame Potassium is less risky than aspartame, but more research still needs to be done on both additives. The problem with zero calorie sodas, experts say, is they typically contain both artificial sweeteners, and each comes with its own potential health risk, not to mention possible weight gain.
But not always ...
But just as certain beverages can be the catalyst in weight gain and cause serious ailments, certain drinks can do the opposite, and thrust an individual into a healthier lifestyle.
"Some drinks have tremendous health benefits, from relieving minor ailments like indigestion to protecting against serious ones like osteoporosis," says Dan Nadeau, M.D., medical director of Exeter Hospital's HealthReach Diabetes, Endocrinology and Nutrition Center in Exeter, New Hampshire.
Besides water, here are some of the healthier drinks that experts say should be replacing your soda or sugary beverage intake:
Green Tea: Helps reduce risk of osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease and cavities. It also holds a natural antioxidant that can protect cells from receiving cancer-causing substances. Green tea can also lower the risk of heart disease, blood clots, and strokes.
Cranberry Juice: Prevents gum disease, urinary tract infection, and eliminates bacteria from the teeth and gums while eating. But doctors say to be mindful of your intake, as certain juices contain high levels of sugar. "Make sure the label says 100 percent juice, not 'juice drink' or 'cocktail,'" says Heidi Reichenberger, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.
Low-Sodium Tomato Juice: Protects against certain cancer types. Processed tomato products have the richest source of the antioxidant lycopene, which has been known to lower the risk of lung and stomach cancer, say experts. Tomato juice has also been known to reduce the chances of getting pancreatic, colorectal, esophageal, oral, breast and cervical cancers.
Orange Juice: Many already drink the popular breakfast beverage for its taste, but orange juice also has some wonderful health benefits. It's a high source of vitamin C, and has antioxidants that can thwart off diseases like, cataracts, and certain types of cancers. It's also known to boost the immune system. However, it's even better to eat an orange, as you get more fiber that way.