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The #1 Worst Drink If You're Pre-Diabetic, Says Dietitian

Most drinks can fit in a healthy diet, but there is one that we advise limiting for your blood sugar.

If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, your doctor may have advised you to stay away from specific foods and drinks or large portion sizes. You might be feeling overwhelmed with the restrictions that your healthcare provider recommended for you.

But we have good news! For the most part, all foods can fit into a healthy diet to manage your blood sugar. However, there is one exception, or rather a category of exceptions—sugar-sweetened beverages.

Soda, juice, sweet tea are all in this category as they have added sugar to make them taste extra sweet. One bottle of soda alone can have up to 70 grams of sugar and 240 calories. That's quite a lot of added calories and sugar for very little nutrition in return!

Even health-conscious brands may have sneaky sugars. Choices like health waters, bottled tea, and sports drinks may be high in added sugars. Check the labels on these products to see how they fare—and be sure to read up on these Drinking Habits to Avoid If You're Pre-Diabetic, Says Dietitian.

Sugar-sweetened beverages have empty calories.

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Sugar-sweetened beverages offer extra calories with very little in return. Typically, soda, juice, and tea are not super filling or satisfying. These options may in fact increase our total calories throughout the day without increasing energy levels, fullness, or hunger.

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They cause a blood sugar roller coaster.

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Food and drinks that are high in sugar and not balanced in protein, fat, or fiber can cause drastic swings in blood sugar. Without other macronutrients to slow down absorption, sugar-sweetened beverages quickly spike blood sugars. This spike can lead to a rush of energy followed by a crash soon after once the extra sugars are absorbed.

How sugar-sweetened beverages affect your liver

high fructose corn syrup
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Many added-sugar drinks use high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to sweeten them. HFCS has been linked to an increased incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Fatty liver involves increased fat deposits in the liver that scientists believe are a result of excess calories from fructose in the diet.

Other healthy alternatives

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For better blood sugars, choose low sugar, balanced options instead. Consider other ways to hydrate without the sweet stuff:

  • Sparkling water
  • Diet sodas
  • Low sugar juice
  • Herbal teas
  • Water with lemon
  • Coffee, unsweetened
  • Black tea
  • Low-sugar electrolyte drinks

Looking for more? We've got you covered with eating habits to avoid if you have pre-diabetes.

Caroline Thomason, RDN
Caroline is a women's health Registered Dietitian and diabetes educator based in Northern Virginia. Read more
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