If you have diabetes or are trying to control your blood glucose levels, knowing the glycemic index of the beverages you drink may help.
High glycemic index drinks can cause high blood glucose spikes and cause an imbalance in your insulin values. On the contrary, low GI drinks will create a smooth response, and the body has no problem processing them.
This article details the glycemic index values of the most popular alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
What is the glycemic index?
When we eat carbohydrates (sugars and starches), our body converts sugars and starches to glucose, which then enters the bloodstream and causes our blood sugar levels to rise.
Different types of carbohydrate foods affect blood sugar levels differently. This is due to the quality of carbohydrates and the presence of other substances that compose them, such as fats, proteins, and fiber.
The glycemic index (GI) of a food is a numerical rating on a scale of 0 to 100 of how food will raise blood sugar after eating it.
The glycemic index compares the increase in blood sugar to a reference food, glucose. A high glycemic index value can be considered between 70 and 100; medium, between 50 and 70; and under, less than 50.
Glycemic index of beverages
As a general rule, drinks high in sugar or other carbohydrates have a high glycemic index. This is because sugars dissolved in water are easy and quick to absorb.
On the other hand, coffee, tea, and plant milk are low in carbohydrates, so their glycemic index is usually low. Drinks that have fiber to accompany them, such as natural juices, can lower the GI value.
Here is a detailed list of the glycemic index of the drinks.
- Isotonic drink (Gatorade, Powerade) – 78 units
Gatorade or Powerade are isotonic drinks based on electrolytes and carbohydrates. In general, this type of soft drink is used for long runs, cycling, and other prolonged sports activities in which the athlete loses minerals through sweat.
It would not drastically affect your glucose levels since it will be used up with exercise. However, taking Gatorade in front of the television may have more benefits than contraindications. Its glycemic index is high.
Read more: Gatorade – Benefits and Contraindications
- Industrial fruit juices – 70 units
In most cases, fruit juices are high in added sugar, which adds sweetness and increases the glycemic index of these drinks to high values. The average value is about 70 units.
Read more: Glycemic index of cereals
- Soft drinks with sugar – 65 units
A can of regular cola (or other sugary carbonated drink) contains up to 35 grams of carbohydrates, equal to seven tablespoons of sugar. In addition, a high glycemic index can also come from the fact that other white sugar substitutes such as glucose-fructose syrup are used.
- Chocolate milk – 60 units
The key ingredient in milk chocolate drinks is not just cocoa but sugar. That is why children love the taste of these drinks. Its glycemic index is relatively high; when buying, it is recommended to select the options with reduced sugar content.
- Natural juices – 50 units
A glass of natural orange juice does not have the same glycemic index as an industrial one. This is because it has a small amount of fiber that lowers the glycemic index of the drink and does not contain added sugar.
Read more: Do fruits have sugar and are they fattening?
- Milk – 30 – 35 units
Although milk can be considered a low glycemic index drink, Recent studies have shown that lactose can interact with some amino acids and lead to a higher insulin release in the blood. Therefore, although its GI has a low value, it is not recommended to combine dairy products with products rich in protein.
Read more: Insulin index of foods – What is it?
- Vegetable milk – 10 – 60 units
Plant-based beverages made from oats, rice, coconut, almonds, or soy have variable glycemic index values. Some contain more carbohydrates or added sugar than others. If you are looking for a drink with a low glycemic index, it is best to check that sugar does not appear first in its list of ingredients.
Read more: How to make oat milk at home?
- Tomato juice – 15 units
Because tomato is a low carbohydrate fruit and high in plant fiber, tomato juice has a low glycemic index value. This is about 15 units. To ensure that it is not higher, you should check that it does not have added sugar in its composition.
- Tea and coffee – 0 – 10 units
The glycemic index of tea or coffee is directly related to the amount of sugar added to the drink. For example, black and green teas or unsweetened herbal teas do not affect blood glucose levels and have a zero glycemic index.
Adding sugar, honey, or even milk to the drink increases its glycemic index. A teaspoon of sugar per glass gives 30 to 40 units. In addition, some types of coffee contain added sugar in their preparation.
Glycemic index of alcoholic beverages
To determine the glycemic index, use a serving containing 25 (or 50) grams of carbohydrates. Therefore, the glycemic index of sugary drinks can be easily determined.
But when it comes to alcoholic beverages, this is not so easy. For example, to reach this value with wine, you should drink more than 1 liter. Therefore some values cannot be determined.
In most cases, alcoholic beverages contain minimal carbohydrates, except port wine and sweet liqueurs.
All spirits, including vodka, whiskey, brandy, tequila, and gin, have a glycemic index of 0.
In the case of sweet wine with a high carbohydrate content (including cava), the GI is about 10-15 units.
Glycemic index of beer
As for beer, traditionally, its glycemic index was equal to zero³. A can contains about 10 grams of carbohydrates (compared to 30-40 in soft drinks), and for a GI test, you need to drink about a liter of beer, which is quite a lot.
However, today tests have been done, and the glycemic index of beer has been set at 63 units. (3)
This value may vary depending on how it has been prepared. In general, the red and handmade ones can have higher values.
Alcohol and diabetes?
Although high glycemic index diets have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, drinking alcohol up to 24g per day may be associated with a lower risk of diabetes. (2)
This contradiction could be explained because when beer or other alcoholic beverages are consumed with or before a carbohydrate meal, the beer tends to reduce the blood glucose peak after the meal.
The biological mechanism behind this is likely to be the ability of alcohol to inhibit glucose production in the liver and thus counteract the blood glucose response.
This results in more stable blood glucose levels after meal/meals and consequently could reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The glycemic index of beverages depends directly on the carbohydrate content: sugary soft drinks and industrial juices have the highest GI values.
In the case of coffee and unsweetened or natural drinks, their value is medium or low.
Regarding alcoholic beverages, vodka and other distilled alcohols do not contain carbohydrates, and their GI value is 0. Wine and sparkling drinks have a 10-15, and beer reaches values of approximately 60 units.
Avoid sugary foods like candy, soda, and other sweetened beverages to control your blood glucose levels. If I eat them, do so in small amounts and with a meal.