Delicious, sweet, and often an end of the meal treat, are thoughts conjured up when contemplating fruits. Yes, they are delicious but should they really be part of a meal plan for people with diabetes? The answer is yes, yes, yes!

Fruit can and should be a part of a healthy meal plan for people with diabetes. Placement in the day when fruit is consumed may depend on the type of diabetes. Women with gestational diabetes are sometimes told not to consume fruit at breakfast and not to consume fruit juice at all. For more information, click here.

The quantity of carbohydrates in the fruit will determine the acceptable amount to eat.

Here are 5 facts about fruit and health and how to help you with your options to fit fruit into a meal plan for diabetes:

1. The 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that you eat fruit and vegetables everyday to help promote good health: This guideline is for everyone, including those with diabetes.

2. Advantages and Disadvantages to fresh, canned, frozen, dried or juiced fruit to keep in mind:

Fresh
Advantages: Fresh fruit is best if it can be consumed immediately. Popping fresh fruits in your mouth straight from the field will give gustatory pleasure and also provide the greatest amount of nutrients.

Disadvantages: As the time increases from the field to plate the amount of vitamins and the quality of the fruit will decrease.

Frozen and Canned
Advantages: Commercial products that are frozen or canned are usually processed immediately after harvesting. During processing, some nutrients are lost but the preservation helps to keep much of the nutrient composition. When fruit is frozen or canned, availability of the fruit is year round.

Disadvantages: Fruits that are frozen or canned are fully ripened and tend to be softer than fresh. Frozen and canned fruits may be available with or without added sugar or juice. People with diabetes need to check the labeling of the product so that the lower carbohydrate values may be selected and calculated to fit into the meal plan. The amount of added sugars can be quite high, especially in many canned products.

Dried Fruits
Advantages: The process of drying removes the water from the fruit and thus gives it a much longer shelf life.

Disadvantages: For a person with diabetes, the amount of carbohydrate in the fruit does not change as the water is removed. Measurement of the dried fruits is needed to calculate carbohydrate values. It is very easy to underestimate the amount consumed. Dried fruit may stick to teeth and contribute to cavities. Make sure teeth are brushed after eating.

Juice
Advantages: The most nutritious form of juice is the 100 percent juice option. Sometimes frozen juice bars are wanted as a treat. The best choice would be 100 percent juice bars with fruit pieces. Make sure to take into consideration the amount of carbohydrates in each bar.

Many diabetes programs teach that juice should only be used for hypoglycemic episodes. To treat a low blood sugar using juice and other forms of sugar refer to the rule of 15/15.

Disadvantages: Juice can raise your blood sugar rapidly. This may not be desired if blood sugar is not low. Most fruit juices do not contain fiber.

Note: To quench thirst, water is by far the best beverage.

3. Carbohydrates and Fiber in Fruits: When adding fruits to a meal plan for a person with diabetes, it is necessary to know the amounts of carbohydrate and fiber. The recommended amount of fiber by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is (14 g fiber/1,000 kcal).

4. Phytochemicals (plant chemicals) in Fruit Are Healthy: People with diabetes should also include foods to help prevent cancer. According to the American Institute for Cancer research, some fruit contains phytochemicals that may help prevent cancer. A few examples are:

a. Carotenoids (found in red orange and green fruits such as apricots, oranges, cantaloupe and watermelon) may help to improve immune response and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

b. Flavonids (found in apples and citrus fruits) may inhibit inflammation.

c. Polyphenols (found in grapes, berries, citrus fruits and apples) may help to prevent cancer formation.

Click here for more information on phytochemicals.

5. Fruits Are Particularly Good for Children: According to the NSW Ministry of Health in Australia: “Eating fruit and vegetables every day helps children and teenagers grow and develop, boosts their vitality and can reduce the risk of many chronic diseases - such as heart disease, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer and being overweight or obese. For more information and a fact sheet on fruits and vegetables for children, click here.

Fruit should be a tasty, nutritious part of everyone’s diet including people with diabetes. DiabetesCare.net provides many recipes for you to use. Search our Recipe Center using your favorite fruit as a keyword.