Best Drinks for Diabetes
Are those sips and gulps helping you or hurting you? Just like the food you eat, the beverages you drink affect your blood sugar control, weight, cholesterol level, overall health and wellness, and your risk for several lifestyle-related diseases. So just what are some of the best drinks for diabetes?
7 of the Best Drinks for Diabetes
Really the only difference between creating a list of best drinks for diabetes and best drinks in general is adding a focus on carbohydrate content. When assessing beverage options, I pay attention to calories for weight, saturated fats for heart health, and both nutrient density and added sugars for overall health. When it comes to diabetes, I add in carbohydrate content for blood sugar management.
- Water. Yes, it’s best because it’s hydrating without additional calories or carbs. And it’s your least expensive option. But so many people tell me that water tastes bad or that it’s boring. If that’s how you feel, dress it up. Only your creativity limits your choices. Just add vegetables, fruit and herbs to a pitcher of water and refrigerate. You can use a special infusion pitcher, but it’s not necessary. Try these flavor combinations. Here’s a hint: before adding fresh herbs, gently crush them in your hands to release their flavors.
- cucumber slices and mint or lavender
- lemon and orange slices
- lemon slices with grated ginger
- grapefruit, orange and lime slices with mint
- peach slices and basil
- strawberry and lime slices with rosemary (one of my favorites)
- cubed watermelon, pineapple and cantaloupe
- blackberries and lime slices with basil or mint
- Seltzer water. It’s nothing more than plain water that’s been artificially carbonated. Squeeze lime into your seltzer and garnish with fresh mint. Or mix seltzer with your favorite juice – just remember to count the carbs from the juice. I have a Sodastream at home and really enjoy adding fresh soda to a glass of crushed raspberries, strawberries and mint. That’s what I have in the picture above. Plus, find out why berries are good for diabetes.
- Tea. According to the American Diabetes Association, drinking tea is associated with less type 2 diabetes (check out my list of foods for prediabetes and diabetes prevention). That’s no surprise since it’s loaded with flavonoids and other phytochemical disease-fighters. Plus, it’s essentially without calories and carbohydrates. Here’s how to brew the perfect cup, other health benefits and the differences among various types of teas.
- Coffee. Both regular and decaffeinated coffee are linked to less type 2 diabetes. Like tea, coffee comes from a plant that is full of health-boosting compounds, some of which are associated with less cancer risk too. And also like tea, coffee is essentially calorie and carb-free. Just be careful about add-ins. A splash of milk and a teaspoon of sugar (only 4 grams of carbohydrate and 15 calories) or sweetener is okay, but avoid lots of added sugars, syrups and heavy cream.
- Milk. I know you hear a lot about whole milk fat being beneficial. There is some interesting new research, and I suspect we’ll continue to learn more in the years to come. I don’t think the science is settled, but what bothers me is that some people are interpreting this to mean than lowfat and nonfat dairy products are bad. But the research certainly doesn’t suggest that. In general, I still prefer and still recommend the lower fat and nonfat products because there’s quite a calorie savings. If you prefer dairy products with some fat, that’s okay too. Just factor in the extra calories and keep track of your LDL cholesterol level since lots of saturated fat can raise that cardiovascular risk factor.
- 8-ounces whole milk 150 calories
- 8-ounces 2% milk 130 calories
- 8-ounces 1% milk 120 calories
- 8-ounces nonfat milk 90 calories
- Fruit juice. A lot of people will be surprised that I put this on a list of best drinks for diabetes. But a 4-ounce glass of orange juice has the calories and carbohydrates of a small orange. And that’s a perfectly reasonable amount of juice to drink. Just like you wouldn’t likely sit down to eat three oranges, I don’t want you to gulp 12-ounces of OJ. That’s about 160 calories and 45 grams of carbohydrate. And that’s way too much. Don’t fear the sugar in fruit juice. It comes packaged with lots of nutrients and phytonutrients, which is quite different than downing a glass of cola or fruit punch that’s full of added sugars. If you really enjoy a glass of juice and drink a small portion to boost up your nutrient intake, that’s okay. Just swap those carbs for another carb-containing food. Below is the amount of various juices that gives you about 15 grams of carbohydrate. And here are 7 Tips and Tricks to Carb Count Like a Pro.
- Orange juice 1/2 cup
- Grapefruit juice 1/2 cup
- Grape juice 1/3 cup
- Pomegranate juice 1/2 cup
- Prune juice 1/3 cup
- Vegetable juice. You can feel good about 100% vegetable juice like carrot juice or mixed vegetable juice (like V8). An 8-ounce glass of vegetable juice has about 50 calories and 10 grams of carbohydrate. Look out for the sodium content. Sometimes I’ll mix the regular and low sodium products together to cut the sodium by almost 50%. You can also doctor up the low sodium variety with lime juice and black pepper.
Whether you have diabetes or not, you have plenty of good beverage choices.
Have I left anything out? What else do you like to drink? Should something else be on a list of best drinks for diabetes?
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, CHWC, FAND, is a Nutrition, Culinary & Diabetes Expert, Wellcoach®-certified health and wellness coach, Freelance Writer, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator. She's also the author of four books, including a best-seller. She's a nationally-recognized media expert in high demand for print and online interviews, as well as corporate and one-on-one nutritional counseling. Jill's philosophy is that nutrition science should be understandable, realistic and oh so delicious.
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Like most of my patients and clients, I lead a busy life. You probably do too. Fortunately, you don’t need weeks, days or even hours to start living better and healthier. This blog offers timesaving strategies and bite-sized nutrition and health information. Come by often for tips and inspiration to healthy living – no matter how busy you are. I am a registered dietitian nutritionist offering credible, practical nutrition advice to keep busy people healthy. Yes indeed, we can be both busy and healthy.