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Should diabetics add a dose of healthy fats, protein to their fruit bowl?

One approach for a person with diabetes to choose safe and suitable fruit is to check their glycaemic index (GI) levels

diabetes fruitShould diabetics have plain fruits or in combination with healthy fats and proteins? (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

Fruits are extremely nutritious, but those with diabetes must exercise caution while having them. This is because eating certain fruits can raise blood sugar levels which can be detrimental to their health. Despite this, fruit is a crucial component of a healthy diet for diabetics since it contains fibre that can reduce blood sugar spikes, said Neelam Ali, dietician, Noida International Institute of Medical Sciences. Additionally, it can aid in lowering cholesterol, which is crucial given that diabetes might increase the risk for heart disease, she added.

The following are a few advantages of including fruit in a diabetes-friendly diet, according to Ali.

*Dietary fibre is a fraction of plant-based foods that digestive enzymes are unable to completely break down. Fibre benefits include lowering blood cholesterol, helping flush out the excess amount of cholesterol and steroids, preventing blood sugar increases, and enhancing satiety (the sense of fullness) to help manage appetite.

*Vitamins and minerals: Fruits including bananas, oranges, melons, and apricots are high in potassium, which can lower blood pressure. Citrus fruits’ vitamin C and folic acid content support wound healing, collagen synthesis, improve brain function, and strengthen the immune system.

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*Anthocyanins in berries, cherries, and red grapes — which are powerful anti-diabetic, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-obesity — can help prevent cell damage and may even halt the advancement of some chronic diseases, such as heart disease. Peaches, figs, pears, guava, oranges, apricots, mango, cantaloupe, and papaya are other fruits high in antioxidants.

Understanding the relation

People with diabetes, a metabolic disorder, have high blood glucose, also known as high blood sugar or hyperglycemia. According to a June 2017-review published in the International Journal of Allied Medical Sciences and Clinical Research, the digestive tract breaks down carbohydrates or sugar and starches found in many foods into glucose, a form of sugar that enters the bloodstream. With the help of the hormone insulin, the body absorbs glucose and utilises it for producing energy. Diabetes develops when the body is unable to produce enough insulin or use insulin effectively.

Fruit primarily contains fructose, a kind of unrefined sugar. While “fructose doesn’t require insulin to metabolise in the body, if the body requires, fructose can be converted into glucose”, that can spike blood sugar levels, Ali said.

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Here’s how you can tweak your diet (Source: Getty Images/Thinkstock)

According to Dr Suranjit Chatterjee, senior consultant, Internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi, the glycaemic index (GI) is a measurement of how rapidly a food raises blood sugar levels (glucose). Anything with a GI of 28 raises blood sugar by just 28 per cent as much as pure glucose, while one with a GI of 100 raises it as much as pure glucose does.

So, can diabetics have fruits at all?

One approach for a person with diabetes to choose safe and suitable fruit is to check their glycaemic index (GI) levels. “A fruit having a lower GI score is more effective at lowering blood sugar levels. For instance, avocados, strawberries, blackberries, apples, plums, grapefruit, peaches, pears and cherries have 20-49 (low) GI levels. These fruits are high in fibre and have a low GI that helps improve blood sugar tolerance. However, certain important factors should be kept in mind, such as the maturity or ripeness of a piece of fruit that will influence the GI of a meal,” he told indianexpress.com in an earlier interaction.

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According to him, even if a fruit has low GI, one should keep an eye on the number of carbohydrates and portion size. “Some fruits, like watermelon, have a high GI, but one serving of watermelon has very little carbohydrate and its effect on the blood sugar is very minimal,” he said.

Fruits with GI a value of 70 and higher are considered very high in sugar and need to be avoided while planning a diabetes meal plan, noted Dr Subhasree Ray. “Moderate GI fruits have a GI value between 56 and 69. Low GI fruits are those having a GI value of 55 and lower,” she wrote in an earlier column for indianexpress.com.

Ali elucidated, “One should prefer whole fruits with a low GI while keeping an eye on serving sizes and carb counts.”

How to have fruits for better sugar control

Instead of ruling out certain types of fruits, keeping a track of their carbohydrate content and where they rank in terms of GI and their glycaemic load (GL) can help, experts urge. Protein and fruit together can reduce any blood sugar increase, said Ali. “To do this, either include fruit in your meal’s designated portion of carbohydrates or include protein in your fruit snack,” Ali said.

Dietician Vidhi Chawla, founder of Fisico Diet Clinic, said that consuming fruits with protein and healthy fats brings down the GL. “Instead of saturated and trans fats, have monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like nuts with avocados, walnuts and sunflower seed mix,” said Chawla while adding that two servings of fruits in a day paired with protein and fats are a good option.

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For example, have apple slices with a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter for a snack — it helps satisfy hunger for longer and curbs overeating.

Agreed Mihira A R Khopkar, celebrity, sports and Olympics nutritionist, and said that consuming either a protein-rich source or a fat-rich source along with a fruit can further improve glucose control. “Both protein and fats take longer time to digest and, therefore, when coupled with carbohydrates like fruits can further help in slow release of glucose in the blood thus improving glucose control,” Khopkar told indianexpress.com.

According to Khopkar, one can explore the following combinations

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*Fruits on the side with eggs made of your choice
*Fruits with mix of nuts
*Fruits in milk-based porridge
*Fruit parfait or fruit yogurt
*Fruit and milk-based milkshakes or smoothies (can even add a protein supplement)

Ali, too, suggested some options

*Combine one tablespoon of almond butter with four ounces of cut apples.
*Combine one cup of raspberries with 1 cup of Greek yoghurt without added fat.
*Half cup of low-fat cottage cheese should be combined with one tiny peach.
*Combine fruit salad with sesame seeds and some charoli.

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First published on: 16-09-2022 at 10:50 IST
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