Having diabetes means that you have to be aware of everything you eat or drink. Knowing the amount of carbohydrates you ingest and how they may affect your blood sugar is crucial.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends zero-calorie or low-calorie drinks. The main reason is to prevent a spike in blood sugar.
Choosing the right drinks can help you avoid unpleasant side effects, manage your symptoms, and maintain a healthy weight.
Safe to drink:
- Unsweetened tea
- Unsweetened coffee
- Sugar-free fruit juice
- Low-fat milk
Zero- or low-calorie drinks are typically your best bet when choosing a drink. Squeeze some fresh lemon or lime juice into your drink for a refreshing, low-calorie kick.
Keep in mind that even low-sugar options such as vegetable juice or milk should be consumed in moderation. Whether you’re at home or at a restaurant, here are the most diabetes-friendly beverage options.
If plain water doesn’t appeal to you, create some variety by:
- adding slices of lemon, lime, or orange
- adding sprigs of flavorful herbs, such as mint, basil, or lemon balm
- crushing a couple of fresh or frozen raspberries into your drink
Research has shown that green tea has a positive effect on your general health. It can also help reduce your blood pressure and lower harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
Whether you choose green, black, or herbal tea, you should avoid sweeteners. For a refreshing taste, make your own iced tea using a chilled fragrant tea, such as rooibos, and add a few slices of lemon.
If you don’t mind caffeine, Earl Grey and jasmine green tea are also great options.
A 2012 study found that drinking coffee might help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Researchers found that the level of risk dropped even lower for people who drank two to three cups per day. This also held true for people who drank four or more cups per day.
This applied to both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffees, so if caffeine makes you jittery, feel free to grab a cup of decaf.
As with tea, it’s important that your coffee remain unsweetened. Adding milk, cream, or sugar to your coffee increases the overall calorie count and may affect your blood sugar levels.
4. Vegetable juice
While most fruit juice has too much sugar, you can try tomato juice, or a vegetable juice alternative. Blend a mix of green leafy vegetables, celery, or cucumbers with a handful of berries for a flavorful supply of vitamins and minerals.
5. Low-fat milk
Dairy products contain helpful minerals, but they add carbohydrates to your diet. Always choose unsweetened, low-fat, or skim versions of your preferred milk.
You should limit yourself to one or two glasses a day. You can also try dairy-free, low-sugar options, such as fortified nut or coconut milk. Be aware that soy and rice milk contain carbohydrates.
Drinks to avoid
- Regular soda
- Energy drinks
- Diet soda
- Sweetened fruit juices
Avoid sugary drinks whenever possible. Not only can they raise your blood sugar levels, they can also account for a significant portion of your daily recommended caloric intake.
1. Regular soda
Soda takes the top spot on the list of drinks to avoid. On average, one can has a whopping 40 grams of carbohydrates and 150 calories.
This sugary drink has also been linked to weight gain and tooth decay, so it’s best to leave it on the store shelf. Instead, reach for fruit-infused water or tea.
2. Energy drinks
Energy drinks are also high in both caffeine and carbohydrates. Research has shown that energy drinks not only spike your blood sugar, but may also cause insulin resistance. This can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes.
Too much caffeine can cause nervousness, increase your blood pressure, and lead to insomnia. All of these can affect your general levels of health.
3. Diet soda
Artificial sweeteners, such as those found in diet soda, may negatively affect the bacteria in your gut. In turn, this may increase insulin resistance, which can cause or worsen diabetes.
A 2009 study linked increased diet soda intake with a risk of metabolic syndrome. This syndrome refers to a cluster of conditions, including:
- high blood pressure
- high levels of cholesterol
- high levels of triglycerides
- increased weight gain
- high blood sugar levels
4. Sweetened fruit juices
Although fruit juice is fine in moderation, sweetened fruit juices can add a high amount of carbohydrates to your diet. This can wreak havoc on your blood sugar and increase your risk of weight gain.
If you have a fruit juice craving that won’t fade, be sure you pick up a juice that’s 100 percent pure and contains no added sugars. You can also consider adding a splash or two of your favorite juice to sparkling water.
5. Alcoholic beverages
If you have high blood pressure or nerve damage from your diabetes, drinking alcohol in excess may worsen these conditions. You should check with your doctor to determine whether alcoholic beverages are safe for you to drink.
One 2012 study found that men who drank alcoholic beverages had an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. But the results for women varied depending on high consumption showing an increased risk of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, while a moderate intake of wine had a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes.
Some studies have shown a beneficial effect of red wine on diabetes, though the evidence remains uncertain. If you’re planning to drink an alcoholic beverage, red wine may be a good choice as it has some antioxidant properties and is low in carbohydrates.
Moderate consumption of red wine as part of a healthy diet didn’t promote weight gain nor increase any harmful metabolic effect in persons with type 2 diabetes.
More research is needed to understand the potential relationship between diabetes risk and alcohol consumption.
When it comes to selecting a drink, keep it simple. Choose water whenever possible. Unsweetened tea and skim milk are also good options, and natural juices are generally fine in moderation.
If you’re craving a little sweetness in your drinks, try adding natural sources like fragrant herbs, slices of citrus fruit, or a couple of crushed berries.
“[I enjoy] tea with saccharin-based sweetener. Of course, the best diabetes-friendly drink is good old water.”
— Julinda Adams, living with diabetes
“[I drink] Starbucks iced coffee with sugar-free cinnamon dolce and a splash of fat-free milk.”
— Kim Champagne, living with diabetes