Answer: You’ve heard it. The joke goes, “I’m a health nut—I’m having a DIET soda with this burger and fries.”
This is a very hard question to answer. Because to say that one is worse than the other is to imply that the less-bad option is somehow okay. It’s not. A can of soda has 7 teaspoons of sugar in it, not to mention a couple dozen types of acids, many carcinogenic chemicals that have no place in the human body, including phenylalanine, and carbonation that robs your red blood cells of oxygen. And when you remove the sugar, you substitute a known neurotoxin, aspartame, an “excitotoxin” that literally excites your nerve endings to death.
Here’s the answer, and I’m sorry it’s so dissatisfying. Both are equally terrible, though the Diet would win by a hair if someone held a gun to my head and made me choose. (You think you’re avoiding diabetes and obesity risk by drinking Diet? Nope. Diet sodas have been linked to both overeating and obesity, and to diabetes risk.)
Regular soda and diet soda are tied, neck and neck, for “worst foods ever.” That’s because they aren’t food. They don’t even have any food ingredients.
If you absolutely must have caffeine (best to avoid it!), get it from organic green tea, sweetened with stevia. You can buy it at the health food store. Skip the coffee, and skip the soda. Decaffeinated coffee is still terribly acidic, and it isn’t caffeine-free, only lower in caffeine.
My best friend, Kristin, probably won’t mind me telling you that recently she quit Diet Pepsi, because drinking it caused the sensation of “knives” in her gut. She has been eating healthy, getting through tough times without her historic cola crutch, and doing fine. Since working for GSG, Kristin “goes off” DP for months at a time, longer and longer periods. This is quite a feat, when you consider that she’s been drinking it since her earliest memory. It’s a “friend” that has gotten her through a lot, 32 ounces at a time. The problem is, the relationship no longer serves.
She and I have both struggled with anxiety our whole lives–but when Kristin’s off all the addictions, she feels great, even though she has some enormous stressors in her life. I do fine as long as I stay away from sugar. Corn syrup especially–I just don’t touch it anymore, ever.
Alcohol is also deadly for anxiety and depression. A clean-functioning, healthy liver is one of your best tools for elevated, stable mood. When it’s running clean, so do your nerves and brain!
I know it’s tough. Soda addiction is powerful. But I hope you find reasons, inspiration, and hope on my blog, to kick the can forever. It’s worth it to fight that fight. Your liver, and your stomach, your disease risk, your skin—they’ll all thank you.