Diabetes is often called “the silent disease” because it sneaks up on you. High blood sugar, a precursor to prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, has no outward symptoms. It does not hurt.
“That’s what’s so scary about high blood sugar; you don’t feel any different until you reach the point where you need medication,” says Molly Wagman, RDN, diabetes care and education specialist and head of clinical operations for 9am. health. .
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 96 million American adults have prediabetes and 80 percent of them are unaware they have it. That’s why screening is so important, and the American Diabetes Association lowered the recommended screening age by 10 years in 2022 to include all adults 35 years of age and older.
If you’re in that age group, take one of these tests: A1C, fasting blood glucose, or oral glucose tolerance. Knowing that you have high blood sugar is important because of what type 2 diabetes can do to your whole body, namely damage your blood vessels, kidneys, eyes, and heart.
If you need to check your blood glucose levels, you can always speak to a doctor. But if you’re looking for a less invasive clue to see if you might be on your way to a diabetes diagnosis, look into your daily alcohol consumption habits.
Your favorite drinks can wreak havoc on your blood sugar level just as easily as you have a habit of eating carbohydrate- and sugar-rich sweets, baked goods, white bread, rice, and other processed grain products. Wagman warns that sugary drinks are even more insidious than food because the liquid flows so easily.
“In just a few sips, you can consume the carbohydrate and sugar equivalent of an entire meal,” he says.
Knowing how certain alcohol drinking habits (such as those listed below) can raise your blood sugar to unhealthy levels and cause problems over time can help you replace those bad habits with healthier ones.
You know: sodas and other sugary drinks are bad news for your blood sugar level. A study of over 300,000 people in the diary Diabetes care found that people who drank one to two servings of sugary drinks a day had a 26% higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those who drank less than once a month. While soda and sweet tea are obviously loaded with sugar, you may not realize how much added sugars go into commercial drinks.
“Read the nutrition facts label for carbohydrates and added sugar grams,” says Kimberly Pierpont, RD at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Anything that contains carbohydrates can raise blood sugar.”
Also check the ingredient list for these other sugar names: brown sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, honey, syrup, brown sugar, agave nectar, glucose, maltose, molasses, raw sugar.
“Pairing sugary drinks with a meal containing protein and healthy fats can reduce your blood sugar spike,” says Pierpont.
Coffee itself is not the problem; black coffee is rich in healthy polyphenols. Altering coffee with sweet creams, however, turns your cup of coffee into the equivalent of a can of soda.
“Adding high-calorie, high-fat sweeteners or creams increases the likelihood of your regular coffee drink causing weight gain,” says Trista Best, RD at Balance One Supplements. “One of the worst drinking habits for those who want to control their blood sugar is the consumption of specialty coffees that are high in sugar and fat.”
Taking black coffee is the healthiest form, and it doesn’t take long to develop a preference for coffee that’s not burdened with sugar and cream.
Some of these labels include “All Natural Energy Drink”, “100% Real Juice” and “Made with Organic Fruit”. But those “health masks,” as Wagman calls them, won’t fool your body.
“Energy drinks, sports drinks, and herbal tea drinks are almost always made with a lot of added sugars to make them sweet,” says Wagman.
Even 100% pure orange juice will likely raise your blood sugar.
“Just four ounces – three sips for me – is the equivalent of the fructose in a medium orange,” he says. “Eat orange instead and get all the nutrients and fiber.”
The News Flash: Adding ice to coffee or drinking iced drinks makes no difference to your blood sugar. If the drink contains sugar, ice will not make it healthier. But for some reason some people think sweet, cold coffee, or slush on a hot day is A-OK even if they’re worried about high blood sugar.
“A typical 20-ounce slush drink contains about 83 grams of sugar,” says Steve Theunissen, RDN, certified personal trainer and writer for SmartFitnessResults. “You’ll be hard pressed to find a commercial slush with less sugar, but you can make a healthier version of it at home with fruit. The recipes are just a quick search on the Internet.”
Theunissen also recommends avoiding cold coffees and sports drinks, which usually contain 74 and 34 grams of sugar per 20 ounces, respectively.
“Smoothies can be a sneaky drink that can affect blood sugar,” warns Katie Tomaschko, RDN with Sporting Smiles. “Although considered ‘healthy’, smoothies can be loaded with sugar from sweeteners in plant milk, such as added sugar, agave or honey.”
Also keep in mind that cow’s milk contains a natural sugar called lactose, which contributes to the total amount of sugar you are consuming.
“Although most smoothies contain fruit or vegetables (with the pulp included) that contain fiber, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes, it’s important to be careful with these drinks if you’re dealing with diabetes or prediabetes.” , says Tomaschko.
Even though a shot of whiskey or other hard alcohol does not contain sugar, many of the mixers that go into cocktails contain sugar. Wine has sugar and carbohydrates, beer contains carbohydrates. So, drinking regularly “can lead to increased blood sugar levels and the possibility of weight gain,” says David Brendan, RDN, a certified personal trainer with Start Rowing.
“Alcohol alters how the liver generates glucose, which can cause a sudden drop in blood sugar called hypoglycemia,” says Brendan. “Insulin users should be aware of the effects of alcohol consumption on their blood glucose levels.”
Wagman points to another fact of adult beverage consumption that can affect blood sugar levels: the food you eat during and after drinking.
“Alcohol reduces inhibitions, so after you’ve had a few drinks you’re more likely to choose large portions of carbohydrate-rich foods or even order more drinks,” he says.
Now that you’re on your way to breaking eating habits that can lead to diabetes, take a look at these eating habits to avoid if you have high blood sugar.