intro: We all know sugar-sweetened beverages aren’t good for your health, but new research suggests that drinking them can actually be deadly.
In their study, Tufts University researchers defined “sugar-sweetened beverages” as any sodas, iced teas, fruit drinks, sport or energy drinks, or homemade drinks containing added sugars. They found that sugary drinks are estimated to cause 184,000 deaths worldwide each year: approximately 133,000 from diabetes, 45,000 from cardiovascular disease, and 6,450 from cancers. (The most deaths by sugar-sweetened beverage came from Mexico—so much for the theory that “Mexican Coke” is better for you than American Coca-Cola.)
The scientists’ conclusion: One simple step—cutting out sugar-sweetened beverages from our diets—could prevent death and disability in countries all over the world, including ours.
But that’s not as easy as it sounds if you’re hooked on soda (or sweet tea, or blue-colored water). Here are five expert tips for cutting out the sweet stuff for good:
quicklist: 1 category: The Scary Reason You Really Should Give Up Soda title: Wean yourself off slowly url: text:
Once you’re addicted to sugar (yep, that’s a thing!), it can be hard to go cold turkey. Lona Sandon, RD, assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, told Health in a previous interview that cutting back gradually can work. She sometimes suggests that her clients replacing half their soda intake with water at first. “You’re automatically drinking less [soda] and hydrating and filling up with water, which is a good thing,” Sandon said. “If you’re drinking less sugar, your taste buds will change and soon you won’t need that sweetness anymore.”
quicklist: 2 category: The Scary Reason You Really Should Give Up Soda title: Drink a glass of water first url: text: Along the same lines, try drinking a glass of H20 first when you’re craving something sugary. People often drink sugary drinks because they are bored or thirsty. Chances are, downing water will quench your thirst and satisfy your boredom just as well (or even better) than soda or another sweet beverage. Even better: Bring water with you on the go so you’re not tempted to go buy a sugary drink every time you get thirsty.
quicklist: 3 category: The Scary Reason You Really Should Give Up Soda title: Try seltzer url: text:
If you’re a big fan of bubbles, replacing soda with a better-for-you carbonated beverage, like plain or flavored seltzer water, can do the trick. You can buy it or make your own at home with a SodaStream machine.
quicklist: 4 category: The Scary Reason You Really Should Give Up Soda title: Do the exercise math url: text: One incentive to kick soda is thinking about how much exercise it takes to burn it off. In a 2014 study, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that when they posted signs in corner stores stating that a 20-ounce bottle of soda would take 5 miles of walking or 50 minutes of jogging to burn off, teenagers were more likely to buy a smaller soda, a water, or no drink at all.
quicklist: 5 category: The Scary Reason You Really Should Give Up Soda title: Steer clear of triggers url: text:
Pay attention to when you tend to drink soda or other sugary bevs so you can troubleshoot those times in advance. For example, if you tend to hit up the office vending machine every afternoon for a can of something cold just because it’s there, bring a refillable water bottle to use or sugar-free drink to have at that time instead (or choose seltzer from the machine, if it’s available). Or if you notice yourself craving soda when you eat a certain type of food, try steering clear of that cuisine for a while to help you break the habit.
This article originally appeared on Health.com.