We asked a nutritionist if diabetics should eat fruit. What she said may surprise you.
It’s common for people with diabetes to fear fruit – or avoid it altogether – because they’re afraid of it messing with their blood sugar levels. While there is some natural sugar (read: fructose) in fruit, your favorite sweet treat doesn’t have to be off-limits.
If you’re diabetic, you shouldn’t only be focused on food’s sugar content – but also carbohydrates, which can dramatically affect your blood sugar levels.
Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, author of Diabetes Weight Loss-Week by Week says, “Sugar in fruit doesn’t have to translate into high blood sugar levels. In fact, a piece of fruit about the size of a tennis ball provides only about 15 grams of carbohydrate – about the same as a cup of milk, a slice of whole wheat bread, 1/3 cup of brown rice, or a tablespoon of sugar.”
Weisenberger says she advises her diabetic clients to count the carbs in their meals (a step that may be a pain for some but is so, so necessary). Weisenberger says, “If your carb goal is 45 grams per meal, you can get this with a combination of fruit, grains and vegetables.”
So, what fruits have the lowest carb count per serving? According to the USDA, there are only 11 g of carbs in a cup of diced watermelon or a cup of whole strawberries; 13 g in a cup of diced cantaloupe; 12 g in a cup of sliced avocado (yep, it’s a fruit!); 14 g in a medium-sized peach; 25 g in a medium-sized apple; and 27 g in a banana.
Fruit can actually be a wonderful treat for diabetics. It’s chock-full of health-boosting nutrients and phytonutrients – such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, flavonoids, and carotenoids – that work together to help protect diabetics against other chronic diseases like heart disease (which people with diabetes are twice as likely to develop).
Weisenberger advises her clients to enjoy their fruit with meals, as a snack, or even as a healthy dessert (dark chocolate-covered strawberries, anyone?). To make sure you’re not overdoing it, Weisenberger says, “It’s smart to measure blood sugar immediately before eating and then again two hours after the first bite. The difference between those two numbers will help you assess the effect of the meal.”
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or you’ve been battling diabetes for years, there’s nothing to fear about fruit. Just make sure to consult your physician or a registered dietitian who’s also a certified diabetes educator to find out what’s best for you.