Amy Campbell is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator who has been working in the field of diabetes for many years. She is the author of several books about diabetes, including 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet and Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition and Meal Planning. In addition, Amy is a lecturer and frequent contributor to several diabetes-related websites.
Drinking (non-alcoholic beverages, in this case) is a double-edged sword: you need to drink to stay hydrated, but choose the wrong type of drink and your blood sugars could soar sky-high. Sugar-free, or “diet” drinks are certainly an option, but some people dislike having artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose, in their foods and beverages.
First, how much should you drink?
Every day, we lose water through perspiration, breathing, urination, and bowel movements. In order to stay healthy, it’s important that we replace the fluid that we lose. While there’s no set answer as to how much fluid we really need, the Institute of Medicine recommends that men aim for 13 cups of fluid each day, and that women aim for nine cups each day.
Some people may need more fluid, especially if they’re exercising, ill, or living in a hot climate. If 13 cups of fluid sounds like a lot, keep in mind that all of the beverages that you drink (not just water) count!
What are the best low-carb or no-carb beverages?
1. Water. Not surprisingly, water is the top beverage choice. It contains zero calories and zero grams of carbs. Given that our bodies are about 70 percent water, it only makes sense to make water your number one go-to drink. If you find water to be, well, a little bit boring, try these suggestions to jazz it up a bit:
- Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice into your water.
- Add a splash of cranberry or pomegranate juice.
- Slice up lemon, lime, or cucumber slices and add them to a pitcher of water. Let the flavors steep for at least a few hours. (Hint: you can infuse water with any kind of fresh fruit, like strawberries, peaches, or cantaloupe.)
- Crush fresh herbs into plain or sparkling water for a unique twist.** Try basil, rosemary, or mint.
- Sip on flavored seltzer waters—these have a hint of flavor without the calories or carbs.**
2. Tea. Hot or cold, tea is a great choice because it offers a number of health benefits. Black tea is rich in antioxidants and is thought to help fight heart disease, cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Green tea may lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and perhaps may help with blood sugar control. White tea and oolong tea are other choices. If you’re sensitive to caffeine, go easy on how much you drink or switch to decaf tea. Skip the sweetened bottled ice teas and brew your own, instead.
3. Coffee. Believe it or not, coffee, too, provides health benefits. Coffee may protect against type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, liver cancer, and depression. Once again, coffee, like tea, contains caffeine. Limit your intake if you have trouble sleeping or find that drinking coffee makes you jittery or anxious, or gives you a rapid heartbeat. Also, watch out for fancy coffee drinks like lattes, cappuccino, and frozen concoctions—these are generally filled with calories, carbs, and fat.
4. Unsweetened almond milk. Almond milk is made by toasting and grinding almonds and mixing them with water. Because it’s dairy-free, people who have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance or who choose to follow a plant-based diet may use almond milk in place of cow’s milk. You can use almond milk in place of cow’s milk in cereal, cooking, and baking.
Almond milk is much lower in protein than cow’s milk, but eight ounces of unsweetened almond milk contains just 30 calories and less than 1 gram of carbs. Limit or avoid flavored almond milk, like vanilla or chocolate, which contains 90 calories and 16 grams of carbs per eight-ounce serving.
5. Coconut water. Coconut “water” is the clear liquid found in the center of the coconut. Because it contains less sugar than many sports drinks, it’s an option for rehydration after a long, strenuous workout, especially as it contains a decent amount of potassium. An eight-ounce glass of coconut water contains about 45 calories and 10 grams of carbs; while not carb-free, it’s an alternative to sugary sports or energy drinks. Just keep an eye on how much you drink during the day, and be sure to choose unsweetened or plain versions to keep those calories and carbs in check.