It’s a common myth that if you have diabetes, you shouldn’t eat certain foods because they’re “too sweet.” Some fruits do contain more sugar than others, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them if you have diabetes.
The total amount of carbohydrates in food affects blood sugar levels more than does the source of carbohydrates or whether the source is starch or sugar. One serving of fruit should contain 15 grams of carbohydrates. The size of the serving depends on the carbohydrate content of the fruit. The advantage of eating a low-carbohydrate fruit is that you can consume a larger portion. But whether you eat a low-carb or high-carb fruit, as long as the serving size contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, the effect on your blood sugar is the same
The following fruit servings contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates:
- 1/2 medium apple or banana
- 1 cup of blackberries
- 3/4 cup blueberries
- 1 cup of raspberries
- 1 1/4 cup whole strawberries
- 1 cup cubed cantaloupe or honeydew melon
How does fruit affect blood sugar?
The main sugar in fruit, called fructose, is quickly taken up by the liver, converted to glucose, and released into the bloodstream. So, fruit can cause glucose levels to rise. However, fruits also contain fibre, a nutrient that can slow carbohydrate digestion and help manage blood sugar levels. Different fruits contain varying amounts of fructose, glucose, and fibre, meaning that the type of fruit you eat will determine how it affects your blood sugar.
The type of sugar found in fruit is different from the simple sugar that is added to processed foods, like soda or ice cream. Because the carbohydrates in fruit are accompanied by fibre, vitamins, and minerals, eating fruit in moderation will generally affect blood sugar levels differently – and more slowly – than eating candy.
The US Dietary Guidelines recommend that all adults eat about two cups of fruit per day, where one piece of fruit is about the size of a one-cup serving. People with diabetes should still eat fruit but should be more mindful of fruit intake, paying attention to the type and amount of fruit that they eat. Pairing fruit with foods that also have protein and fat (like eating an apple with peanut butter or eating berries with plain yogurt) can help prevent a blood sugar spike.
Blood Sugar Levels
Processed foods with lots of added sugars – sodas, candy, desserts and baked goods – have the most immediate impact on your blood sugar levels. But even on what seems like a healthy diet, some of your food and beverage choices may negatively affect your blood sugar levels, causing them to peak and crash. When this happens, you might feel a brief burst of energy – a sugar rush – followed by a low point where you become tired and need to refuel.
Keeping blood sugar levels on an even keel is key to overall good health, even if you aren’t diabetic or prediabetic. A balanced diet of regular meals that include some protein, carbs and fat helps you stay on track and avoid blood sugar levels that swing between being too high and too low.
In various diets
- The ADA also recommends including fresh, frozen, or canned fruit no matter what diet a person follows. They recommend the following amounts of fruit based on three different diet types:
- The plate method: This diet involves one small whole fruit or half a cup of fruit salad; among the other foods it allows.
- Carb counting: One small whole fruit or half a cup of canned or frozen fruit has about 15 g of carbs. A person can substitute the fruit for another serving of carbs during a meal or day.
- GI: Most fruits have a low GI score due to their high fibre content, so they can feature in the diet of someone who follows the glycaemic guide.
Healthy strategies for eating fruit
Portion size is key! Set out the amount of fruit that you want to eat, and then stick to that portion – this will help you avoid eating too much fruit and experiencing a blood sugar spike. It’s also helpful to spread multiple servings of fruit out over the course of the day, rather than eating a lot of fruit at once. Choose fresh fruit whenever possible. Canned fruit, dried fruit, and sometimes frozen fruit often have added sugars (and other chemicals). Processed fruit (like applesauce) also generally contains added sugar.
Try to avoid fruit juice. Fruit juice contains all of the sugar of fruit without the fibre to help your body process it. This means that juice can cause your blood sugar to spike quickly. If you are drinking fruit juice, drink a very small portion (half a cup) and consider adding water to it; make sure you get “100% fruit juice” so that no extra sugars are added to sweeten the drink. Note: this is why juice can be used to quickly raise your blood sugar if you are experiencing hypoglycaemia.
Fresh fruit contains fibre, minerals, and antioxidants that are an important part of a healthy diet. Choosing whole, fresh fruits, rather than dried fruit or juices, can provide fibre and nutrients and help limit blood sugar increases. You may want to test your blood sugar before and after eating fruit to help determine which ones are best for you.