Eating a diet that is low in sugar and low in fat is essential to beating your diabetes. Most fruit fit the bill. However there are certain fruits you must treat with caution or avoid altogether. Here are nine of them.
The fundamental problem that causes type 2 diabetes appears to be fat blocking the receptors in muscle cells, which leaves sugar and insulin swirling around aimlessly in your bloodstream.
In my experience, you can beat diabetes by eating foods that are (1) low in sugar, (2) low in fat, (3) low in salt, (4) high in fibre and that (5) are digested slowly.
The easiest way to do this is by concentrating on natural, unprocessed foods that are mostly plants and by excluding all diary products (milk, cheese, butter etc) and eggs from the diet.
You also need to drink plenty of water, to aid in the absorption of all the fibre you will be eating with this plant-focused diet. Personally I drink at least two litres of water a day in addition to the water, juices, tea and soy milk in my food and coffee.
You should also take a good multi-vitamin supplement in order to cover any possible dietary deficiencies you might encounter by avoiding dairy products and eggs.
Most fruits contain some natural sugars but usually not to excess. Most are extremely low in fat and salt. They are also high in fibre and are digested slowly.
Fruit therefore should be a part of a diabetes beating diet, especially as most fruits are full of micro-nutrients (vitamins and minerals).
However there are some exceptions to this general rule. Here are nine of them—fruits you should treat with extreme caution or avoid altogether.
Dates provide a wide range of essential nutrients, 2.45g of protein in 100g, along with 8g of dietary fibre. Eat dates regularly and you’ll seldom suffer from constipation.
Dates are also particularly rich in the B vitamins. They are also loaded with dietary minerals. But they contain very little vitamin C, virtually none if they have been dried.
The problem with dates is the sugar content … 63% of a ripe date consists of sugars.
However, the glycemic indices for the three different varieties of soft, semi-dry, and dry dates are 35.5, 49.7 and 30.5, which suggests that diabetics can eat a few dates but with caution.
But beware of stuffed dates and glazed dates. The stuffing usually consists of a well-sugared paste while glazing consists almost entirely of sugar.
Figs are highly nutritious. In fact, dried common figs are the richest plant sources of dietary fibre, copper, manganese, magnesium, potassium, and calcium relative to human needs.
About 10% of a fig, fresh or dried, consists of fibre and figs have a well-founded reputation as a laxative. The fibre in figs is also said to lower insulin and blood glucose levels.
Figs contain almost as much B vitamins as dates. Like dates, they contain little vitamin C. But figs have plenty of antioxidants. Figs are also packed with dietary minerals.
Again, as with dates, the problem is sugar. A 100g of figs contains nearly 64g of carbohydrates, of which sugars make up 48g. This is somewhat less than dates but nevertheless it means that figs have to be treated with caution by diabetics.
If you take a risk and do eat figs, go for the ones with dark skins, as they are the most nutritious.
Plums and prunes
There are hundreds of varieties of plums, each with its own distinctive taste and colour. All can be dried. Dried plums are called prunes.
A raw fresh plum (without its stone) has very little fat, protein or sodium. It is a fairly good source of fibre, vitamins A and K, phosphorus and potassium, and a very good source of vitamin C.
Unfortunately, 10% of a plum is sugar and as its glycemic index (GI) can be as high as 53 (depending on the variety,) diabetics should only eat plums in strict moderation.
Drying a plum removes nearly all the water, so the nutritional value of a prune is dramatically different. It also reduces the amount of vitamin C by at least 90%, and more than quadruples the amounts of phosphorus and potassium. Prunes are also rich in copper and boron.
Drying increases dietary fibre by a factor of five, so it is no surprise that prunes are well-known for their laxative effect.
This fibre includes inulin which, when broken down by intestinal bacteria, makes a more acid environment in the digestive tract which, in turn, makes it easier for calcium to be absorbed.
However, compared to a fresh raw plum, there is nearly four times as much sugar in a prune. So, even though prunes have a GI value of only 29, they need to be treated with caution by diabetics. In fact, my advice would be to ignore them unless you need them for their laxative effects.
Coconut meat, the white stuff from inside the coconut, contains less sugar and more protein than bananas, apples and oranges. It is an excellent source of fibre and is relatively high in minerals such as iron, phosphorus and zinc.
The problem with eating coconut is fat—a whopping 33.5g per 100g—of which 30g or about 90% is saturated.
As a diabetic aiming to beat your diabetes, you just need to forget about coconut.
Açaí is sold as frozen pulp or juice. It is also an ingredient in drinks, smoothies and foods. Over the last ten years spurious marketing hype has made it very popular as a magical dietary supplement.
Did you know that açaí delivers a variety of amazing health benefits? It can reverse diabetes and other chronic illnesses. Eaten regularly it will also expand the size of your penis and increase your sexual virility if you are a male. It also promotes weight loss (but without gender bias).
Miracle stuff, you might say, except that there are no scientifically controlled independent studies to prove the fabulous health benefits you’ll get from consuming açaí. As far as I can tell, açaí has never been evaluated by any reputable laboratory or research institution any where in the world.
Nevertheless, it ain’t all bad. The skin and pulp of the açaí fruit contains over 52% carbohydrates though most of this is dietary fibre and little of it is sugar. Açaí also contains many polyphenols, the antioxidants found in plants.
The problem with the açaí fruit is that 32.5g out of 100g consists of fat. So, if the obviously false hype is not enough to put you off, just think of the fat content seemingly custom designed to re-clog the receptors in your muscle cells!
Crystallised fruit (candied or glacé fruit)
Crystallised fruits … aka candied or glacé fruit … are small pieces of fruit or peal that have been preserved using sugar. The fruit is drenched with sugar syrup, and once it has become saturated the sugar prevents the micro-organisms that spoil fruit from growing.
Crystallised fruits can include dates, cherries, pineapple, ginger and chestnuts (marron glacé), as well as orange and lemon peel. Avoid like the plague—for reasons that do not need to be stated.
Dried fruit is fresh fruit from which most of the water has been removed.
Most of the nutritive value of the fresh fruit is preserved, yet the dried fruit has a sweeter taste and a much longer shelf-life.
Fruit can be dried in two ways. The traditional method is either in the sun or in special heated wind tunnels.
The second way is to infuse the fruit with a sweetener (such as sucrose syrup) before drying, a method used to dry fruits such as cranberries, blueberries, cherries, strawberries and mangoes.
Note that some products sold as dried fruit (eg, papaya and pineapples) are in fact candied fruit.
The specific nutrient content of various dried fruits reflect the nutrients in the original fruit. Fruits dried in the traditional manner will have almost the same nutrients as their fresh originals.
Fruit infused with sugar before drying will naturally contain a lot more sugar than it had when fresh.
Drying, by definition, removes most of the water which concentrates the fruit’s natural sugars. To obtain the same total sugar and energy, the amount of dried fruit you should eat should only be about 1/3 of the quantity of fresh fruit you would eat.
Prunes, dried dates, figs, apricots, peaches, apples and pears deliver energy when you are feeling tired and make great snacks—provided they have been dried in the traditional manner without being infused in a sweetener.
But remember the water (two-thirds of a fruit on average) is gone, so watch how much you eat.
Tinned (canned) fruit
In theory, the nutritional content of canned fruit should be little different than fresh fruit.
However canning usually includes a form of cooking as part of the process which can affect nutritional values. Vitamin C, for example, is destroyed by heat and so fresh fruit will contain more vitamin C than canned fruit.
Some canned fruits have less fibre content than natural foods. This is because the skins are often removed when fruit are being canned.
In theory, however, fruit in tin cans should not cause problems for diabetics who are beating their diabetes through diet. The problem is that manufacturers often add sugar during canning.
So you need to read labels carefully.
Grapefruit and other citrus fruits
All citrus fruits have similar properties, and are a rich source of vitamins (especially vitamins B and C), minerals (notably potassium) and dietary fibre (of which 65 to 70% is pectin).
They also contain phytochemicals (biologically active, non-nutrient compounds) that can help to reduce the risk of many chronic diseases which are of crucial importance to diabetics with metabolic syndrome—cardiovascular disease, heart disease, hypertension, stroke, cancer, and anaemia.
Citrus fruits contain no fat, no sodium and no cholesterol. The number of calories is low so they can be useful for reducing weight. Citrus fruits also deliver plenty of fibre.
These fruits contain simple carbohydrates (fructose, glucose and sucrose) and citric acid. However, they all have low GIs (less than 55)—the sharper the taste, the lower the GI—and so diabetics can eat them in moderation.
However not all citrus fruits are wholly beneficial, especially if you are taking certain medications.
For example, grapefruit, according to clinical trials in reputable laboratories, inhibits the enzymes that metabolize several medicines in your intestines.
This increases the concentration of these medications in your blood to levels that could be toxic. The effects last for 24 hours or more.
These medicines include drugs for lowering cholesterol, such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), simvastatin (Zocor) and lovastatin (Mevacor) and for controlling blood pressure, such as amlodipine (Norvasc), nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia) and verapamil (Isoptin, Calan).
Grapefruit also blocks the action of antihistamines and some psychiatric medications such as diazepam (Valium).
As I am taking statins to control my cholesterol levels, I never touch grapefruit.
I understand that medical scientists are currently trying to find out whether other citrus fruits, such as oranges, have similar effects but have yet to come up with conclusive answers. Thus I seldom eat oranges or other citrus fruits despite the tonnes of micro-nutrients they contain.
I would recommend you do the same, until such time as the effect of other citrus fruits on the metabolism of vital drugs has been properly assessed.
Fruit is good for you.
However, you should avoid:
- Stuffed and glazed dates
- Crystallised fruits (candied or glacé fruit)
- Dried fruit that has been infused with sugar before drying
- Prunes (except as laxative)
- Tinned (canned) fruit that contains added sugar
- Grapefruit as it interferes with metabolism of vital drugs
You should treat other citrus fruits with extreme caution until their effects on the metabolism of vital drugs has been scientifically assessed.
In addition, you should eat very little of:
- Dates (sugar 60%)
- Figs (sugar 48%)
- Coconut (fat 33.5%)
- Açaí (fat 32.5%)