These Are the Worst Drinks for People with Diabetes

Being diagnosed with diabetes means there are a lot of forthcoming changes you have to make for the sake of your long-term health. This includes changing up your exercise routine (or starting one), modifying your diet, and being more careful about the sugar in your favorite drinks.

Living with diabetes means you should try to avoid drinks high in added sugars, excess caffeine, alcohol, and even those containing artificial sweeteners. These are the drinks you should try cutting out of your diet to improve your overall health.

Regular soda


Soda | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

There are a lot of problems with regular soda. Both its sugar and calorie content, for one thing, have been linked to weight gain — a factor that can both increase diabetes risk and make it harder for people with diabetes to manage their blood sugar levels.

  • Coke — 39 grams of sugar per 12 ounces
  • Pepsi — 41 grams of sugar per 12 ounces
  • Mountain Dew — 46 grams of sugar per 12 ounces
  • Dr Pepper — 64 grams of sugar per 20 ounces

Drinking your calories is rarely a healthy way to manage weight or any health condition. There are sometimes more calories in a single can or bottle than you might realize. Also, drinks don’t fill you up the way food does, increasing the chances you’ll over-consume.

But taking the calories out of a drink — and/or replacing the type of sugar added to it — isn’t always a good thing.

Diet soda

But wait! Diet soda doesn’t have calories! And if it’s sweetened with artificial sugar, not real sugar, isn’t it healthier than regular soda? Sorry — no. Especially not if you have diabetes.

There are several theories as to why diet soda might not be a smart choice if your body doesn’t regulate blood sugar properly.

One study found that participants who drank diet soda had an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome (a combination of factors that include high blood pressure, high blood sugar, elevated cholesterol, increased weight gain, and/or high levels of triglycerides).

Another study suggests that artificial sweeteners (such as those found in diet soda) may affect gut bacteria, which could lead to insulin resistance.

Just because something doesn’t have calories or “real” sugar doesn’t mean it’s automatically safe or healthy. Pay attention to all parts of a food label, not just the nutrition facts panel.

Sweetened fruit juice

Freshly squeezed orange juice

Freshly squeezed orange juice | canovass/ Images

Yes, many fruit juices are made from real fruit. This does not mean they are good for you — especially if you go fiber-free. Orange juice with pulp, for example, might have a little fiber left in it. But when you squeeze the juice out of an orange and leave the rest behind, you also remove most of its nutrients.

  • Tropicana orange juice — 22 grams of sugar per 8 ounces
  • Old Orchard apple juice — 27 grams of sugar per 8 ounces
  • Welch’s grape juice — 36 grams of sugar per 8 ounces

Many fruit juice brands also add sugar back into their products to boost the sweetness of their drinks.

Energy/Sports drinks

Most energy drinks, such as Red Bull, contain more caffeine per serving than the average 8 oz. cup of coffee. But many are also loaded with sugar and calories, which makes them a risky choice compared to a tall black coffee from Starbucks.

  • Gatorade — 34 grams of sugar per bottle
  • Monster Energy — 27 grams of sugar per serving
  • Rockstar — 31 grams of sugar per can
  • Red Bull — 39 grams of sugar per can

Energy drinks don’t give you “real” energy the way food and sleep does. Once their effects wear off, you’ll be tempted to consume more. And the more you consume, the more tolerance you build up — often leading you to consume even more.

It’s up to you to decide if the ingredients in your go-to drinks are really worth the long-term health risks — especially if you’ve already been diagnosed with a medical condition that can only be treated, not cured.