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 iced tea, and even fruit juice, will raise your blood glucose levels quickly, making them a not-so-great choice.

Despite the lack of natural sugar, diet soda may not be the best bet, either. Fortunately, you can avoid the dangers of dehydration and quench your thirst with better beverage choices.

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 increasing the production of urine (and the frequency of needing to relieve yourself).

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 to stay hydrated is water, as it doesn't raise blood sugar. For most people, including those with diabetes, between 64 ounces and 80 ounces of water (8 to 10 cups) a day is enough. This number is based on average estimated fluid needs of 90 ounces per day for women and 125 ounces per day for men. That requirement counts fluids that you get from food (like fresh fruit and soups) as well as those you drink.

Ask your healthcare provider if this is the right amount of fluid for you, as many factors can increase or decrease your 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 healthcare provider's attention, as these can be signs you aren't managing your diabetes as well as you could. Also note if you frequently have other symptoms of dehydration, such as dark urine, infrequent urination (fewer than four times a day), dry mouth, and feeling dizzy.

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 your daily sugar consumption to very high levels without you even noticing. Sugar-sweetened soda and other sugary drinks are also major contributors to obesity.

The Lowdown on Diet Soda

Research suggests a strong link between regularly drinking diet soda and type 2 diabetes. One study found that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda are harmful to gut bacteria, and there's a resulting relationship between drinking diet soda and increased insulin resistance, weight gain, and diabetes.

Scientists have proposed that other behaviors that go along with drinking diet soda (namely overeating and lack of exercise) are to blame for weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. There seems to be both a direct and indirect effect between drinking diet soda and diabetes.

However, the artificial sweeteners in diet soda and other sugar-free beverages have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They have not been found to cause other health issues and can provide flexibility for planning diabetes-friendly meals.​

What to Drink (and What Not to Drink)

Although water should be your drink of choice, if you're a diehard soda drinker, an occasional diet soda here and there will probably not impact your condition in a significant way—and in fact it may satisfy a craving so that you can stay on your plan in the long term. However, there are numerous alternatives that may do the same without spiking your blood sugar or altering your gut microbiome.

Juices

While whole, fresh fruit can and should be part of a diabetes-friendly diet, fruit juice is a different story. Because it's low in 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 as 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

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 simple and straightforward way to enjoy hydrating foods, as are grain bowls and stir-fries topped with radishes, cucumbers, carrots, and other fresh vegetables.

Alcohol

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 you need to be careful with alcohol while following a diabetes-focused plan.

It's recommended that people with diabetes drink moderately—that means no more than two drinks per day for men, one for women—if at all. Eating something along with alcohol can help stabilize your blood sugar.

Coffee and Tea

Research shows that caffeine-containing beverages can contribute to your hydration goals—as long as you're a regular coffee/tea drinker. Occasional caffeine 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 you drink after that morning cup will get quickly urinated out. It's best to drink extra water two hours before and two hours after caffeine to compensate for the ADH effect.

Healthy Alternatives to Water

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

  • Flavor filtered water by adding one or two 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.
Was this page helpful?
10 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Johnson EC, Bardis CN, Jansen LT, Adams JD, Kirkland TW, Kavouras SA. Reduced water intake deteriorates glucose regulation in patients with type 2 diabetes. Nutr Res. 2017;43:25-32. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2017.05.004

  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. How to help students implement effective diabetes management.

  3. Institute of Medicine. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2005. doi:10.17226/10925

  4. Imamura F, O'Connor L, Ye Z, et al. Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages, artificially sweetened beverages, and fruit juice and incidence of type 2 diabetes: Systematic review, meta-analysis, and estimation of population attributable fractionBMJ. 2015;351:h3576. doi:10.1136/bmj.h3576

  5. Ruanpeng D, Thongprayoon C, Cheungpasitporn W, Harindhanavudhi T. Sugar and artificially sweetened beverages linked to obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysisQJM. 2017;110(8):513-520. doi:10.1093/qjmed/hcx068

  6. Suez J, Korem T, Zeevi D, et al. Artificial sweeteners induce glucose intolerance by altering the gut microbiota. Nature. 2014;514(7521):181-6. doi:10.1038/nature13793

  7. Gardener H, Moon YP, Rundek T. Diet soda and sugar-sweetened soda consumption in relation to incident diabetes in the Northern Manhattan Study. Curr Dev Nutr. 2018;2(5):nzy008. doi:10.1093/cdn/nzy008

  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Diabetes diet, eating, & physical activity. Updated December 2016.

  9. Killer SC, Blannin AK, Jeukendrup AE. No evidence of dehydration with moderate daily coffee intake: A counterbalanced cross-over study in a free-living population. PLoS ONE. 2014;9(1):e84154. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0084154

  10. Tsvetkova DD, Klisurov RC, Pankova SA, Zlatkov BA. Investigation of some pharmacological effects of caffeine and taurine in food supplements. Int J Nutr Food Sci. 2015;4(1-1):18-23. doi:10.11648/j.ijnfs.s.2015040101.14