Can people with diabetes eat fruit? Absolutely. No one deserves to be deprived of nature’s candy, including those with diabetes. Fruit can be a regular part of your diet as long as you’re mindful of portion sizes and diabetes medications. More on all of this later.
How Fruit Affects Your Blood Sugar
All foods with carbohydrates will raise blood glucose (aka blood sugar) levels after you eat them, and fruit is no different. We have a natural way of bringing high blood sugar levels back down. Our pancreas releases insulin, a hormone with a special job. Insulin’s role is to make cells more able at drawing in glucose from the blood. As millions of cells sip up glucose your blood sugar levels decrease. That is how it works in adults without diabetes.
In those with diabetes, insulin doesn’t work very well, or it doesn’t work at all. In Type II diabetes, insulin is released but the cells are less able to respond to it, so blood sugar stays elevated for longer. In Type I diabetes, insulin cannot be released because the pancreas is too damaged or destroyed.
Enjoy Fruit While Balancing Blood Sugar
With careful consideration, fruit can fit into any diabetic meal plan. So, how much fruit can you have? Sadly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution for everyone. Try as they might, researchers who have studied all kinds of diets cannot find the magic number of carbohydrates a diabetic should eat. An individualized meal plan is the best way to enjoy fruit and other high-carb foods while keeping your blood sugar in check.
How do you get an individualized plan? Work with your healthcare team, of course. Your doctor or dietitian can craft a plan that fits your lifestyle and preferences. They can adjust medications to prevent dangerous blood sugar lows and highs and teach you the consequences of eating certain foods.
5 Tips to Squeeze Fruit Into Your Meal Plan
Even though individual needs vary, there are general suggestions to enjoy fruit without sending your blood sugars through the roof:
1. Pair fruits with foods high in protein or fat.
Protein and fat slow down the absorption of carbs, so your blood sugar doesn’t rise as rapidly. Pairing creates a balanced meal and prevents erratic blood sugars. For example, you can enjoy an apple with a stick of string cheese or a banana with a spoonful of peanut butter.
2. Mind portion size.
Enjoy a small piece of fresh fruit or ½ cup of frozen fruit or fruit canned in water with no syrup added. To keep blood sugar on an even keel, spread out your fruit intake. This means don’t binge on fruit at one meal; instead, enjoy fruit at each meal.
3. Pick fruits low in sugar and carbs.
Not all fruits are the same! Melons and pineapple are more likely to increase your blood sugar than berries, peaches, pears or kiwis.
4. Fresh or frozen fruit is best.
Eat fresh or frozen fruit whenever possible. Fruit juice and dried fruit concentrate the sugar in fruit. You can still have them, but in smaller doses. Limit yourself to ½ cup of fruit juice or two tablespoons of dried fruit.
5. Ease up on smoothies.
A fruit smoothie is a nourishing option, but it contains more fruit (and carbs) than you’d normally eat in one sitting. You can still enjoy smoothies, but keep the portions small. Add nuts, almond milk, leafy greens, avocado or plain yogurt to your smoothies since these foods supply the protein, fat and fiber that can ease the rise in blood sugar.