Ask Elsa: Soft Drinks
Q My friends tell me that soft drinks are bad for my health.
I drink two 500ml bottles of cola a day. Should I switch to diet drinks as a healthier option?
A Soft drinks are unhealthy, full stop. The 'regular' kind contains approximately 13 teaspoons of sugar per 500ml bottle. I would recommend that you fill a jar with the amount of sugar you get each day from cola (26 teaspoons). Continue to fill the jar day by day for a powerful visual of the amount of sugar you choose to put into your body. Hopefully, this will prompt you to take action.
Excess sugar is linked to a host of health problems including obesity, diabetes, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety and even cancer.
Diet cola is not a healthy alternative as it's loaded with chemicals and artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, which are also damaging. Studies have linked aspartame to various cancers and neurological problems.
Wean yourself off the cola gently. You may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, but these will stop quickly. Drink plenty of water during this time.
Q I get cramps and bad wind after drinking milk and have been recently diagnosed as being lactose intolerant. Can you explain what this means and suggest some milk alternatives for me?
A Lactose intolerance is common in adults and simply means that you are unable to digest the naturally occurring sugar found in milk. This happens when your body produces little or no lactase, the digestive enzyme that breaks down lactose. The result may be symptoms including gas, bloating, diarrhoea, nausea and abdominal cramps.
Nowadays, there are many alternatives to cow's milk available. Experiment until you find one that you like. Unsweetened soya milk, oat milk, almond or rice milk are good options.
Make sure to eat plenty of nuts and seeds as well as green leafy vegetables to ensure you get adequate calcium and avoid consuming too much salt, which can affect calcium absorption.
Look out for milk and lactose in the ingredients list of pre-packaged foods, as well as buttermilk, milk by-products, milk sugar, dry milk solids and non-fat dry milk powder. If any of these words appear on a label, it is best to avoid them. Many medications or tablets also contain lactose -- speak with your pharmacist about lactose-free alternatives.
Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations and group nutrition courses. www.elsajones nutrition.ie