Low Sugar Beverages Perfect For Those With Diabetes And Heart Disease

Are you tired of having limited drink options due to diabetes or heart disease? Certain conditions may put a damper on your usual beverage choices. But don’t worry! I’ve compiled a list of low-sugar beverages that are delicious and suitable for those who need to monitor fat and sugar in their diet.

Say goodbye to boring water and hello to refreshing, low-sugar drinks that won’t spike blood sugars or put a strain on your heart. Let’s dive into my top picks for guilt-free sipping!

Note: Some conditions, like congestive heart failure, may require limiting your daily fluid intake. Please continue to follow any fluid restrictions your doctor recommends.

low sugar beverages, fruit-infused waters
Photo: Courtesy of Kaizen Nguyễn on Unsplash

What are Low Sugar Beverages?

Low-sugar beverages are formulated to provide a refreshing and hydrating drink without contributing significant amounts of calories or added sugars to your diet.

Most juices, juice blends, and regular sodas are not low-sugar beverages. They contain high amounts of sugar which we need to limit for health reasons. Diet sodas can also have small amounts of sugar, but are generally not considered low-sugar beverages.

Common low-sugar beverages include unsweetened coffee, tea, and sparkling water. However, more low-sugar drink options will be discussed below.

Shocking Fact: Sugar-sweetened beverages are among the leading sources of added sugar in the American diet (1).

Benefits of Low Sugar Beverages for Diabetes and Heart Disease

There are plenty of reasons to love low-sugar beverages. Especially if you have diabetes or heart disease; some of these benefits include:

  • Better management of blood sugar levels
  • Assisting with weight management
  • Reducing the risk of complications
  • Providing hydration without added sugars

Management of Blood Sugar Levels

For those with a history of pre-diabetes or diabetes, controlling blood sugar is vital to managing the progression of this condition.

Sugary beverages can contain large amounts of carbohydrates which cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels. Regular consumption can make diabetes difficult to manage. This is especially true when counting carbohydrates.

I often instruct patients with diabetes to choose non-calorie or low-calorie beverages. These are also low-sugar options that will not take away from the carbohydrates they are allotted at meal times.

By choosing low-sugar drinks instead of sugary beverages, you can help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent episodes of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Weight Management

It may sound like a no-brainer, but replacing calorie-dense sugary beverages with low-sugar beverages can reduce overall calories in your diet and promote weight loss (2).

Being of a higher weight can also place you at higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Research on some low -sugar beverages is conflicting. However, some studies show that low- and no-calorie sweetened beverages can be used as a replacement for individuals trying to lose weight (3).

Therefore, choosing mainly low-sugar drink options can help prevent weight gain and the development of chronic disease.

Reduce the Risk of Chronic Disease

Sugar-sweetened beverages also cause chronic low-grade inflammation which leads to obesity, metabolic disorders, heart disease, and other inflammatory conditions (4, 5).

Sugary beverages and added sugars must be limited to prevent heart disease and certain types of cancer (6). The American Heart Association has a limit to the amount of added sugar that should be consumed daily. This limit includes ALL forms of added sugars, not just from beverages.

Men should limit added sugars to 36 grams (~150 calories) per day while women should limit added sugars to 25 grams (~100 calories) per day (7).

Additionally, having one chronic condition often leads to other conditions. For example, diabetes increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. Heart disease increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and high blood pressure.

If large amounts of sugary beverages are consumed, any current health issues can worsen and lead to other conditions.

By choosing low-sugar beverages, you can help manage your health and reduce your risk of chronic disease.

And since low-sugar beverages don’t contain any artificial sweeteners (which have controversy surrounding their use) they’re a healthier option overall.

Provide Hydration Without Added Sugars

And finally, staying hydrated is important for overall health, including heart health. Choosing low-sugar drinks like water or unsweetened tea can provide hydration without added sugar, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

Whether you’re looking for a refreshing beverage during the hot summer months or trying to improve your health, low-sugar beverages are excellent alternatives to plain water.

Types of Low Sugar Beverages

There are many types of low-sugar beverages. Options include:

Water: This is the best option. It is calorie-free and sugar-free, and helps keep you hydrated without adding excess calories or added sugars.

Unsweetened Tea or Coffee: Teas and coffees can be enjoyed hot or iced. Avoid options with more than 3 grams of added sugars per serving or with sweet syrups. Coffee can also add a caffeine boost. However, if you are sensitive to caffeine, choose decaffeinated versions.

Sparkling Water: This option is ideal for a smidgen of flavor and some fizz without sugar. Check nutrition facts labels to ensure no added sugars or sweeteners are present.

Juice: Fruit juice is occasionally suitable because it contains vitamins and minerals. However, the high sugar content in juice is what makes juice a “sometimes” option. Look for 100% juice options and dilute them with water or drink them in small amounts.

Kombucha: This is a fermented tea that naturally contains small amounts of alcohol. Avoid kombucha if you are pregnant, have sensitivities or allergies to alcohol, or have certain religious beliefs. Kombucha is not a calorie-free beverage and some varieties contain added sugars and juices- so again, check the nutrition labels.

Sports Drinks: Certain sports drinks are made with lower carbohydrates (sugar) and calories. This option is ideal for athletes or anyone needing to replenish fluids and electrolytes during or after exercise without spiking blood sugar levels or adding excess calories.

Low-Fat Milk: Milk has natural sugars in the form of lactose, a carbohydrate that will raise blood sugars. However, milk still contains beneficial nutrients like calcium and vitamin D for bone health.

I realize that dairy milk intake is controversial, with some reports of milk intake leading to an increased risk of chronic inflammation and heart disease. The good news is that many studies show either no such relationship or even decreased risk of heart disease with the consumption of dairy; specifically fermented milk products, like kefir (8, 9, 10).

canned sparkling water beverages over ice
Photo: Courtesy of Matt Botsford on Unsplash

17+ Low Sugar Beverages

  • Coconut Water
  • Sparkling Waters
  • Fruit-Infused Waters
  • Flavored Drink Mixes (available in packet or liquid form)
  • Unsweetened Iced Teas
  • Herbal Teas
  • Decaffeinated Teas
  • Coffee
  • Cherry Juice (in moderation)
  • Pomegranate Juice (in moderation)
  • Lemonades (low sugar options)
  • Kombucha (look for ones with minimal “added sugars”)
  • Low-Sugar Sports Drinks
  • Low-Fat Milk
  • Unsweetened Almond Milk
  • Unsweetened Soy Milk
  • Smoothies (made without sweeteners)

Tips for Choosing the Right Low-Sugar Beverage for You

When choosing low-sugar drinks, there are some things you should keep in mind. Here are a few tips to help you choose the right low-sugar drink for you:

  1. Know your goals. Are you looking to cut down on overall sugar intake, or are you trying to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels? If it’s the latter, you’ll want to choose a drink that has a low glycemic index.
  2. Consider other health needs. If you have diabetes or heart disease, you’ll need to be extra careful about the ingredients in your drink. Make sure to check labels carefully and avoid anything with artificial sweeteners or added sugars.
  3. Think about taste. Just because a beverage is low in sugar doesn’t mean it has to taste bad! There are plenty of delicious options, so don’t be afraid to experiment until you find something you love.
  4. Pay attention to portion sizes. Even if a beverage is low in sugar, drinking too much, too often can still lead to weight gain or other health problems. Be mindful of how much you’re consuming and stick to moderation when possible.

Making Low Sugar Beverages at Home

If you’re looking to cut down on your sugar intake, there is also the option of making low-sugar beverages at home. Here are a few tips for making your tasty beverages:

  • Use unsweetened almond milk or soy milk instead of dairy milk.
  • Add a little bit of fruit juice for flavor, but avoid adding too much as it can add unwanted sugar.
  • Use Stevia or another natural sweetener instead of sugar.
  • If you’re making coffee or tea, skip the sugary syrups and flavored creamers which are often high in sugar and/or saturated fat.
  • Get creative with your smoothies! Use unsweetened yogurt, fresh or frozen fruit, or dates for flavor and sweetness.

DIY Low Sugar Beverage Recipes

If you’re inspired to begin making low-sugar beverages, here are some simple recipes to get you started:

  1. Infused water: Add fresh fruits or herbs to a pitcher of water for a refreshing and flavorful low-calorie drink. For example, you could try cucumber and mint, lemon and ginger, or strawberry and basil.
  2. Green tea: Brew a cup of green tea and enjoy it hot or cold. You can add a squeeze of lemon or a dash of honey if desired.
  3. Low-sugar lemonade: Add lemon juice to a glass and use a small amount of sweetener (such as honey, maple syrup, or stevia). Alternatively, you can dilute the lemonade with water or seltzer to reduce the overall calorie and sugar content.
  4. Iced coffee: Brew a cup of coffee and let it cool. Pour over ice and add a splash of low-fat milk of choice.
  5. Sparkling water with fruit: Add sliced fruit or berries to a glass of sparkling water for a fizzy and flavorful low-calorie drink. Try it with raspberries, lime, or cucumber.
  6. Smoothies: Blend a mix of frozen fruits, low-fat milk or yogurt, and ice for a delicious and filling low-added sugar drink. Try combinations like banana with peanut butter, strawberry with banana, or mixed berries with spinach.
  7. Vegetable juice: Juice your favorite vegetables for a nutrient-packed, low-sugar drink. Carrots, kale, and beets are great options for homemade juices.

These are just a few easy low-sugar drinks you can make at home. With some creativity, you can create your own delicious combinations that fit your taste preferences and dietary needs.

💙For more amazing and refreshing low-sugar drink recipes, check out my friend and fellow dietitian Kate Piper’s article on Simple Fruit-Infused Water Recipes for Everyone.

Conclusion

There are many different low-sugar beverage choices for those with diabetes and heart disease.

Low-sugar drinks can be a healthy part of a balanced diet, though it’s important to consume these drinks in moderation and to prioritize hydration through water consumption. Water is always the absolute best option and is all our body truly needs. However, a little flavor and variety now and then does keep life interesting and enjoyable.

For more information, you can consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian, who can provide personalized recommendations based on your individual needs and health goals. Additionally, a healthy diet and lifestyle should include a variety of nutrient-dense foods, including fruits, vegetables, lean protein sources, and whole grains, in addition to low-sugar beverages.

I hope you enjoyed these low-sugar drink ideas and you give some a try. Happy sipping!

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