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Can Diabetics Eat Fruit?

written by: Sarah Mitchell • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 5/10/2011

In general, fruit is a healthy food choice; however, since, they consist of sugars, can diabetics eat fruit? While it is true that diabetics must maintain their blood sugar levels and watch their carbohydrates, fruit in the diabetes diet is possible, using a carb counter and diabetic exchange list.

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    Fruit and Diabetes

    “Carbohydrates,” also known as “carbs,” are common terms that are well known amongst diabetics, something for which they must consistently watch and count every day. There are two forms of carbohydrates: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates are composed of sugars, many ending in “ose.” Some of these include sucrose, fructose, glucose and lactose, and are found in both fruits and refined sugar. Diabetics may eat fruit; however, they must watch their intake since, after all, fruits contain sugars.

    Selecting Fruit in a Diabetic Diet

    Although persons may consume frozen, fresh, dried and canned fruit, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests choosing select sources when seeking fiber and vitamin C. Fruit juices carry little to no fiber, so consider consuming dried, fresh and frozen fruit instead.

    When selecting canned fruit, steer clear of heavy syrups; alternatively, seek out “extra light syrup”, “no sugar added”, or “juice packed” products. Do not be fooled by “unsweetened” or “no sugar added” claims. It simply means that sucrose, or table sugar, has not been added in; sugar, however, is in the product.

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    Menu Planning: Diet for Diabetics

    In short, a diabetic diet consists of eating regular meals throughout the day for the purpose of regulating and managing blood sugar levels. The amount and time between these mealtimes vary between individuals, depending upon their health status and registered dietitian’s recommendation. Typically, dietitians advise patients to eat six meals a day, ranging anywhere from 2-4 hours between each. They are permitted a certain amount of carbohydrate choices, as well as fats and meat portions, at each mealtime.

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    Calculating Carb Grams in Fruit

    Taking into account that one carbohydrate choice is approximately 15 carb grams, breakfast, lunch and dinner might consist of 2-3 carb choices, or 30-45 carb grams, and 1 ½ carb choice, or 15-22 ½ carb grams, at snack time. Determining the amount of carb grams that are in canned and frozen fruits are easy to calculate. One can look at the “total carbohydrate” section under the product’s nutrition facts label to verify the carbohydrate grams of one serving.

    Calculating the carb grams of fresh fruit takes a little more effort since they lack a manufactured nutrition facts label. There are resources available, such as ADA’s Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes or the International Diabetes Center’s “My Food Plan”, that leave the guesswork work out of calculating carb grams and serving sizes.

    Healthy Food: Fruit List

    The following is a snippet of a (fruits) diabetic exchange list, supplied by the International Diabetes Center:

    Berries, 1 cup = 1 carb choice, 14-20 carb grams

    Cherries, 1 cup = 1 carb choice, 14 carb grams

    Canned fruit (light syrup or juice pack), ½ cup = 1 carb choice, 15 carb grams

    Large apple, banana or pear = 2 carb choices, 26-35 carb grams

    Grapefruit, ½ large = 1 carb choice, 13 carb grams

    Dried fruit, ¼ cup = 2 carb choices, 26-32 carb grams

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    Conclusion

    Fruit in the diabetes diet are allowed; however, they must calculate one serving’s carb grams and factor this into their allowable carbohydrates for that particular mealtime. Fruits, as a group, are considered a healthy alternative to sweets, satisfying one’s cravings for a little indulgence.

    Disclaimer: The preceding article is for educational purposes only and should not replace a registered dietitian or licensed physician’s professional advice.

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    References

    American Diabetes Association. Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes, 2008.

    International Diabetes Center. “My Food Plan” 4th ed., 2008.