Fragrant, fuzzy peaches. Juicy watermelon. Tart berries. There’s nothing like fresh-picked fruits available at a farmers market or produce stand near you.
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But is fruit bad for diabetics? If you have diabetes, you might be a little wary of nature’s candy and the sugars they hold. “But don’t be scared of fruit,” says dietitian Kim Pierce, RD.
Here are 10 things to know about fruit and diabetes, including how to make them part of your healthy diet.
Plus, fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. “Fruit contains nutrients that can lower your risk of cancer and heart disease,” she adds. “You should eat some every day.”
Fruit does have natural sugars, but its high fiber content balances the sugars, Pierce explains. “Fiber slows down digestion. That helps us feel full longer and prevents spikes in blood sugar.”
Dietary guidelines recommend five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. That’s true whether or not you have diabetes, Pierce says. Since fruits have more calories and sugar than veggies, try to strike a balance. She recommends breaking up your five servings into three veggie servings and two fruit servings.
“All fruit is fair game, but fresh is best,” Pierce says.
The best fruit for diabetics — and everyone, really — is fresh fruit. Whole fresh or frozen fruits should be your go-to, since they’re full of fiber and other nutrients.
Processed fruits like applesauce and canned fruits are the worst fruits for diabetics since they can increase blood sugar more quickly. Dried fruits can also be healthy, Pierce says, but watch your portion size. Two tablespoons of raisins contain as many grams of carbohydrates as a small apple.
As always, let nutrition labels be your guide. If you’re wondering what fruits to avoid in diabetes-friendly diets, skip fruits canned in syrup since that means added sugar. Some dried and frozen fruits can also have sugar added, so read the fine print.
“Fruit juice has a lot of concentrated sugars without any fiber, so it can increase blood sugars quickly,” Pierce says. If you’re really craving juice, limit your portion to a half-cup serving.
Fruit is healthy, but you still have to practice moderation, Pierce says. Try to space out your fruit throughout the day. (In other words, don’t eat an entire bag of grapes in one sitting.)
In general, one serving is a small- to medium-sized piece of whole fruit, or ¾ to 1 cup of fruit like melon or berries.
Fruit is a terrific option to satisfy a sweet tooth, says Pierce. One word of caution: If you’re craving something super-specific, like a brownie, it may be better to just eat a small piece of the chocolatey goodness. Otherwise, you might be circling back to fruits and other sweet things all day in a futile attempt to quash that craving.
If you’re wondering what fruits are good for diabetics, it’s pretty much the same list as non-diabetics: eat the rainbow. Different colors of fruits and vegetables have different vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. To get all the good stuff, look for a ROYGBIV of fruits (and veggies) — from red strawberries to deep purple blackberries (and all the colors in between).
Fruit is part of a healthy diet, but it’s always smart to get guidance from nutrition experts before you dive into a bowl of watermelon. “Check in with a diabetes educator or a registered dietitian to develop a healthy meal plan,” Pierce advises.