Rethink that drink for better heart health

Eliminating sugary and diet beverages may reduce your chances of heart disease

sugary drinks

What’s your favorite beverage? Coffee with sugar? Tea with honey? Diet soda or low-calorie sports drink? Read on to learn how your go-to beverage could be affecting your heart.

According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, beverage consumption in the United States accounts for 47 percent of all added sugars. Those guidelines also report that higher intake of added sugars, especially sugar-sweetened beverages, is consistently associated with increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke in adults.

Most of us already know that sweetened drinks are also linked with weight gain, increased risk of type 2 diabetes and tooth decay. Because of this we might find ourselves reaching for a “diet” or “sugar-free” beverage; however, these may not be the healthiest choices either.

Studies reveal sugar’s negative impact

Multiple studies have shown a link between diet drinks and increased risk of heart disease, metabolic syndrome and increased body mass index. A recent study of nearly 60,000 post-menopausal women suggested, but did not prove, an association between women who drank two or more diet drinks per day and a 30 percent increased risk of cardiovascular conditions such as heart attack and stroke.

Researchers have theories about the connection between diet drinks and heart disease, but are calling for more studies to determine what factors are involved. If you consume multiple diet drinks each day, reducing your intake of these may help protect your heart health.

healthy drinksHealthy alternatives

If you’re trying to reduce your consumption of both sugars and sweeteners, consider these healthy options:

  • Water infused with:
    • Mixed berries
    • Slices of oranges, limes, grapefruit or lemon
    • Ginger
    • Fresh herbs like basil or mint
  • Unsweetened tea – there are many flavorful loose or bagged teas that can be enjoyed hot or cold
  • 1 ounce of 100 percent fruit juice such as cherry, pomegranate or cranberry mixed with sparkling water
  • Unsweetened dairy alternate such as almond milk
  • Low-fat or non-fat milk
    • Enjoy it cold
    • Try it warm, heat a mug of milk and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract

Give yourself a chance to adjust to your new beverage. Remind yourself of the positive reasons behind the switch and enjoy the taste of fresh, new flavors.

Take the next step:

Allison Fay Brenda Small thumbnailBrenda Allison Fay, RDN, is a senior dietitian and cardiovascular nutritionist with the Cardiovascular Medicine Clinic at Domino’s Farms. With more than 15 years of experience as a dietitian, she provides nutritional counseling to help people reduce disease risk and improve health.



Frankel-informal-vertical-sigThe University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top-ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.