Eating fruit can be a delicious way to satisfy hunger and meet daily nutritional needs. However, most fruits contain sugar. This has raised questions about whether fruits are suitable for people who have diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association reports that any fruit is fine for a person with diabetes, so long as that person is not allergic to that type of fruit.

In fact, studies such as one from 2017 have found that a higher fruit intake is significantly associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes.

However, there are some things to consider when choosing the best fruit options. Fresh fruit and frozen fruit without added sugar as well as canned fruit can all be good options. It is important to read the nutrition label and choose those options with the least added sugar. Fruit contains carbohydrate so it should be counted in your meal plan.

This article recommends which fruits to eat and which ones you may need to limit with diabetes. It also explores the relationship between fruit and blood sugar

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Fruits and the glycemic index

For a person with diabetes, one way to determine carbohydrate levels in foods is to check their values on the glycemic index (GI).

The GI (glycemic index) is a rating of foods on a scale from 1 to 100. The score indicates how quickly the food may raise blood sugar levels. In general, the body absorbs high GI foods faster than medium or low GI foods.

The ADA reports that fruit is a good choice for people tracking GI scores in their diet. Most fruits actually have a low GI score because they contain fructose and plenty of fiber. A few have medium GI values, such as pineapple, melon, and certain dried fruits.

Based on research, it is not clear whether GI is a useful tool to guide food choices for people with diabetes. A 2019 ADA report suggests studies on GI and diabetes have shown mixed outcomes. Some researchers argue that GI scores show no relationship with diabetes risk or managing the condition.

Also, eating different foods together changes the meaning of GI scores. For example, pairing an apple with cheese or peanut butter — both good sources of fat and protein — lowers the GI of the apple.

Whether or not a person considers GI when planning meals, fruit is considered a good choice for those with diabetes.

Low GI foods may be less likely to cause blood sugar to rise quickly after eating. Most fruits have a low GI score.

A person with diabetes should not avoid fruit in general, since it is an important part of a balanced diet. Some research shows, for example, that eating fruit may actually help prevent diabetes.

People with diabetes can eat any fruit they choose, as long as it fits within the carbohydrate “budget” in their daily food plan and they do not have an allergy to the fruit.

Fruits are nutrient-rich

Fruits contain vitamins, minerals, and fiber, as well as carbs. This makes fruits an excellent substitute for processed snacks such as cookies, chips, and muffins that offer little nutritional value.

Some people count carbs as part of a diabetes eating plan. While a medium apple contains around 20 grams (g) of carbohydrates, a chocolate muffin contains much more, around 55 g. A 500 milliliter (17 ounce) bottle of soda also contains about 54 g of carbs.

In addition to carbs, an apple also contains about 11-14% of an adult’s daily fiber needs and 10% of a person’s daily vitamin C needs. These qualities make an apple a great choice for a quick snack when compared with other, less nutrient-dense foods.

A person should, therefore, focus on limiting their intake of processed snacks rather than cutting out fruits.

Choosing a variety of different fruits can be a great way to absorb the right nutrients and enjoy a range of flavors.

Portions matter

Some fruit products have a small recommended serving size. This means it can be easy to consume more than the recommended amount.

Foods to watch include 100% fruit juice and dried fruits. For people counting carbohydrates, about one-third to one-half cup (80-120 ml) of 100% fruit juice typically contains about 15 g of carbs. This portion is much smaller than the average drinking glass.

Dried fruits are often rich in fiber, but also come with a small portion size. About 2 tablespoons of raisins or dried cherries contains 15 g of carbs.

To get the same amount of carbs, you could also eat a small whole fruit or about one-half cup of canned or frozen fruit.

Learn more about including fruit in your diabetes eating plan.

The amount of fruit a person should eat depends on factors including body size and activity level. In general, the USDA suggests that female adults need 1.5-2 cups of fruit daily, while male adults need 2-2.5 cups.

Those with diabetes should ask their doctor or dietitian if these amounts are appropriate for their individual eating plan.

The ADA‘s diabetes plate method is one tool that shows a basic diabetes eating plan.

Using the plate method, half of each meal should be nonstarchy vegetables. One-quarter of the meal should be a source of protein, and the remaining quarter should be carbohydrate foods, such as grains or fruit. Including healthy fat at each meal can encourage a feeling of fullness and enhance absorption of antioxidants and vitamins.

Eating enough fiber plays an important role in managing diabetes.

A diet high in soluble fiber can slow the absorption of sugar and control blood sugar levels. Many fruits are high in fiber, especially when a person eats the skin or pulp. The high fiber and water contents of many fruits makes them filling.

Diets that contain enough fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of obesity, heart attack, and stroke. Obesity has links to type 2 diabetes.

Because fruits are high in fiber and nutrients, they are a good choice when a person is planning meals. But consider limiting the amount of 100% fruit juice on the menu, because it is low in fiber. The recommended serving size for 100% fruit juice is small, about one-third to one-half cup (80-120 ml).

Other health benefits of fruit

People with diabetes should have a balanced diet that provides enough energy and helps them maintain a healthy weight. Some fruits, such as watermelon, are high in sugar but can be part of a healthy diet in moderate amounts.

Opting for fruit can also prevent a person with a sweet tooth from reaching for candy and other foods with low nutritional value. Most fruits are high in nutrients and low in fat and sodium. Fruits also often contain nutrients that other foods do not.

Bananas contain potassium and tryptophan, an important amino acid. Citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruits, are rich in vitamins A and C, which are powerful antioxidants.

When it comes to fruits and vegetables, most people in the United States consume far less than the USDA-recommended amounts. Aim to increase the number of fruit and vegetable servings you eat daily.

Here are a few ideas to help with menu planning:

Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits are versatile and easy to add to meals. Add lemon and lime to seafood, sauces, or glasses of iced tea. People can make their own fruit water by adding citrus slices to a pitcher of water and letting it sit overnight.

Berries

Berries are tasty raw. A person might also make a compote to spoon into oatmeal or meat dishes.

Put whole, fresh or frozen berries into a saucepan with a tablespoon or two of water. Cook this on medium or low heat until the berries have broken down into a thick sauce. One serving is half a cup.

Apples

Apples are a popular fruit. They are delicious raw for a snack or dessert.

Pairing sliced apples with peanut butter or a piece of cheese can make a simple fruit feel like a treat. The added protein and fat make for a healthy, filling snack.

Avocados

Avocados are high in fat, but they contain monounsaturated fat, the type that is beneficial for the body.

A person can slice them or mash them and mix in herbs and vegetables to make a dip, such as guacamole. A person might also add lime or lemon for a citrus boost.

Fruit is a crucial part of a healthy diet, and it contributes key nutrients. Replacing sugary or processed snacks with fruit is a great way to increase fiber, vitamins, and minerals in the diet.

A person should aim to eat fruit every day, and choose a variety of different fruits.

If a person with diabetes has questions about their eating plan, they should talk with a doctor or dietitian.

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