Diet Dr Pepper has been my poison of choice for decades. I drink the stuff by the tanker-load. In fact, if I could do this, I probably would:
The other day, I posted this on Facebook:
I know I’d be healthier without sugar, aspartame, caffeine, or carbonation. Plain water gives me terrible heartburn. It’s a puzzlement. (Note: I’m already on an H2 blocker for the GERD, which keeps the fire mostly put out, but it tends to flare up during the day on occasion.)
There are reasons for wanting to make a change.
- Sugar: Sugary drinks contain about 10 teaspoons of sugar per 12 ounces, or about 150 calories. If I were to drink four or five of those each day, that’s an additional 600 to 750 calories a day on top of my normal caloric intake – and that adds up fast. I’m already about 30 pounds heavier than I would like to be, and I’d hate to tip the scales at over 300. Not only does it pack on the pounds, but it contributes to the development of insulin resistance via blood sugar spike and crash, and most of it comes in the form of High Fructose Corn Syrup, which is well-known for its deleterious health effects.
- Artificial sweeteners: My wife wants me to give up diet soda and switch to regular, claiming that Aspartame is worse for me than sugar. Scientifically, the jury is still out on that. The health-food world will tell you that it accumulates in your liver and takes six months to purge, or that it turns into formaldehyde above 86 degrees, or that it stimulates your appetite and makes you want to eat more, or a host of other very scary things. The FDA says its perfectly safe. Some of those claims have been soundly debunked, others are not so clear. Thus far, I’ve noticed no adverse effects [twitch twitch] other than those stubborn 30 pounds that don’t want to come off, so there may be something to that last one; the only two times I ever successfully released weight in my life, I had sworn off soda altogether.
- Caffeine: as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, tea, coffee, alcohol, and tobacco are proscribed. But there’s an old joke that goes,
“What’s the difference between an active Mormon and a lapsed Mormon? The temperature of their caffeine.”
Caffeinated sodas are not officially taboo, although there are some in the Church who will tell you that you’re going to Hell if you enjoy the occasional Coke – these are the “Nazi Mormons.” But as much as I like that energy buzz, caffeine does tend to flog the adrenal glands, which can lead to adrenal fatigue syndrome. I know that I’d be better off without it.
- Carbonation: belch I love fizz. I find it refreshing. I was really hoping that YO₂ would become a commercial success, but apparently the rest of the nation didn’t resonate with the idea. 😢 The health buzz tells you that carbonation will leach calcium from your bones as it acidifies your bloodstream, but that claim has been largely debunked. If anything, it probably contributes some to my heartburn and some increased flatulence pfrrt. So if I were going to be 100% committed, carbonation would be off the menu as well.
Many people responded, and before anything I need to state that I’m grateful for their taking the time to share advice and suggestions. They did so (mostly) because they care – and I appreciate those sentiments. On the other hand, the value of some of those suggestions is questionable.
Three people took the opportunity to flog their multilevel products (and, concomitantly, business opportunities). One was iGalen’s “Emulin E”, made of skin of the grape, skin of the onion and green coffee, and gallic acid – claimed to be a “carbohydrate manager,” and very expensive. Two others recommended Prüvit, a costly ketogenic diet system. Both of these, in my assessment, are pure pseudoscientific woo, as are most multilevel health products. Also, in the MLM world, any time you can get someone to buy your products, you’re opening the door to recruiting them as a new distributor. I will give my friends credit for being truly concerned for my health, and for a firm belief that their products are God’s answer to everything that ails me, but there’s always that little bell ringing in the back of an independent distributor’s head that says 鴨が葱を背負って来る (kamo ga negi wo shotte kuru), a Japanese proverb that means “Here comes a duck bearing onions,” or rather, “Here comes a sucker ready to be parted from his money.” I drank that Kool Aid for far too long, which is the subject of another essay altogether.
Two people, despite my clarification, suggested switching to plain water. Either they didn’t read my comment, or ignored it. Yes, it’s really the healthiest solution, but clearly the most boring.
One suggested taking a cod liver oil pill or two for the heartburn, based on anecdotal evidence and personal experience. I’ve done that in the past, and it didn’t seem to help much.
One suggested a less sugar-intense cherry drink, since cherry (according to him) is an essential element of the Dr Pepper flavor. But even “soda light” will probably have more sugar than I want.
One suggested the new flavors of Diet Coke appearing on the market. I tried these and found them an improvement over plain Diet Coke, which tastes like panther piss. Another suggested Coke Zero, which I have drunk in the past and which is better than Diet Coke. But these are still diet soda with artificial sweeteners and caffeine.
A friend of mine who is a longtime resident of Japan suggested mugicha, or barley tea. According to him, it’s easy enough to make yourself if you have the ingredients. Lots of flavor, no sugar, caffeine, or carbonation. My first wife lived in Japan for a year and a half, and her endorsement of mugicha was less than ringing if I remember correctly. But it sounds like a good option to add to a repertoire of more healthful drinks, and I will definitely look into this one.
A cousin said, “A glass of wine cures everything!!! Oh I forgot you don’t drink!!!” I’d get some of Uncle Carlo’s fat black home-made wine as a kid (cut with water, of course) at my Italian grandmother’s home, and I definitely developed a taste for it. Darnit. I wish I could take her advice.
One long-time friend suggested Sprite Zero or Diet Sunkist. I’m sure they are tasty, but still diet sodas.
Two people suggested San Pellegrino, Perrier, or LaCroix. Things of this nature may be my ultimate solution, or at least an intermediate step.
One friend of long standing suggested lime juice in cold water, which helped him through soda withdrawal, and another suggested water with a dash of lemon juice as a less-boring alternative to plain water. Maybe. I’ve thought along these lines, but I’ve noticed that citrus tends to increase the heartburn.
Another colleague suggested rooibos tea, either hot or cold. No caffeine, many flavored varieties available. Definitely worth a look.
Two friends suggested a healthy soda that uses stevia. Not a bad idea, but in my experience stevia is just not very good tasting. I’m looking for something that makes me want more of it.
One friend suggested Dry Soda. Looked at their web page – it looks like it has potential, but does not seem available anywhere close to where I live.
Another colleague suggested kombucha. I have reservations about this one. A physician at the poison control center wrote, “There are no scientific studies to support the many health claims made for kombucha tea. There are many reasons to be concerned about the safety of kombucha tea, despite its long history of traditional use.” Probably a pass, especially because kombucha can be mildly alcoholic and is often combined with green or black tea.
A knitting colleague suggested iced herbal teas. A good possibility, since there are so many flavors that I already enjoy, including peppermint, chamomile, and numerous blends.
The last suggestion was chai. Sadly, this one is out for me because of the Word of Wisdom.
Trying to find something that has neither lots of sugar, artificial sweetener, caffeine, or carbonation – something that tastes good – has proven to be a challenge. Right now, I’ve found some nice flavored seltzers at Hannaford that are refreshing and tasty. I’ll live with the carbonation issue for now. I might even consider getting a spritz bottle like I had in Austria in the 70s with those little CO₂ cartridges, but those aren’t cheap. Whatever I drink has got to be cold – that’s part of the deal. So at work, a thermos full of something good will hopefully help me stay away from the vending machines.
I’ll report back as time goes on if I find something really spiffy.
The Old Wolf has spoken.