First the good news
The good news is that you can enjoy alcoholic drinks if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In fact, there are some health benefits to enjoying a regular glass of alcohol eg red wine. It can help to improve your cholesterol and decrease your risk of heart disease. Some alcoholic drinks are better than others however; in this article we are going to explore what is the best alcohol for diabetics.
In answer to a few questions straight off the bat. Does alcohol affect diabetes? The answer is an unequivocal yes. Diabetics should watch their alcohol intake very carefully as it can have dramatic ramifications on your blood sugar levels. Another less relevant question I get asked is: can alcohol cause diabetes? The answer is that it definitely can. This article is not directed at alcoholics. If you are an alcoholic or are a diabetic alcoholic I recommend that you seek medical advice immediately.
Most people assume that having a few alcoholic drinks would raise your blood sugar levels. This is true, however contrary to popular belief, after an initial spike, alcohol ultimately lowers your blood sugar levels, especially if taken in conjunction with insulin or other type 2 diabetes medication. The potential for late onset hypoglycaemia in diabetics who take insulin is high. Note well: hypos can happen a number of hours after consuming alcohol. Therefore, regular blood sugar checks are important, including overnight if necessary.
A few notes of caution before we get into the best alcohol for diabetics.
- If you are out enjoying a few drinks socially, tell your friends you are diabetic
- If need be wear some medical ID such as a bracelet
- Test your sugar regularly if you are inexperienced with alcohol and diabetes. For convenience carry an Accu Chek Nano.
- Make sure you have some food in your stomach before you start drinking. Food helps process the alcohol in your system.
- Stay away from high sugar/ high carb drinks such as Coca-Cola , Red Bull and fruit juices.
- Hypoglycemia when you are drunk can be hard to detect as some of the symptoms are the same eg disorientation, dizziness, sleepiness etc.
- You can exchange calories from alcohol for those you would otherwise get from a serving of fat. But don’t substitute alcohol for a meal.
So what is the best alcohol for diabetics?
I am a beer drinker and I have done plenty of research here. Full strength beer has about 15 grams of carbs vs light beer with about 4 grams. The best option I find is lite beer or low carb beer. I love a beer called Pure Blonde and one called Hahn Super Dry. Bud or Millers Lite is also a good option and I find managing my blood sugar levels a lot easier with these beers. They are very low on carbs meaning I don’t have to panic by watching my blood sugar all the time. Should I drink any other brand of full strength beer, I need to monitor my blood glucose levels closely, double so with craft beers. Remember that after an initial spike, your blood sugar levels will ultimately be lower.
Red or white wines have about 5 grams of carbs although I do find my sugar levels need to be watched closely especially with a particularly fruity wine. Dry wines are a good option because they have less alcohol and therefore fewer calories. I find wine a little bit harder to read in terms of my blood sugar levels but again in the long term my blood sugar levels will be lower by drinking wine. Again always make sure you are not drinking on an empty stomach.
Spirits are very potent but generally ok for blood sugar levels. Don’t fall into the trap of mixing them with soft drinks or fruit juice though as this will put your blood sugar levels through the roof. Mixing spirits with things like full strength Coke, Red Bull or fruit juices is not ideal. Premixed spirits are shocking too. Diet coke, soda water are the best mixers to use.
Cocktails are in the same boat. Watch them very closely. Daiquiris and margaritas etc while fun to drink contain a huge amount of sugars in them. Expect a big spike in your blood glucose levels so manage them well.
I love a drink but I am always careful to monitor my blood sugar levels. I carry an Accu Chek Nano in my pocket along with a few strips and a lancer and test myself when I go to the bathroom. Just remember the golden rules when going for a few drinks and you should not have any problems. Have fun out there. Let me know if you enjoy a drink as well and how you manage your diabetes.