When it comes to beverages, we have many to choose from today. Some of our options include milk, juice, fruit or vegetable drinks, coffee, teas, sports drinks, soft drinks, and water.
Processed drinks contain substances that may taste good, but many of these substances have been found to damage the body. Substances like aspartame found to alter our behavior as it affects the nervous system; specifically, it can weaken spatial orientation and increase irritability and depression.
Diet soft drinks contain chemical additives like aspartame, linked to physiological damage that can harm our overall health.
So, what’s the better option when we are thirsty and need to hydrate? Let’s take a look at some benefits of choosing fruit and herb-infused water over a diet soft drink.
Fruit & Herb-Infused Water
First, let’s define infusion. An infusion occurs when we soak something, in this case - the fruit and herbs - into a liquid (the water) to extract the flavor and healing properties of the substance that we are soaking. So, when we soak fruit and herbs in water, some of the nutrients contained in the fruit and herbs pass into the water. Then, we consume the infused water and get more micronutrients and healthy substances from drinking! Here are a couple of examples of fruit & herb-infused water, and some benefits of consuming them.
Orange- Infused Water can come together quickly overnight, just slice one orange, squeeze each slice into a large pitcher and drop the slices in, fill with clean water and place the pitcher into the refrigerator.
An Orange will provide nutrients like vitamin C, which acts as an antioxidant and improves immune function. As a citrus fruit, the orange provides many bioflavonoids, like hesperidin and hesperetin, shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to our cells. In addition to these benefits, oranges provide us with micronutrients such as folate (B9), thiamine (B1), vitamin A, vitamin B5 and B6, and minerals like potassium, calcium, and magnesium, among others. So, consuming orange-infused water can provide nutrients that will act as antioxidants, enhance our immune system, improve heart and skin health, and improve brain function.
Watermelon-Basil-Infused Water. Watermelon provides micronutrients like vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, magnesium, copper, manganese, and B vitamins like B1, B5, and B6. The antioxidant nutrients, like vitamin C, found in watermelon, can help reduce inflammation and protect our cells from oxidative damage. Minerals, like potassium and magnesium, can help regulate blood pressure and are associated with improved heart and kidney health. The phytonutrients in watermelon, like lycopene, can lower oxidative stress and reduce inflammation. Further, lycopene has been found to protect against cancer and heart disease is effective against macular degradation and reduces diabetes as it improves fat and sugar metabolism.
Basil is an herb of the mint family that contains many micronutrients like vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, folate, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and phytochemicals like eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, luteolin, and linalool. Basil is effective as an antibacterial herb and has been found to possess the ability to inhibit the growth of E. coli strains. Basil’s phytochemicals have been found to induce the death (apoptosis) of harmful cells and stop cancerous tumors from spreading. Further, types of basil like holy basil (Tulsi), have been found to increase antioxidant activity, which helps the body adapt to stressors.
Diet Soft Drinks
Diet soft drinks are sugar-free, artificially sweetened carbonated beverages, like Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew. These products are typically marketed as healthier options to sugary soft drinks. However, these products have little to no nutritional value, and may also contain potentially harmful substances. Let’s look at the two diet soft drinks mentioned, Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew, and see what research tells us about some of the ingredients.
According to the Coca-Cola Company website, Diet Coke contains carbonated water, caramel color, aspartame, phosphoric acid, potassium benzoate, natural flavors, citric acid, and caffeine.
Caramel color has been linked to exposure to a chemical (4-MEI), which increases our risk of cancer. A 2015 study published in PLoS One found that the consumption of products, like diet soft drinks, led to 4-MEI exposure that exceeded the acceptable levels set by U.S. federal regulatory agencies.
Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that is about 180 times sweeter than table sugar. This substance has been linked to increased blood sugar levels, oxidative stress, and potential for the development of obesity and metabolic syndrome when exposed long-term. Also, The American Journal of Industrial Medicine found (rodent) studies provided evidence of aspartames ability to cause cancer when consumed.
According to PepsiCo, Inc., Diet Mountain Dew contains carbonated water, concentrated orange juice, citric acid, natural flavors, citrus pectin, potassium benzoate, aspartame, potassium citrate, caffeine, sodium citrate, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, gum Arabic, sodium benzoate, calcium disodium EDTA, brominated vegetable oil, and yellow 5.
Potassium benzoate is used as a preservative and serves as a substitute for sodium benzoate (a preservative shown to inhibit intracellular and DNA synthesis) in diet products to help minimize the sodium content of that product.
A 2013 study, published in the Iranian Journal of Basic Medical Sciences, reported that potassium benzoate negatively impacts embryonic eye development with a pregnant rodent’s exposure to potassium benzoate. The study found potassium benzoate exposure led to an extensive hemorrhage of the embryonic eye, deformed lens, and retinal folds with undeveloped layers.
Sucralose is an artificial sweetener that is about 600 times sweeter than table sugar (sucrose) and is used in thousands of products today. A review published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health found sucralose was able to elevate glucose and insulin levels in women who were at risk for weight gain and diabetes.
A 2008 study found that sucralose reduced the beneficial microflora (like lactobacilli and bifidobacterial) at greater levels than pathogenic bacteria. Further, this reduction was not fully reversible after removing sucralose from the diet, even after three months, thus altering intestinal bacteria in favor of the harmful pathogens. Our gut microflora performs functions important to our health, such as fermenting complex carbohydrates and producing short-chain fatty acids (SCFA’s), synthesizing vitamins (like vitamin K), inhibiting pathogens, absorbing minerals, metabolizing drugs, and modulates the immune response.
A 2002 rodent study found sucralose able to induce DNA damage in the gastrointestinal organs, while other studies show potential toxicity from continual sucralose consumption.
Choosing to drink for our health can be quick, easy, and taste great, like when we choose to create an infused water that will not only hydrate the body but also supply nutrients and phytochemicals that our bodies need to be healthy. And, in creating our fruit & herb-infused water, we control what goes in, and can leave out the added sugar that most commercial brands include.
Choosing to drink diet soft drinks means that we will be consuming substances that can be harmful to the body, like artificial colors, sweeteners, and preservatives.
If you’ve never tried to create a fruit & herb-infused water, pick your favorite flavor and give it a try - you may find a new favorite drink that is also supportive of your health!
Proverbs 25:21 “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink…”
Naz, A., Butt, M. S., Sultan, M. T., Qayyum, M. M., & Niaz, R. S. (2014). Watermelon lycopene and allied health claims. EXCLI Journal, 13, 650–660.
Majumdar, S., & Srirangam, R. (2009). Solubility, stability, physicochemical characteristics and in vitro ocular tissue permeability of hesperidin: a natural bioflavonoid. Pharmaceutical research, 26(5), 1217–1225. doi:10.1007/s11095-008-9729-6
Gardener, H., Rundek, T., Markert, M., Wright, C. B., Elkind, M. S., & Sacco, R. L. (2012). Diet soft drink consumption is associated with an increased risk of vascular events in the Northern Manhattan Study. Journal of general internal medicine, 27(9), 1120–1126. doi:10.1007/s11606-011-1968-2