Is Fruit Good or Bad for Diabetics?

Bottom Line: It is OK to eat fruit, and better than a lot of other food options.

Fruit is GOOD if it is replacing other highly processed foods, refined sugars, & empty calories. Generally, fruit also offers important vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. However, fruit DOES contain natural sugar and will increase blood sugar levels.

The best way to see this in real time? Wear a continuous glucose monitor (i.e. CGM) like FreeStyle Libre or Dexcom. Insurance may cover this, or you can use coupons (such as GoodRx) to cover out of pocket costs even if you want to “try” one out for a couple of weeks as you learn about how your body responds to different foods. Two people can eat an apple and have a different spike in blood sugar levels (even based on the type of bacteria in your gut.)

4 Main Considerations:

1) What kind of fruit should I eat?

Not all fruits are equal. Go for fresh fruit or frozen fruit. Avoid juice or canned fruit. Fruit in cans or plastic cups contain preservatives and added sugar, causing significant blood sugar spikes.

Generally, I advise against “juicing” – which many patients are surprised to learn that this can be unexpectedly bad for blood sugars. Juicing is basically “squeezing” the sugar water of the fruit – subsequently causing a spike in both blood sugar and insulin levels.

So, as an example, blood sugars will spike much higher if you drink the juice of an orange versus eat the whole orange. Eating fresh whole fruit has less impact on blood sugar levels because fresh fruits contain fiber. Fiber counteracts sugar absorption in the digestive tract so you get both nutritional benefits & better blood sugar levels.

Also, consider opting for “Lower Glycemic” fruit choices when you can: Berries, grapefruit, peaches, apples, kiwis. These contain lower sugar content versus “Higher Glycemic” fruit choices like pineapple, watermelon, bananas, and grapes.

2) How much fruit can I eat?

As with everything, the AMOUNT is what makes the “poison”! Try to watch portions and balance it with protein or fat. As a general rule, try to shoot for 15 grams of carbs per sitting. Here is a quick list of fruit amounts that are around 15 grams of carbs for reference:

· 4 inches of banana

· ¾ cup blueberries

· 1 small apple

· 1 medium orange or tangerine

· 14 small grapes

· 1 cup melon

· 1 cup raspberries or blackberries

· 1 ¼ cup strawberries

3) What else am I eating with it?

It also makes a difference if you eat the fruit alone or if you pair it a protein and/or fat. This helps provide satiety & fullness as well as helping to counter some of the glucose absorption, leading to a lower spike in blood sugars. Here are some ideas to consider:

…Berries? Add cottage cheese.

….Apples? Add nut butter for dipping.

…Watermelon? Add some feta cheese & mint.

…Frozen fruit? Add 1-2 scoops of vanilla protein powder, water, & blend for a delicious & diabetic-friendly smoothie.

4) What is it replacing?

Are you someone that suffers from a “sweet tooth?” In ANY case, it is probably far better to indulge in any fruit of your liking over other dessert options like ice cream, cake, or candy. You will get much further in your diabetes & weight loss goals if you reach for fruit before other highly refined sugars!

As a pharmacist clinician & diabetes educator, my passion is to help people optimize their health naturally with lifestyle. I realize not everyone has access to a diabetes educator and hope you find my tips helpful!

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