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The #1 Worst Drink to Sip on If You Have Diabetes, Says Dietitian

If you’re prediabetic or you’ve already have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, cross this off your beverage list.
FACT CHECKED BY Olivia Tarantino

Pop goes your blood sugar! If you have type 2 diabetes, the #1 worst drink to consume is that post-child of sugar-sweetened beverages, soda pop.

"Soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages have a very high glycemic index and cause a rapid rise in blood glucose levels," says dietitian Brenda Davis, RD, a renowned expert in diabetes intervention research and plant-based eating.

Research has shown that SSBs (sugar-sweetened beverages) contribute to the progression of insulin resistance, prediabetes, and type 2 diabetes. But drinking soda is even worse if you already have diabetes because it "can accelerate complications of diabetes by compromising your blood glucose control," says Davis, the author or co-author of 12 books, including Nourish: The Definitive Plant-Based Nutrition Guide for Families and The Kick Diabetes Cookbook.

Side effects of drinking soda with diabetes

woman drinking soda

What kinds of complications can drinking soda cause while diabetic? Serious stuff. Hyperglycemia, if untreated in diabetics, can cause blindness, nerve damage, skin infections, cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, and stroke, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Related: The #1 Cause of Diabetes.

"Sugar-sweetened beverages don't make us feel satisfied the way solid food does, so it's easy to overconsume them," warns Davis. "They contain few if any nutrients, but a lot of calories (120 to 150 per 12-ounce serving)."

Adding just one can of soda per day to your diet could bump your weight up by about five pounds a year.

"As intake of SSBs goes up, healthy lifespan goes down," says Davis. Case in point: A study of more than 300,000 people in the journal Diabetes Care found that people who drank 1 to 2 servings of sugar-sweetened beverages daily had a 26% greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than one a month.

While soda is the worst drink for diabetics, lemonade, sweet tea, iced tea, and other SSBs are also the top drinks to avoid sipping even if you don't have type 2 diabetes.

Drink This, Not That!

Instead of soda, drink water, the most healthful thirst quencher available. And it's calorie-free.

Davis also recommends herbal teas that are rich in antioxidants and protective phytochemicals. Best choices for people with diabetes are green tea, hibiscus tea, spice teas with inflammation lowering turmeric, ginger, or cinnamon, lemon balm, and chamomile teas.

Another option is fresh-pressed green juices prepared with mostly fresh greens, other vegetables, ginger, and turmeric. And instead of drinking fruit juices, which are high in calories and sugars, eat whole fruits, Davis says.

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Jeff Csatari
Jeff Csatari, a contributing writer for Eat This, Not That!, is responsible for editing Galvanized Media books and magazines and for advising journalism students through the Zinczenko New Media Center at Moravian University in Bethlehem, PA. Read more about Jeff