Can you imagine a life without enjoying fresh seasonal fruit? There is nothing I enjoy more than cold watermelon on a hot summer’s day, or some warm grilled peaches topped with hot custard on a cold evening. Eating fruit was my go-to when I was pregnant and when I am feeling low with an irritated stomach there is nothing better than having bananas and apples to rejuvenate my system. While fruits are wholefoods naturally given to us from the Earth, they are also filled with natural sugars that are not suitable for people with certain health conditions, such as diabetes.
Diabetics must monitor their sugar intake to ensure their blood sugar levels are always well-balanced. Consuming too many sugars and high GI carbs can cause serious fluctuations in blood sugar levels that can result in severe illness and insulin spikes which are extremely dangerous for diabetics. This doesn’t mean that a diabetic cannot enjoy those fresh fruits we were just speaking about. Let’s take a look at the best fruits for diabetics and how they can still enjoy all that the season has to offer.
Besides the refreshingly sweet taste that fruit has to offer, it is a delicious addition to many meals, and more importantly, fruit offers many health benefits for the body.
High in Fiber
Fruits are high in fiber, which is essential for healthy digestion, detoxification (which aids weight-loss), and improved heart health. Fiber is essential in any person’s diet and the best source is from fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. It is recommended that each person gets at least 25-30 grams of fiber in their diet each day, while the average person only consumes 15 grams or less. To ensure you are getting enough gut-boosting fiber in your diet, include a variety of fruits and vegetables every day.
Natural Vitamins and Minerals
Fruits are an excellent source of a wide variety of vitamins and minerals which are greatly under-consumed today, including vitamin C, folate, and potassium.
Potassium helps to regulate healthy blood pressure while folate helps the body to form new red blood cells. Vitamins and minerals are imperative for overall health and immunity. If you aren’t getting enough nutrient-dense foods daily, try adding more fruit to your daily diet.
Fruit is low in calories and sodium and is naturally cholesterol-free too, so there is really no harm if you want to snack on fruit between meals.
Fruits are high in antioxidants and flavanoids which are important for slowing down the ageing process, reducing free radical damage, and boosting your immune system. When our antioxidant levels are lower than the levels of free radicals in our body (caused by poor diets and modern-day toxin exposure) it causes havoc in our bodies. This can result in accelerated ageing (which none of us want), damaged or mutated cells, broken-down tissue, and an overloaded immune system that is vulnerable to stress and disease. Berries are some of the highest antioxidant-rich fruits, low in sugar, and low in calories which makes them perfect for diabetics.
Research proves that eating a nutrient-dense diet high in fruits and vegetables can dramatically reduce a person’s risk of health conditions and diseases such as heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and even diabetes. Citrus fruits and berries are among the powerhouse fruits that are both nutrient-dense and low in calories, making them essential for everyone’s diet, including diabetics.
Let’s Talk About Glycemic Index (GI)
We have all heard about low GI foods and that we should be eating more of them, but what exactly is a low GI food, and why is it good for our body?
GI stands for glycemic index and is the rate at which your body metabolizes carbohydrates and turns it into sugars. The definition of the glycemic index is “a measure of the blood glucose-raising potential of the carbohydrate content of a food compared to a reference food (generally pure glucose, or sugar).”
Every time you eat carbohydrates, your body experiences a change in blood sugar levels. Low GI foods are referred to as slow-release foods because they are slowly metabolized and do not spike your blood glucose levels. Your blood glucose levels are sustained when you eat low GI foods, which is not only important for everyone, but it is particularly important for diabetics.
Eating low GI foods means that your blood sugar levels are more stable and balanced which is what you ultimately want from the foods you are consuming in your diet.
GI scores are rated as:
- Low: 55 or below
- Moderate: 56 to 69
- High: 70 and above
Low GI Fruits
Low GI value is anything less than 55. On average, all fruits have a GI of between 4 and 14 which means that despite their natural sugar content, they sustain blood sugar levels for longer.
The Pick of the Bunch
We now know that everyone should be eating loads of fruits and vegetables every day, but which fruits are the best pick for those who have diabetes?
Citrus fruits, such as grapefruits, clementines, limes, oranges, and lemons are all low GI, low calorie, and low in sugar. They provide you with much-needed vitamin C, folate, and potassium which can help normalize blood pressure.
Eating just one orange a day will offer you all the Vitamin C your body needs daily and an excellent immunity boost, they also have a GI score of 40. The folate and potassium contained in citrus fruits help normalize blood sugar.
The American Diabetes Association has listed citrus foods as a diabetes super-food because of their high vitamin content and because they are packed with fiber which helps benefit a healthy diabetic eating plan.
Be mindful of consuming grapefruit as this fruit may contra-indicate certain prescription medications. Their low GI score of 25 is excellent for diabetics.
All berries, including strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries contain those all-important antioxidants and are referred to as the diabetes super-food because they are low GI and packed full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
According to the ADA berries are considered a diabetes super-food. High GI foods score above 70 and fresh berries all have scores below 40 which means they are safe for diabetics to consume and a 1 ¼ cup serving a day can be enjoyed.
Tart cherries are a smart addition to a diabetic diet. They are very low GI (scoring 20) and have important inflammatory fighting compounds. Tart cherries are packed full of helpful antioxidants which are naturally anti-diabetic. The antioxidants known as anthocyanins can increase insulin production and help manage blood sugar levels and they can also help fight against cancer, heart disease, and other diseases.
Tart cherries are also rich in fiber which delays digestion and allows the sugar to be metabolized quickly. The recommended consumption a day is a small portion of 14 cherries or half a cup.
Peaches and apricots are not only really tasty, but they contain vitamins A and C and are rich in potassium and fiber. They also have a glycemic index of less than 42 so they will not raise blood sugar levels. These are great for boosting your metabolism and are perfect for adding to a diabetic-friendly diet at just half a cup a day.
Peaches, in particular, contain 10 different vitamins and an array of wonderful health benefits that is not only excellent for managing diabetes, but for boosting the immune system and overall well-being of the body.
We shouldn’t be surprised that these fiber-rich fruits make our diabetic-friendly list of fruits. They are filled with fiber and vitamin C and should be enjoyed with their skin on for an extra boost of nutrients.
Apples have a low GI of 39 and can provide nearly 20% of your daily dietary fiber requirements. They also contain polyphenols which are plant-based compounds that are known for their protection against type 2 diabetes. Polyphenols also slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream and thus help prevent rapid blood sugar spikes.
The added bonus is that apples help to feed the body’s healthy gut bacteria and their rich Vitamin C content will help boost your immune system and fight unwanted disease and illness.
2 Apples a day is a great addition to a diabetic-friendly diet.
These fuzzy brown fruits hide a deliciously sweet, green flesh that is filled with fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. Kiwis have a low GI score of 39.
Kiwis are one of the best fruits to consume if you suffer from diabetes because not only do they help control blood sugar levels but they also contain active compounds that are naturally anti-diabetic and help control the condition.
The rich fiber content found in kiwis mean they slow the body’s uptake of sugar during digestion. A recent study has shown that eating kiwifruit together with your morning breakfast can slow down the sugar uptake from your breakfast into your bloodstream. This is because kiwifruit has high water-holding capacity and they swell into a gel-like substance once eaten. As the morning meal is digested, it is broken down into smaller sugars that move through the kiwi gel and is absorbed at much slower rate into the bloodstream.
Be Picky with Your Fruit!
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) advises that all fruits are safe for a diabetic to eat unless you are allergic to a particular fruit. The state of which you are buying your fruits in, however, does matter. When choosing fruits always opt for fresh fruit over canned or dried fruits and fruit juices. Fruits in their whole form contain all the essential nutrients and fiber without any added sugars and preservatives.
With this said diabetics should avoid the following because they have a concentration of sugar:
- Dried fruit with added sugar
- Canned fruit with sugar syrup
- Jam and jelly with added sugar
- Sweetened applesauce
- Fruit juice
- Canned vegetable that have added sodium
- Pickles that contain salt or sugar
All in Moderation
While eating a variety of fruits are great for your health, they do need to be eaten in the correct amounts because of their natural sugar content. It is recommended that women eat between 1.5 and 2 cups of fruit per day and men have no more than 2 cups of fruit per day if you are diabetic.
When choosing your fruit, go for the rainbow. Choose a variety of colors and types to ensure you are getting your daily boost of nutrients. As mentioned above, always buy fresh fruits or frozen fruits. Always check the label of your frozen fruits to make sure that you are buying pure fruit and that nothing has been added to it. Frozen fruits are a great way to make sure you are getting a variety of natural nutrients all year round.
Where possible purchase organic, non-GMO fruits. So many fruits are sprayed with toxic pesticides that can be damaging to our health no matter how healthy the fruit is for us. GMO (genetically modified organisms) fruits should also be avoided because they cause disruptions in our bodies which can lead to more serious illnesses. We also suggest washing your fruit in a natural food-safe cleaner to remove any pesticides or residue when you aren’t able to buy organic.
If you are not able to incorporate enough of these fresh fruits into your diet but still want the health benefits, consider including good quality NON-GMO vitamins into your diet. You can read more about those here: https://betanaturalhealth.com/what-is-the-best-diet-for-diabetics/
An Apple a Day
Final thoughts on incorporating fruits into a diabetic diet? The more the merrier. If you are looking for a diabetic-friendly diet to help keep your blood sugar levels within a healthy range, then look no further than your refrigerator produce drawer and the fruit bowl on your kitchen table. Diabetics can enjoy the same fresh fruits as anyone else, just in moderation.
So next time the tennis is on, definitely reach out for those strawberries!
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