It’s completely normal for your blood sugar to rise after eating or drinking and then fall again in the following hours.
But health experts warn that frequent spikes in blood sugar can increase the risk of heart disease.
Many of you have probably heard blood sugar mentioned in connection with conditions such as diabetes.
So if you don’t suffer from it, you might think that you don’t mind keeping your blood sugar under control.
But according to gastroenterology nutritionist Sammie Gill, “It’s important to control blood sugar levels whether you have diabetes or not.”
Not only can major spikes and troughs lead to hunger and overeating, but persistently high blood sugar levels have also been linked to the development of certain health conditions.
The editor of personalized nutrition platform ZOE, Tim Newman, explained that while all our cells need sugar molecules (glucose) to function, high levels of them in the blood can damage heart health over time.
He wrote: “Exaggerated blood sugar responses over the years can increase the risk of plaque formation.” [in blood vessels] and therefore the risk of heart disease.”
Plaque buildup in the walls of your blood vessels is bad news.
It prevents blood from flowing freely throughout the body, which can eventually lead to serious health problems such as heart disease and stroke.
Tim added that persistently high blood pressure can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Writing for ZOE, Sammie said there is no single healing drink that can lower blood sugar levels.
But there are some that cause blood sugar to rise and fall more slowly and smoothly, and others that don’t affect it at all.
Here are the four drinks Sammie discussed:
This may seem pretty obvious, but since water doesn’t contain sugar, you won’t experience severe blood sugar spikes.
If you’re thirsty and need energy, Sammie recommends grabbing a glass of water before indulging in the soda.
Plain old water might seem a little boring—so the nutritionist suggested flavoring it with ingredients like mint, cucumber, ginger, lemon basil, or even watermelon.
And if you have diabetes or prediabetes, it’s especially important to stay hydrated, as dehydration can lead to more sugar in the blood, Sammie said.
2. Green tea
Research suggests that green tea can positively impact blood sugar levels, Sammie continued.
A 2019 review of 27 studies found that consuming green tea for several weeks — between three and 72 — lowered blood sugar levels in people who hadn’t eaten.
But it couldn’t bring her down after a meal.
In contrast, regular and decaffeinated black tea had no effect on blood sugar levels.
3. Cow’s milk
Many of us these days drink dairy-free options like oat or soy milk.
But Sammie said: “There is now good evidence that the proteins in cow’s milk could play a key role in lowering post-meal blood sugar in people with and without diabetes.”
She added that it can also cause blood sugar to rise more slowly after a meal, as milk can cause the stomach to empty more slowly.
Other research suggests that kefir may have a similar effect.
And Sammie said unsweetened plant milk is generally better for controlling blood sugar levels.
Sammie said there is mixed evidence on whether coffee is good for blood sugar levels.
She pointed to a 2019 meta-analysis of six studies that found taking coffee extract as a dietary supplement was associated with lower fasting blood sugar levels.
However, a 2020 study found that having a cup of joe first thing after a night of poor sleep leads to poorer blood sugar control.
Which drinks should I avoid?
There are some drinks you should avoid or limit when trying to keep your blood sugar under control because they contain added sugar.
According to Sammie, these include:
- Sugary sodas
- fruit juices
- Energy drinks
- Sports drinks
- Flavored milk
- Flavored coffees
- Hot chocolate