photo by Esteban Maringolo (Flickr CC)

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez is urging Venezuelans to stop buying foreign sugary sodas like Coke and Pepsi and switch to locally produced fruit juice.

According to the Associated Press, Venezuela currently imports most of its food and drinks, so Chávez’s advice is at the same time economic and health-related with an obvious political element. Besides advocating the state-produced grape juice Uvita, he has also promoted Venezuelan wine.

Though Chávez’s words are sure to anger some, especially Coke and Pepsi’s shareholders, every leader throughout the world should be discouraging the consumption of sugary sodas and promoting local, healthy drinks. Say what you want about the sugar content of grape juice, but it’s not like Coke, and the sugar is natural and not refined. Besides, grape juice is high in antioxidants and according to an article by the Mayo Clinic, may have the same heart benefits as red wine.

Meanwhile in the US, government attempts to discourage soda drinking, which are legislative rather than simply appealing to the public’s sensibilities as Chávez is doing, have been met by fierce opposition from the beverage industry.

From Reuters:

The focus on sugary drinks comes as two out of every three Americans is overweight or obese and policymakers take aim at sugary drinks, from New York City’s cup-size restriction to new efforts to impose drink taxes and cut sales in U.S. Schools.

New Yorkers for Beverage Choices are campaigning against New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to limit the consumption of sugary drinks in the city. The organization includes members of the beverage industry, as well as theater and restaurant owners associations. Read their press release here.

Also, check out this article in the Huffington Post by a real live doctor, which is not about legislating, but rather points out the economic and health-related benefits of laying off sugary soda.