It's a common myth that you must avoid fruits that are too sweet if you have diabetes. While it's true that some fruits contain more sugar than others, this doesn't mean that people with diabetes must limit or avoid them. The truth is, many Americans with and without diabetes fail to eat enough fruit, which contains vital nutrients you body needs to function properly. For this reason, you're encouraged to eat a variety of fruits as part of your meal plan.
Fruit as Part of Your Carbohydrate Intake
Fruit contains carbohydrates and, because carbs raise blood sugar more than other food components, you must count them as part of your meal plan. Instead of avoiding certain fruits, count fruits of all varieties toward your daily carbohydrate intake. A good way to manage your blood sugar is to eat a consistent amount of carbs at each meal daily. A good place to start is with 45 to 60 grams of carbs per meal, according to the American Diabetes Association.
Guidelines for Choosing Fruit
You need carbohydrates because they provide your body with its primary source of fuel. The goal is to get the bulk of your carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods. Choose a variety of fresh, frozen or canned fruits that contain no added sugars. If you choose canned fruit, check that it's canned in juice or light syrup. Dried fruit is another option, but it has some disadvantages. It contains more carbohydrates and calories than fresh fruit, so the serving sizes are smaller. Additionally, because the water content is removed, dried fruit is slightly less fulfilling. The drying process also decreases the nutritional value, and some dried fruits contain added sugar.
Fruit Serving Sizes
To make fruit part of a healthy diabetes meal plan, it's a good idea to become familiar with the amount of carbohydrates in common servings. In general, a small piece of whole fruit, or 1/2 cup of frozen or canned fruit, contains about 15 grams of carbs. For most berries and melons, a 3/4 cup to 1 cup serving contains 15 grams of carbs. In comparison, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, so keep an eye on portion sizes. You can exchange fruit for another carb, such as bread, to stay within your allotted carb range per meal.
Fruit and the Glycemic Index
Some fruits have fewer carbohydrates than others, which means you can eat a larger portion compared to higher carb fruits. Strawberries, watermelon, cantaloupe, avocado, raspberries, plums, fresh cranberries, honeydew melon and casaba melon are good lower-carb options.
If you're using the glycemic index -- a system that ranks foods based on how much they raise glucose -- the good news is most fruits have a low GI. Certain fruits like melons, pineapple and some dried fruits like raisins and dates have a medium GI. However, as long as a serving size contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, the effect on your blood sugar is the same.