Diet is important for managing type 2 diabetes. Fruit can be a part of a healthy diet, but some options are healthier than others for people living with diabetes. In this article, we’ll explore the best fruits to eat for diabetes, as well as tips on the best ways to eat it and how to focus on balance in the diet.
How Does Fruit Affect Blood Sugar?
Medical providers typically advise people who have type 2 diabetes to eat a healthy diet, be mindful of carbohydrates, and minimize or avoid foods that can trigger blood sugar spikes. Since fruit contains natural sugars—and sugar is a carb—some people wonder if it’s OK to eat fruit if you have diabetes.
On the one hand, fruit often contains higher amounts of carbohydrates compared to vegetables. However, fruit also contains vitamins and antioxidants that support overall health and may help lower blood pressure and support a healthy heart.
Research has found that for people who have type 2 diabetes, eating fresh fruit may reduce the risk of vascular complications and overall mortality. Other research links higher intakes of fruits and vegetables with a 7% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes. However, according to that study, some types of fruits and vegetables are more associated with prevention than others.
Not all fruits are the same, and some food products that contain fruit can cause increases in blood sugar. Fruit products that contain added sugars will increase blood glucose levels more than plain whole fruit. Eating fruit alone can also lead to more blood sugar instability than if fruit is eaten with sources of protein or healthy fat such as yogurt, cheese, nuts, or eggs.
Some fruits have better health benefits or affect blood sugar less than other types. The following are the best fruit options for type 2 diabetes management.
Blackberries are one of the best fruits for type 2 diabetes. One cup contains 62 calories, 13.8 grams of carbohydrates, and 7.6 grams of fiber. Thanks to the high fiber content, blackberries will cause less of a blood sugar spike than some other fruits.
One medium per contains 101 calories, 27 grams of carbohydrates, and 5.5 grams of fiber. Pears can be eaten on their own, added to yogurt, or used on salads and with other fresh vegetables to lend sweetness to the dish.
One medium apple contains 104 calories, 27.6 grams of carbohydrates, and 4.8 grams of fiber. It also provides vitamin C and potassium, which can support overall health.
Similar to blackberries, strawberries have a high fiber content and a low sugar load. One cup of fresh strawberries contains 48 calories, 11.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber.
While some assume that citrus fruits are high in sugar, oranges are rich in vitamin C and heart-healthy nutrients. One medium navel orange contains 72 calories, 16 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber.
One cup of sliced kiwi contains 110 calories, 26.5 grams of carbohydrates, and 5.4 grams of fiber. Eat them on their own, add to a fruit salad, or pair with yogurt.
Cherries are a fruit associated with anti-inflammatory benefits. One cup contains 87 calories, 22 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber. For the best results, eat fresh cherries. Cherries tend to be tart, which is one of the qualities associated with their health benefits. Sweetening them with sugar offsets some of their healthy qualities.
Grapefruits are a nutritional powerhouse that provide vitamin C and folate, two nutrients that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. One half of a grapefruit contains 43 calories, 10.7 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber.
Tips for Eating Fruit With Diabetes
People who have type 2 diabetes can include fruit in their healthy diet plan. However, not all fruit is the same. Talk to your healthcare provider about these tips for including fruit without sabotaging your blood sugar balance.
Dietary guidelines for health recommend 1.5-2 cups of fruits per day and 2-3 cups of vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide antioxidants and fiber that support overall health and blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes. At the same time, consuming too much fruit can contribute to blood glucose problems. So watch your portions and round out your diet with vegetables, whole grains, healthy fat, and protein.
Eat fresh vs frozen vs canned
Fresh fruit is the least likely to be problematic for people with type 2 diabetes. Frozen fruits can be a good option, too, as long as they do not contain added sugars. Canned fruits are typically cooked, which can increase the sugar content, and may be preserved in added sugars or other ingredients that can worsen the impact to blood sugar levels.
Avoid fruit juice
Fruit can provide important nutrients, including vitamins. However, fruit juice tends to be low in fiber and high in sugar. Plus, many juices are prepared from concentrate and may contain added sugars or other ingredients that aren’t derived from fruit. These “juices” can be as bad for blood sugar as soda or other sugar-sweetened beverages. To get the health benefits of fruit, consume fresh or frozen options without added ingredients.
Read the label for packaged fruits
Read food labels on fruit or any food products to check for added sugars. Dried fruit especially can be bad for blood sugar. Not only do dried fruits contain more natural sugars, most of them contain added sugars to enhance the flavor. Even small portions of dried fruits like mango, figs, or dates can have a significant negative effect on blood glucose levels.
Fruit is a healthy part of a balanced diet. When it comes to type 2 diabetes, you don’t have to stop eating fruit. Instead, choose fresh fruit options that are lower in carbohydrates and contain fiber. Balance fruit with non-starchy vegetables and other important food groups.
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