More on Soft Drinks

Now there may be even more reasons to quit the soft drink habit. (See “Is Drinking Soda Bad for Your Bones?”)

Pancreatic cancer and liver disease.

A recently published study found a significant increase in risk for pancreatic cancer among people who drank two or more servings of sugar-sweetened soft drinks per week. Fruit juice did not have the same effect. The study included 60,524 residents of Singapore who were followed for 14 years.

A much smaller Israeli study indicates a connection between drinking sweetened soft drinks (as well as fruit juice) and fatty-liver disease. 80% of the study participants diagnosed with liver damage had been drinking more than two cups of sweetened beverages a day.

Switching to artificially sweetened soda is not necessarily the solution. That according to the lead author of the Israeli study, Dr. Nimer Assy. He thinks that aspartame and caramel coloring (often added to cola) can increase insulin resistance, which may induce fatty-liver disease.

Is there a way to get people to drink fewer soft drinks?

A new US study sheds light on the connection between cost and consumption of soft drinks. With every 10% increase in cost of a two liter (four pint) bottle of soda, people consumed 7% fewer calories from soda and had a lower risk for pre-diabetes.

That’s a pretty clear message – increase the price of soda and consumption drops. I’m in favor!

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Is drinking soda bad for your bones?

If you drink a lot of soda at the expense of calcium-rich beverages, you certainly could be at risk for bone loss or weakness. The soda itself is not to blame. It’s not the carbonation or the caffeine – it’s filling up on one thing and not getting enough of another.

But there’s something else in soda that may be harming your bones. It’s a chemical in cola called phosphoric acid.

In a large study, women who drank three or more cola-based sodas a day had significantly lower bone mineral density than women who drank the same amount of non-cola soft drinks.

Phosphoric acid causes the blood to be more acidic. Calcium and magnesium in the blood help neutralize the acid. If there are not enough of these minerals in your blood, your body takes them from your bones.

There are plenty of other reasons to stop drinking soda. Their empty calories fill you up so you’re not hungry for real food. And they have way more sugar than any of us need. Eliminate a daily can of soda from your diet for a whole year and you could lose up to 15 pounds!

What about artificially sweetened sodas? Phosphorus in cola is still an issue. And even though most sweeteners have undergone testing, I still advise against ingesting large quantities of them.

What’s your best bet when you feel thirsty? Plain, unadulterated water.

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Sound Healthy? Think Again

Just because a food sounds healthy, doesn’t mean it really is. Here are some products that can be misleading:

Multi-grain Bread

If it’s really high in whole-grains, the first ingredient listed on the label will be whole-wheat flour. Many healthy sounding breads and crackers are made primarily of refined white flour, with some whole grains thrown in for flavor, color and crunch.

Energy Bars

Check the label of your favorite snack bar for calories, sugar and fat. Some energy bars have over 300 calories each. That’s high energy, all right, but closer to a whole meal than a snack.

Fat-Free or Low-Fat Foods

Fat’s not the whole story. Total calories, sugar, sodium and other ingredients count too. Read the ingredient label, not just the bold print, before deciding to buy a reduced-fat product.


Bran, oatmeal and blueberry muffins sound pretty healthy. But there’s more to a muffin than might meet the eye. Like sugar, fat and total size. Today’s store-bought muffins are often huge, with enough calories to qualify for a whole meal. Check the ingredients before you bite in. And consider cutting your muffin in half – half for now and the other half for tomorrow.

Sports Drinks

If you’re running a marathon, you may want a sports drink to replenish calories and electrolytes (like sodium and potassium) that are lost during strenuous exercise. But if your exercise is more casual or you’re looking for a beverage to quench your thirst, tap water is the healthiest and least expensive choice.

Don’t be fooled by healthy sounding names and seductive labels. Read the ingredient list and ask questions. Then decide for yourself if it’s really good for you.

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Food Labels: Hype or Help?

My son just brought home a bottle of apple juice.

“100% Apple Juice From Concentrate” it said on the label. That sounds good to me. We’re not big juice drinkers, but he’s young and eats a well-balanced diet. Some fruit juice once in awhile won’t hurt him.

Label reader that I am, I examined the attractive logo on the bottle. (You can’t read the print, but you can see the design in this photograph.) It’s green, yellow and orange – like a flower or the shining sun. Maybe the juice is natural, organic or enriched with vitamins?

The not-so-fine print on the logo says:

Source of Energyמקור לאנרגיה

What’s that supposed to mean?

Energy means calories when it comes to food. Unless it’s water or a diet drink, it’s going to have calories. And those calories are a source of energy. The nutrition label states clearly that one cup of this apple juice has 96 calories. Of course it has energy.

So the eye-catching logo is telling us the obvious – that apple juice is a source of energy. Big deal!

Much of food marketing is just like this – catchy (or not so catchy) phrases that don’t mean much of anything. So it’s up to you to bypass the hype and go straight to the helpful information – the nutrition label. From there, compare prices and choose the best deal.

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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