The Diabetes WA Helpline and Telehealth Service provides free comprehensive access to personalised diabetes management advice and support from a Credentialed Diabetes Educator. Meet our educators as they share some of the common concerns they hear from our members.
Melissa Robinson is an accredited practising dietitian and has worked in the diabetes space for more than 10 years. Mel is passionate about supporting individuals to self-manage their diabetes by making small, realistic and achievable changes. Facilitating diabetes group education sessions in remote Aboriginal communities is another passion and she loves meeting new people and hearing their stories. Mel’s other areas of interest include the role nutrition plays in managing conditions such as polycystic ovarian syndrome, infertility, gut health and autoimmune conditions.
“What fruit should I eat if I have diabetes?”
People are often confused about what types of fruit they should eat when they have diabetes. They are often told or hear about certain fruits like banana, watermelon and mango being ‘bad’ for diabetes and that only berries are ‘safe’.
The truth is, all types of fruit are a fantastic source of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and higher fruit intakes have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. No fruit should be off limits if you have diabetes, although how much you have and how often you have it may affect your blood glucose levels (BGLs).
One standard serve of fruit (a medium apple, small banana or cup of chopped fruit) contains around 15g of carbohydrate, most of which is digested slowly due to the high fibre content, giving a slow, steady rise in blood glucose.
One small banana or one large slice of watermelon contains 15g of carbohydrates and is therefore unlikely to cause a spike in blood glucose levels. Mangoes typically contain more carbohydrate, simply because they are larger in size. One small mango weighs nearly twice as much as one small banana (220g vs 135g) and contains approximately double the amount of carbohydrate (30g vs 15g).
Dried fruit contains more carbohydrate compared to fresh fruit because the water has been removed, meaning the carbohydrate is more concentrated. Two tablespoons of dried fruit has the same amount of carbohydrate (15g) as one cup of chopped fresh fruit.
The best way to find out how fruit affects your blood glucose levels is to test using a blood glucose monitor. You will need to test before eating the fruit, then test again two hours later. If your blood glucose levels have jumped more than 2–3mmol/L in that time (for example, they have jumped from 6mmol/L before eating to more than 9mmol/L two hours later), the size or type of fruit you have eaten may have contributed to this.
If you do find that certain fruits have a greater impact on your BGLs than others, it doesn’t mean you need to completely cut them out of your diet, especially if you love them! You may want to consider eating those fruits with other foods containing protein or fat (a handful of nuts or seeds, or small tub of plain yoghurt), as fat and protein slow down digestion and reduce the glycaemic index (GI) of food.
So which fruit is ‘best’ for diabetes? We can safely say that no one fruit is best, and all can form part of a healthy diet. It really comes down to how much you eat and how often you eat it – if you are eating two large mangoes for breakfast each day (approx. 100g carbohydrates), you might expect to see an increase in blood glucose levels after breakfast. If you are eating two or three standard serves of fruit spread over the day, you likely won’t see a big impact on BGLs.
Just remember – everyone is different, and the best way to know exactly how fruit affects you is to test blood glucose levels before and two hours after eating.
For more information about foods containing carbohydrates, attend Diabetes WA’s CarbSmart program or book into one
of our online webinars.