Fruit gets an unfair bad rap and is often feared to spike up the blood sugars among people with diabetes. But does all the worry around fruit for diabetes really have any truth? We look at three common fruit myths to bust.
1. Banana / Durian / Grape / Watermelon is bad for people with diabetes. There is a “best” or “worst” fruit for diabetes
Many people avoid certain fruits in diabetes because they taste sweeter and believe they are higher in sugar. That is not entirely true. Fruit is a healthy food. It contains fibre, lots of vitamins and antioxidants. Regardless of the sweetness level, all fruits contain carbohydrates naturally, and a variety of fruits should be included as part of your meal plan. The key is to stick to the right portion sizes. Generally, we recommend to aim for two portions of fruit a day, at separate times of the day. For more details on portion sizes, head to Jasmine’s blog post.
Another thing to consider that’s not as important as portion size, but may be helpful to optimising blood sugars, is the glycemic index (GI). Most fruits have a low GI because of their fructose and fibre which means the sugar is released slower into the blood. Melons and pineapple have medium GI values as do dried fruits like dates and raisins; a few are high GI including rockmelon and watermelon. Some fruits also tend to be lower in carbohydrates for the same portion size, like berries or guava. The advantage of eating a low-carbohydrate fruit is that you can take a larger portion to make up the 15g carbohydrate serving size. But there is no best or worst fruit for diabetes, all fruits are healthful in their own way and provide unique benefits, so enjoy a rainbow! (click and drag on the text to tweet this/share on Facebook)
Let’s look closer at each fruit with a bad reputation:
Bananas are a low-medium GI fruit high in potassium and a great source of fibre. Many believe that bananas contain “too much sugar”, but the natural sugar and starch content changes depending on its ripeness. The most important factor is to keep to the 15g carbohydrate serving, and a small banana is the perfect snack for this serve. A large banana can be two carbohydrate servings, so ideally eat half at a time and save the other half for later on.
Durians are a favourite among Singaporeans and the problem lies in its addictive taste leading to overeating rather than being a ‘bad fruit’. While some are concerned about the sugar content of durians, they are actually low GI and one portion size is 1 large seed or 2 small seeds. So it’s time to get sharing with your other durian loving family or friends! Although durian does contain some fat, like avocados they are mostly the heart-healthy monounsaturated kind. In the context of a well-balanced diet and taken in moderation, they are definitely not ‘fattening’.
Red wine is known for its high antioxidant called reseveratrol. But did you know a lower calorie source of resveratrol that won’t give you hangovers, are grapes? Grapes also have a high in water content, making it a great snack for hydration. Grapes may taste sweet but they are low GI and a handful (10-15 grapes) is equivalent to one carbohydrate serving.
While watermelon is a high GI fruit, one wedge is the equivalent to one exchange of carbohydrate, and can still be enjoyed. Watermelon is also a great source of the antioxidant lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
2. I can replace fruits with vegetables (instead of 2 serves fruit + 2 serves vegetable, just take 4 serves of fruit)
There can be too much of a good thing! If you take too much fruit, it will displace other food groups that provide different nutrients. Too much fruit for diabetes also means excessive fructose which may not be the best for your blood sugar control. Stick to the 2 serves of fruit a day to get the best of all the food groups.
3. Eating fruits before meals is better than after meals
There is no evidence to show that nutrients are better absorbed when consumed before meals as compared to after meals. Your digestive system is constantly working and taking in the nutrients no matter what time of the day. Some people find that eating fruits before a meal helps them feel fuller which might be useful to control food intake. Others find that having a piece of fruit after a meal or as a snack helps curb the sweet tooth craving for dessert. Whichever works for you is the best time to take!