A Guide to Diabetes-Friendly Fruits

Diabetes is one of the most common metabolic disorders facing Americans every year, and it doesn’t show signs of lessening. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, over 38 million people have diabetes in the United States; that accounts for nearly 12% of the total population.1 Diabetes management is typically a complicated medical system that includes medication, regular visits to a doctor, and a healthy diet. Reducing sugar content is one of the major aims of a diabetes diet, but that doesn’t have to mean removing fruits that contain natural sugars.

What to Know About Diabetes 

Diabetes is a chronic condition that is defined by having sustained high levels of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. While glucose is the primary source of energy for the body’s cells, high blood glucose levels can cause a number of symptoms and eventually lead to life-threatening complications. Blood sugar levels are normally regulated by a hormone produced by the pancreas called insulin, but people with diabetes either don’t produce enough insulin or the body no longer responds to its effects (insulin resistance).

There are multiple types of diabetes that generally differ by the mechanism of insulin dysfunction. In type 1, the body’s immune system attacks insulin-producing cells and prevents the pancreas from generating it. In type 2 diabetes, however, the insulin is present but the body becomes increasingly resistant to it. Type 2 diabetes is by far the most common version in the U.S. and around the world. Diabetes care for people who suffer from it requires regular injections of insulin as well as alterations to one’s meal plan and portion sizes.

Diabetes and Eating Fruit

Because of the role sugar plays in increasing diabetes risk, diabetics are obligated to find a balanced diet that includes sugar and other carbohydrates like starch and fiber. This generally means eliminating or strongly curbing the intake of foods that have a high glycemic index (GI); in other words, maintaining health often requires avoiding foods that have added sugar or refined carbs like sweets, candy, and baked goods. These kinds of foods are considered “high GI” because of the way they can cause symptomatic blood sugar spikes.

At first glance, fruit seems like it shouldn’t be an option since it contains sugar; however, fruit has a particular type of sugar called fructose that is considered a simple sugar. Because fructose is a monosaccharide with fewer bonds, it is easier for the body’s metabolism to break it down and cause the absorption of sugar to meet our cell’s energy needs. For this reason, most fruits have a lower glycemic load and therefore don’t have the same potential impact on blood sugar levels.

Best Fruits for Diabetes

Though there are some genetic components of diabetes, it usually arises because of a pattern of eating high-carb foods over many years. For anyone who has a sweet tooth, it can be difficult to change this pattern. But a combination of fresh fruit, dried fruit, and (unsweetened) fruit juice can satisfy the urge for sweetness while also lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes symptoms. Not all fruits have the same carb content, though, so it’s important to choose fruits that are a better fit for a diabetes diet:

  • Berries: Berries are one of the best fruits for diabetes because they are low in sugar and thus have a low glycemic load. They are also relatively high in fiber, which is helpful because of how fiber can slow the release of glucose into the bloodstream. Eating berries offers many health benefits while also not creating a higher risk of diabetic symptoms. Examples include blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
  • Apples: Apples are a nutritious choice that also have a low glycemic load and a good amount of fiber. Moreover, the apple skin and flesh have antioxidants that may improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, lemons, and limes are also good options for people with diabetes because of their low glycemic index. Most citrus fruits contain less than 10 grams of carbohydrates per serving size; this is substantially less than a mango, for instance, that typically has over 40 grams of carbs. Citrus fruits also contain vitamin C and other antioxidants that can potentially reduce diabetic complications and improve insulin secretion.2
  • Watermelon: A fruit like watermelon can also fit well in a diabetic eating plan in part because of the high water content. Watermelon is roughly 90% water, and that is helpful since hydration promotes normal kidney function and facilitates the transport of glucose and insulin around the body.
  • Kiwi: Kiwifruit is technically an edible berry of the kiwi plant, and it is nutrient dense as well as being high in fiber. With only around 6 grams of sugar in a whole fruit, it is also relatively low on the glycemic index. Like citrus fruits, kiwifruit is also high in vitamin C, and that gives it antioxidant properties that can help lower the risk of symptoms.
  • Stone fruits: Stone fruits like apricots, plums, peaches, and nectarines are another category of fruit that can be beneficial for those with diabetes. So named because of the single hard pit at their center, stone fruits tend to have less fructose than other foods and some other fruits. Apricots in particular are also high in potassium, a mineral that the body uses in multiple ways. Since low levels of potassium in the body can lead to less insulin being produced, a regular source of potassium is similarly important for diabetes management.3

As beneficial as these fruits can be for managing diabetes, there are plenty of other reasons to include a variety in your diet. Along with vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats, fruits are a central part of maintaining overall health and wellbeing. Fruits in particular provide a variety of health benefits that range from a reduced risk of heart disease to improved cognition to a more regular digestive process.

FruitSmart: the Source for Premium Ingredients

Whether you have diabetes or not, fruit remains a healthy choice for any kind of healthy diet. At FruitSmart, we are passionate about being a premium source for fruit juices, essences, concentrates, and purees. Our catalog of versatile products can be used in a huge variety of commercial applications, including beverages, smoothies, cocktail mixes, hard seltzers, nutraceuticals, and baked goods. If you’d like to learn more about how FruitSmart can help you develop your next great recipe, please contact our team today.

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