Sugary Drinks: A Real Food Mom’s Nemesis

by lydia on June 29, 2011

So now that it’s summer time, we have been and will be attending picnics and outings galore. Sure enough out will come the lemonades, juice boxes, sodas, even the gatorades along with the supposed healthier versions of them such as VitaWater. After all it’s summer and what better way to refresh yourself than a sugary drink, right? Nothing could be further from the truth.

I actually detest that everywhere I go there are sugar laden beverages available to my kids, or any kid for that matter. Even juice bugs the heck out of me. Why? Isn’t juice healthy? Think about it like this, when in history has juice been a primary part of anyone’s diet? Is it a needed aspect of a healthy diet? Or is it simply another way to ultimately consume sugar? So what if there are ‘some’ nutrients in natural juice, is that the best way to consume those supposed nutrients, by essentially dumping sugar into your bloodstream. I think not. Plain and simple, juice is NOT a health food. Is juice even something that should be this easily available to us? What if we never had industrialized foods, would we really be regularly consuming fruit juice? Or would we simply be eating fruit in season?

The process of juicing fruit concentrates its sweetness. There is as much sugar in a glass of orange juice as there is in a candy bar, and most of it is fructose, which is more harmful than the sucrose of sugar. Consumption of apple juice has been linked to failure to thrive in infants. Most fruit juice is also filtered and pasteurized, refining it even further and removing any chance of really benefiting from any of the nutrients once available in the whole fruit.

Check out this video by Sean Croxton of Underground Wellness as he rants a bit about what juice really is;


Instead of being all emotional and getting the warm fuzzies over pouring a tall glass of lemonade (repeatedly, I might add), stop and ask yourself this, does this benefit my body in any way? Be honest with yourself, cause the answer is a resounding NO. Now you may want to justify your choice by turning it into an excuse like, oh a little glass of lemonade in the summer won’t hurt anyone in the long run or even the short term. Well think again. That one glass of lemonade will most obviously turn into 2 then 3, then every day and before you know it you are drinking it by the pitcherful, when what your body really craves is simply pure water.

So why is a sugary drink so bad for me, you ask? If you have read any of my site at all you will know how I stress the importance of keeping your blood sugar regulated by not consuming much sugar as well as many carbohydrate/starch based foods. The human bloodstream can only handle about a teaspoon of sugar at a given time before it has to have insulin come to it’s rescue. Forcing your body to dump out insulin is not something that should occur frequently at all, it is actually the body’s emergency response. Yet in our day and age it happens many times daily in most people. This causes immense stress on the body, in fact allowing your kids to drink so many sugary drinks, including juice from fruits, can lead to diabetes. Fruit sugar also known as fructose leads to diabetes, it’s a proven fact, just do the googling. Fructose actually causes your brain to slow down, not to mention it’s a sure way to pack on the pounds. There is NO sugary drink out there that is not fructose laden. Not one! Additionally, fructose can lead to not only obesity and type 2 diabetes, but a whole host of other problems, such as; elevated cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, liver disease, depletion of vitamins and minerals, cardiovascular disease, gout, arthritis and cancer. Now I know, no one in their right mind wants to invite any of those maladies upon themselves or their young children.

As a mom I find it is hard enough to help my kids maintain good health. Not to mention good behavior. I have 4 boys, can you imagine the squabbles and attitudes I deal with day in and day out? It’s no walk in the park! Now add to that the constant bombardment of excessive sugary drinks at any given opportunity, a family gathering, a party, a school event, summer camp, a play date and so on. It just never ends, this day in and day out battle to fight away the perils of excessive sugar consumption. Just think how much more quickly a sugary drink hits the bloodstream than say something that actually has to go through the digestion process. I know when my kids drink soda, (which they rarely do), they usually feel lousy for it later. Sometimes they may even get a little sick, as it certainly lowers their immune function. Did you know there are sources that suggest that just 1/2 teaspoon of white sugar puts white blood cells to sleep for 4 hours?  (Check out this article here, about the effect of soda on the body).

Sugar changes how our hormones work. Over time sugar binds to hormone receptors, causing them to become insensitive to the hormone insulin. Once you become insulin resistant, your blood sugar levels rise even higher and lead to diabetes, weight gain, circulatory and sexual dysfunction. For the same reason sugar jams hormone signals, it also clogs nutrient channels, weakening bone and muscle and slowing neural communication, which can impair mood and memory and lead to dementia. While all this is going on, sugar stiffens the collagen in your tendons, joints, and skin, causing arthritis and premature wrinkling, while interfering with the production of new collagen throughout your entire body. And because sugar changes the surface markers your white blood cells need to distinguish between indigenous cells from invaders, it opens the door to cancer and infection. (source – ‘Deep Nutrition’ chapter 9 – Sickly Sweet).

I included the above paragraph to give a quick glimpse into just how damaging sugar consumption can be on the body over time. I think this is important to note especially as a parent trying to raise children that are healthy. We have to fight for them! We have to teach, encourage and enforce good habits for their sake and even their future children’s sake. This is no small matter. Have you heard what the latest average sugar consumption is per person per year is in the US? 200 pounds. That’s obscene! No wonder we have every malady under the sun and it’s only getting worse. Sugar is one of the leading causes of every kind of health problem known today!

Try Lacto-Fermented Beverages Instead

Traditionally sweetened beverages from past societies include lacto fermented beverages made from fruit, milk, sap, roots, herbs and even grains. If you really want a sweet drink, and truly are able to be very moderate with consuming sweet beverages, try some of the traditionally fermented drinks, such as kombucha, water kefir, sweet potato fly and even lacto-fermented lemonade. My kids enjoy kombucha and water kefir quite a bit and the added benefit is you really can’t drink a lot of it, nor should you. You could perhaps, but it’s really best not to over do it with fermented drinks. The beauty of fermented sweet drinks is that most of the sugar gets eaten by the culture or scoby, since the presence of sugar to begin with is to feed the culture, not you. This creates a much lower sugar content, while also adding nutrients, enzymes and probiotics to the mix. Lacto-fermentation is a process whereby special bacteria transform sugars and starches into beneficial acids. These drinks are valued for medicinal qualities including the ability to relieve intestinal problems and constipation. The emotional nostalgic aspect of a cool tall glass of lemonade does not have to be totally lost, simply make it fermented and enjoy some added nutritional benefits that straight lemonade can’t even offer you.

Here are several traditionally prepared lacto-fermented beverages that you can make in your very own kitchen and yes, your kids will love them!

How to make Old Fashioned Soda

Sweet Potato Fly

Lacto-fermented Lemonade

Fizzy Ginger Limeade

Water Kefir


(cover photo credit)

This post contributed to Fight Back Fridays and Real Food Wednesdays



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Stephanie June 29, 2011 at 3:53 pm

I’m really trying to like fermented beverages. So far, it’s not going so well. I tried Kombucha (from the store), gingerale (homemade from NT) and lemonade punch (homemade from NT). None of them are things I could sit down and drink and be refreshed. They are all things I have to choke down. I really, really want to like them. Do you have any tips on where to start? – One frustrated fermenter

lydia June 29, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Hey Stephanie!

The first few times I tried Kombucha I did not like it, but I convinced myself to keep trying it because of the benefits. I then learned how to brew my own and find that homemade is WAY better, plus I think it takes some time to learn the art and get it just how you like it. Have you tried water kefir yet? That is a bit more mild. I think the whole thing with fermented beverages is that it is not a taste the modern palate is familiar with, but I do believe in time it becomes an acquired taste as well as your body may begin to just crave it for the nutrients. We are way to used to sickenly sweet drinks so it takes some time. I would try the flavored Kombucha from the store and maybe come to one of my kombucha workshops in the end of the summer. Also if you can get water kefir grains you may enjoy that. My kids love the fermented lemonade. Oh and at first you won’t be able to guzzle down lots of it, just sip!! Hope that helps!

Kate @ Modern Alternative Mama June 29, 2011 at 7:58 pm

We love kombucha. Well, me, my husband, and son. daughter isn’t so fond of anything fizzy. But they also love herbal tea with a small amount of raw honey, or fresh-squeezed lemonade with raw honey. These are good special-occasion drinks. Water is what is usual, or sometimes unsweetened tea. Oh, and don’t forget smoothies! My kids love those. I make all kinds of low-sugar (usually honey-sweetened) drinks for special times. But to my kids, water is what we drink.

And electrolye drink…I have a recipe on my site…for when water just won’t do. Homemade, so none of the junk of that Gatorade!

lydia June 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm

Yes Kate all those are awesome suggestions – I suppose I could have added more ideas like that on this post. We drink unsweetened herbal fruity teas every now and then and the kids love it because it’s a change from just water. My oldest loves his smoothies and so do I cause I can sneak in raw pastured eggs and other goodies and he never knows! 😀 I’ll have to check out your recipe – I’ve been drinking a lot of coconut water and fermented coconut water for rehydration, it’s my drink of choice to take to the gym!

julie June 30, 2011 at 1:56 pm

I just flavored one batch of kombucha with the freshly squeezed juice of 2 oranges and I have to say it is amazing. I also make a lemon ginger flavor that is really good and cherry/strawberry/vanilla that is really good. It is an acquired taste but you really will start to crave it. I was brewing my kombucha too long at first and it was too strong, now I stop the ferment a little sooner…

Jackie July 10, 2011 at 1:37 pm

I learned a lot reading your post today. I plan on trying out the recipes you shared. Thanks for sharing.

diver girl July 30, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Well, I read all your posts for now…I’llcome back tomorow for more great posts!

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