Is Coffee Good for People with Diabetes?

Updated: Jan. 06, 2023

Is coffee good for people with diabetes? A health expert says the bottom line from science is to enjoy your morning cup of coffee.

If you’re one of the 74% of people who enjoy java on the regular, there’s no reason to feel guilty about it. Coffee isn’t just OK for people with diabetes—it actually even has some benefits to enjoying it. Read on to learn about the benefits and how best to enjoy this invigorating brew without impacting your blood sugar.

Is Coffee Good for People with Diabetes?

When clients tell me they’re trying to cut back on coffee, I often tell them that there’s no need to. Despite what many people think, coffee isn’t harmful to our health, nor is it something that people with diabetes need to avoid. In fact, at least one study found that people who regularly drink two cups of caffeinated coffee a day are at a 12% lower risk of ever developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.

If you’re having trouble thinking of coffee as a health elixir, remember that the primary ingredient is water brewed from the seeds of a fruit. That means that coffee is a plant-based food and with that comes many of the same benefits of other plant foods such as whole grains and vegetables.

One unique aspect of coffee is caffeine, which is a stimulant that has both positive and negative effects. Caffeine can impact us mildly by making us more alert and focused. However, for those that are particularly sensitive or who have too much per day, caffeine can also make us feel anxious and jittery, as well as leave us unable to fall or stay asleep throughout the night.

For those with diabetes who are enjoying coffee without any uncomfortable side effects, here’s a host of other benefits you’re downing with each steamy sip.

Health Benefits of Coffee

Protect Cells from Damage

Premature aging and cellular damage that make diseases such as diabetes worse are caused by a chemical reaction in our bodies called oxidative stress. Coffee beans are especially potent protectors against this damage since they contain over 1,000 different types of antioxidants. Antioxidants are bioactive compounds that have the power to neutralize the harmful free radicals released during the oxidation process. In fact, antioxidants found in coffee outnumber that of green and black tea and red wine, two beverages that are often touted for their health-boosting benefits.

Support Heart Health

Multiple large-population studies have revealed that people who drink one to three cups of coffee per day have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Researchers aren’t entirely sure of what’s responsible for the heart health boost.

If you’re a one-cup-a-day kinda drinker, there’s no reason to go out of your way to drink more coffee for added protection, however, the results are enough to reassure you that you don’t need to cut it out or cut back if you’re already enjoying it without a problem. (And of course, if you have a heart condition, including hypertension, always get the go-ahead from your cardiologist before taking a stimulant including caffeine.)

Live a Longer Life

Multiple studies have shown that people drinking one to three cups of coffee per day are at a lower risk of all causes of death, including Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, heart disease and multiple types of cancer, compared to those that abstain from this ever-popular morning drink. While the reasons for the link are still somewhat unclear and complex, the findings should at least be reassuring enough that you don’t need to cut back on your coffee consumption.

The Best Way to Drink Your Coffee

If you enjoy black coffee, you’re in luck. Because all the diabetes-related benefits of coffee come from the beans themselves—including the caffeine—drinking it black will ensure you max out on the health-promoting compounds.

If you’re not a fan of the bitter taste, the next best way I recommend people with diabetes enjoy their coffee is with non-fat cow’s milk. The creamy addition makes the brew more palatable while also giving you a boost of bone-building vitamins and minerals including calcium and vitamin D. You’ll also get a few grams of satiating and blood-leveling protein, depending on how light you like it.

What people with diabetes should avoid is coffee drinks with high-sugar syrups and creamers, such as what’s available at many popular coffee chains.

To get all the benefits without the blood sugar spikes, brew your own coffee at home where you can control the types and amounts of creamers and sweeteners that are added to your brew. If you want to add some complexity and excitement to your drink, try stirring in a spice such as cinnamon (known to lower blood sugar) or experiment with different types of coffees or styles of cream (such as frothed or steamed).