Nutrition 911
April 25, 2006 posted by

The Worst Food on the Planet, The Response

I wrote an article about soda, which is certainly the worst thing you can consume as a regular part of your diet. In my mailbag, I got a lot of great responses so I’m going to add all of it here. In fact, I’ll add both the article and the responses, should anyone stumble on this blog who didn’t find my through my work. Enjoy.

First, the response:

Worst Food on the Planet

Thanks for the huge response this week. This mailbag’s going to be a little long, since I want to share a lot of your letters.

Thanks for the info. on soda. But, I have a question. Other than water, what DO we drink besides water? We only buy 100% juice for our son and that is not available from a vending machine. And heaven forbid he should drink water! Bad food and drinks are everywhere! It’s not safe to leave your home without taking food and drinks along with you!Wow! It is tough to even drive down the road without the kids saying they’re hungry because of all of the fast food chains we pass along the way! Even though we don’t allow him to have soda, it’s nearly impossible to avoid “convenience.” I’m enraged that they give “toys” with their food. That is the main reason our son claims he’s hungry. When we pull up to the drive thru, and I tell him he can get food, no toy, he is no longer hungry! It’s tough to raise healthy children with all of the marketing going on. Thanks!Bridget GraverWindsor, NY

There were many of these questions. The bottom line is that calories in drinks should be restricted as much as possible. You are always diluting the whole food and missing out on fiber and such. So you should learn to drink plain water and use caloric drinks as supplements and desserts. Even sodas—if consumed in moderation, like one a day—aren’t too bad. The probably is that we tend to drink them all day long. Washing down a meal with a couple hundred calories of sugar just cannot have a positive effect on your health.
A great alternative is to flavor your water with a small amount of juice. At first, it’ll seem like watered down juice, but once you get used to it you will taste the juice in a more subtle manner that actually does a better job of quenching your thirst. Once you get used to this, 100% juices or soft drinks will taste too syrupy.
Also got a lot of letters on other drinks, including beer. One beer is probably a touch better for you than one soda but the rule remains. Drink a lot of beer in a day and your diet will suffer. It’s still calories, most of ’em ’empty’. That’s why they call it a ‘beer belly’.
Coffee and tea have no calories, unless you add stuff to them (which is usually high in calories). So mochas n’ stuff (and southern sweet tea, thanks Ralene) are filled with sugar and/or fat, but black coffee or straight tea aren’t bad unless you’re sensitive to caffeine. Caffeine can actually aid in weight loss, but tends to have other effects that can hurt you, especially if it affects your ability to sleep, which is very important.

Ok Steve, I learned long ago the vices of soft drinks. However I am very confused on what besides water to drink.You see I am a single dad to a 13 year old girl. She is a good athlete in volleyball and track. I do a beachbody workout of some type 3-5 days a week .Our refrigerator never has any soft drinks unless brought over by friends or faimily. In the box we keep grape, orange, apple juice, low fat milk, power aid and beer. She drinks juice or milk for breakfast and I drink grape juice(everyday). When I workout(early mornings) I sometimes drink a protein shake afterwards but always plenty water. Lunch is usually poweraid for her and water for me. Dinner is usually poweraid (or apple juice) for her and sometimes a beer for me.Late night 2-4 times a week we have ice cream or cookies and milk. When she visits her Mom(2 nights a week) I have 1-3 beers . Besides this I do drink a lot of water but she drinks only a little water. So my question is do I pitch the juice? Is it ok to drink a lot of poweraid or gatoraid? What else can we drink?

I got a lot of email about kids. Since she is athletic she definitely has more leeway on what she should drink. But juices and stuff should be limited, as should milk the older you get. The big baddie in this mix is Gator-Power aid. These sports drinks are designed for sports and should never be consumed with meals or while you’re sitting around unless it’s so hot you’re sweating like crazy. During and immediately after sports they are fine. At other times, they’re just as bad as soda.
On juice, fresh-squeezed juice with pulp—hence fiber—is much better. Juice from concentrate is just sugar. No matter what you drink, learn to read labels

Hi, Steve, I hope this email finds you in great health and spirits. After a life-long addiction to soda, I am pleased to report that I have resisted the sweet stuff for nearly a year now and have lost over 15lbs as a sole result of this resistance. A gradual trade-off for products like Vitamin Water, various green/white tea drinks and flavored seltzers certainly eased my transition back into drinking primarily water. Quick question though, how do drinks such as: Fresca or Crystal Light and even naturally flavored carbonated water such as orange seltzer compare in calories, etc.? Basically, I’m curious if nutrisweet or citric acid flavored carbonated beverages are also unhealthy )(specifically those that do NOT contain corn syrup and other unnatural additives/preservatives)? Thank you, in advance, for your time and effort; they are greatly appreciated. Best,Christian

It’s probably not the best but there certainly isn’t definitive research on this subject and, hey, it’s better than drinking soda all day long. I would continue to strive for making your diet as natural as possible but I doubt you’re doing yourself a ton of harm using these as treats. Just don’t make them staples.

I really enjoyed reading the newsletter and my ears particularly perked up when I read about diet soda actually preventing weight loss. I know you’ve partially addressed your observations that it caused this in a number of your clients. I had never been aware of this. I know it’s not the greatest thing in the world for you, but I had no idea that it could hinder weight loss. And so, my question is this – WHY? Or I guess a better question would be HOW? How is it possible that something that has zero calories in it can prevent weight loss? Please note, I’m not arguing with you, but for someone who is absolutely addicted to diet soda – actually only Diet Coke sweetened with Splenda – I would find it much easier to kick the habit if I knew the reason behind it.Would reducing the number of cans of soda help this or must it be eliminated completely? Is this true of all carbonated beverages or just sodas? Thank you,H.S.

I mentioned how in the article. There is more to food than calories. Different substances affect the way your body absorbs nutrients. Sodas use a blend of various chemicals that change your body’s natural pH balance—all man-made foods do, which is why your diet should be made up with as much whole foods as possible. Small amounts of diet sodas most likely won’t do much, but a steady diet is bad news. I’m going to let a few emails answer the rest of your question.

i had all but completely eliminated all diet soft drinks from my life a few months ago. turns out, the aspartame, not the caffeine, was the contributing factor to the worsening of a cardiac arrythmia problem i have. now that i have read this nugget of information, if i need a little caffeine blast once in a while, i’ll have some plain iced tea (or just go stick my head in the freezer, it works pretty well). i have not lost weight from my efforts, though i have just been diagnosed with a hypothyroid disorder. i am sure keeping those chemicals out of my body has improved my well-being regardless, and i know i feel much better– no mood swings, no irritability, anxiety, depressive episodes, etc.. i had no idea this stuff was linked to ADD, but i do know i have had much better focus and concentration. this stuff may be worse for you than alcohol in moderation.

Whoa! Get this: When we lived in Texas I hadn’t seen my next door neighbor for a few months…saw him out side one day and he had become this tall slim person when before Pillsbury Doughboy.

“What happened??” I asked.
“Lost 80 lbs when I stopped drinking DIET soda!”
What did he drink instead? “Mostly water”.
” No-o-o-o-oo! Water? Well, whaddya know!”
Laurie Hatch

I enjoyed the article on sodas a great deal. So much so that I forwarded it to my mother because i have two younger brothers who drink at least one soda each day.
I actualy gave up soda all together about eight months ago. I had been drinking only diet caffiene free for a long time but one day I just decided that it was pointless to continue to drink them. I lost about5 or 10 pounds in that first month, which seemed odd at first because it wasn;t like I was consuming any less calories. But I have also felt healthier and been sick less since i cut the sodas out of my diet. Now I choose water over every other beverage option and am not even tempted to take a sip of soda.
Hopefully others can give up this horrible substance because there is no upside to consuming it.

I completely agree with this whole article and the suggestions at the end. Even diet soda will increase chances of tooth decay. Because of the acid. I am a Dental Hygienist and tell my patients this all the time. I really really agree with school taking out the soda machines. And there is NO GOOD reason for the schools to sell junk food to kids. And I wish I knew how to help stop the schools from selling the JUNK. Kathy

What research do you base your article on? Micheal Bowers

I used a lot of sources, the main study being the one the showed soda as the number one caloric source in America. However, let’s just assume there was no research.

Whether it’s number one or number ten, there is little doubt that a high percentage of calories in the American diet come from soda. We don’t need a study to tell us this. Let’s just run some numbers based on very basic nutritional knowledge using the information on the side of a can of soda.
It’s almost all sugar, along with various chemicals designed for rapid absorption. We don’t need science to tell us we get a rush from drinking soda. You just need to drink one. Basic nutrition shows us that we should not have too much simple sugar in our diet. If you drink soda all day long, there is no way your diet can possibly be balanced. No study is needed to show this either.

We also know that our diets should consist of protein, fat, carbs and that we need nutrients, such as vitamins. Again, just looking at the side of a can of soda will confirm that it lacks almost any nutrients but simple sugar and mysterious chemicals.

Therefore, before we even resort to studies to confirm that the chemicals are bad and hurt our diet in other ways, the simple facts still show that soda should not be a major component in your diet.

Hey Steve,
I recently read a book by a Dr. Batmanghelidj called Your Body’s Many Cries for Water. In the book he promotes water as a cure for many things and chronic dehydration as the cause of many diseases. The more “subversive” part of his theory is that he also believes that good salt should be taken along with the water at the ratio of .25 tsp salt for every quart of water. I’m wondering if you have read this book and what your thoughts on it are. I’ve been a runner in Florida (so I sweat lots) and water drinker for many years and often found myself craving salt (in the form of potato chips). And I’ve wondered how the salt would be replenished and balanced when I sweat so much out and drink so much water. I’m a pretty good eater too; I stay away from processed foods, etc. He’s got a website at

I think the book I had was an older version and I believe he says a few things that are not quite correct such as urination being a means for the body to rid itself of excess hydrogen. I thought it was nitrogen. And like many promoters of alternative ideas he spends a large amount of time defending himself. But from what I remember of biochemistry I believe most of what he says is accurate and on an instinctive level it seems that what he’s saying makes sense. I’d like to know what your thoughts on this use of salt are.
power 90 2 weeks in believer
B Beckford

This is a different subject but electrolyte balance (salts) is important. Salt seems to be misunderstood. Most people get way too much of it because our non-natural foods are loaded with it. However, if you have to little salt you can—and will—die. Salt used to be the most prized substance on earth. It’s necessary for life.

If you eat very clean and don’t add salt to your foods, you should. However, if you eat in restaurants or out of cans, you probably get more than you need.

Your body probably needs about 500mg of salt a day to do nothing but sit around. However, working out of working outside on a very hot day can easily deplete a 1,000mg an hour. Therefore, your salt consumption should vary along with your activity level and amount that you sweat (because you lose salt). My salt consumption varies from almost nothing some days to many thousands of mg’s when I’m doing an endurance event.

wow, the soda article was great and i try to think how its still possible to reach parents who will believe this and will practice it…how upset i get when i see a 1 or 2yr old drinking soda from a can or macdonald cup…its the parents i want to slap…. my children who are 28/26 now…i had asked the elementary private school (20yrs ago)to please stop selling junk and soda at the school, their response was but we make 60,000 a yr extra money….

if your child has no control of buying this stuff its not our fault….but the major problem of this is…everyone at least 85% need to do something and i’m afraid only 20% will take the time to do what they should and stand up to this but no one wants to take that 10minutes to see what they can do….i work at walmart…i’m proud to work there but something that i think walmart needs to do is not open those macdonalds in their stores anymore….but can a healthy food place afford the high rent there? i don’t think so…only macdonalds can afford it, and every other customer i see has a bag of macdonalds when they pass me…..thats my two cents worth….thanks for listening……

glady mills

There are so many of these I’m just going to let ‘em roll for a while. Great stuff, everyone. Thanks for sharing!
Kudo’s to that article on soft drinks. They make this stuff so available at school, then tell us our kids are ADD, all the while, making money on them. No telling the damage I did to my body when I was a teenager using diet soda to control my eating…not necessarily my weight! Luckily, I had a revelation, and gave it up rather easily years ago. Consequently, while I was raising my 4 children, I never bought the stuff. It was always available elsewhere, they “learned to drink it”, and we did go through the periods when they complained that I never bought them soda when I went to the store (like all their other friends’ homes….), but I rarely see these same 4 teenagers drinking sodas today! We do drink iced tea and coffee, but moderately, and we go through a 5 gallon bottle of pure clean fresh water every day or so around our house, much of it in that pure state. The last time I drank a diet dr. pepper (3 months ago), I had such severe physical reactions, I thought I was going to have to run by the ER on my way home. That convinced me forever!

YES … I absolutely agree with the article on every point.
I grew up in a house pop in the refridgerator 24/7 … it was used as a “reward” for good behavior, or as a dinner drink, on weekends for a “party drink”, and any other real or imagined “occcasion”.
I finally rebelled against the stuff in my early ’30’s and began drinking water 90% of the time. I stopped drinking coffee after too many dental cleanings and stomachaches from all the acid.
Today, at 59 years old, I am healthier, still go to the gym 3 days per week, and have done 50 mile + bicycle rides. Water is my drink of choice and always will be. Any kind of pop is bad stuff for the body. I think it should be taxed like liquor or cigarettes. RonVancouver WA
Loved your article on how bad soda is. I stopped drinking soda about 13 years ago because I was getting kidney stones. I don’t miss it at all. If I have a sip of someone’s soda for a taste, it is so sweet to me. I don’t enjoy it at all, I’d rather have water.
Fran Figurelli

Thanks for the news on soda. I have been waiting for someone to come out with this info for parents and children alike on this particular subject. Many people have no idea about the dangers it can cause including aspartame poisoning. All should be made aware of what these things do to our body and mind and this is a good start. Being informed is the only way to make a difference.
Sincerely , Julie Fowler – Beach Body member

Having moved here just over a year ago from England, I am amazed at how much sugar and salt seems to be in ordinary foods. I am having a hard time finding bread that doesn’t taste sweet and everything has high-fructose corn syrup listed on the label, even if it’s not supposed to be sweet. I bought fresh chicken breast the other day and it tasted salty and I commented to my husband that it seems as if people can’t taste food any more unless it’s flavor is enhanced.

Having read the ACAHS article, I can agree with everything. I worked at a school in England and the children (aged 4-7) could bring in a snack for recess, but were only allowed to bring in fresh fruit or vegetables. Their attention after recess was improved because of the slow release energy in the snack. A young child that moved from the USA turned up with a blueberry muffin. On being told that she was only allowed to bring in a fruit or vegetable snack, her mother replied that blueberries were fruit! At lunch time, only water was offered to drink and the children that brought in lunch from home were not allowed to bring in any carbonated beverages. School meals were also on the healthy side with lunchtime supervisors who encouraged the children to eat some of everything so that they were getting a balanced meal. Even with my own children, I have had trouble convincing them that Sunny-D is not the same as orange juice. “But it’s full of vitamins, Mum” they would say, “it says so on the commercial”. I simply refused to buy the stuff and when we were in the supermarket showed them all the additives and sugars listed on the label. Then I showed them the label on fresh orange juice. Now they are convinced.
I have always managed to steer them away from McDonalds too (except for the odd birthday party) and they now call it McTrash. I am glad that I managed to change their way of thinking before we moved to the USA, because it is so much harder to find healthy, unadulterated food here than it is in the UK. I will persevere though, because they are both much better behaved when they eat REAL food.

Thanks for the articles, I’ll keep reading
Clair Bourne

What a great article. While you’re singing to the choir with me– I’ve been a label reader and organic food eater for decades– but you state everything really well in this article. I’m forwarding it to friends. Thanks for having the guts to slam the soda companies– something they well deserve!!

Barbie Beckfordnew member 1.5 weeks into power 90.
Thank you so much for publishing the article on the dangers of soda. You made some excellent points. One thing I might add is that doctors should start warning patients (especially pediatricians) about the dangers of soda, just as they warn patients about the dangers of smoking.If the public can begin to become aware of the dangers of trans fat, perhaps there’s hope in this area, too.
Kim Parham
I thoroughly enjoyed Steve’s article on regular and diet softdrinks. I couldn’t agree more on them being the worst food/drink on the planet!! They are the possible link to so many health problems today and a warning label should be placed on every container.This article needs to go to every home in America. Thanks for your input and awareness. I plan to share this article with friends who need it most.
Sincerely,Pam Maurer , Montgomery, Alabama

Thanks for this great article. Is it possible to add a link to our senators & congressmen? There should be some kind of website to this effect somewhere that might even add a form letter or email that we can send. That way your editorial not only has info, it has effect.

Please feel free to pass this on. Here are a couple of links. Make yourself heard.
Contact Congress

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