Many people with diabetes 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 had 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 people with diabetes to eat fruit to get many of the carbohydrates they need. People with diabetes need to keep their glucose levels within normal limits. Eating fruits can be an excellent way to prevent their blood sugar levels from going too low.
The antioxidants in fruits also bring several other health benefits for people who have diabetes. A recent Japanese study followed nearly 1,000 people over eight years. The authors of the study noted that people who have diabetes were less likely to develop vision problems if they ate the fruit. Although the study wasn’t set up to determine a cause and effect relationship, the correlations were significant. The authors found that people with diabetes 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 people with diabetes developing other health complications.
How Much Fruit Can You Consume?
Consumed in moderation, fruit has some great benefits for people who have diabetes. The keyword 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 Glycemic Index. You should 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 lower sugar levels.
- Continue to check your glucose levels. If you have 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 entirely 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 people with diabetes? 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 many 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 people with diabetes 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 significant dietary decisions.