Is it ok to eat fruit if I have diabetes?

Monday, 4 March 2019

Can I eat fruit when I am living with diabetes?

A very common question asked by people newly diagnosed with diabetes is, “do I need to cut fruit out of my diet?” Like other topics that discuss both food and diabetes, there is an abundance of conflicting information and opinions.  This article attempts to set the record straight and give you the facts so you can decide what is right for your diabetes management.

Firstly, what actually is fruit? 

Fruit is described as the sweet, fleshy edible part of a plant. It is often eaten raw and can come in many different colours, shapes, textures and flavours.

Fruit is one of the core food groups in the Australian diet as it comprises a number of key nutrients that promote overall health and wellbeing. It contains crucial nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), C and E as well as magnesiumphosphoruszinc and folic acid.

Another important nutrient fruit provides our body is dietary fibre. The evidence for the benefits of fibre are extensive. Fibre contributes to improved bowel function, helps us to feel fuller for longer, promotes healthy gut bacteria and has links to improved weight management.

Current recommendations for people living with diabetes

In Australia, dietary recommendations for those living with diabetes are currently based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG). These guidelines are also aimed at the general population. The ADG recommends Australian adults consume two serves of fruit along with five serves of vegetables per day.

What is a standard fruit serve?

A standard serve is about 150g (350kJ) or:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)

Or only occasionally:

  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fruit juice (no added sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (for example four dried apricot halves, one and a half tablespoons of sultanas)

Doesn’t fruit contain sugar though?

When managing diabetes, people need to be mindful of foods that contain carbohydrates as, on a short-term basis, this is what has a direct impact on increasing your blood glucose levels (BGLs). Fruit contains fructose, a type of natural sugar classed as a carbohydrate. Although it is important to ensure you don’t don’t eat too much fruit, it is still considered as a healthy snack due to its numerous beneficial nutrients.

Data from the 2017-18 National Health Survey actually shows that only half (51.3%) of Australian’s over 18 years meet the two serves recommendation of fruit and only 7.5% meet the guidelines for five to six serves of vegetables. It is also known that over one-third (35%) of an adult’s total daily energy intake comes from discretionary food choices. These are foods that usually contain high amounts of fat, added sugar and salt and are described as energy dense yet nutrient poor. This provides an interesting picture that rising rates of obesity and chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes are likely related to the fact that a large proportion of Australians do not follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG)

Are all fruits equal?

Different varieties of fruit contain differing amounts of carbohydrates. Below is a list of common fruits where the amount of carbs have been compared per 100g. Each of these fruits has a glycaemic index (GI) that may also need to be considered. For more information on GI follow the link.

Fruit Carbs (g per 100g)
Strawberries 3.9
Rockmelon 4.7
Watermelon 5.0
Peach 7.5
Mandarin 7.8
Navel orange 8.4
Apple 12.1
Mango 12.6
Grapes 15.0
Banana 19.6

Is fruit juice a good choice?

Although fruit juices seem like a popular and healthy choice, it must be highlighted that juicing fruit removes a substantial amount of skin and pulp that contains fibre and key nutrients. By removing this part of the fruit it concentrates the amount of carbohydrate, makes it higher GI and may cause your BGLs to spike quickly. This is something people living with diabetes should be trying to reduce.

Take home message

Fruit is a healthy snack that is part of a balanced diet and provides you with important nutrients. For people living with diabetes, it is recommended to consume two serves a day alongside other key recommendations of the ADG. Spreading out your fruit serves across the day may help to keep your BGLs relatively stable. If you notice certain fruits cause spikes in BGLs look at reducing portions sizes or swapping to other fruit choices. It is recommended to visit an Accredited Practising Dietitian if you need individualised nutrition advice on what is best for your diabetes management.


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