Packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, fruit should be part of any healthy diet. As a diabetes educator, some of the most frequent questions from my clients have to do with fruit. Can I still eat fruit? How much fruit should I eat? What are the best fruits for someone with diabetes?|
Most people with diabetes are worried about eating fruit because they know that fruit contains sugar. And in the past, people with diabetes were told to avoid eating sugar. While it's true that fruit contains naturally-occurring sugars—and sometimes added ones, too (more on that below)—fruit also provides a host of other healthy nutrients that are beneficial for everyone, including people with diabetes. In addition, it's important to remember that people who have diabetes can eat anything, including fruit! Here's why.
All carbohydrate-containing foods—not just those with sugar—affect blood sugar levels. It is the amount of carbohydrate you eat (not the type) that has the biggest influence on blood sugar levels. Because of this, people with diabetes can treat all carbohydrate-containing foods (including fruit) the same when meal planning. Too much of any carbohydrate at a given meal or snack will probably raise your blood sugar higher than you would like. Therefore, a big part of diabetes meal planning is devoted to carbohydrate counting or “budgeting” carbohydrates in some way. You should work with your diabetes educator or a dietitian that specializes in diabetes in order to determine how much carbohydrate you need.
If you count carbohydrates to control your blood sugar, you simply include the carbohydrates in a serving of fruit into your carbohydrate budget for a meal or snack. For instance if you have a 45-gram (or 3-serving) carbohydrate budget for breakfast and you decide you want to have a banana with your oatmeal, adjust your carbohydrate servings accordingly. A 5-inch banana contains roughly 15 grams of carbohydrates, which leaves you with 30 grams left for the oatmeal. Learn more about diabetes meal planning here.
When it comes to selecting fruits, remember that portion size, calories and carbohydrates differ for all types of fruit, especially if the fruit has been altered from its whole, unprocessed state. Therefore, keep the following four guidelines in mind when selecting fruits for your diabetes meal planning:
The following chart lists the various portion sizes for a single-carbohydrate serving (15 grams) of various fruits along with their glycemic index. Pay particular attention to how the portion size differs when you compare whole, unprocessed fruits with dried fruits, juices or sweetened fruits.
For more specific information or help, talk to your health care provider. The American Diabetes Association's National Call Center also offers live advice from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST, Monday through Friday at 1-800-DIABETES or 1-800-342-2383.
This article has been reviewed and approved by SparkPeople's nutrition expert, Becky Hand, Licensed and Registered Dietitian.