Is Sugar Free Soda the Way to Go?

A Look at Diet Soda and Other Sugar-Free Beverage Options

fruit infused water
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You know that sugar-sweetened beverages aren't good for your health, especially when you have type 2 diabetes. But what about diet soda or other sugar-free beverages?

The Research on Sugar-Free Soda and Diabetes

Some research has suggested a link between daily diet soda consumption and type 2 diabetes. However, the jury's still out as to whether there are any cause and effect here or simply an association.

In a 2009 study, the authors proposed that it's the other behaviors that might go along with drinking diet soda (namely overeating other food), that is to blame for weight gain, insulin resistance, and diabetes. That same take-home message has been echoed by other research.

Sweeteners and diet soda* can have a place in a well-balanced diabetes diet in moderation. While water is still the preferred beverage of choice, an occasional diet soda likely will not impact your condition -- and it may help you fulfill a craving, helping you stay on your plan.

How Much Fluid Do you Need to Drink Each Day?

Typically, 64 to 80 ounces of fluid (8 to 10 cups) a day is the right amount for most people, including type 2 diabetics. This number is based on average maintenance fluid needs. It includes fluid that is found in food (like fresh fruit), but since that is hard to calculate, only cups of liquid are generally counted.

You should ask your doctor if this is the right amount of fluid for you as many factors can affect fluid needs - including caffeine intake, weight, and kidney function. Additionally, when it is very hot or you are exercising, you may need more fluid. If you find yourself so thirsty that you are regularly drinking more water than recommended, or you feel that your thirst is unquenchable, you should discuss that symptom with your doctor.

Alternatives to Sugar-Free Soda

Again, the best beverage to reach for when you have type 2 diabetes is probably plain water. But if you find it hard to drink 8 cups of plain water a day, here are some sugar-free, diabetic-friendly water tweaks and alternatives that will help you reach your goal:

  • Flavor fresh water by adding 1 or 2 slices of fresh fruit, such as lemon, lime, orange, or other seasonal fruit. You get the essence of the flavor without added calories or carbs.
  • Use a sugar-free flavor packet in your water. These packets are widely available; look for a variety of options in the grocery store aisle near other powdered drink mixes. Add to twice the recommended amount of water for more of a flavored water than a sweetened beverage taste.
  • Make homemade iced tea by steeping fruit-flavored green tea bags in hot water, and then chilling. When you use a fruit-flavored tea bag to make your iced tea, you might even find it doesn't need additional sweetness. Not to mention, you'll reap additional health benefits of green tea.
  • Serve flavored sparkling waters in wine glasses with dinner.

Diet sodas and other sugar-free beverages give you additional meal planning options. They are free foods that can add variety to your diet without spiking your blood sugar. Use them when you need help reaching your daily fluid goals, or as a treat when your sweet tooth is calling out to you. They won't cause a spike in blood sugar, and are a good, every-now-and-then alternative to reach for when water just won't cut it.

More Diabetes Dietitian Advice

*The artificial sweeteners used in U.S. production of diet soda and other sugar-free beverages have been approved by the FDA. They have not been found to cause health issues, and can provide flexibility for diabetic meal planning.

Sources:

Nettleton, JA, et al. "Diet Soda Intake and Risk of Incident Metabolic Syndrome and Type 2 Diabetes in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis."Diabetes Care. 2009; 32(4): 688.

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