Best Drinks For Type 2 Diabetics: What To Have And What To Avoid

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 37 million Americans¹ have diabetes. Approximately 90-95% of these individuals are living with type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic illness characterized either by the body's inability to produce sufficient insulin or its resistance to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, and without proper function, it can result in abnormal blood sugar levels. 

Unmanaged diabetes may lead to other health complications. An integral part of managing blood sugar levels with type 2 diabetes and avoiding additional health risks involves watching what you drink and eat. As a diabetic, your body tends to remove excess blood glucose through urine, causing frequent urination and potential dehydration. 

Choosing the right drinks can make a significant difference in managing your blood sugar with type 2 diabetes and keeping you hydrated as well.

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Importance of healthy drink choices in managing type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is primarily self-managed, with assistance from your health care team, family, and other significant people in your life. Managing type 2 diabetes might be difficult, but whatever you do to enhance your health with this condition is worthwhile.

People with type 2 diabetes have decreased insulin sensitivity within the body's tissues (insulin resistance) and/or impairment in the function of the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas. This results in the body's inability to allow glucose inside the cells where it can be properly converted into energy, causing excess glucose in the blood.

Given the necessity of maintaining healthy blood glucose levels, there is significant interest in finding foods and drinks that can help people with type 2 diabetes manage their condition.

Consuming the right drinks will help lower your blood glucose levels and reduce the risk of developing complications from uncontrolled diabetes, such as:

What drinks are best for type 2 diabetes?

The fluids you consume make up a large percentage of your body fluids and contribute to blood sugar regulation. Hydration helps flush out toxins from the body through excretion and can also help manage your blood glucose level by diluting the excess amount of glucose in the bloodstream. 

Studies² show that dehydration may cause a spike in blood sugar and is associated with hyperglycemia, which is detrimental to people with type 2 diabetes. 

Here are the best drink choices for type 2 diabetes:

Plain water

Health experts recommend at least 4-6 cups of water a day for healthy people. Water is the best hydration option for people with type 2 diabetes because it has no sugar, carbs, or any other compounds that can be broken down into glucose.

Drinking adequate water aids in the elimination of excess glucose through urine. For type 2 diabetics, drinking more water on a daily basis may significantly improve blood glucose regulation and help manage the disease.

Some people find plain water to be bland. To improve the taste without compromising the health benefits, you can add:

  • Herbs, such as mint, basil, or lemon balm

  • Berries, such as raspberries

  • One or two slices of lemon, lime, or orange

  • Cucumbers 

Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping you alive, water has several other advantages:

  • Aids in the maintenance of a healthy body temperature

  • Maintains electrolyte balance

  • Helps maintain blood pressure

  • Prevents kidney damage

  • Helps with digestion and prevents constipation

Tomato juice

Studies³ show that tomato juice may help prevent heart problems in type 2 diabetics due to its blood-thinning properties. 

One of the most life-threatening conditions that accompanies type 2 diabetes is chronic heart conditions and stroke (resulting from blood clots). Diabetes increases the risk of plaque build-up in the blood vessels, causing a condition that is known as atherosclerosis, which leads to an increase in blood pressure (hypertension). 

Tomato juice extract has been shown to improve blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, which may lower the risk of cardiovascular complications in those with type 2 diabetes.

Herbal teas

Herbs have long been used to manage diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Herbal teas are low in carbs, calories, and sugar and high in disease-fighting antioxidant compounds, such as carotenoids, flavonoids, and phenolic acids. 

Herbal teas that are potentially effective in managing diabetes mellitus depend on the type of herb, source, purity, and concentration of specific compounds. Research⁴ shows that certain herbal teas or extracts from plants can help manage diabetes by:

  • Lowering blood glucose levels

  • Increasing insulin action

  • Increasing insulin sensitivity

  • Reducing lipid levels

Such herbs/ herbal teas include:

  • Green tea

  • Pomegranate

  • Onion and garlic

  • Ginger

  • Turmeric

  • Cinnamon

  • Cayenne 

  • American ginseng, etc.

Herbal teas are most effective when taken without added flavors or sugar to protect the integrity of the "healing" compounds and prevent any side effects.

Coffee

Drinking coffee is usually associated with stimulating the nervous system, causing the brain to become more alert. However, in people with type 2 diabetes, due to low insulin levels, increasing coffee intake also increases insulin production and function. 

This is due to coffee's high content of caffeine, Chlorogenic acid, and magnesium, which have been shown to improve the function of the insulin-secreting cells in the pancreas.

Other studies⁵ also show a direct connection between coffee intake and type 2 diabetes prevalence. The results of the study showed an 11% reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes in people who increased their coffee consumption by one cup and a 17% increased risk of developing the disease in those who reduced their coffee intake.

To get the most out of coffee in managing type 2 diabetes, health experts recommend taking it unsweetened. Adding milk, cream, or sugar to your coffee adds calories and may cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, counteracting the desired effects of coffee.

Tea

Drinking tea is beneficial for type 2 diabetes since it contains polyphenols and antioxidants present in most plants. Polyphenols can lower blood pressure, improve vascular health, and lower cholesterol. 

One research review⁶ outlined the potential benefits of tea when it comes to diabetes and obesity management. The review cited a Japanese study indicating that persons who drank six or more cups of green tea per day had a 33% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than a cup per week. 

However, the review has also noted that other clinical trials didn't show as promising results as this Japanese study when it comes to controlling hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetics.

Kombucha

Kombucha is a fermented tea made primarily of black or green tea. It's high in probiotics, a type of good bacteria found in the gut that has been examined for its capacity to help with blood sugar control.

Although the actual nutritional value of kombucha varies based on the kind, brand, and taste, a 1-cup serving typically comprises about 7 grams of carbohydrates, making it an excellent low-carb option.

Green smoothies

Drinking green smoothies is a great way to get more fiber and nutrients into your diet while staying hydrated. The most beneficial ingredients for a diabetes-friendly smoothie include:

  • Green apple

  • Spinach

  • Kale

  • Bananas

  • Avocado

  • Cucumber

  • Celery

  • Berries

Smoothie ingredients high in fiber, protein, and healthy fat can help lower blood sugar, making them a healthy drink choice for type 2 diabetics. It's important to avoid fruit-only smoothies (as they are high in natural sugar) or other ingredients high in carbohydrates since they can be broken down into simple sugars, causing an increase in blood glucose.

Apple cider vinegar

While several studies have looked into the link between apple cider vinegar and blood sugar control, most of them have been small and have yielded mixed results.

According to one study, drinking apple cider vinegar before bed helped control waking blood glucose levels. Organic, unfiltered, and raw apple cider vinegar is said to be the best option. While the drink may be foggy, it contains a more significant concentration of helpful bacteria. 

The results further detailed that apple cider vinegar lowers fasting blood sugar by 4%. While the figures may not be as significant, no side effects were reported, indicating apple cider vinegar to be a healthy drink choice for diabetics.

Alternatives to milk

Alternatives to milk like almond, soy, or coconut milk are dairy-free and low in carbs. They're sometimes fortified with crucial nutrients like calcium and vitamin D, essential for bone health.

Note that these options still contain carbohydrates, and many nut milk may not have enough protein or contain added sugar, so it's important to read the labels carefully to ensure you're getting the right product.

What drinks should people with type 2 diabetes avoid?

Sugar is a common denominator among the top drinks that people with diabetes should avoid. Sugary drinks can not only spike your blood sugar levels, but they can also account for a large amount of your daily caloric consumption. In addition, they have low nutritional value.

People with type 2 diabetes should avoid beverages that have high sugar content, such as: 

Alcoholic drinks

While alcohol in strict moderation can be safe to drink for people with diabetes, it can cause damage due to its hypoglycemic effect and also high-calorie content. 

Small amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar levels to initially rise, and excessive alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, which can be harmful, especially for persons with diabetes. According to the ADA⁷, people with type 2 diabetes should consume no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.

It's important to discuss your drinking habits with your doctor to get advice on how to drink alcohol without adverse health effects.

Sports drinks/energy drinks

Sports drinks and energy drinks carry all the woes of fruit juice with the added vice of more sugar and zero nutritional value. Blood sugar control is critical for people with type 2 diabetes, so they should avoid these drinks as they risk elevating blood sugar levels for a prolonged period. They also contain empty calories that can lead to weight gain.

Sweetened and unsweetened fruit juices

We're frequently told that we should eat more fruits and vegetables, and for a good reason. They are high in nutrients necessary to keep healthy and prevent diseases.

However, most fruits are naturally high in sugar, and drinking fruit juice may increase blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. As a result, health experts recommend avoiding fruit juices if you have diabetes. 

In general, eating whole fruit rather than fruit juice or smoothies is healthier due to its high fiber content which protects against abrupt and high spikes in blood glucose levels. These whole fruits include: 

  • Watermelon

  • Grapefruit

  • Berries

  • Kiwi

  • Lemons 

  • Peaches, etc.

Sodas

People who drink soda on a regular basis—1 to 2 cans per day or more—have a 26% higher chance⁸ of acquiring type 2 diabetes than those who don't. 

A can of sugar-sweetened soda contains approximately 150 calories, almost all of which come from added sugar. People with type 2 diabetes are therefore advised to avoid drinking soda to prevent elevated blood sugar levels.

Sweet tea

Sweet tea is one of the top drinks that people with diabetes should avoid due to the variable quantity of sugar in it. Because sweet tea can be brewed at home, determining the amount of sugar might be challenging. Make sure to keep your tea beverage fully free of sugar and sweetener.

The lowdown

The importance of managing type 2 diabetes can not be overstated. People with diabetes can manage their condition and reduce the risk of developing complications by maintaining a healthy diet low in sugar (including natural sugar).

Drinks, as well as food, can cause glucose spikes and other complications. By making wise choices, people with diabetes can enjoy a wide range of beverages which can also help reduce symptoms and flare-ups.

Have you considered clinical trials for Type 2 diabetes?

We make it easy for you to participate in a clinical trial for Type 2 diabetes, and get access to the latest treatments not yet widely available - and be a part of finding a cure.

Joining community groups and exercise programs for my condition made me feel empowered – but I want to be part of finding a cure.
Peter, 64

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