Avoiding Fruit to Keep Blood Sugar Low? Here’s an Expert’s Take
There are so many reasons to love fruit, but many people avoid it because they fear that fructose – the naturally occurring sugar in fruit – could spike blood sugar, leading to weight gain. Now a new study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has found that people who eat whole fruit daily, as part of a healthy diet, are less likely to develop diabetes, and consequently have lower blood sugar than those who don't eat fruit every day. (Whole fruit includes any fruit in its natural state, as opposed to juice.)
So, enjoy a sliced apple or blueberries, mango with your breakfast, or an orange as a snack, as they all contain fiber and antioxidants, but skip apple juice or OJ which has had its fiber removed.
“The purpose of the study was to examine correlations between intake of fruit and a measure of glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity,” explained Rachel McBryan, RD and a member of the Dietitians of Canada. “Fruit intake was measured via a food frequency questionnaire, asking how often they had consumed fruit in the past 12 months, including fruit juice and 10 types of fruit.” In total, the researchers looked at the habits of 7,675 participants in Australia's Diabetes, Obesity, and Lifestyle Study.
Is Fruit Sugar Bad for You?
"We found people who consumed around 2 servings of fruit per day had a 36 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes over the next five years than those who consumed less than half a serving of fruit per day," said study author Nicola Bondonno, Ph.D., of Edith Cowan University's Institute for Nutrition Research in Perth, Australia, quoted in Science Daily. "We did not see the same patterns for fruit juice. These findings indicate that a healthy diet and lifestyle which includes the consumption of whole fruits is a great strategy to lower your diabetes risk."
As for which fruits may be best for your health in relation to diabetes risk, the data revealed some clear winners. The data revealed that the most commonly consumed fruit were apples, then bananas, and then oranges. “Total fruit consumption was inversely associated with insulin levels," Bondonno wrote. "Apples were particularly inversely correlated with insulin.” All the more reason to eat an apple a day.
“After a five-year follow-up, it was found that there were lower instances of diabetes for those who consumed moderate to high intakes of fruit,” said McBryan. Despite fruit containing natural sugars, they still have significantly beneficial effects on insulin levels.
Eating Fruit is Associated With Lower Insulin Levels
A previous study published in the Journal of Diabetes Investigation revealed similar results, specifically looking at fruit and vegetables' effects on insulin levels and type 2 diabetes risk. This study found that eating vegetables and fruits high in complex carbs such as berries, green leafy vegetables, yellow vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables, all helped lower the risk of type 2 diabetes.
“A larger intake of fruits and vegetables, specifically berries, leafy green vegetables, yellow vegetables, and cruciferous vegetables is associated with a decrease in the incidence of type 2 diabetes,” said McBryan. “Increased fruit and vegetable consumption has also been linked to a decrease in other chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, cancers, and strokes,” she continued. This is partly due to the protective role that fruit and vegetables can have on the body thanks to the abundance of flavonoids, polyphenols, and antioxidant properties they contain, which can help to combat oxidative stress.
“These foods contain a plethora of fiber, which can help increase satiety and therefore reduce the consumption of more dense foods, reducing the risk of being overweight/obese which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes,” she further noted.
As McBryan pointed out, the new study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has its limitations, in this case, including a lack of accounting for why people’s intakes of fruit were low and the inability to rule out other factors. “Additionally, the people in the study were most likely from a higher socioeconomic class than those who did not respond to the survey,” she conjectured. “Those who followed up with the study were most likely healthier than those who did not.”
Bottom Line: Eat fruit without hesitation, and aim for at least two servings a day.
And don't shy away from carb-containing vegetables either. “Fruit can be great as a snack in the morning or evening because it can help to curb a sweet craving,” suggested McBryan. On a hot day, try frozen grapes for a cold and satisfying snack.