I never eat fruit because it has too much sugar! This is a common phrase I hear clients say, and, as a dietitian, it always leaves me concerned. While fruit does contain naturally-occurring sugars, it is also packed with valuable vitamins, minerals, and fiber that hold so many health benefits for the body. What’s more, not all fruit has the same sugar content: some are higher in sugar than others, and some have more fiber than others, which helps to reduce the impact of the sugar on your blood glucose levels. This makes fruit much better than processed foods or artificial sweeteners for curbing a sweet tooth. So if you are living with diabetes or just looking to reduce your overall sugar intake, here is a guide to choosing the best fruits for your diet:
Fruits to Eat Often:
- Berries – Almost all berries score low on the glycemic index scale, meaning they have a lesser impact on blood sugars than other fruit options. Berries are also loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. Add berries to yogurt, oatmeal, or blend in a protein-packed smoothie.
- Citrus fruits – Fruits like grapefruit and oranges are high in fiber, which helps steady blood sugar levels. They’re also packed with vitamin C, which helps to boost your immune system.
- Pears – One medium-sized pear provides 6 grams of fiber—about 24% of the daily recommended amount for women under the age of 50. They also make for a great portable snack when you’re on-the-go.
- Apples – This American favorite is another great high-fiber option that pairs well with high-protein foods like nuts, nut butter and cheese. Apples are also known for helping to feed healthy gut bacteria as well.
- Stone fruits – Fruits like nectarines, plums, and peaches are generally low on the glycemic index when eaten fresh. Limit dried varieties, which makes their glycemic load substantially increase.
- Grapes – Many people think they need to avoid grapes because they are so sweet. However, grapes are also a great source of fiber and vitamin B-6, which helps support brain function mood. One serving of about 15 grapes is all you need to get these health benefits without going overboard on carbohydrates.
Fruits to Eat Mindfully:
As you can see from the list above, there are plenty of fruits to choose from that can be incorporated into meals on a daily basis. However, there are still plenty of other fruits to include in your diet that may have a higher glycemic load (i.e. bigger impact on blood glucose) but still host an abundance of great nutrients. Some of these fruits include:
- Dried fruit
You don’t have to completely eliminate these foods from your diet in order to maintain healthy blood glucose levels. In fact, including a variety of fruit in your diet will allow for you to get a larger range of nutrients as opposed to just eating a few types of fruit.
As with any fruit, portion sizes and food pairings can be very important. Always stick to one serving size of fruit per meal to avoid excess carbohydrate intake. This means also being mindful of other sources of carbohydrate in your meal. For example, eating a breakfast of plain toast, banana and a glass of fruit juice is a surefire way to send blood glucose surging because of cumulative amounts of carbohydrates in each of these foods.
Instead, you might opt for some high-protein, plain Greek yogurt with a serving of sliced pineapple or a protein smoothie with fresh mango. Although pineapple and mango are higher on the glycemic index and contain more carbohydrates per serving than other fruit varieties, the protein in the Greek yogurt or protein powder can help to balance out the impact of the sugar in your bloodstream.
One food trend to be extremely cautious of is juicing. While fruit juices do generally contain high amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, the process of juicing completely eliminates the valuable dietary fiber in these foods, making you more vulnerable to blood sugar spikes. It also takes quite a number of fruits to produce one cup of juice. So while eating one whole orange may have minimal impact on your blood sugar, drinking one glass of orange juice made from several oranges can have a much different effect. If you love juice, try a combination of veggie and fruit juice with things like apple, kale, spinach, cucumber, parsley and/or beet. Be mindful of the portion size—just one half cup of juice is considered one serving. You may also try to pair your juice with a source of protein or healthy fat, like a hardboiled egg or handful of nuts, to help lessen the blow on blood sugar.
Of course, the best way to measure the impact of any fruit on blood glucose is to check your own blood sugar with a glucometer after snacks and meals. This is still the most individualized way to make sure the foods you eat are the best for your health and your body.