Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition affecting the metabolism of blood sugar (glucose). It is caused by either tissue resistance to the available insulin or lower-than-normal insulin production (a hormone produced by the pancreas).
Consuming alcohol can affect diabetes in the following ways:
- Alcohol can compete with the liver’s ability to produce glucose when the blood sugar is low.
- Alcohol can cloud your judgment, preventing your realization of hypoglycemia symptoms.
- Alcohol can dangerously lower blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours in people on insulin or other antihyperglycemic medicines.
- Long-term alcohol consumption damages the liver and may limit the permissible medications you take for your diabetes.
12 best alcohol types for people with diabetes
- Coors Light: One of America’s favorite beer brands with a low-carb version suitable for people with diabetes.
- A serving of a 12-ounce (360-mL) bottle provides five grams of carbs.
- Miller Lite: An American-style light lager made with barley malt and corn syrup.
- A standard 12-ounce (360-mL) can contain 3.2 grams of carbohydrates.
- Bud Lite: Slightly sweet and a low-carb beer that provides fewer than five grams of carbs per 12-ounce (360-mL) serving.
- Busch: A good alternative for people with diabetes due to its low carb content.
- A 12-ounce (360-mL) serving of regular Busch contains just seven grams of carbs, whereas the same serving sizes of Busch Ice and Busch Light provide 4.2 and 3.2 grams, respectively.
- Amstel Light: A unique mixture of barley and hops that delivers a full never-diluted flavor.
- A 12-ounce bottle of Amstel Light has five grams of carbs.
- White wine: Has a carb content similar to red wine; a standard five-ounce (150-mL) serving of white wine provides 3.8 grams of carbs.
- Dry and brut varieties of Champagne are good choices; they are low in sugar and carb content.
- Red wine: Has high antioxidant content, which is linked with the most health benefits such as improving heart disease markers and reducing the risk of diabetes-related complications, such as diabetic retinopathy (damage to the blood vessels of the eyes), in people with diabetes and without diabetes.
- A standard five-ounce (150-mL) serving provides 3.8 grams of carbs.
Distilled spirits or hard liquors
- Gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey: A serving of 1.5 ounces (45 mL) contains zero carbs.
- Avoid these drinks on an empty stomach or mix them with sugary drinks to prevent blood sugar spikes and then dipping to dangerously low levels.
- Vodka soda: A combination of vodka and club soda with a carb count of 0 grams.
- Try to avoid flavored vodka, which may contain added syrups.
- Martini: Made by mixing gin or vodka with dry vermouth in a 2:1 ratio and then garnishing it with an olive or a twist of lemon peel.
- A four-ounce (120-mL) drink contains 0.2 grams of total carbs.
- Bloody Mary: Made by mixing vodka and tomato juice with different sauces and spices and serving it with a celery stick.
- It is often considered a “healthy” cocktail due to its tomato juice content, which provides seven grams of carbohydrates.
- Gimlet: A classic cocktail featuring gin, lime juice, and sugar.
- A serving of this simple refreshing drink contains one gram of carbs.
Is it safe to drink alcohol with diabetes?
Irrespective of whether you have diabetes, the rules are the same for everyone, that is, no more than one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
Drinking more than four drinks (for women) or five drinks (for men) within two hours is strongly discouraged for health and safety reasons irrespective of your diabetic status.
The American Diabetes Association and 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans urge moderate alcohol consumption (no more than one to two drinks per day) is perfectly safe for most people with diabetes.
One serving of alcohol looks like the following:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits (gin, rum, vodka, etc.)
What are the risks of drinking alcohol?
If you have diabetes, excessive alcohol consumption can cause other health risks, such as:
- High blood pressure
- Worsening of peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage)
- Insomnia or decreased quality of sleep
- Increased risk of certain types of cancer and heart disease
To stay safe, follow these practices when drinking:
- Eat beforehand to avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
- Do not drink on an empty stomach, especially if you take insulin or diabetes pills called sulfonylureas.
- Stay hydrated.
- Monitor blood sugar regularly before, during, and after drinking.
- Avoid drinking if your blood sugar is low.
- Always keep treatment for low blood sugar with you, particularly if at risk of hypoglycemia.
- Know your limit and stick to the rule of moderation.
Can People with Diabetes Drink Beer? American Diabetes Association: https://www.diabetesfoodhub.org/articles/can-people-with-diabetes-drink-beer.html
How Much Alcohol and What Type Is Best With Diabetes? Beyond Type 1: https://beyondtype1.org/how-much-alcohol-what-type/
Slideshow: Diabetes-Friendly Drinks and Cocktails. WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/ss/slideshow-diabetes-alcohol
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