Everyone knows that fresh fruit and vegetables are important to a maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But we are also aware that many fruit are high in natural sugars. An apple for example contains 13g of natural sugar, while a single banana contains 15g per 100g. Many people wrongly put this in perspective with the fact that a can of cola contains 11g of sugar. It’s an easy presumption that a banana or an apple contains more sugar than a can of cola, and therefore something that people should be cautious of, especially if you’re diabetic. However, all sugars are not created equal and people including diabetics shouldn’t shy away from a diet rich in fruit.
Almost every single fruit you can pick up from the grocery store contains natural sugar, but they also contain a high level of important minerals, vitamins and essential fibres that your body needs to thrive. As a diabetic, your main focus will be on managing your blood glucose. Maintaining a healthy weight, as well as normal blood pressure is also of importance while living with Diabetes. Fruits and vegetables all play a major role in keeping healthy levels of blood glucose, blood fats and blood pressure.
The longstanding myth and general concern with a lot of diabetics is that because fruits contain high levels of natural occurring sugars, that consuming fruits will inevitably make your blood glucose count go up. In fact, most fruits have a medium to low glycaemic index which means that their sugars release slowly into your blood stream, which does not lead to a sharp rise in your blood glucose levels. To compare, a portion of fruit will on average contain 15-20g of sugars which is almost the same as a single slice of white bread. The fruit will also contain a variety of nutrients almost all but absent from processed “low sugar” foods, like low fat low sugar yogurts, that many people, including diabetics, choose over fruit which are high in natural sugars. Because of all the information out about eating healthily there, often tends to be an “over-estimation” of how much fruit and vegetable people consume, so it’s highly unlikely that consuming fruit will lead to high blood glucose levels. Keeping a food diary can help diabetics track their fruit and vegetable consumption, as well as the other food that they are eating so you can ensure a well-balanced diet that helps nourish your body and keep your diabetes in check.
- Try and keep the fruit you eat as natural as possible, cooking of processing fruits and vegetables often lead to a loss of nutrients. Be cautious with your portion sizes when eating dried fruit, a portion can be as large as a single tablespoon so it’s easy to over-consume dried fruit.
- Fruits all contain different nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to the amount of fibre they contain, so eating a wide range of fruits ensures you’re getting a well-rounded diet.
- When going for canned or pre-packaged fruits, choose packaged fruits that are preserved in their natural juices rather than syrup. Syrups are also processed and adds extra sugars that negates the healthy benefits of the fruit you are consuming.
- Drink fruit juices in moderation. It’s much easier to consume fruit juices than fruit, which could mean that you’re consuming larger portions than you think. Drinking too much fruit juice could also lead to an increase in your blood glucose.
Incorporating fruits into your diet can help lower the risks of developing health problems including heart diseases, strokes, obesity and cancer. For people with diabetes it is even more important to consume healthy amounts of fruit and vegetables as the mentioned health problems can be more likely to affect them. There is no one-size fits all when it comes to diet and diabetes but talking to your doctor or medical dietician and forming a food plan that is wide and varied in natural fruits and vegetables can help transform your life.
An easy way to incorporate fruits into your diet:
- Apples, Pears, and Bananas as snacks instead of pre-packaged bars
- Instead of fruit juice, try adding sliced fruit to water for a refreshing alternative.
For young people or children with diabetes kids-sized fruit like apples and ‘easy peeler’ clementines are a great way of incorporating fruit into their diet.