Updated 19th March 2024

Which drinks can help you manage your blood sugar?

Share this article

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Print this page
  • Email this page

When you’re looking to manage your blood sugar levels, what you drink is as important as what you eat. But no single drink can lower your levels. 

There’s a big range in blood sugar responses to different drinks. Some drinks have a quick impact, while others have a slower, more moderate effect.

For example, a regular soda has high amounts of sugar. In some people, it can lead to rapid blood sugar peaks. If you’re in this group, the peaks might be followed by dips in blood sugar.

Milk, by contrast, leads to slower, steadier increases in blood sugar. And some other drinks, like water, don’t affect your blood sugar at all.

Managing your blood sugar is important, whether or not you have diabetes. 

ZOE’s own research shows that for some people, large dips in blood sugar are linked with feeling hungry after eating and consuming more later in the day. 

And if your blood sugar levels are high for an extended period, it can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.

Below, we look at four drinks that could help you manage your blood sugar.

Join the community

Be the first to know about ZOE’s breakthrough research, content from the world’s leading scientists, and more.

1. Water

Water keeps you hydrated without contributing any energy in the form of sugar.

Because water doesn’t contain any sugar, it won’t increase the amount of sugar in your blood. It’s a great replacement for sugary drinks.

Some people find sparkling water more appealing than still water.

And if you’re looking for added flavor (but little sugar) try adding cucumber and mint to your water. Some other options are ginger and lemon or watermelon and basil.

Drinking enough water is particularly important if you have prediabetes or diabetes, as dehydration may lead to more sugar in your blood.

2. Green tea

Green tea already boasts plenty of health benefits. And recent research suggests that it may have favorable effects on your blood sugar, too. 

For instance, a 2019 meta-analysis of 27 studies found that short- and long-term green tea consumption lowered fasting blood sugar levels. However, there wasn’t any effect on levels after a meal. Caffeinated and decaf black tea, meanwhile, had no effect. 

A 2020 meta-analysis reported similar results. 

The duration of green tea consumption in the studies ranged from 3–72 weeks, suggesting that to get the blood sugar benefits, you need to be drinking this tea regularly.

Research suggests that green tea might lower your fasting blood sugar levels because it contains a polyphenol called epigallocatechin gallate. 

3. Cow’s milk 

There’s now good evidence that the proteins in cow’s milk could play a key role in lowering blood sugar after eating for people with and without diabetes. 

Plus, the fat and protein in cow’s milk leads your stomach to empty more slowly. The result: a slower rise in blood sugar after your meal.

Setting blood sugar aside for the moment, cow’s milk also contains an essential mix of nutrients, including protein, calcium, and potassium, making it a great option when you’re thirsty.

Kefir is fermented milk, and it may also help manage your blood sugar. A 2021 analysis of six studies showed that drinking kefir could reduce fasting blood sugar levels.

What about plant milks?

Research shows that blood sugar responses to different plant milks can vary a lot. This is because different plant milks have different ingredients, and thus, different nutritional profiles.

Unsweetened versions are generally better at helping you manage your blood sugar levels.

We’ve compared the nutritional profiles of nine milks, including cow’s milk. Learn more about the healthiest milks here. 

4. Coffee

There’s mixed evidence of coffee’s effects on blood sugar.

A 2019 meta-analysis of six studies found that taking coffee extract as a supplement was linked to lower fasting blood sugar levels. A 2020 meta-analysis of 10 studies found similar results.

Different compounds in coffee, such as polyphenols, caffeine, and magnesium, could explain this effect.

However, one 2020 study found that drinking caffeinated coffee first thing after a night of disrupted sleep led to decreased blood sugar control, compared with sleep disruption alone. 

Overall, confirming how coffee affects your blood sugar will require more research.

If you’re a coffee fan or coffee curious, we’ve looked at other possible health benefits of coffee.

Editor's summary

Drinking water is an excellent way to stay hydrated without consuming sugar. Green tea, cow's milk, and fermented milk (kefir) could also help you manage your blood sugar responses.

Coffee also contains compounds that may help regulate blood sugar, but confirming this requires more research.

What to limit

Some drinks are surprisingly high in sugar, including added sugar. If you’re aiming to improve your blood sugar management, try to limit how often you drink:

  • sugary sodas

  • fruit juices

  • energy drinks

  • sports drinks

  • flavored milks

  • flavored coffees

  • hot chocolate

  • iced tea 

Every day, many of us are consuming too much sugar. This can increase the risk of health issues, including weight gain, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.

Manufacturers often use artificial sweeteners to replace the sugar in drinks. But these sweeteners are highly controversial in the world of nutrition. 

While some people believe that artificial sweeteners are a healthier alternative, there’s been very little research into their long-term effects

If you’re looking for less added sugar, here’s our article with tips for cutting back on sugar.

Why is blood sugar control important?

It’s normal for your blood sugar levels to rise and fall. But trying to keep your levels relatively steady is important, whether or not you have diabetes.

Choosing drinks that result in a slow, steady rise and fall is better for your cardiometabolic health.

And as we mentioned above, ZOE’s own research shows that people with large post-meal dips in blood sugar are more likely to feel hungry soon after eating and consume more later in the day.

Studies have shown that blood sugar responses can vary a lot between people. At ZOE, we run the world’s largest nutrition science study. Our research shows that everyone’s response to foods and drinks is unique.

You can learn how your blood sugar levels respond to different foods with our at-home test. This also gives you a picture of your blood fat responses and gut health.

With this information, our personalized nutrition program can give you advice about the best foods and drinks for you.

Find out how it works by taking our free quiz

Other blood sugar control tips

There are other ways to help manage your blood sugar levels.

Food pairings and swaps

Some foods are more likely to cause pronounced blood sugar responses. These foods rank high on the glycemic index (GI).

You can swap high-GI foods for low-GI alternatives. For example, brown rice produces a more moderate blood sugar response than white rice.

Another way to manage your blood sugar levels is to pair high-GI foods with low ones.

Here are some examples you can try:

  • overnight oats with yogurt

  • sweet potato with mixed beans

  • crackers with cream cheese 


Exercise has a powerful effect on your blood sugar levels. Alongside choosing the right foods, staying active can help keep your blood sugar stable.

For instance, one review of research found that people with and without diabetes who did varying amounts of vigorous exercise had improved blood sugar control for up to 3 days afterward.

Timing of eating 

Your body clock plays an important role in regulating your blood sugar levels. 

It’s well-established that people have better blood sugar control in the morning than the evening, though this effect is less pronounced as we age.

Studies have shown better blood sugar responses in healthy people after breakfast, compared with dinner. 

So, having a high-carb meal earlier in the day, as opposed to later in the evening, may help you maintain moderate blood sugar levels

Slowing down when you eat

There’s evidence that people who eat quickly have higher blood sugar than slower eaters.

You can find out more from our ZOE Science & Nutrition podcast on the topic.

What can personalized nutrition offer?

As a member of ZOE’s personalized nutrition program, you’ll learn a lot about your blood sugar responses.

During the testing period, most members wear a continuous glucose monitor for 2 weeks to see how their blood sugar levels respond to foods and drinks in real time.

After the testing phase, you’ll receive feedback on your meals in our app and learn strategies to help manage your blood sugar.

You can learn more about the program by taking our free quiz

Join our mailing list

Sign up for fresh insights into our scientific discoveries and the latest nutrition updates. No spam, just science.


No single drink can lower your blood sugar. But drinks with little or no sugar are good replacements for sugary drinks like sodas, energy drinks, and flavored coffees.

Also, research suggests that green tea, milk, and kefir may help you control your blood sugar in the longer term.

If you have diabetes, it’s important to stay hydrated. This can help you manage your blood sugar levels. 

Other strategies include opting for low-GI foods and being physically active.


10 surprising things that can spike your blood sugar. (2022). https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/spotlights/blood-sugar.html 

A comprehensive overview on the effects of green tea on anthropometric measures, blood pressure, glycemic and lipidemic status: An umbrella review and meta meta-analysis study. Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases. (2022). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0939475322002472

Circadian system and glucose metabolism: Implications for physiology and disease. Trends in Endocrinology and Metabolism. (2016) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4842150/

Cow’s milk consumption and health: A health professional’s guide. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. (2018). https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/07315724.2018.1491016

Dietary sugar consumption and health: Umbrella review. BMJ. (2023). https://www.bmj.com/content/381/bmj-2022-071609

Effect of magnesium supplementation on insulin resistance in humans: A systematic review. Nutrition. (2017). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0899900717300229

Effects of coffee and tea consumption on glucose metabolism: A systematic review and network meta-analysis. Nutrients. (2019). https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/11/1/48

Effects of green coffee extract on fasting blood glucose, insulin concentration and homeostatic model assessment of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR): A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studies. Diabetology & Metabolic Syndrome. (2019). https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s13098-019-0489-8

Effects of green tea consumption on glycemic control: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Nutrition and Metabolism. (2020). https://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12986-020-00469-5

Effect of kefir beverage consumption on glycemic control: A systematic review and meta‐analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice. (2021). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1744388121001420

Effects of potassium supplements on glucose metabolism in African Americans with prediabetes: A pilot trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5698842/

Endogenous circadian system and circadian misalignment impact glucose tolerance via separate mechanisms in humans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. (2015). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4418873/ 

Glucose control upon waking is unaffected by hourly sleep fragmentation during the night, but is impaired by morning caffeinated coffee. British Journal of Nutrition. (2020). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32475359/

Glucotypes reveal new patterns of glucose dysregulation. PLOS Biology. (2018). https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.2005143

Glycemic responses of milk and plant-based drinks: Food matrix effects. Foods. (2023). https://www.mdpi.com/2304-8158/12/3/453

Importance of postprandial glucose in relation to A1C and cardiovascular disease. Clinical Diabetes. (2019). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6640888/ 

Milk in the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes: The potential role of milk proteins. Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews. (2019). https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31111646/

Molecular understanding of Epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) in cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. (2018). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874117309893 

Postprandial glycaemic dips predict appetite and energy intake in healthy individuals. Nature Metabolism. (2021). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7610681/ 

Prevention and therapy of type 2 diabetes — what is the potential of daily water intake and its mineral nutrients? Nutrients. (2017). https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/9/8/914

The effect of diurnal distribution of carbohydrates and fat on glycaemic control in humans: A randomized controlled trial. Scientific Reports. (2017). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5341154/ 

The impact of brief high-intensity exercise on blood glucose levels. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. (2013). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3587394/

The influence of green coffee bean extract supplementation on blood glucose levels: A systematic review and dose–response meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Phytotherapy Research. (2020). https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/ptr.6667

Share this article

  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Print this page
  • Email this page