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What to Drink When You Have Diabetes

A Look at Diet Soda and Other Sugar-Free Beverage Options

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Updated May 06, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Wondering if it is a good idea to drink diet soda or other sugar-free beverages when you have type 2 diabetes?

That may be because of general curiosity. Or perhaps you heard the news of a 2009 study, which found a significant link between daily diet soda consumption and type 2 diabetes. These findings are clear, but the reason why is not. The researchers from this study have proposed that drinking diet soda may be associated with an over-consumption of other foods - ultimately causing weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

This is still theory, however. Sweeteners and diet soda* can have a place in a well-balanced diabetes diet in moderation. While water is still the preferred beverage of choice, an occasional diet soda likely will not impact your condition -- and it may help you fulfill a craving, helping you stay on your plan.

Typically, 64 to 80 ounces of fluid (8 to 10 cups) a day is the right amount for most people, including type 2 diabetics. This number is based on average maintenance fluid needs. It includes fluid that is found in food (like fresh fruit), but since that is hard to calculate, only cups of liquid are generally counted.

You should ask your doctor if this is the right amount of fluid for you as many factors can affect fluid needs - including caffeine intake, weight and kidney function. Additionally, when it is very hot or you are exercising, you may need a bit more fluid. If you find yourself so thirsty that you are regularly drinking more water than recommended, or you feel that your thirst is unquenchable, you should discuss that symptom with your doctor.

Again, the best beverage to reach for when you have type 2 diabetes is probably plain water. But it can be difficult to find motivation to drink 8 cups of plain water a day. Here are some sugar-free, diabetic-friendly water tweaks and alternatives that will help you reach your goal:

Flavor fresh water by adding 1 or 2 slices of fresh fruit, such as lemon, lime, orange, or other seasonal fruit.

Use a sugar-free flavor packet in your water. These packets are widely available; look for a variety of options in the grocery store aisle near other powdered drink mixes. Add to twice the recommended amount of water for more of a flavored water than a sweetened beverage taste.

Make home-made iced tea by steeping fruit-flavored green-tea bags in hot water, and then chilling. You can usually get by without needing even an artificial sweetener when you use a fruit-flavored tea bag to make your iced tea. Not to mention, you'll reap additional health benefits of green tea.

Serve flavored sparkling waters in wine glasses with dinner. In our house, we call this the "house wine." I have a hard time remembering to drink water throughout the day myself, and this is one of my personal tricks of the trade to squeeze in an extra cup of fluid.

Diet sodas and other sugar-free beverages give you additional meal planning options. They are free-foods that can add variety to your diet without spiking your blood sugar. Use them when you need help reaching your daily fluid goals, or as a treat when your sweet tooth is calling out to you. They won't cause a spike in blood sugar, and are a good, every-now-and-then alternative to reach for when water just won't cut it.

More Diabetes Dietitian Advice

*The artificial sweeteners used in U.S. production of diet soda and other sugar-free beverages have been approved by the FDA. They have not been found to cause health issues, and can provide flexibility for diabetic meal planning.

Sources:

Nettleton, JA, et al. "Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis."Diabetes Care. 2009; 32(4): 688.

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