Fruits and vegetables are the foundation of any healthy and balanced diet. Yes, even if you have diabetes!
There are plenty of reasons NOT to be afraid of eating fruit. At least, that's what Leslie Beck, a dietitian based at Medcan in Toronto, believes. "Fruits are an excellent source of fibre, potassium, vitamin C and folic acid which are nutrients capable of reducing the risk of chronic diseases."
In fact, a study from 2016 found that eating fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease in people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Additional studies point to similar conclusions. For example, eating small fruits and leafy vegetables may help reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Read more: What you need to know about prediabetes
Here are a few smart, simple ways to reap the health benefits of fruit while maintaining a diabetes-friendly diet.
Stick to fresh or frozen fruit
If you make a beeline for fresh fruit when you’re at the grocery store, you're on the right track. Fresh or frozen fruits are the best options if you live with diabetes. The reason is simple: they do not contain any added sugar. "Canned fruit can work, too," says Beck. "As long as you choose varieties packed in water over those canned in syrup."
Skip the juice aisle, however. Juice lacks the fibre that keeps you feeling full between meals. You should also proceed with caution when shopping for dried fruit. "Some varieties, particularly cranberries, are sweetened with sugar," Beck notes.
Read more: How to spot added sugar in food
Eat fruits that help fight diabetes
There's room for all your favourite fruits in a balanced diet. But, if you're looking for a little diabetes-fighting boost, Leslie Beck recommends the following options:
- Cherries and berries
These superfruits are rich in antioxidant compounds called polyphenols. Some studies acknowledge their ability to control blood sugar.
- Oranges, strawberries, mangoes, and cantaloupe
These tasty fruits are high in vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. "The need for vitamin C increases with diabetes. That's why it's important to include different sources of vitamin C into your diet to prevent deficiencies," stresses Beck.
These fruits are packed with dietary fibre which helps keep you feeling full and stabilizes your blood sugar.
Learn about recommended serving sizes
Portion control allows you to enjoy all the foods you love while managing your blood sugar - and fruit is no exception. However, standard portion sizes differ from fruit to fruit, so it’s important to know what’s considered an appropriate serving size.
Pay particular attention to portion sizes when enjoying dried fruit, which is higher in carbohydrate and calories. Leslie Beck recommends limiting dried fruit portions to two tablespoons. Try using dried fruit to garnish a dish and not as a main ingredient. For example, you can add unsweetened dried apples to a spinach salad or add dried apricots in your yogurt.
Choose low-glycemic index fruits
Some foods have a low glycemic index (GI) and can help control your blood sugar. Low GI dishes have a gradual impact on your blood sugar. High GI dishes trigger blood sugar and insulin spikes.
Most fruits have a low GI, except for three:
“Higher GI fruits don’t need to be off-limits, but you should combine them with low-GI foods. This will help reduce the impact on your blood sugar," advises Beck.
Try raisins as a topping for oatmeal rather than eating them as a snack on their own. Or serve watermelon for dessert after a balanced meal. Small changes can help you manage your blood sugar while still enjoying the foods you love.
Read more: Can type 2 diabetes be reversed?