Clients and readers often ask me what fruits are good for diabetes or prediabetes. It’s really a simple answer: All of them! Every single fruit has a unique array of disease-fighting nutrients and phytonutrients like beta-carotene, lycopene, polyphenols and more. Research suggests that berries have something unique to offer.
In general, eating fruit is associated with less chronic disease, not more. And that includes heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Yet many people fear fruit because of its carbohydrate content. Specifically, people worry about the sugar content of fruit. Those with diabetes or prediabetes are concerned because of what eating fruit might do to their blood sugar levels. But fruit is more than blood sugar-raising carbohydrate.
While it is true that carbohydrate raises blood sugar levels more than other nutrients, it is not true that fruit raises blood sugar more than other carb-containing foods. Foods are much more than their macronutrient – carbohydrate, protein and fat – content. Avoiding health-boosting foods because carbohydrate raises blood sugar is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Fruits, along with other plant foods, contain so many disease-fighting, insulin-sensitizing compounds that it’s a bad idea to forgo them.
How Fruit is Good for Diabetes and Prediabetes
Scientists aren’t fully clear about how various phytonutrients (aka phytochemicals) lower the risk for type 2 diabetes or help with blood sugar control. However, they likely act in the intestines to slow down glucose absorption and act in other areas of the body to affect glucose metabolism and to increase insulin sensitivity. They also interact with our gut microbes. And some probably act as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. These phytonutrients likely exert both short term and long term actions, so it’s smart to eat plant foods with each meal and snack.
We also get these important compounds in nuts, seeds, tea, coffee, vegetables and grains. They are in all of our plant foods. Scientists have identified thousands of phytonutrients, so a diet packed with a variety of plant foods of all types is critical for disease prevention.
Eat berries if you have prediabetes
A study in Finland found that middle aged and older men who consumed the most berries had a whopping 35% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Other studies among men and women also link berries to less incidence of the disease.
The American Diabetes Association calls out berries as a good choice for people with prediabetes. They say that diets with higher intakes of berries, nuts, yogurt, coffee and tea are linked to less risk of type 2 diabetes.
Eat berries if you have diabetes
If berries are good for prediabetes, it’s not surprising that they’re also good for diabetes. The nutrients and phytonutrients in berries appear to limit glucose absorption and to help reduce insulin resistance, which is a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.
Eating berries looks to be good for the heart, as well.
Of course, if you have diabetes, count the carbs in your portion of fruit to stay within your target. Here’s what about 15 grams of carbohydrate looks like.
- 1 cup blackberries
- 3/4 cup blueberries
- 2 tablespoons dried cranberries
- 1 cup raspberries
- 1 1/4 cup whole strawberries
It breaks my heart when people fear wholesome foods like fruit. Unfortunately, lists of fruits good for diabetes or lists of foods bad for diabetes simplify diet much too much and confuse so many people. In general, it’s the total diet that matters. If you have questions about an eating pattern that fits your needs and health goals, why not see a registered dietitian nutritionist. You can find one in your area at the website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
And here’s a list of other surprising foods that are good for prediabetes. Check out the full post, Add These Foods to Prevent Diabetes.