The answer might surprise you.
You are what you… drink? According to a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, your daily beverage preference could say a lot about your overall diet and junk food habits. Though more than 90 percent of the U.S. population eats energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods (referred to in the study as “discretionary foods”) as part of their daily diets, researcher Ruopeng An was the first to examine the link between beverage choice, junk food consumption, and overall diet quality.
Using more than 22,000 U.S. adults’ two-day food journals (which came from 10 years of National Health and Nutrition Examination survey data), An grouped responses into five beverage categories: diet or sugar-free drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages like juice and soda, coffee, tea, and alcohol. He found some pretty interesting results. For one, while those who drink coffee and diet-beverages consume fewer total calories total, they tend to get more of their overall calories from those so-called discretionary foods like cookies, ice cream, chocolate, fries, and pastries.
"It may be that people who consume diet beverages feel justified in eating more, so they reach for a muffin or a bag of chips," An said in a statement. "Or perhaps, in order to feel satisfied, they feel compelled to eat more of these high-calorie foods."
See what your drink choice says about your health below, according to the study results:
You’re like: 21 percent of respondents
The science: Though you’re only adding, on average, 69 more calories to your diet each day, about 70 percent of them are coming from discretionary (i.e. snack) foods. It might be because you feel guilty about those extra calories and want to compensate with some low-sugar bubbles. Have an advanced degree? You’re even more likely to consume extra calories alongside that can of diet cola. But diet soda might be bad for more than just your waistline. It has been linked to deregulated gut bacteria, putting you at a higher risk for developing Type 2 diabetes
You’re like: 43 percent of respondents
The science: Those empty calories really add up—to an additional 226 a day, the second highest increase among study participants. According to the Healthy Eating Index of 2010, on days when you drink soda, your overall diet quality greatly declines compared to the days when you opt for another, less-sugary beverage. And be careful with what you’re sipping on: sugary drinks can suppress your body’s stress response, according to a recent study.
You’re like: 26 percent of respondents
The science: Tea drinkers have a daily increase of only 64 calories—the lowest in the study. About 55 percent of those calories come from discretionary foods, meaning you’re probably treating yourself after a long day of healthful eating, not necessarily compensating for giving in to bad habits. Looking for something new? Try turmeric tea or six other healthy types of tea.
You’re like: 53 percent of respondents
The science: Though black coffee might only be five calories, mixing in milk and sugar really adds up. And on average, coffee drinkers consume an additional 108 calories a day. While you typically down fewer calories than soda or alcohol drinkers, you’re more likely to treat yourself to a slice of coffee cake or a muffin for breakfast: about 61 of your additional calories come from discretionary foods. Surprisingly, your diet looks more similar to diet soda drinkers than tea drinkers. But it’s not all bad—here are nine ways coffee has been shown to help more than just your energy level.
You’re like: 22 percent of respondents
The science: On average, those who regularly consumed alcohol added an additional 384 calories to their daily diets—the largest increase in the study. Most of those calories come from the alcohol itself, meaning you might be better at budgeting your junk food than those who prefer lower calorie drinks. Only 19.3 of your daily calories come from discretionary foods—the lowest of all groups. It’s also been shown that some alcoholic beverages provide antioxidants and reduce cholesterol. So enjoy that glass of wine—in moderation.