Diabetes and fruit

For many of us, diabetes is part of the family --that means there's always a concern, since it tends to run in families.

There's a myth that continues to circulate throughout the diabetes-concerned population that those with diabetes shouldn't eat fruit.

A study published in PLoS Medicine finds that's simply not true. Although fruit has naturally occurring sugars, research continually demonstrates that fruit is an important part of a healthy diet, even for people with diabetes.

In a large study of nearly half a million adults throughout China, researchers found that those eating fresh fruit daily were 12 percent less likely to develop diabetes over the 7-year study than those who rarely or never ate fresh fruit. Additionally, adults who had diabetes at the beginning of the study were 17 percent less likely to die over the study period, and were 13-28 percent less likely to have blood vessel complications.

The best fruits to eat for diabetics are those with low fructose content (the ones that taste less sweet), according to the American Diabetes Association. That includes cherries, blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and blackberries. Fruits like melons and dried fruits are safe, but should be eaten in moderation. It's best to consume fruit in its whole, natural form, and avoid syrups or any processed fruits with added sugar, which have the tendency to spike blood sugar.

The total amount of carbohydrates in a food affects blood sugar levels more than does the source of carbohydrates or whether the source is a starch or sugar. One serving of fruit should contain 15 grams of carbohydrates. The size of the serving depends on the carbohydrate content of the fruit.

The advantage of eating a low-carbohydrate fruit is that you can consume a larger portion. But whether you eat a low-carb or high-carb fruit, as long as the serving size contains 15 grams of carbohydrates, the effect on your blood sugar is the same.

The following fruit servings contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates: 

--1/2 medium apple or banana

--1 cup blackberries

--3/4 cup blueberries

--1 cup raspberries

--1 1/4 cup whole strawberries

--1 cup cubed cantaloupe or honeydew melon

Q and A 

Q: Are algal oil supplements a good alternative to standard omega-3 (fish oil) supplements? 

A: They seem to be, according to the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter. Derived from micro-algae, algal oil is becoming popular among vegans and other people who want a source of marine omega-3 fatty acids but don't want to get them from fish or fish oil supplements. The supplements are also getting attention because algae are a more sustainable source of omega-3s than are fish. The omega-3s in algal oil are mostly DHA, along with smaller amounts of EPA and alpha-linolenic acid, which the body can convert to DHA and EPA to a limited extent. A few studies have found that algal oil supplements raise blood levels of DHA as much as fish oil capsules do. That doesn't mean they'll prevent heart attacks or have other benefits in healthy people, however, research on fish oil capsules has had disappointing results (except perhaps for people who already have heart disease),and there's no reason to think that algal oil would be any different. One downside of algal oil supplements is that they are much more expensive than conventional omega-3 capsules. You can also buy algal oil for cooking, but it doesn't contain any DAH or EPA, which are removed to make the oil suitable for high-temperature cooking. The oil is mostly monounsaturated fat, with a smaller amount of polyunsaturated fat. It has a mild, neutral flavor and can be used as an alternative to other oils, though it's pricey. -- University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter.

About the Author