People worldwide consume them, but it is still a matter of debate about what’s better in a healthy diet, fruits or their extracted fruit juices! Both of these food items are edible, tasty, and by many standards are considered healthy. Fruits are considered healthy and a part of a daily diet as recommended by health experts, but fruit juices?
Diabetes essentially refers to a chronic condition where the person suffers from hyperglycemia or blood sugar levels much above the normal levels. If not controlled promptly, it can result in drastic effects such as organ failure. Fruits should be an essential part of eating healthy for a person with diabetes, as they provide numerous benefits.
The composition of fruits and fruit juices differ with respect to the calories provided, and the type of carbohydrates.
Whole fruits contain vitamins, calcium, potassium, flavonoids, and other minerals, in addition to natural sugars, dietary fiber, and carbohydrates. Conversely, fruit juices contain more calories than whole fruits, sugar in juices, and no fiber. All this clearly shows fruits are richer in terms of nutritional components than their juices.
As mentioned above, whole fruits are healthier than fruit juices in terms of nutritional components. Let us now see how fruits are better for diabetes patients.
The main benefit of the whole fruit lies in its pulp and skin. These elements are high in dietary fiber, contributing significantly to improving bowel movements, gut health, and overall gastrointestinal health. When you eat the whole fruit, the dietary fiber binds to the fruit’s natural sugars as it gets absorbed in the digestive tract. Due to this binding action, the sugar is slowly broken down and utilized by the body, giving you a feeling of fullness.
On the other hand, when you drink only the fruit juice and skip its pulp and skin, you end up taking in large amounts of sugar at one go. Along with additional calories, the amount of sugar ingested leads to an increase in blood glucose. Hence, there are both weight management and blood glucose control issues.
The skin and pulp of fruits contain many more vitamins and nutrients than you may think. For example, a raw apple is richer in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, calcium, and potassium than a peeled apple. Extracting only the juice from the fruit leaves behind these nutrients. Instead, it increases the content of carbohydrates and is one food group those with diabetes must reduce in their diet.
Glycemic index refers to the ability or the extent to which food causes a rise in blood sugar levels two hours after it has been consumed.
Whole fruits have a much lower glycemic index than their juices. They do not contribute significantly to blood sugars when they are consumed in moderation. This is why doctors deem whole fruits as a safe option for those with diabetes.
The main difference between the 2 food types is the rate at which they increase blood sugar levels. While fruit juices lead to quick highs and lows in sugar levels and leave the person feeling hungrier, whole fruits result in slow rises in sugars. Hence, whole fruits are better for blood glucose control.
It would not be wise to avoid fruits, just because you have diabetes. On the contrary, eating fruits helps satisfy hunger, meet daily nutritional requirements, including that for sugars.
What are the fruits allowed for people with diabetes? Glycemic index is one way to choose a fruit, however, it should not be the only way, as the carbohydrate content per serving and serving size also affect your blood glucose.
While fruits do contain sugars such as fructose, owing to their immense benefits they should not be excluded from the diet by people with diabetes. All fruits can be consumed in moderation. There are however some basic rules. Do not consume fruits as fruit juices; stick to small portion sizes at a time ie. 1 small fruit,1/2 of big fruit, or a cup of chopped fruits.
Avoid canned fruits as they are generally preserved in sugar syrup. Dried fruits also provide excellent benefits, however, as they are concentrated sources make sure you do not overeat- 2-3 dates, 10 raisins, 2-3 figs at a time works perfectly. Do not add fruits to your main meals, as you will then have to make carbohydrate adjustments. Instead, have them as a snack in between meals.
Fruits and diabetes are not opposites. Fruits act as a natural source of sugar and help fulfill the daily requirements of sugars and carbohydrates for diabetes. They are also very filling because of their dietary fiber and water content. Diabetes is also linked with conditions such as obesity, stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular conditions. Consumption of fruits helps lower these risks, particularly obesity.
While the serving portion of fruits depends on their size, people with diabetes can safely consume 2-3 servings daily. Fruits such as berries, which are smaller in size, can be given in 1-cup servings, while medium-sized fruits such as apples should usually be the size of a baseball.
Bear in mind that fruit juices can cause spikes in blood glucose, whereas fruits and water are better choices to battle thirst. In a rare event such as a hypoglycemic episode, 8 oz of fruit juice can be taken to treat the episode, as this can bring a quick rise in blood glucose, which is necessary at that point. To summarize, say a big Yes to including fruits in your daily diet. Be wise and consume the right portions, to manage your blood glucose efficiently! Fruit juices cause more harm than good – choose whole fruits!
Diet and diabetes are very important to take care of. Any person from the youngest of age to the oldest could be suffering from any of the variants of diabetes, and during these difficult times, you can summon the angel of diabetes, Diahome, for help.
Author,Sripriya Ravi, MSc,M.Phil,MS, Dietitian/Diabetes Educator, Diahome
Diahome is the one you can rely on for all your diabetes-related needs, whether you wish to opt for home consultations, home blood collection, online reporting as well as receiving medications at a discount.