Can I eat fruit? Can I drink juice? How do they compare? Are there times when juice is recommended over fruit? These are some of the questions that are frequently asked by my patients with diabetes and many readers of DiabetesCare.net. Are you confused and actually think that fruits or juices are forbidden or possibly cause harm (perils) if you have diabetes? Can they be beneficial to your health and are they dietary gems (pearls)? Do you know the amount of fruits you need per day? Let’s explore fruit and their juices and provide useful information to help you control your diabetes. 

perils and pearls of fruit and juice with diabetesPerils and pearls of fruits and juices for diabetes prevention

Data from over 100,000 men and women who participated in the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals Follow-up Study were evaluated to see if a relationship existed between eating fruit and developing diabetes. It was found that people who consume whole fruits (specifically blueberries, grapes and apples) had a lower risk of developing diabetes than those that did not. People who consumed fruit juice (not whole fruit) had a greater risk of developing diabetes. Recommendations from the study supported increased consumption of whole fruits especially blueberries, grapes and apples to be part of a strategy for diabetes prevention. (1) 

For more information on blueberries and diabetes including recipes visit my Blueberries blog.  

Fruits (Perils and Pearls) for people with diabetes

Fruits are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. They are encouraged by most dietitians for people with diabetes to eat in controlled amounts. Stick to eating the recommended amount of carbohydrates that are in your food plan. To get a general recommendation of how much fruit you should eat per day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a great tool you can use based on your age, sex and amount daily exercise. Access this tool and determine the CDC’s recommendation for you

Work with your dietitian to help you determine the amount of carbohydrates you should eat per day and the time you need the carbohydrates. Remember besides fruit; other foods such as vegetables, starches and breads, milk and treats with sugar (sometimes called other carbohydrates) all must be included in your carbohydrate allowance. Ask your healthcare professional if you have any special restrictions for fruits or their juices.

DiabetesCare.net has a “Carbs in Fruit” calculator to help you determine the amount of carbohydrate in different types of common fruits. 

If you want to maximize the amount of fruits you can eat by using low carbohydrate fruits, read my version of the Top 5 Low-carb Fruits

Juice (Perils and Pearls)

As most people know, a cup of fruit juice is higher in carbohydrates than a cup of the whole fruit the juice comes from. Many juices lack fiber.

Let’s look at examples of the amount of carbohydrate in 1 cup of fruit vs 1 cup of fruit juice

Fruit Grams of Carbs in 1 cup fruit Grams of Carbs in 1 cup juice
Apple 15 (raw with skin) 28 (unsweetened juice)
Pineapple 21.6 (fresh chunks raw) 32.2 (canned unsweetened)
Grape 15.8 (American slip-skin) 37.4 (unsweetened)
Orange 21.1 (sections) 25.8 (fresh)

Benefits (pearls) of juice for people with diabetes include the fact that it is a fast acting source of carbohydrate that is sometimes used when a person needs to treat hypoglycemia. This is true when a person is conscious and has the ability to swallow. If you enjoy drinking juice, ask your dietitian how much you should consider. Make sure to measure your juice. To quench a thirst it is not hard to drink more than you should (a peril). If you drink juice you may want to dilute it with water or no calorie beverages to make it go farther. It is also recommended by many dietitians to avoid drinking juice when women have gestational diabetes (Fruit is preferred in limited amounts for lunch and supper).

Do include fruit in your diet as they are enjoyable to eat and nutritious. Limit the amounts according to your carbohydrate recommendations. Do not go overboard as eating too much will elevate your blood glucose quickly and possibly go much higher than recommended. Fruits are high in many vitamins and minerals so it is best to have a variety of fruits over the course of a week. To learn more about the advantages of fruit read 5 Facts About Fruit and Diabetes. When you consume fruit juices, do so in moderation or according to your treatment plan for a low blood glucose. Ask your health care professional for more guidance. 

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