The Best Beverages for People with Diabetes

Cucumber water

Verywell / Zorica Lakonic

If you have diabetes, you're especially susceptible to dehydration. But this doesn't mean you should chug any old beverage. For example, drinks loaded with sugar, such as soda, sweet ice tea, and even fruit juice, will raise your blood glucose levels quickly, making them a not-so-great choice.

But diet soda may not be the best bet, either. Learn more about the benefits of keeping up with your liquid intake, and how to quench your thirst—and your health needs—with plain water.

Benefits of Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is vital for general health, and even more so for people with diabetes. Drinking ample fluid throughout the day can help support glucose control by flushing out excess sugar in the blood through urine.

At the same time, being dehydrated is a common side effect of diabetes. When the body doesn't produce enough insulin or becomes less sensitive to insulin (a condition known as insulin resistance), sugar can build up in the bloodstream. forcing the kidneys to work extra hard and urination to increase.

Ultimately, the body becomes dehydrated as fluid is pulled from the organs and tissues. Keeping on top of your fluid intake can help support your kidneys and keep your other organs healthy, while at the same time stabilizing your glucose levels.

How Much Fluid To Drink Each Day

Whether you have diabetes or not, the absolute best fluid to drink in order to stay hydrated is water, as it doesn't raise blood sugar. From 64 ounces to 80 ounces of water (8 to 10 cups) a day is ample most people, including those with type 2 diabetes. This number is based on average maintenance fluid needs of 90 ounces per day for women and 125 ounces per day for men.But it includes fluid that is found in food (like fresh fruit and soups). Since that is hard to calculate, only cups of liquid are generally counted.

Ask your doctor if this is the right amount of fluid for you as many factors can affect fluid needs—including caffeine intake, weight, and kidney function. Additionally, when it is very hot or you are exercising, you may need more fluid. If you find yourself so thirsty that you are regularly drinking more water than recommended, or you feel your thirst is unquenchable, bring this to your doctor's attention, as they can be signs you aren't managing your diabetes as well as you could.

Soda and Diabetes

The medical world has long recognized the relationship between drinking sugar-sweetened soda and diabetes. Essentially, soda and other sugar-added beverages can quickly spike blood sugar levels, as the carbohydrates are readily available for digestion and not slowed down by fiber, fat, or protein. Because soda is so easy to drink, it can increase a person's daily sugar consumption to very high levels without them even noticing. If you have diabetes, it's best to replace soda with water, herbal tea, or seltzer.

The Low-Down on Diet Soda

Research suggests a strong link between regular diet soda consumption and type 2 diabetes. One study found that the artificial sweeteners used to make diet soda have been shown to be harmful to gut bacteria, and there's a resulting relationship between drinking diet soda and increased insulin resistance, weight gain, and diabetes.

In a landmark 2009 study, scientists proposed that it's the behaviors that go along with drinking diet soda (namely overeating other food and lack of exercise), that are to blame for weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. That same take-home message has been echoed by other recent research, such as this 2018 study. There seems to be both a direct and indirect effect between drinking diet soda and diabetes development.

However, the artificial sweeteners used in the production of diet soda and other sugar-free beverages have been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have not been found to cause health issues and can provide flexibility for diabetic meal planning.​

What to Drink (and What Not to Drink)

Although water should be your drink of choice, if you're a die-hard soda drinker, an occasional diet soda here and there will probably not majorly impact your condition—and it may help you fulfill a craving so that you can stay on your plan in the long-term. However, there are numerous alternatives that will satisfy your taste buds without spiking your blood sugar or altering your gut microbiome.


While whole, fresh fruit can and should be part of a diabetes-friendly diet, fruit juice is a different story. Stripped of most of its fiber, fruit juice is a vehicle for quick carbohydrates that can also elevate blood sugar. Fruit juice may still have benefit in that it contains vitamins and minerals, but you're better off drinking water and eating a serving of fresh fruit alongside it for better glucose control.

Vegetable juices, like tomato, carrot, celery, and kale juice, on the other hand, may not raise glucose levels quite as much. These veggie-based blends could be a good option for a nutrient-rich beverage for people with diabetes, as long as there's no hidden fruit or added sugar. Check the label on the bottle, or better yet, make your own veggie blends at home.

Hydrating Foods

Water-packed raw, fresh fruits and vegetables can certainly count toward your daily hydration goals, although this type of intake is harder to track. But the great thing is that alongside the water content, you'll be getting a good dose of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, too.

As much of the water content of produce is lost during cooking, you'll need to eat raw foods to get the most benefit. Salads are a great way to get in more hydrating foods and also try incorporating raw sliced veggies like radishes, cucumbers, and julienned carrots as toppings on grain bowls and stir-fries.


Even though it's a liquid, alcohol can actually be dehydrating. Alcohol also can raise or lower blood sugar and shouldn't be mixed with most blood sugar medications, so it's best to seriously limit your intake or avoid drinking altogether while following a diabetes-focused plan.

Coffee and Tea

Research shows that caffeine-containing beverages can actually contribute to your hydration goals, if you're a regular coffee/tea drinker. Occasional drinkers should be aware of a dehydrating effect, however. Caffeine shuts off a hormone responsible for holding onto water called the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which causes an increase in urination. Basically, everything we drink after that morning cup will get quickly urinated out. It's best to drink water two hours before and two hours after your caffeine to bypass the ADH effect.

Healthy Alternatives to Water

Again, the best beverage to reach for when you have type 2 diabetes is probably plain water. But if you find it hard to drink 8 cups of plain water a day, here are some ideas and alternatives that will help you reach your goal:

  • Flavor filtered water by adding 1 or 2 slices of fresh fruit, such as lemon, lime, or orange, or a few berries, cucumber slices, or herbs like mint. You'll get the essence of the flavor without added calories or carbs.
  • Make homemade iced tea by steeping herbal or green tea bags in hot water and then chilling. When you use a fruit-flavored tea bag to make your iced tea, you might even find it doesn't need additional sweetness. Not to mention, you'll reap additional health benefits of green tea.
  • Serve flavored sparkling waters in wine glasses with dinner. To take things to the next level, add a splash of tart cherry juice (naturally low in sugar) and a few fresh or frozen cherries as garnish.
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