Diabetes and Fruit: Yes, No, Maybe?
In this post, we examine the role fruit should or shouldn’t play in a diabetes-friendly diet.
If you’ve been living with diabetes long enough, you’ve probably heard the warnings about fruit. After all, fruits contain a natural form of sugar called fructose and many also contain a fair amount of carbohydrates, both of which can elevate blood sugar levels.
So, can fruit and diabetes go together? The answer is yes.
Certainly because of the sugar and carbs contained in fruit, you’ll need to count any fruit you eat as part of your meal plan. But many fruits are also loaded with good stuff, like essential vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and minerals. These can actually be beneficial to blood sugar control, plus, eating fruit has been proven to lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and stroke, all of which are potential risk factors for those living with diabetes.
The key to eating fruit with diabetes is understanding the relationship between various fruits and diabetes management, as well as how different forms of fruit can impact blood sugar.
Fruit and blood sugar
Because fruit contains sugar and carbohydrates, eating fruit will cause your blood sugar to rise. Now, if you’re already having problems keeping blood sugar under control, you should work with your diabetes physician to bring things back under control before making fruit a regular part of your diet.
But for most of us, it’s about smart eating. Not all fruits are the same. Some contain more carbs than others and, therefore, are more likely to elevate blood sugar. Some fruits are high in fiber, which slows digestion and helps prevent blood sugar spikes. Fiber can also make you feel more “filled up”, resulting in less overall food intake.
Now, the question you might be asking yourself is, “Okay, which fruits should I be eating, and which ones should I avoid?”
The answer is that there really are no “bad” fruits that you absolutely must eliminate from contention. It’s more about knowing the differences and working around them.
The 15-carbohydrate rule
Here’s a little rule that might help you better understand the way different fruits impact blood sugar. An average serving size of fruit - any fruit - should contain 15 grams of carbohydrates. Here’s the catch, the serving SIZE of different fruits to get you to that 15 grams of carbs can be dramatically different. Here are a few examples that all add up to 15 grams of carbs once you consume them:
– ½ an apple
– ½ a peeled banana
– 1 full cup of blackberries or raspberries
– ¾ a cup of fresh blueberries
– 1 ¼ cup of fresh strawberries
– 1 cup of cubed honeydew melon or cantaloupe
– 1 orange or nectarine
– 1/8 cup of raisins
As you can see, a cup of fresh strawberries will deliver the same amount of carbs as just 1/8 cup of raisins. Which one is better? It’s not right or wrong, but you’d figure the nice helping of fresh strawberries would be a little more satisfying, right?
Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL)
Carbs aren’t the only consideration when adding fruit to your diet. There are also two other factors worth examining – glycemic index and glycemic load. Glycemic Index (GI) is a value given to a food that measures how rapidly it will elevate blood sugar. Fruits that are lower on the scale raise it gradually. Fruits with a higher GI tend to spike blood sugar levels more rapidly. So, in theory eating mostly low GI foods and fruits should help you keep blood sugar in check. However, there’s a catch. Eating a big portion of a low GI food can raise blood sugar as much as eating a small portion of a high GI food. Therefore, experts have come up with another measurement called glycemic load (GL) that takes into account portion size.
For example, an orange has a glycemic index of 52, in the moderate range, but when you consider the average portion size, the glycemic load of an orange is quite low, around 4.4.
Yes, it gets a little complicated but with a little extra research online, or help from your nutritionist or physician, you’ll quickly wrap your head around glycemic index and glycemic load. After all, managing diabetes each day is no easy task and you’re good at that!
What To Avoid When Eating Fruit
As we’ve said there is no right or wrong fruit. That being said, there are some things you should keep in mind in order to keep your blood sugar under control.
- Watch the portion sizes. Remember, a little bit of one fruit can raise blood sugar as much as a generous portion of another. Try to stick to that 15-carb serving size whenever possible.
- Go with fresh choices and avoid processed fruit. Processed fruits like apple sauce and canned fruit often have extra sugar added, which means they are more likely to cause a sudden blood sugar spike.
- Fruit juices are usually not really fruit! For starters, juices like orange juice eliminate the healthy fiber that slows digestion to help minimize the risk of a rise in blood sugar. Additionally, so many fruit juices chuck in a whole lot of added sugar. In fact, some research has linked drinking too much fruit juice to the onset of Type 2 diabetes!
- Spread your fruit out over the day. It might be tempting to down two servings in the morning or for a big dessert after dinner. But in terms of blood sugar control, you’re much better off splitting up your portions.
- Dried fruit snacks can be great, however, be sure to check the label because many varieties add sugar, which means a typical serving size for these snacks is very small. You’re usually better off eating fresh or frozen fruit with no added sugar.
Fruit is good for your health, and this remains true even though you are living with diabetes. You just need to be a little more careful in how you add fruit to your diet, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t benefit from the vitamins, antioxidants and minerals fruit contains. Not to mention the fact that fruit is just plain delicious!
If you’re concerned with how specific fruits might impact your blood sugar, go ahead and test your blood sugar after consuming these fruits. If you’re having difficulty controlling your blood sugar, speak with your diabetes physician and care team. A few slight adjustments to your diet, lifestyle, or medication program will likely get you back on track.
We hope you found this post informative. At Diabetic Warehouse, we’re committed to helping those with diabetes manage blood sugar with a complete selection of testing and treatment supplies at prices up to 65% less than those found at most pharmacies and suppliers.
Diabetic Warehouse is a trusted supplier of diabetes care products and accessories. For more information and to explore a complete range of products, including glucose meters and test strips, insulin syringes, pen needles, continuous glucose monitoring systems, and more, visit www.diabeticwarehouse.org.