A new study finds that people who drink sugary beverages, such as soda or fruit juice, daily tend to gain a type of body fat associated with diabetes and heart disease. Researchers looked at about 1,000 middle-age people over a six-year period and found that those who drank sugar-sweetened beverages tended to have more "deep," or visceral, fat. This type of fat wraps around the internal organs, including the liver, pancreas and intestines; affects hormone function; and may play a role in insulin resistance.

Exactly how sweet drinks may get converted into visceral fat is unknown, the researchers said. But the results clearly show that individuals who consumed higher amounts of sugar-sweetened beverages gained more visceral fat over time.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars, including those found in sweetened drinks, and that men consume no more than 150 calories per day from added sugars.

Here are a few alternatives to those sugary drinks:

  • Flavored waters have been popping up all over the place, but many still contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. A healthier choice is natural flavoring: Just add slices of your favorite fruits and veggies including lemons, oranges, strawberries, or limes to a pitcher of ice-cold water for a refreshing and flavorful drink.
  • Green tea may help reduce the risk of several types of cancer, heart disease, hypertension, kidney stones, and possibly even cavities. It is also free of calories and available in many flavors!
  • Vegetable juice offers a quick, low-calorie way to get all the benefits of veggies. It also contains much less natural sugar than fruit juices. If you want to make it at home just add your favorite veggies, (and even a few slices of fruit if you want) to the juicer.

High sugar drinks are a hard habit to break. Your body craves the sugar. Give yourself some time for your body to adjust. Once your body adjusts you will be thankful you made this choice to live a healthier life!