Many people with diabetes worry that they should avoid fruit juices, certain types of fruits, or fruits altogether! Even some physicians make special recommendations on fruits and fruit juices for their patients who have diabetes. For example, it is not uncommon to see a No fruit or fruit juice designation in the morning on a particular patient's meal plan.
So what's going on? Why are diabetics sometimes told not to have it?
First, let's be clear: fruit is good for us! It contains fiber, vitamins, electrolytes, fluids, and minerals that are very important for the body. Additionally, fruit contains carbohydrates and a little protein depending on the fruit. Typically, there is little to no fat in fruit, so no need to worry on that front!
But many diabetics are told to watch their carbohydrate consumption - some fruits are higher in carbohydrates and the natural sugars they contain can be more easily and quickly absorbed by the body. But this doesn't inherently mean you should not include fruit in your well-balanced diet. Opt for fruits higher in fiber, which help balance blood sugars over time, and budget for the extra carbs fruit can account for.
Let's think about bananas for a minute. Most people may have a banana with cereal, so they're adding this carbohydrate to cereal (a carb) and dairy (a carb), so decreasing the portion size becomes imperative to prevent over-consumption of carbohydrates at that meal. Watermelon is typically portioned in ball-size measurements. But, let's be honest, most people don’t consume one cup of watermelon balls! However, this portion is an optimal way to have a sweet treat without exceeding your carbohydrate allowance. It's important to note the rest of the meal would need more fiber as the watermelon is very low in fiber.
Fruits like apples and pears have the most fiber, while fruits like melon have very little fiber. Bananas are higher in a form of fiber called prebiotic than other fruits are. We don’t want to forget that soluble fiber, a very important type of fiber in our fruits, is a type of carbohydrate, so it will add to the total carbohydrate content of the fruit.
Let's compare some common fruits and see how their carb and fiber ratios stack up!
As you can see, the fruits vary little and portion adjustment may be important.
Fruit juice, however, is another story. A serving of juice is only 4 ounces and usually has little to no fiber. Most supermarket fruit juices contain little fruit and tons of added sugar. For diabetics, a 4-ounce juice may offer little satisfaction compared to having the whole fruit.
So, before nixing fruit altogether, be sure to keep these important in mind:
- Enjoy a variety of fruits, but remember that fruits higher in fiber help keep blood sugars stable!
- Make sure you eat the whole fruit instead of drinking fruit juice.
- Consider that excess fruits, beyond 3-4 each day depending on the individual, may add too much carbohydrate to your meal pattern and may cause highs and lows in blood sugar.
- As always, moderation remains key!