Sugary Drinks and Diabetes

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Sugary sodas raise your blood sugar and provide extra calories with no nutritional benefit. That’s not healthy for anyone, but if you have diabetes, it’s vital to find other ways to quench your thirst.

What Should I Drink?

Water is the obvious choice. Jazz it up with lemon, lime, or orange wedges. You could also get a flavor-infusing water bottle or pitcher and experiment with cucumber, berries, apples, melon, and other fruits.

Unsweetened tea is another good option, with the added bonus of antioxidant content. Try different black, green, and herbal teas. Experiment with whether you prefer them hot or iced. Beware of tea from a soda fountain, along with bottled teas, both of which often contain added sugar.

Black coffee is sugar-free. While some people find that coffee raises their blood sugar, others experience the opposite, so check for yourself. Of course, mochas, lattes, and blended coffee drinks are out — they’re too high in sugar.

Make your own fizzy soda using club soda or seltzer water (also called soda water or carbonated water), which are sugar-free. Some club soda is higher in sodium, so be sure to check labels. Boost flavor just like you would with water, or add a splash of fruit juice — just remember to measure and count the carbs.

Low-fat or fat-free milk fits into a healthy eating plan, and experts recommend 2-3 servings of milk or other dairy products daily. Be sure to count the carbs—there are 12 grams per cup.

What About 100% Fruit Juice?

While there’s no added sugar in fruit juice, the natural sugars do affect your blood sugar. For the same amount of carbs, a fresh orange provides fiber, which will make you feel full, while four ounces of orange juice won’t be as satisfying.

What About Diet Soda?

Sugar-free or diet drinks would seem to be the obvious sub for sugary beverages, but it’s not that simple. Will they satisfy your craving for something sweet, or make you crave more sugar? With zero calories, will they help you lose weight? The research isn’t conclusive, so go easy on artificially-sweetened sodas, teas, sports drinks, and flavored water. Consider them a treat and don’t drink them like water.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD

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