Diabetes complicates everything about your life, and choosing the right drinks is no exception. There’s some scientific controversy about artificial sweeteners…some studies suggest that artificially sweetened drinks significantly raise the risk of diabetes, which has implications about diabetics and things like diet sodas as well. So what can diabetics drink safely?
Your best bet: Water
Hydration is not the only reason to drink plenty of water. Dehydration stimulates the liver to produce more blood sugar, so drinking less than 16 ounces – two cups – per day will result in higher blood sugar.
Experts recommend six to nine cups per day. That may sound like a lot, but you can change it up with a squeeze of citrus or a sprig of mint.
You may even substitute unsweetened tea. Tea comes in a huge variety of flavors and have tons of health benefits. Black and green teas are loaded with antioxidants, and black teas are highest in polysaccharides, a compound that helps regulate blood sugar.
Drink all the naturally decaffeinated tea you like (without sugar or cream). If you prefer caffeinated teas – like black tea – limit your consumption to four to five cups a day and be sure to tell your doctor or dietician. Cut back if you start having trouble sleeping.
Low-fat or skim milk
Milk isn’t just for kids…and diabetics can always use extra calcium and vitamin D. Skim or 1% low fat milk is best, and you’ll need to keep track of the carbohydrates in your diet plan. A cup of skim milk is about 12 carbohydrates.
You need two to three servings of dairy every day, but that also includes cheese, yogurt, and even sugar-free pudding.
Coffee is another controversial subject due to conflicting research. While some research shows that coffee helps lower the risk for diabetes by slowing blood sugar spikes, other research indicates that some people who are already diabetic experience blood glucose spikes after drinking coffee.
Most people drink coffee with varying amounts of sugar or other sweeteners, and milk or cream, so how you take your coffee will make a difference. A general rule of thumb is two to three cups a day, and test your blood glucose to monitor the effect of coffee. Cut back if your blood sugar consistently goes unexpectedly high.
Diet soft drinks
The jury is still out on diet sodas, but they are infinitely preferable to non-diet, sugar-laden drinks. Moderation is key. One a day is a nice treat, more than that may be a problem. Be wary of fountain drinks; there is no quality control and are not always as sugar-free as advertised.
Is alcohol off limits for diabetics?
Most people assume alcohol is off-limits, but the American Diabetes Association says drinking in moderation is ok. Women should limit alcohol to one per day, and men can have two. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop, so don’t add the carbs to your daily count, especially if you’re compensating with insulin. Never drink on an empty stomach, and tell your doctor if you drink regularly.
The watchword for beverages is simple common sense. Avoid sweet and creamy drinks that are likely to have carbohydrates. If you love juice, look for an unsweetened variety, and consider substituting carrot juice instead. Drink in moderation and make sure you note the carbs in your meal plan. Controlling diabetes is difficult, and different for everyone. If you’ve got a good handle on it a regular diabetes management test will tell the tale. If not, and you don’t know why, drinks may be the culprit.