A few months back, social media were busy celebrating new trends among cool drinks such as 'full jar soda', 'kulukki sarbath', 'kudukka sarbath' etc. Besides these trendy drinks, we are quite accustomed with various branded colas and such bottled drinks. These are mostly aerated drinks (soda or formulae added to soda). Since the burden of lifestyle diseases are rapidly increasing in the world, the health aspects of aerated drinks is a serious matter for discussion. In a study done in 2015, the ‘American Beverages Association’ says that a staggering 1,84,000 deaths per year globally is linked to consumption of sugary drinks!
What exactly are aerated drinks?
An aerated drink is usually bottled carbonated water, which may or may not be added with sweeteners, artificial flavours, caffeine and preservatives. It contains 8 - 12 % sweeteners, 0.3 – 1 % colourings, 0.05 - 0.3 % acidulants, chemical preservatives etc.
Does it really quench our thirst?
No! On the contrary, sugary aerated drinks increase our thirst. Once the sugar particles enter your blood, water moves out of your cells and into your blood, to restore balance in your blood. They send signals to the brain indicating that the cells need more water. What is the result? You feel the urge to sip water. That means actually it increases your thirst.
Effects of aerated drinks on our health
Soft drinks usually contain high sugar. Over-consumption of sugars can cause negative health effects such as obesity, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease etc.
The pH of carbonated water is 3 - 4. It is slightly acidic. Increased consumption of acidic beverages will invite various hazards to health. People with hyperacidity must avoid drinking carbonated beverages.
It is a common practice in India to mix soda with other ingredients such as lemon, ginger, green chilli, salt, fruits and other flavours. When soda is sold on the streets, proper hygiene may not be maintained while mixing ingredients and washing containers. Sometimes soda is also added with ice kept in unclean boxes. Poor hygiene in such places may also invite gastroenteritis, hepatitis and other infections.
As mentioned earlier, soda is an acidic drink, adding extra spicy and citrus ingredients makes it even more acidic. This increases acidity in the body.
Based on an ongoing study started in 2009 in Paris under French National Institute of Cancer, after evaluating around 10 lakh people, it is reported that drinking more sugary drinks increases risk of cancer by a whooping 18%!
Besides, excessive consumption of sugary aerated drinks also increase the chances of obesity, which itself is a risk factor for cancer, heart diseases, diabetes and so on.
Ayurvedic perspectives and best alternatives
If not soda, then what is the best to quench your thirst?
Drinking freezing water or consuming ice is never good for health according to Ayurveda; it kills your digestive fire (agni). Drinking soda makes your stomach feel full, increased intake will result in excess flatulence and hyperacidity.
One of the most popular welcome drinks in India is buttermilk. Buttermilk added with ginger, curry leaves and salt is the best healthy drink during summer. Buttermilk in different forms shall be used in all seasons. Known as takra in Sanskrit, its light (laghu) and dry (rūkṣa) properties also make buttermilk an ideal medicine for lifestyle diseases.
Plain water, tender coconut water, fresh fruits and vegetable juices with no extra sugar and ice are also healthy.
Ayurveda also recommends specific drinks for different seasons. Water boiled with herbs such as Cuscus grass (uśīraṃ (San)- Chrysopogon zizanioides (L.) Roberty, fresh Tinospora stem (amṛtā (San)- Tinospora cordifolia (Willd.) Miers, heartwood of wild Himalayan cherry (padmakaṃ (San)- Prunus cerasoides Buch. –Ham ex D.Don, sandalwood (candanaṃ (San)- Santalum album L., Holy basil (tulasī (San)- Ocimum tenuiflorum L., dried ginger (śuṇṭhī (San)- Zingiber officinale Roscoe are some of the good options. Please consult with an Ayurvedic doctor to find a suitable one for yourself and for the season.
Many developed countries have already banned aerated soft drinks in schools. We should also seriously start educating our future generations to learn healthy lifestyles and to choose their diet and lifestyle judiciously. Opting healthy Ayurvedic drinks instead of unhealthy fizzy drinks could be a good lesson to begin with.