Fruit and diabetes – Part 2

Guest Post from Sally Marchini

Thanks so much for all the feedback! Following the great success of “Fruit and diabetes: part 1”, today we’ll take a look at the benefits of eating fruit seasonally. We’ll focus on what fruits are currently in season during our Australian Autumn. We’ll chat about the glycaemic index of fruits so we can work out how best to include seasonal fruits in our diet while managing BGLs. We’ll also look at a few easy recipes using seasonal fruit, and some ways of eating fruit that you may not have yet considered.

In my first blog on fruit the main points to remember were:

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

Benefits of eating fruit seasonally

In Australia we’re able to get most fruits (and vegetables) year round in our supermarkets. Often out of season fruits and vegetables are imported from other parts of the world to make this happen, creating transport and storage time lags and costs. Did you know that if we choose locally grown, seasonal produce we’ll get better flavour, better quality, and better prices; as well as supporting our local farmers. There are other important reasons.

I’m linking you here to a great website that I encourage you to bookmark. It’s called Sustainable Table.  Here you can ‘delve deeper’ into these points, if you’re interested. The site will also supply you with lists of seasonal fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that are freshly growing across all four seasons.

For example, here I am quoting a table of the fruits that are in season in Australia in Autumn. What a fabulous selection there is!

 

  • apple* aba, bonza, braeburn, cox’s orange pippins, fuji, gala, golden delicious, granny smith, jonagold, jonathan, mutso, pink lady, red delicious, snow, sundowner, mandarin* imperial,  orange* navel, valencia pear* beurre bosc , howell, josephine, packham, red sensation, williams

There are also a couple of newer apples that are currently in season. Kanzi and Greenstar are naturally cross-bred Australian apples that you’ll see in the shops at the moment. Greenstar is a sweet green apple, while most green apples have a more bitter taste. Greenstar also has three times the amount of vitamin C compared with other apples, meaning it stays white for a long time after slicing. This makes it ideal for salads, cheese platters and as a snack for work or childrens’ lunch boxes.  I tested this myself by cutting one in half and the flesh was still white (if a little dry) a whole day later!

Kanzi is a bright red apple that is a cross between Gala and the Braeburn, resulting in a juicy apple with great crunch and taste. We’ve been enjoying these at home and in fact are enjoying them as much as we do Pink Ladys.How to enjoy your Christmas eating

 

Apples lead us nicely onto the next topic, the glycaemic index (GI) of fruits, as apples are one of the lowest GI fruits around!

The Glycaemic Index of Fruits

I’ve put the following information together based on the Autumn fruits currently in season here in Australia. You can figure this out yourself  by combining the seasonal guide with a copy of Professor Jennie Brand-Miller’s Low GI Diet Shopper’s Guide 2015 which lists the glycaemic index for over 1000 foods. I’ve used CalorieKing.com.au to obtain the serve sizes for 15g carb.

You may not be sure about why you need to know the glycaemic index of foods containing carbohydrates and why this knowledge is particularly important  for people with diabetes. I suggest you have a read of this earlier blog on the topic. Please remember, as explained in Fruit blog 1, that just because a fruit has a higher GI rating, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it. Just understand that you may want to have a smaller portion of that particular fruit.  Rather than a whole carbohydrate serve amount in one sitting, perhaps have a half, or a quarter, and perhaps combine it with other, low GI, foods to help lower the total GI of the meal/snack that you’re having it with. e.g. serving that high GI fruit with plain yoghurt.

Glycemic Index Rating Seasonal Autumn Fruits Approx grams of fruit per carb serve (15g)
Low GI (less than or equal to 55) apple

banana

custard apple

grapefruit

grapes

mango

orange

peach

pear

140g (with skin, edible portion)

80g

100g

280g

100g

130g (flesh only)

190g (flesh only)

170g (edible portion)

170g (edible portion)

Medium (56-70) paw paw (papaya) 220g (edible portion)
High (71-100)

You’ll notice that some fruits aren’t listed in this table. This could be that they haven’t been tested, or that they don’t contain enough carbohydrate to warrant testing.

Generally speaking, though, you can see that ‘most’ fruits do have a low to medium glycaemic index. As explained by the Glycemic Index Foundation, “Tropical fruits – pineapple, paw paw, papaya, rockmelon and watermelon tend to have higher GI values, but their glycemic load (GL) is low because they are low in carbohydrate.” It’s also true that we tend to eat smaller amounts of them, that don’t equal a whole carbohydrate serve (15g carb) anyway. For Autumn at least, there are no high GI fruits listed in season.

I really like this advice from the Glycemic Index Foundation: “Whether a food’s GI is 59 or 61 isn’t biologically relevant. Normal day-to-day variation in the human body could obscure the difference in these values.” As explained in Fruit blog 1, we’re fortunate as people with diabetes that we can do ‘self-experiments’ with our bgl meters. By testing our own BGLs before and after measured amounts of various foods containing carbohydrate we can see how they affect us individually. If you’re not sure about this, ask your dietitian to help you work it out.

We did have a specific request through one of our Facebook groups to look at Pineapple, although it’s a summer fruit, so technically its not now in season here. For that person,  Pineapple has been tested to have a medium GI of about 59 and CalorieKing Australia tells us that 180g provides us one carb serve, which is quite a lot of pineapple. Most of us wouldn’t eat a whole carb serve worth in one sitting, which means that medium GI shouldn’t affect us too much.

Easy Recipes and Easy Tips to Add Fruit Across your Day

Fruit is so easy to include through your day. Aim for just 2 serves per day. For those who’d like more variety in a day,  those 2 serves can be split into 4 ‘half serves’, especially if you’re working to minimise impact on your BGLs.

Eating fruit with your breakfast cereal works well for most people, (especially berries, bananas and apples). Fruit smoothies also ‘work a treat’ for breakfast when you’re not feeling like toast or cereal.

 

Morning tea is a perfect opportunity for  half serve of fruit, or one of your two full serves, as we often need a snack then.

Apples work well added in to sandwiches and salads with lunch, or adding one of your 2  pieces of fruit to your lunchtime should keep you going a little longer through the afternoon.

Mixing fruit with nuts is a great choice for a low-carb afternoon tea snack to keep you going until dinner time. This will sustain you and  help you to avoid the urge for making unhealthy food choices as your hunger levels increase.

 

Fruits can work as part of a main course. Stewed fruit can work well to accompany roasted meats, and of course apple sauce (or unsweetened puree) goes perfectly with lean pork.  Pork can also be roasted on a bed of apples.

[We will discuss more ‘savoury’ ways to include fruit in our  Diabetes and Food – let’s celebrate it! Facebook group. Feel free also to add your suggestions in the ‘Comments’ below!]

And of course fruit works delightfully for a ‘sweet treat’ after dinner.  One of my favourites is stewed or baked apple with plain yogurt and cinnamon – no pastry or cream- a healthy apple pie!

 

The usual recipe sites all have great recipes that include fruits. There are LOTS of them. Some of my favourites include:

Fruit Kebabs from Taste.com.au

Fresh fruit with nut crumble from Taste.com.au

Orange and grapefruit salsa from Better Health Victoria

Ricotta fruit toast from The Australian Healthy Food Guide

In conclusion, I believe that the possibilities for healthy low-GI fruit recipes and options are endless.  There’s really no reason not to enjoy your ‘two pieces of fruit’ across a whole day.

We encourage you to share your own favourite ways of enjoying fruit while managing your diabetes here, in the ‘comments’ section below and also in our Facebook groups.

Sally 🙂

Sally is a Dietitian Marchini Nutrition), has had type 1 diabetes for close to 40 years and coeliac disease for many years too.

 

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