Fruits For People With Diabetes
With some thoughtful planning, sweet, juicy fruit can be a regular part of your type 2 diabetes diet — as long as you don’t overdo it. Fruit is a good alternative to sugar-laden desserts because it can satisfy your sweet tooth while delivering fiber, antioxidants, and a range of nutrients, explains Katie Gill, RD, a dietitian in Philadelphia, owner of Katie Gill Wellness, and previously with the division of endocrinology, diabetes, and metabolic diseases at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
“There are lots of benefits to eating fruit,” adds Gill. “But fruit is not a freebie if you have diabetes. It will raise your blood sugar.” To slow down the blood sugar response, she recommends having the fruit together with a small amount of protein or fat, such as a few nuts or some plain Greek yogurt
Gill also suggests testing your blood sugar before you eat, and then two hours later. “Don’t take my word that fruit is good for you,” she says. Testing your blood sugar like this will give you a level of personal information that will help you figure out which fruits in particular best fit your type 2 diabetes diet.
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Additional reporting by Andrea for 1 last update 10 Jul 2020 PeirceAdditional reporting by Andrea Peirce
“Grapes have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control,” says Courtney Peterson, PhD, a nutrition researcher and assistant professor in the nutrition science department at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. They’re packed with polyphenols, a type of plant chemical (phytonutrient) that may have a positive effect on the body-wide inflammation seen with diabetes, she says. The polyphenols in grapes may also help in controlling blood sugar levels, according to research in the January 2016 issue of the journal Nutrients.
Apples, also rich in polyphenols, offer something extra-special: a pre-set serving size, Gill says. It’s easy to stop eating once you’ve finished — just choose a medium-sized variety of apple. “I love that apples have fiber,” she says. Just be sure to eat the skin, where much of that fiber is found. Fiber is helpful because it fills you up and it can slow the absorption of sugar in the blood, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Blueberries can also improve the health of your blood vessels, according to research published in the June 2015 issue of Nutrients. “Any kind of berry is lower in sugar than most other fruits,” Gill says. She recommends buying locally grown berries in season, when possible, because they’ll be fresher and more flavorful. In the off-season, she recommends flash-frozen berries that you can thaw and add to dishes, such as oatmeal. Just make sure to choose a brand marked “no sugar added.”
Cranberries offer a mix of powerful nutrients in a tiny package. Each berry contains a unique combination of plant chemicals that may provide antioxidant benefits for overall health and immunity, according to a November 2013 study in Advanced Nutrition. When eating dried cranberries or adding them to cereal or other food, keep in mind that a serving is just a quarter cup, Gill says, and scan the nutrition label to make sure a cranberry product doesn’t have added sugar.
Another great berry choice if you have diabetes? Raspberries. Like blueberries, raspberries contain healthy antioxidants as well as a punch of flavor and small amounts of natural sugars. “I tend to be an advocate for any kind of berry,” Gill says. She suggests buying containers of berries to snack on as a tasty alternative to less healthy convenience foods. Look for a blend of blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Eating a rainbow of berries will give the broadest range of nutrients.
Half a grapefruit is a great way to enhance breakfast, or any meal of the day for that matter. Eating this vitamin C-packed fruit regularly can help you manage your weight, according to a review of anti-obesity foods published in the 2015 issue of the journal Experimental and Clinical Sciences International. Grapefruit might also improve your body’s use of blood sugar, the research indicates. And if you’re tempted to sprinkle sweetener on top, Gill recommends using a no-calorie substitute.
Remember, this salad and sandwich favorite is actually a fruit. But health-wise, “I’ve never had to tell someone their blood sugars are out of control because they ate too many tomatoes,” Gill says. Also, each tomato you consume could positively affect the level of fats in your blood and inflammation in your body, according to research that looked into the effect of tomatoes in the diabetes diet, published in the March 2016 issue of the journal Nutrients.
Like tomatoes, avocados are a stealth fruit. “They’re quite low in carbohydrates, but high in fat,” Peterson says, adding that avocado is a healthy addition to your diet as long as you watch the serving size. In fact, the unsaturated fats in avocados and other plant-based foods are likely better for people with diabetes or prediabetes than the saturated fats found in animal-based foods, according to the guidelines published in The Lancet in June 2014.
“A serving of a banana is about half of one,” Gill says, pointing out that modern bananas are much longer than they used to be. But there’s no reason to avoid bananas as long as you test your blood sugar so you know how they affect you, she adds. Also consider plantain slices, which you can cut up fresh or find frozen. Try them as a side with Cuban rice and beans — just measure servings carefully.