Is there anything good for diabetes you can buy in a bottle and drink? If not, what can you drink that’s healthy?
Beverages to avoid
First off, do not drink bottled fruit juice. Health author Joy Bauer rated fruit juice the number one worst food for diabetes. Most bottled juice is not 100% juice and has additional sugar added. But according to Bauer, “Fruit juices, even 100% fruit juices, are chock-full of fruit sugar and cause a sharp spike in blood sugar.”
Juice has a very high glycemic index, which means the sugar gets into your blood very fast. According to diabetes.co.uk, unsweetened orange juice has a glycemic index between 66 and 76, higher than most chocolate cake. People with diabetes do not have enough insulin to keep up with such a fast surge of sugar.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) agrees. “Avoid sugary drinks like regular soda, fruit punch, fruit drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, or sweet tea. They can provide several hundred calories in just one serving.
ADA advises tea, coffee, water, or milk instead. They do say that less than 4 ounces of juice at a meal might be manageable for some people with diabetes.
There are other problems with juice besides the sugar. Compared to whole fruits and vegetables, juice has almost no fiber. Bottled juice is usually stored in massive oxygen-depleted holding tanks for up to a year before it is packaged. Then lost flavor iss restored with “flavor packs.”
Recent studies, however, have shown that juice does have some benefits. It helps prevent cancer and heart disease as well as whole fruits. It has more nutritional benefits than sodas, even if the sugar spike is just as bad.
Dietitian Amy Campbell says vegetable juices such as V8 are healthier can be drunk in larger amounts than the sweeter juices. But there’s no good reason to buy bottled fruit juice. It’s expensive, it’s not healthy, and it’s environmentally damaging.
What about diet drinks?
If sugar in your juice or soda is the problem, wouldn’t diet drinks fix that? ADA says diet drinks are better, but others say not much better. Studies have shown that, in mice, artificial sweeteners can lead to a spike in insulin. The sweet taste fools the body into producing insulin that’s not needed.
The researchers said the insulin spike was not high enough to put someone into a hypoglycemic (low blood sugar) state, but extra insulin is never good for you. It causes insulin resistance and makes you fat.
A Canadian study from 2016 found that the artificial sweetener aspartame changes gut bacteria in unhealthy ways. Aspartame use was associated with greater glucose intolerance in obese people, which could increase the chance of diabetes.
There are also diabetic nutritional drinks. Some people swear by these, but I have doubts. They’re expensive and they have additives. A few are low-carb, but you have to read labels carefully. Most aren’t.
If, like many people with diabetes, you have digestive problems such as gastroparesis, these drinks might help you. Otherwise, drinks should be liquid and food should be food.
Bottle as bad as the juice
Plastic bottles leach a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA) into the juice. Bisphenol A has been found to worsen diabetes.
Plastic bottles are also a huge trash problem. They are theoretically recyclable, but most of them are not recycled. They pollute water, killing marine life, while creating an ugly litter problem on land. Bottled water has been called an “environmental disaster” for this reason. (The exception is if you live somewhere without safe water to drink. Millions of people throughout the world drink bottled water, juice, or soda because local water is too polluted, as is happening in Flint, Michigan.)
Glass bottles are more recyclable, more reusable, and less toxic than plastic. They are also more expensive, heavier, and breakable, so they are less attractive for many people.
So what do you drink?
As noted above, the ADA lists only water, tea, coffee, milk, and diet soda as drinkable with diabetes. But what about homemade juice like your grandmother used to make (or was that your great-grandmother?) Health writer Tammy Dray reports that homemade juices are usually far healthier than packaged or bottled juices. They have no extra sugar or other additives.
Making your own juice allows you to get the flavors you want, since you decide what fruits to put in. You can keep all the fiber by including skins and rinds in the juice. You’ll get all the natural vitamins. There may still be more sugar than you want, but you can fix that by diluting it more.
You can make juice in a blender, but it will come out less juicy than if you use a juicer. But juicing by hand, like Grandma used to do, is way too much work for most modern people.
Whether you’re carrying homemade juice or water, buy a washable metal bottle to carry it. No plastic chemicals, no throwaway damage to the environment.