Fruit and Diabetes Part 1

Guest Post from Sally Marchini, dietitian

Everybody knows that fruits are a great source of plant nutrients, as well as being delicious. But it wouldn’t hurt to understand a little more about the range of fruits, so we can be mindful of our diabetes health and our overall wellbeing in our choices.

If you get tummy pains from fruits please see your dietitian as they can help you know which ones won’t upset your digestion, and you can still enjoy the taste and nutrients found in fruit.

A very good place for us to start is the Australian Dietary Guidelines where fruit is one of the five food groups that it is recommended we eat from each day. By checking the guidelines, we can understand why eating fruit is important for our overall wellbeing. We’ll also look at carbohydrate amounts in various fruits, how to manage the blood glucose spikes that can be associated with eating fruit, together with a ‘quick peek’ at juice and dried fruits.

That’s quite a lot to cover, so grab an apple while you read.

What counts as fruit?

The Australian Dietary Guidelines tell us: “A wide variety of fruit is grown and available in Australia. There is plenty of choice throughout the year.  Choosing fruits in season provides better value and better quality.  Eating seasonally also adds more variety to your diet throughout the year.  And just like with veggies, choosing different coloured fruits increases the variety of nutrients, which can enhance your health!”

“Choose fruits from these different fruit categories:

  • pome fruits such as apples and pears
  • citrus fruit such as oranges, mandarins and grapefruit
  • stone fruit such as apricots, cherries, peaches, nectarines and plums
  • tropical fruit such as bananas, paw paw, mangoes, pineapple and melons
  • berries
  • other fruits such as grapes and passionfruit.

For a longer list of the different fruits take a look at the Go for 2 & 5 Fruit and Vegetable information at www.gofor2and5.com.au. ”

And to keep an eye on what fruits are available seasonally in your part of Australian take a look at http://seasonalfoodguide.com/. We’ll talk more about fruits in season now for Autumn in the next blog.

Why include fruit every day?

Again, straight from the Australian Dietary Guidelines as it’s explained so well: “Most fruits are low in energy (kilojoules/calories) and high in fibre and water, making you feel fuller. This reduces the risk of over eating which can cause weight gain. The fibre in fruit is also thought to reduce the risk of some cancers, including colorectal cancer.

Fruit is abundant in vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals (plant chemicals). Vitamins such as vitamin C and E and different phytochemicals may reduce the risk of cardiovascular conditions. Potassium and magnesium found in fruit have also been linked to lower blood pressure.

Different coloured fruits, especially orange, red and yellow fruit, contain carotenes (Vitamin A) which are also thought to assist in immune function.”

 

What’s a serve for people with diabetes?

For adults, the Australian Dietary Guidelines recommends two serves a day.

As far as what constitutes a serve of fruit, it might be easier for us with diabetes to consider that a serve of fruit is equivalent to one carbohydrate serve or about 15g carb. Saying that, if you’re not counting carbohydrates with your diabetes, then following the serve sizes as indicated in the Australian Dietary Guidelines shouldn’t cause you any issues as they are quite similar. If you’re unsure, check with your Accredited Practising Dietitian.

If you’re not sure how much carbohydrate is in your fruit, just search for it on CalorieKing.com.au to work it out. As an example you can have 400g of hulled strawberries to make one serve (easy to split if you want to) and one medium mandarin is only half a carb serve.

 

For people who find that fruit spikes their blood glucose levels, one way around that can be to have only one or even only half a serve at a time, spreading the rest across the day.  You may find it helps to do some self-experimentation to work out what works best for you. You can do this by checking your blood glucose level before you eat and again 2 hours after you eat. Your BGL should be only about 2 or 3 points higher than it was at the start, if you’ve had an appropriate serving size for your current diabetes treatment model. Checking with your dietitian can be very helpful here too.

 

Skip the juice

Remembering that because with diabetes we’re aiming to minimise sugar spikes from excess carbohydrate, juice is best avoided. A glass of juice can contain the carbohydrate from many pieces of fruit. Because of this, that glass of juice would ‘spike’ our blood glucose levels, and yet without providing many of the health benefits of fruit. For the whole population, the Australian Dietary Guidelines reminds us that “many of us drink far too much fruit juice. Fruit juices can be high in energy (kilojoules) and low in dietary fibre, and can even damage your teeth. Whole fruits are a much better choice, and are more filling.”

What about dried fruit?

People often comment that dried fruit upsets their blood glucose control. That’s because if you go by weight, you’ll get a lot more fruit by weight when you consider that the water has been minimised in the dried fruit but the sugars are still there. So think what the fruit originally is that you’re having as dried fruit, and how much of it if eaten fresh would equal one carbohydrate serve. For example, a small bunch of grapes (about 100g or 18 grapes) contains one carbohydrate serve. This means the equivalent in sultanas is only 18 sultanas which doesn’t go far.

fruit and diabetesMain points to remember

  • Choose different coloured fruits for a wider nutrient intake.
  • One fruit serve = 1 carb serve.
  • If fruit upsets your tummy, check with your dietitian for the many that won’t.
  • Skip the juice and watch the dried fruit.
  • Check with your dietitian before you make any changes to your current eating plan.

In the next blog on fruit, we’ll take a look at some ways of eating fruit that you may not have considered. We’ll also talk about the benefits of eating fruit seasonally, along with a quick look at what’s in season in our Australian Autumn. We’ll also talk about the glycemic index, plus a few extra ‘tips and tricks’. I’d love to hear your ideas on these aspects of fruit! So if you have favourite ideas that we can include in the next blog please ‘comment’ and add them below this blogpost. Please also remember to comment your questions and favourite ways of enjoying fruit below.

Sally 🙂

Sally is owner of her private practice (Marchini Nutrition), has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too. 

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