Reach for a Peach: The Benefits of Fruit

Fruit is good for you, and doesn't necessarily negatively affect blood glucose levels.

Many people with diabetes come into the offices of dietitians with diet histories devoid of fruits. And many who do eat fruit limit their consumption to apples only. When asked why, they often reply that either they were told to limit their intake because fruits are high in sugar or they claim that they can’t eat fruit as it’s “too sweet” and will raise their blood sugar.

It is too bad that fruit gets a bum rap in the minds of both some patients and some health professionals. Not only does fruit provide big time payoffs in the nutrition department, but it does so with a minimal calorie cost. That’s important for most people with type 2 diabetes and quite a few with type 1 diabetes too.

Many fruits contain appreciable amounts of vitamins A and C as well as potassium, with barely a hint of sodium. In addition to their bevy of healthful vitamins, fruits are a good source of fiber, particularly berries, apples and pears. The soluble fiber in fruit, when eaten in sufficient quantity, can actually contribute to glycemic control by slowing carbohydrate absorption.

In addition, it also prevents the reabsorption of bile acids (the cholesterol-containing detergent that helps digest fat) which can lower cholesterol levels. And fruits contain substances called phytoestrogens that are responsible for a variety of positive metabolic changes.

And let’s face it, there just aren’t that many healthful foods in the diet that provide a sweet taste without piling up the calories.

So even if it’s often difficult to change people’s minds about the value of fruit in the diet, trying is certainly worth the effort. And a new study that appeared in the March 2013 issue of the Nutrition Journal adds a bit more ammunition to the struggle.

The researchers divided 63 people with newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes into two groups. One was told to eat no more than two fruits a day and the other to eat at least two fruits per day. Participants recorded their fruit consumption for three months. Otherwise, each group received the same nutritional advice from registered dietitians including counseling on weight loss. A1Cs, weight and waist circumference was measured at the beginning and end of the study.

The subjects followed their fruit recommendations, as indicated by food records. In results that don’t come as a surprise to most health professionals, the high fruit consumption group did fine. A1Cs weren’t different between the groups, but weight loss and waist circumference favored the high fruit group slightly.

Now the weight loss differences weren’t huge, but that isn’t the point. The point is the high fruit group didn’t fare any worse. Including fruit in the diet at amounts exceeding two servings a day didn’t have an adverse effect on glycemic control.

So, with the soft rays of an August sun gently warming your backyard table, isn’t it a great time to reach for a peach?

Do you include fruit in your diet? Do you think it has a positive or negative effect on your blood glucose?

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14 Responses to Reach for a Peach: The Benefits of Fruit

  1. Tristan says:

    What ARE good fruits to eat? And does fruit consumption matter if you are on insulin verses oral medications?

    • Nora Saul, Manager Nutrition Services says:

      Dear Tristan,
      All fruits can be included in the diet; there are some fruits such as apples, pears and berries that contain an appreciable amount of fiber. These are always good fruits to enjoy. But whatever fruit you choose remember to be judicious about how much you are having at any one time, if you treat your diabetes with lifestyle alone, are on oral medications or on basal insulin. If you take mealtime insulin and use an insulin to carbohydrate ratio you would need to count the carbohydrate for the size fruit you are eating and calculate the number of units of insulin needed.

  2. Cristina says:

    Greetings from Spain!
    My 16 year old diabetic son usually eats 3 pieces of fruit a day, in the breakfast, at lunch and at dinner. Each of them corresponding to 20 g of carbs, always with peel, just washed (except bananas and others of course). He includes a great variety, depending on the season, now in summer apples, pears, peaches, pumbles, watermelon, cherries and kiwis and if he exercises bananas as well. It is not an exception in my familiy, everybodyelse does the same. It is part of the mediterranean diet I suppose and I do believe it is a healthy one. We believe it has a positive effect on the glucose level together with the rest of the diet, exercise and insuline of course.

  3. Anna says:

    Most fruits raise my blood sugar above normal levels. Why is this not a big deal??

    • Nora Saul, Manager Nutrition Services says:

      Dear Anna,
      All carbohydrates will raise blood sugar above non-fasting levels. Fruit in appropriate portions, compensated for with insulin (if you take insulin) are a healthful addition to the diet. Try experimenting with adding healthful fat or protein with your fruit.

      • Anna says:

        Of course they will. But I am not talking about “above fasting” blood sugar levels. I am talking about “above normal” i.e. over 200 mg/dL.

        I can maintain NORMAL blood sugar levels without insulin as long as I don’t eat fruit. I think I would prefer to skip the fruit rather than subject myself to daily multiple injections. Thanks anyway.

  4. donna Hughes says:

    I am 70 and come from a family with history of diabetics. I just got a score in the pre-diabetes range during my recent annual exam. I am trying to get my score back into the normal range and wonder if there is an updated glycemic table available. I an’t seem to find one and would love to see how all of the fruit falls. Thanks so much. Donna

  5. Katie says:

    I eat at least two fruits a day, especially when they are in season. I love peaches! I avoid watermelon and pineapples and eat most fruits on the market. I have had no problems with my blood sugars after eating them.

  6. Oh my. I am very disappointed. We are all different, of course, but what you write here could cause devastating blood sugar spikes to newbies and I am ashamed for you.

    I’m in my 60s, T2 for 7+ years, controlling with diet and exercise only. After testing 7-8 times/day in the beginning, I found the only fruits I could eat safely were berries: blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries…….There are too many generalities here. Eating a peach would spike me into the 200s…….I expect better of you.

  7. LOH CHEN PENG says:

    I need some clarification from expert if possible. I was told that the sucrose in fruits is worse then glucose as excess sucrose converts into fat,as it is not as easy to metabolize sucrose compared to glucose

    Comments?

  8. LOH CHEN PENG says:

    I was told Sucrose,present in Fruits, is bad as it is more difficult to metabolize compared to simple sugar, ie glucose

    Excess sucrose converts to fat!

    Comments?

    • Nora Saul, Manager Nutrition Services says:

      Dear Loh Chen Peng,
      Sucrose is made up of two simple sugars, glucose and fructose. Fructose is the simple sugar found in fruit. Consumed in the quantities found in fruit, fructose is harmless. However, fructose is metabolized differently than glucose and if consumed in large quantities, such as the amount in several servings of soft drinks, may tend to increase triglyceride levels.

  9. Absolutely! Where I work, we don’t just focus on weight loss, but we help those with Type 2 diabetes get control of their health – and we have always made sure to provide balanced diets INCLUDING fruit. There’s nothing healthier or more natural than the very food we were provided on this earth.

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