Watching hummingbirds hover midair outside the window while their slender, needle-like beaks suck up sugar-water from a cherry-red feeder is one of the great pleasures of spring, and one we really miss in the winter. Hummingbirds are like tiny helicopters, darting in every direction — but all of that gorgeous, lightning-fast movement requires them to ingest an enormous number of calories — if a hummingbird were person-sized, they would need to ingest about 150,000 calories (the equivalent of 560 Snickers bars) every day just in order to sustain themselves. And herein lies the problem: hummingbirds genuinely require all those pounds of sugar to keep their tiny hearts pumping. You don’t. You need 75 times fewer calories than that fictional (and actually kind of terrifying) human-sized hummingbird. So you should probably quit drinking from the hummingbird feeder already.
Opportunities to sip endless amounts of sugar-syrup are ubiquitous, and we’ve all given in to temptation from time to time: slugging back from-concentrate juice blends purchased at the convenience store, mindlessly ordering a Starbucks Crème Brûlée lattes, knocking back happy-hour margarita specials. In America, it’s often much easier to drink a bucket of sugar than it is to find a healthier option. If you’ve ever owned a hummingbird feeder, you know the recipe for their syrup is just as simple — 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water — which terrifyingly is just a touch more sugar than the proportions of a Sunkist orange soda.
Hummingbird food for humans can create a sugar-dependency cycle, as well. Dr. Eran Greenberg notes that "sugar soda has tons of calories, and makes you thirstier, so you just drink more of that lollipop water." And while it looks like your mom was right — sugar will indeed rot your teeth straight out of your head — it’s not just your oral health that will suffer the consequences of a diet packed full of oversweet drinks. Sugary sodas have been linked to everything from increased risk of diabetes to uterine cancer.They’re terrible for your overall health.
This doesn’t mean you should never drink another soda again as long as you live. But a can of Coke should be viewed as a treat, not an afterthought — one 12-ounce can has about one and a half times the sugar of a Hershey's bar, after all. So what are some healthy alternatives to a pop? There are plenty: spa water, unsweetened ice tea, seltzer, the list goes on. "I definitely recommend everyone get a cup of woojeon — the delicate, buttery green tea picked earliest in the season in South Korea, which is similar to Japanese sencha," Dr. Greenberg says. "You’ll thank me for introducing you to a delicious, calorie-free beverage that makes your mind feel a little fuzzy and warm." Sounds like the perfect, cozy fit for a January that promises to be packed with blizzards to us.