What drinks fit in with healthy eating for diabetes?

Today’s blog post popped into my head when I was talking to a RebalanceDiabetes client a few days ago. The theme of our chat was how to make a place for beverages in a healthy eating/weight loss plan. The specific topic was tea and coffee: is it OK to have tea or coffee with milk; is it OK to have tea or coffee with a milk substitute; is it OK to have tea or coffee at all?

If you love your tea and coffee it’s a hard one to get to grips with, because caffeine is addictive, and drinking the stuff becomes a habit – a bit like smoking in essence. This is where being told what to do without the why to do it is a non-starter! So let’s look at the “whys“!

To dairy or not to dairy, that is the question?” Well I’m definitely not a personal fan of dairy – but I am definitely not an enemy of it either. I indulge in the occasional portion of cheese, OK – not so much occasional but once or twice a week in small quantities! But I cut actual milk from my own diet many years ago. It’s seriously linked with so many health problems: from a blocked nose to cancer! It’s seriously linked with inflammation – which means it’s linked with Type 2 diabetes too! This isn’t scaremongering. A research report was recently published in the British Medical Journal showing that women who drink milk are MORE likely to have problems with their bones than those who don’t drink milk. That’s right! Dairy is now thought to damage, not protect, your bones! Worse: dairy is linked with death in both men and women, the same research concludes!

So what about dairy substitutes? There is a growing industry for all sorts of alternatives to milk. A recent report in the Daily Mail compared the pros and cons of each. Although the article ends with “dietitian’s verdicts” you’ll see that these dietitians spectacularly failed to reach a verdict or to provide useful advice to readers! So here goes…

When it comes down to healthy eating for diabetes, for me there is one huge consideration. The amount of sugar they each contain! Of course the ones with added sugar are off my list. But even those with no added sugar vary dramatically in their actual sugar content. The ones based on grains are more “carby” and inevitably have more sugar, or carbs that your body will convert to sugar very quickly. So my personal recommendation boils down to the dairy substitutes based on nuts: almond milk, coconut milk. Take a look at the photo below to see that an unsweetened rice milk contains over 7g sugar in a tiny 100ml portion, compared with 0.1g in almond milk!


So what about caffeinated tea and coffee at all? It comes down to whether or not caffeine has any value in our healthy diet. Caffeine is technically called an “anti-nutrient”. This means it prevents your body from absorbing good nutrients from other foods. By binding to these nutrients the caffeine prevents them getting into your blood stream, and instead they are simply lost through excretion.

Still feel you need caffeine? How about you try to wean yourself off slowly? Green tea has caffeine, but less of it. White tea has less than green tea. There is also a growing industry in alternative teas. Give some a go? And please let me know your new favourites!


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