Water – The Food Processor’s Bogeyman

June 12, 2012 in Diabetes Management, Health Claims, Uncategorized, Weight Management by Joyce Bunderson

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Summer officially begins in nine days; in North America some traditions are saved for the summer – gathering in the yard for a barbecue is one of them and another is drinking soda pop. I do realize that soda has now thoroughly permeated the entire year for many people, but it is still drunk more frequently in the summer months for some because we need to drink more to stay hydrated.

Because weight loss and weight management is a growing concern in the U.S., it’s important to bring the issue of beverages to the attention of the weight conscious-population. When people want to be careful of their calorie intake they frequently don’t pay attention to the calories in their beverages. It’s interesting that the average American gets about a fifth of their daily calories from beverages. One fifth of our calories is a significant number - a 2000-calorie per day diet would include 400 calories per day from beverages on average. If many of those calories are sugary (and consumption statistics show they are) this is a fairly large problem; it is essentially enough to cause a weigh gain of about 40 pounds in a year.


We Americans lead the world. It sounds exciting, but it’s somewhat sad. We lead the world in drinking soda. On average we consume about 100 pounds of sugar each year – which is, of course contributing to the fact that two out of every three Americans are overweight or obese. In a recent survey, it was reported that taste and price continue to drive food and beverage choices (87% and 73% respectively) more than healthfulness (61%), convenience (53%) or sustainability (35%).

Sugary drinks are far cheaper than milk and juice; therefore, combined with the sweet taste of soda, sugary drinks are frequently chosen. If that doesn’t seem to be much of a problem consider a few numbers: 1) a single 20 ounce soda (which is supposed to be two servings) has about 18 teaspoons of sugar; approximately 260 calories and can inflict a 26 pound weight gain in a year. Try stopping that drinking and you obtain the gift of a 26-pound weight loss. These numbers are based on drinking one a day. To burn off that one 20-ounce soda, a 135-pound person would have to walk three miles in 45 minutes; or bike briskly for 22 minutes or play vigorous basketball for 40 minutes.

Vic and I don’t watch much TV, but we do watch American Idol. Have you ever noticed that the judges each have a huge plastic container that says, Coke plastered all over it? When it’s time for a commercial, the word Coke is splashed all over the screen. I’ve learned that there’s so much profit in sugar (by any name) and carbonated water that the soda processors can easily afford to spend billions of dollars per year in marketing and advertising. That’s how they’re getting your teenager to guzzle. Have you ever seen a picture of a broccoli cluster or a tomato on the side of a cup? I haven’t either.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is so often ahead of the curve, published a study in 2005 called Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks Are Harming Americans’ Health; the study has some great charts with calories and drink sizes. The following statement is within this study: “Soft drinks are popular, in part, because people like their taste. But powerful advertising, universal availability, low price, and the use of a mildly addictive ingredient (caffeine, not to mention sugar) are other factors that have made soft drinks a routine snack and a standard component of meals instead of the occasional treat they were considered several decades ago.”

Note: Many Americans are looking to cut down on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS); so the Corn Refiners Association decided to change the name from HFCS to “corn sugar” Nice marketing ploy. Fortunately for the consumer, the FDA ruled, “sugar is a solid, dried and crystallized food…whereas syrup is an aqueous solution or liquid food.” So ‘no go’ on the corn sugar brilliant idea. It’s actually been a huge source of laughter for me. Yes, I know that sugar is not a health food and is almost as bad as HFCS; but I love it when the tricky marketing guys don’t win. My good friend and associate, Mary Ireland (who contributes to these blogs) sent me an email saying; “…it’s pretty bad when the Sugar Association doesn’t want your product associated with theirs!! That cracked me up. Take note, the Corn Refiners have not given up; they lost two battles, but they’re still in the war. Some food processors have switched to good old-fashioned sugar, but HFCS is cheaper, which of course, spells huge profits for the beverage industry. In addition, it helps to keep the prices low enough to ensnare teens and other soda drinkers to have a big gulp.

Yale University’s The Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity (Center for Science in the Public Interest) released a study last month that did not surprise many of us. They’ve made their study public and you can read it for free – great graphics! The study showed how bad sugar sweetened beverages like soda and energy drinks are for us. They point out that “HFCS is absorbed more rapidly than regular sugar, and it doesn’t stimulate insulin or leptin production. This prevents you from triggering the body’s signals for being full and may lead to overconsumption of total calories.” Yale University supports the Soda Free Summer program – which is named by different public health departments, such as California’s Alameda County Rethink Your Drink! Program, which has a very nice website with lots of information. Maybe some families will want to do these programs – some are even going past soda free summer to soda free for life. They have great bylines: Stop the Pop – Stay Cool, Drink water  - Kick the Can.


  • Have you ever noticed that you eat less at a meal if you’ve been sitting in a restaurant or picnic table sipping water? I have. Water can help you feel full.
  • Recent research suggests that drinking plenty of water may have a positive effect on your metabolism.
  • Dehydration is not noticed by all of us. I’ve recently learned from a family member that two of their family gets dehydrated and these individuals don’t notice. Now that they know this, Voilà! Fewer headaches. Dehydration is easy to ignore for many of us, but the resulting fatigue is fairly annoying; stressful for mind and body; and can be dangerous.
  • If you allow yourself to become dehydrated, you may discover that you have difficulty with constipation, because both fiber and water are essential in your colon.
  • If you’ve ever had kidney stones, the excruciating pain experience will probably assure that you won’t need to be reminded to stay hydrated. Water keeps the minerals in your urine diluted so it won’t be so easy to form stones.


  • Sweeten water by adding a teeny bit of juice. Last week, Vic (Dr. Grandpa) and I were dinner guests at a friend’s home. We had a lingering conversation at their table after a beautifully presented delicious meal. When I poured a splash of juice (about a tablespoon of mango juice) into our glasses and filled the glasses with ice water, some looked surprised. It’s a great way to have lovely fruity flavor, without a slug of calories and skyrocketing blood sugar.
  • Use diet drinks. All natural sweeteners are coming, including those with Erythritol, Stevia, and other natural intense sweeteners. Beware of artificial sweeteners for children; but for many, they have fewer well-documented dangers than does excessive sugar.
  • Fruit juice often has as many calories as soda, but at least it’s packed with nutrients. So my advice is to keep your serving of juice (100% fruit juice with no added sweeteners) to ½ cup per day. I personally feel fuller and better nourished when I eat the fruit and drink water or skim milk with my meal or snack. Eating whole fruit also has the added benefit to deliver more fiber and contribute more to a full feeling; because of all the fiber in fruit, the release of the natural sugars in fruit is slower. It doesn’t spike your blood sugar, like a glass of juice.
  • If you were dedicated to your sugary soda, maybe you would consider sizing down the volume that you order. Soda Size does matter – every 12 ounces saved equals about 9 teaspoons of sugar saved – translated into calories, it ranges from 140 to 170 calories for various types of soda pop. Note: root beer is very sweet drink. One can of soda (12 ounces) less per day, spells approximately a 15-pound weight loss in a year.
  • Stir in some cubes of melon, slices of strawberries or cucumber for a refreshing icy drink without all the sugar and calories.
  • One handy item that you may like to try is SweetLeaf’s zero calorie drops. It’s really handy when traveling; a drop or two can make water flavored like vanilla crème, English Toffee, Chocolate, and Raspberry. If you or a loved one has difficulty with plain water, this may be a workable solution, when you don’t have access to a strawberry slice or melon cube.
  • If smoothies are your favorite treat, consider making them at home; that way you can make them with skim milk, limited sweetener or a no-calorie sweetener. By the way, skip the chocolate milk, which has a load of HFCS or sugar to plump you up. Making it yourself protects you from ice cream, honey, sugar and lots of extra calories.
  • When you choose milk; make it skim or 1%. One cup of whole milk is about 150 calories and skim is about 90 – 60 calories for every cup. The fat is mostly saturated and is an easy to cut saturated fat. If you think of the change in the following terms it may be easier for you to move toward skim milk: changing one cup of whole milk per day for one cup of skim milk, translates into a 6 pound weight loss. If we make several changes like this, it makes it easy to maintain a lower weight.
  • Think of only using energy drinks (as bad or worse than sugary soda) if you need electrolyte replacement after/during excessive sweating and heavy exercise. Generally water will do the trick; maybe add a piece of fruit. Usually you don’t need the expensive sports drinks (expensive both in calories and price).
  • Some sports drinks have a jolt of caffeine, in addition to the sugar; just go for iced coffee or tea, if you need the caffeine. Coffee is calorie free. I’m not talking the fancy, specialty coffee; a single cup of that can contain as much as 570 calories. Yikes!!

I’m not so worried that the food processor’s bogeyman (water) will make an overnight change in our American number one status of soda drinking. But some may be beginning to understand the weight of this issue and what’s going on with the beverage processors. Some are going to begin a course of action that moves them away from frequent drinking of sugary drinks. The payoff is better health.