Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a disease affecting the regulation of blood glucose (sugar) levels.
An organ called the pancreas creates the hormone insulin, which helps keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range.
With diabetes, the pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin, or the body doesn’t respond to it well. Without proper insulin function, blood sugar levels rise and can lead to health problems if left untreated.
Diabetes is becoming more prevalent worldwide. As of 2015, 30.3 million people in the United States, or about 9.4 percent of the population, had diabetes. Unfortunately, more than 1 in 4 people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Having undiagnosed diabetes increases the risk of complications from lack of prompt treatment.
Many people also have prediabetes, a condition where blood sugars are slightly elevated but not high enough to be considered diabetes. Having prediabetes is a major risk factor for eventually developing type 2 diabetes. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that up to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years of their prediabetes diagnosis.
One of the ways to help promote healthy blood sugar levels is through healthy lifestyle habits. Focusing on eating nutritious foods that are good for blood sugar is one of the most important aspects of treating both diabetes and prediabetes.
Incorporating blood sugar-friendly foods into meals and snacks is good for overall health, can help promote good energy levels and increase the feeling of satiety, which can help reduce hunger and cravings.
Find out 10 low glycemic fruits to add to your diabetes diet.
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Fruit and diabetes
Fruit is often vilified for its sugar content. This, therefore, can make people with diabetes wary of including fruit in their diet. This is an unfortunate misconception since many fruits are incredibly nutrient-rich and a healthy part of a balanced diet.
A diet including fruit, has been shown to have many potential health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, along with a reduction of many other chronic diseases. One study even sought out to see if restricting fruit in people with existing diabetes would improve blood sugar or any other health outcomes, which it did not.
Some fruits are higher in sugar than others and therefore increase blood glucose levels more significantly. Knowing which fruits are less likely to spike yourr blood sugar level can help people with diabetes make more informed food choices to promote more stable blood sugar levels. In this article we list 10 delicious low glycemic fruits to add to your diet.
What is the glycemic index (GI)?
The glycemic index (GI) is a value used to measure how much a food raises blood glucose and is based on a number from 0-100. Foods are usually described as low (GI of 55 or less), medium (56-69), or high (GI of 70+) glycemic index based on the number.
The lower the glycemic index, the more slowly it raises blood sugar levels. Using this scale, pure glucose would have a glycemic index of 100.
The glycemic index has been recommended as a useful tool in determining a healthy eating pattern for those with diabetes. By focusing on foods that don’t raise blood sugar levels significantly, people with diabetes may find that their blood sugar levels are more stable when focusing on low GI foods.
Another term associated with the glycemic index is the glycemic load. The glycemic load takes into consideration how much of the food is eaten, as well as its carbohydrate content. The formula to determine glycemic load is [GI value × carbohydrate per serving]/100). Foods with a glycemic load less than 10 are considered to have a low glycemic load. And those with a glycemic load greater than 10 are considered to have a high glycemic load. For instance, the GI of popcorn is 72 (high), but the carbohydrates in a serving size of 1.5 cups is 11 grams, making the glycemic load 8 ([72 x 11]/100)=7.92 rounded up to 8.
Here are some examples of foods and their glycemic indexes (source – Harvard Health)
Which factors affect a food’s glycemic index rating?
There are many factors impacting a food’s glycemic index, such as:
In general, the more processed a food is, the higher the GI tends to be. Processing can remove fiber. And this makes that food raise blood sugar more quickly than if its fiber had been preserved, such as being in whole form. For example, instant oatmeal has a GI of 79, whereas steel-cut oats have a GI of 55.
Eating a meal with mixed foods changes the glycemic index based on all of those foods’ average GI. Eating a food with a high glycemic index along with a food with a lower glycemic index lowers the overall average glycemic index. For instance, having rice (a higher GI food) with beans/legumes (a lower GI food) lowers that meal’s overall glycemic index.
The longer a food is cooked, the higher the glycemic index tends to be. This is because cooking breaks down the starches in the food and can lower fiber content. This makes it turn into blood sugar more quickly. Eating pasta “al dente” (shorter cooking time) instead of cooking it to the point where it is very soft is one method to lower the glycemic index.
Foods higher in acidity have lower glycemic indexes. Sourdough bread, which uses an acidic ingredient in the leavening process, has a lower GI than white bread.
The high-fiber plant barrier around foods like whole grains, beans, and legumes takes time for the body to break down, which slows digestion and thus lowers the glycemic index.
Protein & fat
Protein and fat don’t have a significant impact on blood glucose levels. Adding protein and fat to a meal with a higher glycemic index food will lower the overall GI, which can help reduce the rise in blood sugar. This strategy is often recommended for people with diabetes to promote stable blood sugars. For example, eating a slice of cheese along with an apple will help decrease the glycemic index compared to having just an apple.
Soluble fiber absorbs water and creates a gel-like texture in the digestive system, thus increasing viscosity and prolonging digestive time. When foods take longer to digest and absorb, the slower they raise blood sugar.
10 Low Glycemic Index Fruits for Diabetes
Apples have a glycemic index of 39, making them a good low-GI fruit for people with diabetes. Fresh apples with the skin are ideal since they are higher in fiber than more processed forms of apples, such as apple sauce.
Apples are rich in fiber, with around 4.5 grams in a medium apple. Its high fiber content lowers the net carbohydrate content, which is the total carbohydrates minus dietary fiber. The resulting “net carbs” is the amount that should be counted because it affects blood sugar.
Fiber is subtracted from total carbohydrates because it doesn’t raise blood sugar since it can’t be digested. Therefore, choosing higher-fiber foods will result in lower net carbohydrate totals, which is one strategy for promoting optimal blood sugar levels. On the other hand, apple juice doesn’t contain any fiber, making it higher in net carbs.
Apples are rich in phytochemicals, which help to fight against inflammation and cell damage. Apple consumption links with a reduced risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.
Cherries have a glycemic index of 20, making them a healthy and delicious choice for people with diabetes. Cherries are rich in nutrients while being low in calories. Cherry consumption links with decreased inflammation, reduced muscle soreness from exercise as well as lower blood pressure. They are rich in phytochemicals, making them good cancer-fighting food.
The GI score of grapefruit is 25 while packing a hefty dose of vitamin C along with it as a citrus fruit. Consumption of grapefruit links with higher intakes of vitamin C, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and improved diet quality. Potassium is an important nutrient for people with diabetes because it can help promote healthy blood pressure, thus improving heart health.
4) Dried apricots
While dried fruits aren’t usually recommended for people with diabetes, a small portion of apricots is considered low glycemic with a score of 32, making their GI lower than white bread. Dried apricots are a convenient portable snack, offering natural sugars to promote energy levels while exercising. They are also a good source of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant helping to prevent cell damage.
Pears have a GI of 38. Fresh pears are ideal, as canned pears are usually higher in GI and can have added sugars in the canning syrup.
Pears are an excellent source of fiber, which can help promote satiety, promote more stable blood sugar levels, and even help reduce bad cholesterol levels. They are also a good source of potassium, which, along with fiber, are nutrients many people don’t consume enough of in the typical Western diet.
Another citrus fruit rich in vitamin C, oranges have a GI of 40, making them low glycemic index. One small orange contains around 45 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrate, and only around 9 grams of net carbs, making them a good fruit choice for people with diabetes.
Oranges are rich in antioxidants, which help protect cells against damage. Cell damage can cause certain types of cancer and other diseases. This is why eating a diet rich in plant-based foods such as oranges can help with disease prevention.
Plums have a GI of 40 but a glycemic load of only 2. One fresh plum contains 30 calories and 7 grams of net carbs. On the other hand, one prune (a dried plum) contains around 23 calories and about 5.5 grams of net carbs. It’s easier to eat more dried fruit because the volume is lower. So caution should be taken when consuming dried fruit.
Plums have antioxidant and anti-allergenic properties. Plum consumption relates to improved cognitive function, improved bone health indicators, as well as improved cardiovascular markers.
Peaches have a GI of 42 and a glycemic load of 5. One medium peach contains around 60 calories and 12 grams of net carbs. Peaches are a good source of vitamin C and also contain vitamin A.
Strawberries have a glycemic index of 41 but a low glycemic load of 3. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, a powerful antioxidant. Strawberries contain antioxidants and other compounds known to help fight inflammation and cell damage.
Raspberries have a GI of 32. One cup of raspberries contains an impressive 8 grams of dietary fiber, making the net carbohydrate total around 7 grams. The recommended amount of fiber to consume daily is around 30 grams. So eating just one cup of raspberries provides almost ⅓ of the daily fiber recommendation!
Raspberries have polyphenols, which are micronutrients in plant-based foods. Polyphenols contain antioxidants and are beneficial to health. Consuming these low glycemic fruits links with improved metabolic health. This includes a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
(source for GI scores)
Glycemic index is a value that determines how quickly a food raises blood sugar levels. It’s based on a score between 0-100, with pure glucose having a glycemic index (GI) of 100.
Food is a low glycemic index if it’s below 55, moderate glycemic index if it’s 56-69, and high glycemic index if 70+. Focusing on low glycemic foods and fruits is one strategy people with diabetes can use to promote healthy blood sugar levels, whereas high GI foods raise blood sugar more quickly.
Different factors influence a food’s GI, including its physical form, how much it’s been cooked and/or processed, its fiber content, and more. Focusing on fresh, whole fruits versus processed versions will help yield low glycemic fruits, such as apples, pears, and berries. Many of these low glycemic fruits have other health benefits as well. This makes them a great choice for people with diabetes.