Quench Your Thirst

Advice from our expert, Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D., a diabetes educator and a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association

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Staying properly hydrated (especially on hot summer days) is important for everyone, but it's even more important if you have diabetes. Being dehydrated can raise your blood sugar levels, harm your kidneys and increase your risk of nerve damage.

There's no magic amount to drink per day, but if you're heading to the bathroom about every two hours you're on the right track. All beverages, however, are not created equal. Here's a rundown of what you should and shouldn't drink when it comes to slaking your summer thirst.

Drink Up Hands-down, the healthiest beverages are plain water, tea and coffee (which you'll probably want on ice in the summer). They're low in calories, have no carbs and they promote healthy blood flow and good kidney function. Tea—whether green, black or white, contains powerful antioxidants called catechins. Coffee has antioxidants too, plus the minerals magnesium and chromium, which help the body use insulin.

A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that coffee drinkers have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Worried about the caffeine? Don't be: Caffeine is a mild diuretic, but one or two cups of tea or coffee won't dehydrate you. If you prefer the decaf versions, that's fine—you'll still get the same benefits.

Proceed with Caution Fruit juices, including much-touted coconut water, and dairy drinks fall into the "yellow light" category because of their higher calorie and carb content.

You can drink about four ounces a day of 100 percent fruit juice, but it's probably better to opt for a piece of fruit instead so you get the soluble fiber. (If you prefer juice, stretch it with seltzer, or try low-sodium tomato juice, which is lower in carbs and calories.)

Two to three eight-ounce cups of low fat or skim milk provide protein, calcium and potassium—but more than that will add carbs and use up calories better spent on other foods.

Steer Clear Vending machines and stores are overflowing with sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks and sweetened teas—all of them loaded with calories and carbs.

Check nutrition labels and don't be fooled by so-called natural beverages that contain sweeteners like agave or honey. Sugar-sweetened drink significantly raise diabetes risk—and diet sodas won't do, either. A recent French study found that women who drank diet sodas actually had a higher risk of developing diabetes than those who drank sugary ones. They don't raise blood sugar, but they may lead you to make poorer food choices.

What about Alcohol?

A little wine is fine. The American Diabetes Association recommends that women have no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor.

Be sure to have a snack when you imbibe, though, because drinking on an empty stomach can lower blood sugar and cause hypoglycemia, especially if you take insulin or other diabetes medications.

From our sister publication Diabetes Focus Spring 2013

Publication Review By: the Editorial Staff at Healthcommunities.com

Published: 08 May 2013

Last Modified: 25 Mar 2015