Amy Reeder is a Certified Diabetes Educator with a master’s degree in nutrition from the University of Utah. She has worked in the diabetes field since 2005 and has been a Certified Diabetes Educator since 2007.
Given that our bodies are approximately 66 percent water, it is critically important for optimal health to stay hydrated. But often times the beverages we drink are not particularly good for our bodies—or our blood sugar levels.
Data from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, reported by the CDC, shows that adults are getting 33 percent of their calories from added sugars from beverages. And 58 percent of those added sugar calories from beverages are consumed at home.
In short, we are drinking a lot of sugary, sweetened beverages at home and could be making wiser choices.
Ways to stay hydrated and healthy
- Drink water. If water is not your favorite beverage, consider flavoring it with fruits. Cut up lemons, limes, apples, oranges, strawberries, melon, etc. and put the slices in a jug of water in the fridge. After several hours, pour water through a strainer into your glass or water bottle and enjoy! The water will be flavored by the fruit and have a naturally sweetened taste.
- Drink sparkling flavored water. This water contains no added sugars (artificial or natural) and no calories. This beverage is simply water and flavoring that varies from lemon-lime to berry to coconut. Sparkling flavored water can be found in the soda aisle of any grocery store.
- Drink diet soda if you drink soda. These beverages contain artificial sweeteners and no calories. As with water (tap or sparkling), diet soda and other diet drinks do not have any effect on blood sugar.
- Drink juice that actually contains 100-percent fruit juice. If you look closely at fruit juice labeling, you will notice that a lot of “juice” is actually colored sugar water. Juice drinks and fruit punch will have the words “Contains No Fruit Juice” on the nutrition facts label. Keep juice consumption to a minimum. Eating the whole fruit is healthier—it adds fiber and nutrients to your diet that fruit juice does not.
- Watch out for beverages you purchase on the go. Blended beverages, from sweetened coffee drinks to smoothies, have, on average, 50 grams of sugar in a 16-oz portion. These beverages can sometimes be ordered with artificial sweeteners, which is a wise choice for optimal blood sugar control.
- Save sports drinks for when you really need them—during vigorous exercise that lasts 90 minutes or longer. If you are drinking sports drinks to quench your thirst, choose the kind with artificial sweeteners so blood sugar is not affected.
- If you drink coffee or tea, keep the additions such as sugar and cream to a minimum. Try different flavors of herbal tea—most have lots of flavor that does not need extra sweetening.
The carbohydrates found in beverages are usually in the form of sugar (not starch or fiber). Remember to read nutrition labels on any beverage and look for "Total Carbohydrates" for the carb count, not just the grams of sugar. The total carbohydrates will help you properly count carbs and manage the treatment of blood sugar. The label will also help you evaluate the sugar content compared to other beverages.
So drink up—just be aware of what you are pouring into your glass or sipping through that straw!