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Your blood sugar acts as your body’s main source of energy. But having high blood sugar levels doesn’t mean you’re going to feel supercharged to tackle your to-do list. Quite the opposite, in fact. High blood sugar can contribute to headaches and make you feel tired, weak, and even nauseous. Over time, it can lead to prediabetes and/or diabetes.
Eating a healthy diet and exercising can keep blood sugar in check, and monitoring your beverage intake can make a difference too. While there is no magic drink that will lower your blood sugar, certain ones can help stabilize blood sugar and prevent spikes.
Here’s what dietitians have to say about the best (and worst) drinks as far as blood sugar balance is concerned.
Food can certainly spike your blood sugar, but what you drink plays a part, too. Staying hydrated is key to maintaining blood sugar balance. “Since blood is made up primarily of water, even being slightly dehydrated can lead to more concentrated blood and higher glucose levels,” explains Erin Palinski-Wade, R.D., a New Jersey–based dietitian and author of 2-Day Diabetes Diet. Here are a few blood-sugar-friendly drinks to reach for when you’re feeling thirsty.
No surprise here: Your blood sugar’s BFF is the stuff your blood is made up of to begin with: H2O.
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“Drinking adequate water, especially when blood sugar levels are elevated, may help to reduce blood sugar levels, as the fluid helps to hydrate and increase volume in the bloodstream, diluting glucose levels,” says Palinski-Wade. This is also important for your kidneys, as those with high blood sugar and diseases like diabetes often have decreased kidney function due to damaged blood vessels.
Research published in Nutrients found that while habitual water drinking after waking up and before bedtime did not flush out blood sugar, it did help protect kidney function1. This means that those with high blood sugar levels should increase their water intake to help offset any negative effects. Aim for eight to 10 cups a day, plus 8 ounces for every 30 minutes of exercise.
“Any food or drink that is an antioxidant (or referred to as a polyphenol) helps blood sugar by reducing carbohydrate (a type of sugar) absorption and improving sugar uptake into cells, which results in a smaller blood sugar spike,” says Whitney Crouch, RDN, an LA-based integrative dietitian.
Coffee is one of these polyphenol-rich beverages. A review published in Diabetes Care found that coffee consumption (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) was inversely related to one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes2.
If you’re concerned about blood sugar, keep your coffee black. Anything you put in your coffee to sweeten it up, such as flavored syrups, sugar, and milks, won’t have the same stabilizing effects as black coffee.
Like coffee, green tea is packed with polyphenols, and 3drinking it can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes3. (However, you need to sip quite a bit of it to reap these benefits—about 6 cups a day, research suggests.) If you’re looking for green tea with the highest number of polyphenols, opt for matcha.
“The compounds in green tea may also decrease inflammation and stress hormones in the body, which may help fight against insulin resistance,” adds Palinski-Wade.
Crouch adds that unsweetened iced teas of any kind can also help you stay hydrated without risking a blood sugar spike.
You may not think fruit juice is the healthiest choice when it comes to your blood sugar, but 100% prune juice has some health benefits. That’s because Palinski-Wade says it has 4 grams of naturally occurring fiber4 per serving and supports gut health5, which influences blood sugar regulation.
“Adding more fiber-rich foods to your diet can help to stabilize blood sugar levels while curbing appetite to promote weight management,” she says. Drink a half cup straight up, or use prune juice to naturally sweeten smoothies, soups, and sauces.
“Drinks with added sugar are absorbed rapidly in the body, which can spike blood sugar and insulin levels,” says Palinski-Wade. This is especially true when you’re drinking them on an empty stomach.
So, when picking a beverage to drink, look at the label to help spot any blood sugar sabotagers. “Drinks high in added sugar with little nutritional value are going to be the worst drinks for blood sugar,” says Palinski-Wade.
This includes sugar-sweetened beverages such as soda, which will rapidly spike insulin and blood sugar levels. Energy drinks are also a poor choice because both excessive caffeine intake and added sugar can contribute to a blood sugar spike. (If you need something with some fizz, try seltzer water with a squeeze of fresh lemon instead.)
What else can you do to keep your blood sugar levels on the straight and narrow? Here are some easy strategies to start implementing:
You don’t have to have prediabetes or diabetes to be concerned about your blood sugar levels. Unbalanced levels can affect how you feel on a daily, meal-by-meal basis.
“When blood sugars are poorly regulated after eating a carbohydrate-heavy meal, snack, or sugary beverage, a person may be hit with post-meal fatigue, mood swings, or even more cravings,” says Crouch. “When this happens, it’s because the insulin response overshoots the mark, bringing sugars down a little too far and resulting in intense cravings for sweets to raise blood sugars back up. This becomes a vicious cycle that can lead to lower insulin sensitivity.”
Crouch says that a healthy blood sugar is one that is no higher than 140 mg/dl after meals and drops down to <100 mg/dl approximately two to three hours after eating. You won’t know these numbers if you’re not getting lab or using a glucose monitor, but prolonged high blood sugar has some set symptoms.
Blurry vision, excessive thirst, waking up to pee frequently at night, unintended weight loss, moodiness, and brain fog may all be signs that your blood sugar levels are off-kilter.
Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels will benefit your health, mood, and how you feel after meals. What you drink can affect your blood sugar more than you may realize. When possible, choose water or naturally sweetened beverages, and try these 15 tips to maintain healthy blood sugar all day long.
Colleen Travers is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in health, nutrition, diet, fitness, and wellness trends for various publications and brands. Her work has appeared in Reader’s Digest, SHAPE, Fit Pregnancy, Food Network, and more. She lives on Long Island with her two kids, two rescue pets, and husband.
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