Food and eating can be a stressful thing when you have diabetes. If you're living with type 1, type 2 or gestational diabetes, meal times can be a cause of stress; but another source of worry is what to drink when you have diabetes. If you're controlling your diabetes and blood sugar by diet and exercise or with medications and insulin, you still need to be cautious of the food and drinks that enter your body.
Living with type 1 diabetes myself, I know first hand how much one wrong drink choice can affect my blood sugar levels. A type 1 diabetic does not produce insulin themselves so they must inject insulin with each meal. Making sure what you consume including drinks in between meals is important. In fact, drinking just one sweetened drink a day can raise your risk of type 2 diabetes by 25 percent.
People tend to think that fruit juice is a good choice, but with a high concentration of fructose, diabetics should only consume fruit in its whole form. When fruit is juiced it is stripped of all its fiber, and fiber is what helps to slow down the blood sugar spike. Consuming fruit juice will set you up for a roller coaster of blood sugar levels all day. Fruit juice should be reserved only when you're dealing with hypoglycemia – in this case you are drinking it to increase your already too low blood sugar.
Alcohol is another beverage that diabetics should be wary of. Alcohol is a contributing factor to hypoglycemia. You will first experience an increase in your blood sugar levels due to the sugar content, then a reactive drop in blood sugar, resulting in cravings, headaches, dizziness, fainting and more. Avoid alcohol altogether, or minimize to one low-sugar drink once or twice a week.
I don't think I really have to mention it here, but soft drinks, sports drinks, or any artificial fruit drink are very high in sugar and should strictly be avoided. A not so obvious option to avoid is diet soft drinks or other diet drinks. Although they do not contain sugar and do not increase blood sugar levels much at all, they do not contribute to your health in any way. In fact, some studies have shown some serious negative affects they can have on the body. Diabetics are often encouraged to consume artificial sweeteners, resulting in a high intake. My advice: if you still have a craving for sugary drinks, purchase the all natural sweetener, stevia, which can be found in health food stores and now sold in packets. Stevia does not contribute to raised blood sugar levels.
The drinks I would recommend for optimal blood sugar control are:
- Water: An obvious option, but a very important one. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times, and you'll find you won’t be tempted to pick up a sugary drink. Purchasing a good quality water filter is also a good idea to avoid any unwanted chemicals in your water.
- Herbal teas: You can find many options of herbal teas to suit anyone's taste. If you prefer, add a spoonful of stevia to sweeten it up. Herbal teas are excellent warm or chilled with half a lemon squeezed in it.
- Unsweetened almond or coconut milk: With only 2 grams of carbohydrates per cup of unsweetened almond milk or 1 gram per cup of unsweetened coconut milk, these are good options for diabetics. The fat content will also slow down any rise in blood sugars. I add these milk alternatives to smoothies, cereal, or drink them on their own.
For a high fiber, low carbohydrate chocolaty treat, try out this recipe. The high good fat and fiber content will help balance your blood sugars and still give you a way to enjoy a yummy, healthy, chocolaty drink.
High Fiber Chocolate Berry Shake
- ½ an avocado
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1 cup frozen berries of choice
- 1 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- stevia, to sweeten to your liking
- filtered water (add as your blending to desired consistency – less liquid will make it more of a pudding, add more for a more smoothie-like consistency)
– Add all ingredients together in a blender and blend. Add the water as needed and to desired consistency. Makes one large shake.