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Drinks for Diabetics

Diabetes is when your body doesn’t use the insulin in your body properly. This can lead to higher blood sugar levels which can create other health problems.

If you are diabetic you need to think not only about the food you eat but also what you drink. Drinks that are high in sugar can lead to spikes in your blood sugar levels. These spikes can be dangerous if you have diabetes.

Here we will look at the best and worst as well as drinks to be cautious of if you are diabetic.

Things to consider when choosing a drink

When choosing a drink there are some things you need to take into consideration, as even healthy options can affect your diabetes. It’s always a good idea to read the food label on the packaging as this will tell you the contents of that food or drink. You need to be especially mindful of the sugar and carbohydrate content, as high concentrations of these can cause blood sugar spikes.

Best drinks for diabetics

1. Water

Water is the best drink for diabetics to keep hydrated, whether you have diabetes or not. Your body needs to maintain a healthy water balance for good physical and mental health. Water is readily available and also a good way to stop you from eating unhealthy snacks. The body can sometimes misread thirst as hunger, so next time you fancy a snack, try a glass of water instead and see if you still feel hungry after. Also, water does not contain any calories and so is a great way to stop you from putting on weight.

2. Flavored water

If you find plain water a bit boring you can add some flavor naturally by adding slices of citrus fruit such as orange or lemon. Try adding some berries, cucumber slices, herbs, or mint leaves. Doing this will add flavor without adding a lot of sugar or calories.

In one study it has been shown that adding aloe vera pulp to water may actually be of benefit to people with diabetes.

3. Tea

Tea is a good drink for diabetics, depending on which type you take and how you enjoy taking it. Whether you choose black, herbal, or green tea you should choose those without added sugars. Tea can be hydrating, but also has a range of reported health benefits

  • Green tea is reported to improve blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels
  • Herbal tea is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties
  • Licorice root, which can be boiled for tea has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in lab rats and may have a similar benefit in people

It is advised however that patients with type 2 diabetes should limit their caffeine intake as consuming 500 mg of caffeine has been shown to increase blood glucose levels in a short period of time.

4. Coffee

There is debate as to whether coffee for people with diabetes is good or bad. Two studies conducted have reported conflicting results. In 2004, scientists who carried out a review concluded that coffee intake may have undesired short-term effects, but that long-term coffee drinking shows some benefits. In 2017, another study concluded that “five of the seven studies suggest caffeine intake increases blood glucose levels and prolongs the period of high blood glucose levels.” It is clear from these results that further research is needed to find out exactly how caffeine affects blood sugar levels.

Something to also think about is how you drink your coffee. Some barista coffees also contain flavored creamers and syrups that contain high levels of sugar. Black coffee is a better choice for people with diabetes as it has no sugar and is very low in calories.

5. Milk

Low-fat or skim milk is another good choice for hydration whether it be cow milk, coconut milk, rice milk, or nut milk. They all provide calories, vitamins, and minerals. Choose unsweetened versions, as these give a more blood sugar-friendly option.

Soy and rice milk add carbohydrates to your diet, so you must account for this in your meal planning. Many dairy milk alternatives lack vitamin D and calcium unless they’re fortified. Fortified nut or coconut milk are dairy-free, low sugar options.

Most unsweetened nut milk has little carbohydrates, but you should check the nutrition facts of your milk of choice and be mindful of how many carbs are in one serving. Knowing this is essential when managing your blood sugar.

6. Vegetable juice

Leafy green vegetables such as spinach or kale can be blended with celery and cucumber for a boost of vitamins and minerals that is also low in carbohydrates. You can add some berries for a better flavor, but be careful not to overdo them as berries contain sugar and carbohydrates too.

Worst drinks for diabetics

1. Regular soda

You should avoid sugary drinks whenever possible. They raise your blood sugar levels but also account for a large portion of your daily recommended calorie intake. One regular-sized soft drink has the same sugar and calories as eating 10 teaspoons full of sugar.

Sugary drinks add little if any nutritional value to your diet. They have been shown to cause weight gain as well as dental problems. Excess weight is a known risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. If you already have diabetes these drinks can lead to large spikes in your blood sugar levels, so it is best to avoid these drinks completely, or at the very least, limit your intake.

2. Energy drinks

The problem with energy drinks is that they can be high in sugars and caffeine and they can cause sudden increases in your blood sugar levels. They have also been shown to cause insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is known to increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and naturally is not advised if you already have diabetes.

3. Fruit juice

Even though fruit juices contain a large amount of natural sugar, you should be fine drinking them, as long as you don’t drink them too often. The problem with fruit juice is that all the good nutrients and fiber have been taken out of the fruit and all you’re left with is the sugary liquid. It is far better for you to eat the whole fruit.

If you do have to drink fruit juice our advice is to avoid fruit-flavored drinks, choose juices that are 100% fruit juice with no added sugars, limit your portion size to 4 ounces or 100 milliliters, or try adding your fruit juice to water instead.

Drinks to be cautious of

1. Electrolyte drinks

You need to be aware of popular hydration drinks and electrolyte drinks for diabetics that claim to be sugarless and healthy. In a lot of cases, sugarless means the sugar has been replaced by artificial sweeteners or other bad sugar substitutes. Bad sugar substitutes can be other forms of sugar such as fructose from corn syrup. Naturally, these electrolyte drinks can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels.

2. Diet soda

Whether diet soda is a healthy alternative is a matter for some debate. These drinks contain artificial sweeteners, which are marketed as a healthy sugar-free alternative to regular soda. Diet soda has been linked to an increase in insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar level, triglycerides, and weight gain. Further studies are needed but sugar-free sodas in moderation are safe for most people.

3. Protein drinks

Most protein drinks are used to maintain or build muscle mass, and there is plenty of choice on the market. However, a lot of these protein drinks also contain high carbohydrates and sugars. Whether a protein drink is suitable for a diabetic will depend on the carbohydrate and sugar content. It’s always best to read the small print so as to be clear on what quantities you’ll be getting from each portion. Remember to factor this into your daily calorie intake.

4. Alcohol

If you have diabetes you can still drink alcohol, but you will need to be careful as to how much you consume. Some facts with regards to alcohol and diabetes:

  • It has been found that men who drink alcohol have an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, whilst the effects on women vary depending on how much alcohol they consume. Current guidelines recommend one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men.
  • High consumption of alcohol has been seen to increase type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
  • The worst alcoholic drinks for diabetics are those high in sugar and carbohydrates. Beer contains carbohydrates and alcoholic mixers contain sugar, this could cause spikes in your blood sugar levels and cause weight increase. Mixers such as sparkling water are recommended rather than regular soda or other diet alternatives. Also, you should check the calorific content of the alcoholic drink before consumption.
  • Alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia) by affecting how the liver produces glucose. Hypoglycemia symptoms can be similar to those of being drunk. Consuming alcohol with food can reduce the chance of hypoglycemia as it is absorbed into your body slower.
  • Overconsumption of alcohol can cause liver disease and other health-related problems. It is advised to always drink in moderation.
  • Alcohol can interact with your medication, check with your doctor to be safe.

Healthy homemade swaps

Sometimes what may seem to be a healthy drink can turn out to be not so good for you, especially when they are shop-bought. You can quite easily make your own healthier homemade versions which will not only be good for your diabetes but are also very tasty and satisfying. Here are a few examples:

1. Lemonade

This is an easy refreshing drink you can try. All you need is water, sliced lemons, and ice. It really doesn’t get any simpler than that.

2. Fruit smoothies

Pop some strawberries, blackberries, bananas, and ice in a blender, or choose another combination you prefer. This healthy option will have less than half the carbs in a high street smoothie, and it will keep those hunger cravings away.

3. Hot chocolate

The problem with a lot of hot drinks from coffee houses is that they are high in sugars, carbs, and calories. An alternative way to enjoy your favorite hot drink is to simply use healthier options for ingredients such as almond or soy milk, zero-calorie sweetener, and dark chocolate if you must. It’ll taste just as good and be a much better option for your diabetes.

Drinks for diabetics FAQs

Is Coke Zero OK for diabetics?

So, Coke Zero contains zero calories and zero sugar. It does however contain artificial sweeteners, and as mentioned with diet soda, artificial sweeteners have been linked to insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. Further studies are needed to evaluate their safety, but drinking in moderation should be safe for most people.

Is Gatorade good for diabetics?

Gatorade is used to replenish electrolytes and water lost during intense physical activity. It does however contain high levels of sugar, which can cause blood sugar spikes. Gatorade and other sports drinks are not healthier than other drinks, but in moderation are safe for most people.

Is ginger ale good for diabetics?

Ginger itself can be an effective addition to your diabetes treatment if you use it in moderation. Eating up to 4 grams per day may actually help to regulate insulin production and lower your blood sugar levels. Ginger ale however contains sugar, fructose, or artificial sweetener, all of which can cause blood sugar level spikes. As with other soda drinks, it is recommended to drink ginger ale in moderation.