Author: Leo Akin
Sweet fruits are rich in simple sugars such as glucose and fructose. Unfortunately, high fructose consumption can increase your risk of developing a number of chronic diseases including type 2 diabetes. For this reason, you should moderate your consumption of whole fruits and avoid fruit juices entirely.
Fruit juices contain most of the sugar content of whole fruits with none of the fibers in their pulps or the phytonutrients in the peels. They are no better than the sugary soft drinks and processed foods containing HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) that are relentlessly pushed the public. HFCS is a particular unhealthy sugar directly responsible obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes among other chronic diseases.
Fructose Content of Major Fruits
- Figs 23 g/cup
- Dried Apricot 16 g/cup
- Mango 16 g/small fruit
- Grapes 12 g/cup
- Pear 12 g/medium fruit
- Watermelon 11 g/medium fruit
- Apple 9.5 g/medium fruit
- Blueberries 7.5 g/cup
- Banana 7 g/medium fruit
- Orange 6 g/medium fruit
- Grapefruit 4.5 g/small fruit
- Pineapple 4 g/average slice
- Strawberries 3.8g/cup
- Date 2.5 g/medium fruit
- Apricot 1.3g/medium fruit
- Lemon 0.6g/medium fruit
- Lime 0g/medium fruit
While sweet fruits are sugar-rich and they raise your risks of diabetes, some studies found that certain fruits will actually lower your risks of type 2 diabetes. What are these fruits and how can they improve blood sugar control?
Can Fruits Lower Your Risk of Type 2 Diabetes?
In a 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal, a group of researchers investigated the effect of fruit consumption on the risk of type 2 diabetes by gathering data from three parallel long-term studies. The three studies included in this meta-analysis pooled almost 200,000 men and women. Each study covered a period of at least 20 years.
After adjusting for all the other factors that may affect the risk of type 2 diabetes, the researchers found that those who ate more whole fruits, especially grapes, apples and blueberries, had significantly lower risk (23%) of type 2 diabetes. On the other hand, the researchers found that greater consumption of fruit juices was associated with significantly higher risk (21%) of type 2 diabetes. The results of this study support the statements of members of the natural health community that food processing makes foods less nutritious and strip them of their medicinal values.
Consumer drinks companies like Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have developed fruit juices and smoothies to widen their product offerings and lure us with the promise of natural fruit concentrates. However, draining juices out of fruits only brings out the sugar (fructose) and little of the many micronutrients and medicinal agents naturally found in fruits.
Like most of the other independent studies investigating the same subject,the results of this study prove that lost nutrients and phytochemicals are essential because they are responsible for protecting us from chronic diseases. The sugars in fruit, on the other hand, are only there for the taste. In large quantities (juices, concentrates, smoothies etc.) , they do more harm than good.
How Fruits Can Help Your Diabetes
Antioxidants are especially important to the medicinal values of whole fruits. Past studies have found that that the antioxidants (such as flavonoids) in fruits can help lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Fruit antioxidants can explain some of the results of the study discussed above. Antioxidants help mop up the harmful free radicals released from different metabolic reactions in the body.
These free radicals can destroy cells and the DNA. They have been implicated in a number of age-related and chronic diseases ranging from cancer and neurodegenerative disease to Type 2 diabetes. By removing these free radicals, antioxidants lower oxidative stress in the body and protect cells from oxidative damage.
Therefore, the antioxidants found in fruits can prevent these free radicals from destroying the beta cells of the pancreas gland. This protection ensures that insulin production and release remain optimal. Yet another means by which fruits can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes is the effect of their fiber content on the absorption of sugar from the gastrointestinal tract.
The dense fibers of these fruits act as sieves by locking in sugar molecules. The trapped sugar molecules are then released slowly. Therefore, fruit fibers slow down the absorption of sugar. This allows for better sugar control by preventing spiking blood sugar levels and uneven release of insulin.
Guidelines for Fruit Consumption
The results of the BMJ study discussed above should not be taken as an indication that you need to increase your fruit intake unless you barely eat any fruit right now. Although this study proves that whole fruits can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes, the other important conclusion to take from the results is that fruit juices are not replacements for whole fruits. In fact, you should avoid fruit juices, smoothies and concentrations because they can raise your risk of diabetes.
If you are healthy, moderate fruit consumption is recommended because it is important not to upset your blood sugar and insulin balance by raising your fructose intake. If you are an athlete or do exercise regularly, the best time to consume fruits is right after your workout as it will replenish your body with energy-giving sugar when the need is most urgent.
However, if you are insulin resistant, overweight, in a pre-diabetic state or diabetic, you should limit your fruit intake. At this stage, 15 g/day of fructose intake is recommended and that value should include your consumption of whole fruits.
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