When a person has diabetes, insulin, a hormone that helps cells absorb glucose, is either nonexistent or in short supply. A person with diabetes is unable to use insulin properly, which causes sugars to build up in the blood. Diabetes can be dangerous if it is not properly managed.
Different drinks can affect blood sugar levels in a number of ways.
The best drinks
The following drinks are good choices for people with diabetes.
The best drink for anyone is water. Proper hydration influences physical and mental health, and every system in the body needs water.
Signs of thirst can also be mistaken for hunger or cravings for sweets. This leads some people to reach for soft drinks and juices. If this craving occurs, it is best to drink a glass of water first and then see how the body reacts.
Some people choose juices or sugar-sweetened beverages because they find the flavor of water boring or bland. This does not have to be the case.
Water can be flavored with the juice from citrus fruits, such as lime and lemon or a splash of cranberry juice. Adding aloe vera pulp to water may be beneficial for diabetes. Infused waters are flavorful and healthful. It is a good idea to make a pitcher of infused water and keep it on hand.
Herbal tea is another way to flavor water. By boiling leaves of certain plants in water, both flavor and health benefits can be added.
Licorice root, for example, provides a subtly sweet flavor without raising blood sugar levels.
Some studies even suggest that licorice extract may help reduce blood sugar in people with diabetes.
Sometimes the body wants more than just water. Milk may be a good option. Fat-free cows milk, soy milk, rice milk, or nut milks can provide calories, vitamins, and minerals. However, it is important to choose the unsweetened varieties.
Milks will add carbohydrate to the diet, and it must be accounted for in any meal plan.
Pure fruit juice, in moderation
Pure fruit juices are appropriate, but since fruit juice delivers the sugar from the fruit, but not necessarily the fiber, these types of drinks should be consumed in small amounts.
Juices will need to be counted in a meal plan.
Portion control is key to managing carbohydrate intake when drinking juice with a meal. Drinking juice alone can lead to a blood sugar spike, but consuming it with other foods can help to prevent this.
Coffee and tea, in moderation
In moderation, caffeinated coffee and tea can provide an energy boost without the blood sugar spikes of other beverages.
Sugar-sweetened coffees and teas are best avoided. Flavored creamers may also contain high levels of sugar.
Things to look out for
Unsweetened milk is good to drink, but it must be included in a diabetes meal plan.
Many drinks contain lots of sugars and carbohydrates. Paying attention to food labels and nutritional facts can provide important information. Labels should state the serving size and carbohydrate content of any drink.
People with diabetes have different bodily needs, so there are no exact dietary rules. However, some tips can help.
To make it easier to control blood sugar, it is important to:
- eat a balanced diet and manage the amount of carbohydrate consumed
- keep carbohydrate levels consistent from day to day
- consume managed amounts of carbohydrate, because the brain and body need some carbohydrate to function.
Paying attention to food labels and nutritional facts can provide important information. Labels should state the serving size and carbohydrate content of any drink.
The worst drinks
The following drinks are bad choices for people with diabetes.
Soda and energy drinks
For people who already have diabetes, this type of drink provides large amounts of sugar and requires little digestion. Drinking sodas without healthy food can lead to large spikes in blood sugar levels.
As it is important to spread carbohydrate intake out evenly, it would be best to avoid or limit the intake of soda and sugar-sweetened energy drinks.
Sugar-sweetened beverages such as fruit punch, may taste like fruit juice, but they often contain high levels of sugar or corn syrup. These ingredients can cause the same spikes in blood sugar levels as soda.
They provide a high concentration of carbohydrate but far less nutritional value than pure fruit juices. Fruit juices can be enjoyed in moderation, but fruit cocktails should be avoided.
While most alcohol does not contain sugar, beer contains carbohydrates, and many alcoholic mixers contain sugar.
Alcoholic drinks should be consumed in moderation by people with diabetes.
Alcohol can cause a drop in blood sugar. This can be a problem for those on medications that increase the body's insulin level. In this case, alcoholic beverages should always be taken with food.
Light drinking can be enjoyed by people with diabetes who monitor their blood sugar levels.
This is generally defined as one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. One drink is considered 1.5 ounces of spirits (80 proof), 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
It is important only to drink alcohol with food, and to keep track of blood sugar levels.
Alcoholic drinks should never be used as a carbohydrate replacement for food. Instead, it should be limited and taken in addition to the normal diet.
People with diabetes should use calorie-free soda as alcoholic mixers for alcohol, or choose sparkling or soda water instead of sugary mixers.
The following recipe ideas are healthy options for people with diabetes.
People with diabetes need to keep their body's blood sugar levels as balanced as possible. Smoothies can pose a tempting challenge, as they usually contain high levels of sugar or sugar-rich fruits.
Fiber is an important, natural way to slow the body's process of digesting and releasing sugar into the bloodstream.
Adding foods like avocados, coconuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds can boost the fiber content of most smoothies, without affecting the flavor.
For a high-fiber green smoothie recipe, use the following ingredients:
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 small avocado, cubed
- 1 cup spinach
- half a cup blueberries
- half a lime with skin removed
- half a cup unsweetened Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- half a teaspoon cinnamon.
This smoothie is filling, and it can serve as a snack. The yogurt provides protein, and the cinnamon, chia seeds, and avocado help to balance the sugar from the blueberries.
TeasWhile soft drinks or sugary coffees are a popular refreshment for many people, those with diabetes need healthier options.
Green tea may decrease the risk of diabetes.
Green tea is suitable for people with diabetes. It is rich in polyphenols, and some research has linked the intake of green tea to a decreased risk of diabetes and increased ability to process sugars.
To make ginger green tea:
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped ginger
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 stevia leaves or sugar alternative (optional)
- 3 gunpowder green tea bags
- 4 cups of water.
Add the cinnamon and ginger to the water and bring it to a boil. Boil for 5 to 10 minutes until it reaches the desired strength, then add tea bags and sugar substitute if desired.
Like everyone else, people with diabetes must drink with moderation, but they should also aim to avoid sugary additions when drinking cocktails.
For a cucumber mint cocktail, the following ingredients are low in sugar :
- half a chopped cucumber
- 2 teaspoons lime juice
- 3-5 fresh mint leaves
- 1 stevia leaf or 1 teaspoon of sugar alternative
- 1 and a half ounces of gin
- crushed ice.
These ingredients can be mixed in a blender and served with a slice of lime.