Many diabetics struggle in their efforts to understand what foods they should be eating and in what quantities. One of the most common questions they have is whether or not they can eat fruits. The simple answer is “yes.” To be clear, I am not a registered dietician. However, I have researched this topic thoroughly for one of my friends when they were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Nevertheless, please consult your dietician or physician for more information.
Fruits are rich in sugar, which discourages many patients from eating them. This is a valid concern, but not all fruits will raise your glucose level considerably. Also, the American Diabetes Association tells diabetics to eat fruit to get many of the carbohydrates they need. Diabetics clearly need to keep their glucose levels within normal limits. Eating fruits can be a good way to keep their blood sugar levels from going too low.
The antioxidants in fruits also bring a number of other health benefits for people suffering from diabetes. A recent Japanese study followed nearly 1,000 people over the course of 8 years. The authors of the study noted that people suffering from diabetes were less likely to develop vision problems if they ate fruit. Although the study wasn’t setup to determine a cause and effect relationship, the correlations were significant. The authors found that diabetics who consumed nine ounces of fruit a day were 50% less likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than those who only ate three ounces a fruit a day.
Other researchers are conducting studies they expect to show that eating fruit will help reduce the likelihood of diabetics developing other health complications.
How Much Fruit Can You Consume?
Consumed in moderation, fruit clearly has a number of great benefits for people suffering from diabetes. The key word is “moderation.” Although fruit doesn’t have as much sugar as many people would guess, it can be problematic if you eat large quantities.
If you have diabetes, there are a few guidelines you can follow when incorporating fruit into your diet:
- Check the Gylcemic Index. You should obviously check the glycemic index of any food you eat. Most diabetics can eat almost any fruit. That being said, you need to know which fruits contain the most sugar and eat lower portions. The University of Sydney has created a site to help you check the glycemic index of any food. Familiarize yourself with the GI of any fruit before you add it to your diet. You may be surprised by how much more sugar some fruits have. Apples and cherries are among the foods with the lower sugar levels.
- Continue to check your glucose levels. If you are suffering from diabetes, I’m sure you understand this much better than I do. However, I don’t see anything wrong with a polite reminder. You may want to look at your glucose levels more often until you get to know how different fruits affect you.
- Limit juice consumption. Juice isn’t completely off limits. However, you should consume it in smaller quantities. Unlike pulp fruit, juice has almost no fiber or other nutrients in it. Why is this a problem for diabetics? It can be a problem because it doesn’t have anything to slow the rate your body absorbs the sugar. This can cause your blood sugar levels to spike much more quickly. Of course, you also miss out on a number of key nutrients you would get from eating fruit.
- Lean towards fresh fruits. Canned and dried fruits are more concentrated in sugar than fresh fruits. Eat them sparingly or not at all.
- Look for fruits with the most nutrients. In addition to keeping your sugar levels in check, you also want to make sure you get all the nutrients you need. Apples and berries are great fruits for people to eat after they have been diagnosed with diabetes. They are loaded with essential nutrients.
These are some general guidelines to help diabetics incorporate fruit into their diet. Keep in mind these are just rules of thumb. Everyone has different needs, so you should consult your dietician before making any major dietary decisions.