When it comes to the right drinks for diabetics, a lot of questions arise, one of which is, “Can a person with diabetes drink wine? The simple answer is yes; they can, provided their blood sugar is well-controlled and they have no comorbidity that makes drinking unsafe. It also depends on the type of wine in question. Hence, you need to understand how different wine types can affect your condition before taking a sip.
Understanding Wine and Diabetes
Your liver normally releases glucose to maintain your blood sugar levels. But when you drink alcohol, the liver focuses on breaking down the alcohol instead of releasing glucose. This can lead to a quick drop in blood sugar, raising the risk of low blood sugar, especially if you're on insulin or certain diabetes medications. Drinking without eating food increases this risk significantly.
NOTE: Alcohol, including red wine, can lower blood sugar for up to 24 hours. Hence, it's recommended to check blood sugar levels before, during, and up to 24 hours after drinking. Most crucially, avoid overconsumption and avoid alcoholic drinks on an empty stomach, as this could cause a dangerously rapid drop in sugar levels.
Wine Varieties Recommended for Diabetics
Both red and white wine can be good options for diabetics who want to savor the feel-good vibe of alcoholic drinks, although moderation is always a watchword.
Dry red wine, when taken moderately, can benefit people with diabetes because of its high antioxidant content. It can improve heart disease markers and reduce the risk of diabetes-related complications.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the driest red wines on the market. Its dryness comes from the fermentation process in which the yeast consumes all the sugar, making it a healthier option for diabetics.
Red wine like Cabernet Sauvignon can increase insulin sensitivity and help the body regulate glucose levels. Hence, you can drink this moderately, and rest assured you'll be fine.
The resveratrol in Pinot Noir makes it highly recommended for diabetics. But apart from helping with diabetes, resveratrol can prevent many other conditions like heart problems, cancer, liver diseases, obesity, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. It does this by acting as an antioxidant, reducing inflammation, regulating glucose and lipids, and protecting the heart and brain. So, a little sip of this wine will cause more good than harm.
People with diabetes can enjoy Syrah wine with dinner and expect no adverse effects. Like Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah wines are typically dry, with less than 3 g/L of residual sugar.
They are rich in antioxidants that can reduce the risk of bad cholesterol and heart disease. Besides these health benefits, their bold flavors and full-bodied nature make them palatable, with varying tastes, depending on the climate or soil where they are grown.
Dry white wines like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc can also be great options for people with diabetes, provided they are consumed in moderation.
Wine made from the chardonnay grape is typically white, dry, mildly sweet, and, most importantly, healthy for diabetics when consumed responsibly. The rich taste comes from the residual sugar, with a glass containing about 1.4 grams. Its flavors range from apple and lemon to papaya and pineapple, with some notes of vanilla and caramel when aged in an oak barrel.
Sauvignon has grown in popularity not just among people with diabetes but the general population. Its trademark acidity, with crisp, grassy, and tropical tastes, sets it apart. It boasts the least sugar among dry white wines, with approximately 3.75g of sugar per bottle and 0.75g of sugar per glass. So you should be able to enjoy a glass without any concern.
Characteristics of Diabetic-Friendly Wines
Diabetics can drink alcohol, including white and red wine, provided they do it moderately under the right conditions. But some wine varieties are healthier than others, and here are some tips to identify them:
Lower Sugar Content
Diabetic-friendly wines typically have low sugar content and lower glycemic index. Hence, they won't spike your blood sugar. Dry wines like Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Champagne are good low-sugar wines.
Moderate Alcohol Content
Wines with moderate alcohol levels are generally safer for people managing diabetes. Higher alcohol content can lead to fluctuations in blood sugar to dangerously low levels.
High Antioxidant Content
A wine rich in antioxidants like resveratrol will contribute to the overall well-being of people with diabetes, particularly by protecting the body against oxidative stress and inflammation. Studies have also shown that resveratrol can improve insulin sensitivity among diabetics. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Syrah are typically high in antioxidants.
What Wines Should Diabetics Avoid
People with diabetes should avoid sugary wines - whether residual or added. Any wine with high sugar content is definitely not an option for a diabetic patient.
"All it takes is very small amounts of alcohol to really throw off your blood sugar in a big way, especially if that alcohol is a sugary wine, cocktail, beer, or margarita," says Dr. Eric Berg DC.
To be safer, choose wines with transparent labeling that clearly indicates their sugar and carbohydrate content. This will help you manage your consumption better.
Safety Precautions and Considerations
Alcohol consumption is often not advised by medical professionals, not because a glass of dry wine can cause much damage but because it can be addictive, and addiction can easily lead to overconsumption, which can be risky for both diabetic and non-diabetic people.
Your doctor may also caution you against using alcoholic wines because they may interact with certain diabetes medications that substitute for or stimulate the body’s own insulin production (e.g., insulin or sulfonylureas). This can lead to severe hypoglycemia.
Another reason your doctor may not want you to drink alcoholic wine as a diabetic is if you have another serious health challenge (comorbidity) that makes alcohol intake unadvisable. Even moderate alcohol consumption may interfere with the activities of medications for treating diabetes-related comorbidities like high blood pressure.
We always recommend talking to your doctor before taking alcohol. They are better positioned to consider all these risks and help you take the necessary safety measures.
Tips to Drink Wine Safely as a Diabetic
- Only take the recommended quantity of alcohol, typically 5 ounces of wine or 1 ½ ounces of liquor, or as advised by your doctor. Remember: Moderation is crucial to avoid fluctuations in blood sugar levels.
- Be sure to buy from a reliable seller.
- Read the labeling and choose wines with lower sugar content. Examples are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and certain types of Champagne. Avoid sweet or dessert wines, which can cause spikes in blood glucose levels.
- Check your blood sugar levels before, during, and after drinking wine to understand its impact on your body.
- Never drink alcohol on an empty stomach, as this can severely impact your sugar levels.
Drinking dry wine is safe and can benefit diabetics once it is moderated. The main danger that alcohol poses for people with diabetes is its interaction with certain medications they either take to treat their condition or manage the existing comorbidity. However, you have little to worry about wine consumption by practicing moderation, choosing low-sugar options, eating a balanced diet, monitoring blood sugar levels, and being mindful of drug interactions.