Eat fruit, but know how it affects blood sugar

Fruit Harvest Selection in BowlsI know I should be eating more fresh fruit, but I have type 2 diabetes. Last weekend I enjoyed a few slices of watermelon, and I was surprised when I tested my blood sugar and saw that it spiked over 200. Should I forget about eating more fresh fruit?

No! Fresh fruit should be included in every diet, even if you have diabetes. Aim for 1.5-2 cups a day.

Fresh fruit contains all sorts of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and fiber. As you probably experienced with the watermelon, fruit can also satisfy your sweet tooth while providing huge nutritional benefits that cake and candy simply don’t offer.

But you should be aware that, as with any carbohydrate-containing foods, portion size matters to your blood sugar. And, different fruits have different levels of carbohydrates and fiber, both of which affect your blood sugar, or blood glucose. You likely already know that unmanaged high blood glucose can cause serious, even life-threatening consequences, including blindness, kidney disease, heart and vascular disease, and neuropathy (a disease of the nervous system).

The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes keep their blood glucose level to less than 180 milligrams per deciliter of blood two hours after eating. For people without diabetes, the normal level is less than 140 mg/dl. You and your doctor may have set your after-meals target lower, but whatever the case, it’s good to recognize what might spike your blood sugar so you can take steps to reduce your risk.

Fruits lower in carbohydrate and higher in fiber will likely have less of an effect on your blood sugar. Below is the calorie, carbohydrate and fiber content for specific portion sizes of some common fruits. Find information about other fruits in the National Nutrition Database, available under “What’s In Food” atnutrition.gov.

  • Raspberries, 1 cup (4.3 ounces): 65 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 8 grams fiber.
  • Peach, medium (5.3 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 60 calories, 14 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber.
  • Strawberries, 1 cup halves (5.4 ounces): 50 calories, 12 grams carbohydrate, 3 grams fiber.
  • Orange, 1 cup sections (6.5 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 4.5 grams fiber.
  • Blueberries, 1 cup (5.2 ounces): 85 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Apple, extra small (3.5 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 55 calories, 21 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber.
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup diced (5.5 ounces): 55 calories, 13 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Banana, extra large (5.4 ounces, about 1 cup sliced): 135 calories, 35 grams carbohydrate, 4 grams fiber.
  • Honeydew, 1 cup diced (6 ounces): 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Grapes, 1 cup (5.3 ounces): 105 calories, 27 grams carbohydrate, 1.5 grams fiber.
  • Watermelon, 1 cup diced (5.4 ounces): 45 calories, 11.5 grams carbohydrate, 0.5 grams fiber.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, orfilipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness with Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.

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Know warning signs, risk of diabetes

No one in my family has ever had diabetes. Does that mean I’m not at risk for developing it?

Although there is a genetic component to diabetes, it’s not 100 percent: Many people develop type 2 diabetes without having a family history of the disease. Conversely, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll develop the disease even if you have close family members who have it, though your risk is higher.

A warning: You may think no one in your family has ever had diabetes, but many cases go undiagnosed. So you may be operating under a false sense of security.

Type 2 diabetes accounts for about 95 percent of all diabetes cases. It’s marked by high blood glucose levels primarily caused by the body’s inability to use its insulin efficiently. In contrast, type 1 diabetes is caused by the inability of the pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is what gets glucose out of the bloodstream and into cells where it can do its work.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), if one of your parents has type 2 diabetes, your risk of getting diabetes is 1 in 7 if your parent was diagnosed before age 50, and 1 in 13 if your parent was diagnosed after age 50. If both parents have type 2 diabetes, your risk is about 1 in 2.

Overall, it’s estimated that diabetes (both types) affects 1 in 12 Americans, though only about 1 in 17 Americans have been diagnosed.

A better way to estimate your chance of developing type 2 diabetes is to take a close look at your risk factors. The ADA offers an online tool to evaluate your risk — just go to http://www.diabetes.org and search for “risk test.” Risk factors include age, being overweight or obese, not exercising regularly, and having high blood pressure.

Studies also show that people with untreated sleep-related problems, such as sleep apnea, also have a greater risk of developing the disease.

Even small changes can lower your risk. Losing just 10 to 15 pounds and starting an exercise program of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can greatly reduce the chance of developing diabetes.

Early detection and treatment can reduce the chance of developing complications, including serious problems with your eyes, feet, kidneys and heart. Be sure to see a doctor quickly if you experience symptoms such as:

  • Frequent urination.
  • Unusual thirst.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Unusual weight loss.
  • Extreme fatigue and irritability.
  • Frequent infections.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Cuts or bruises that heal slowly.
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet.
  • Recurring skin, gum or bladder infections.

Lots of options with potatoes, rice

Which is better for you, potatoes or rice?

Nutrition professionals tend to chafe when asked to categorize foods as good or bad, especially staples like potatoes and rice. The truth is, both can be part of a healthful diet.

But, of course, there are differences. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

First, the basics. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’sNational Nutrient Database, one medium baked potato (about 2.25 inches by 3.25 inches) with skin has 130 calories, 3 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 30 grams of carbohydrate, and it also offers about 30 percent of the Daily Value of vitamin C, 21 percent of potassium, and 15 percent of vitamin B6.

About the same amount (1 cup) of long-grain white rice weighs in with more calories (about 200), less fiber (0.6 grams) and more carbohydrate (45 grams). It’s a better source of protein (4 grams) than potatoes, and it’s a good source of manganese, with 37 percent of the Daily Value, and folate, with 23 percent.

You have a lot of choices when it comes to both rice and potatoes. For example, as a whole grain, brown rice contains valuable micronutrients and more fiber (4 grams in 1 cup) than white rice. It also has less of an effect on blood sugar. In fact, a 2010 study from Harvard’s School of Public Health found that replacing white rice with brown rice lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Potatoes also can cause blood sugar spikes, even more than white rice can. You can moderate that effect by topping your spuds with high-fat foods, such as butter, sour cream and cheese, but that also has the obvious downside of adding a lot of calories and unhealthy fats to the diet. Instead, add salsa, broccoli or other vegetables, which can have a similar stabilizing effect.

Or, try topping potatoes (or rice, for that matter) with a few spoonfuls of chili with beans. It’s not nearly as high in fat as other common toppings, and offers a wider range of nutrients and more fiber from the beans and tomatoes.

Another option is to choose sweet potatoes or yams instead of white potatoes. Sweet potatoes have loads of vitamin A and a good amount of iron in addition to other nutrients. As with white potatoes, though, watch the toppings: Loading up sweet potatoes with butter and brown sugar might be tasty, but the added fat and sugar certainly make it less healthful.

For white or sweet potatoes, try roasting them instead of baking, mashing, frying or boiling: Cut them into cubes or wedges with the skins on (skins are loaded with nutrients), coat with a small amount of olive oil and your favorite herbs and spices, and roast in a hot oven. You won’t need any additional toppings to enjoy these spuds.

Lots of fruits, veggies might stem diabetes

I’ve been told that I’m “pre-diabetic.” Should I cut way back on fruit? I know it contains a lot of sugar.

First, for individual health-related advice, it’s always best to talk directly to your doctor or, in cases like this, a registered dietitian, who could work with you personally to examine your normal day-to-day eating patterns and help you make improvements.

But if you’re like most Americans, you likely aren’t eating enough fruit. And your question indicates that you have the common misconception that eating sweets causes diabetes. It doesn’t. It’s caused by the body’s inability to handle blood sugar, but that comes from many kinds of foods, not just those that taste sweet.

In fact, a recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care indicates that people who eat a lot of fruits and vegetables — and, even more importantly, a lot of different kinds of fruits and vegetables — may have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The study included more than 3,700 adults in the United Kingdom and lasted 11 years. The researchers found:

• Eating more fruits and vegetables (about six servings a day) was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared with eating just two servings a day.

• People who ate a wide variety of fruits and vegetables — averaging 16 different types over the course of a week — were about 40 percent less likely to develop diabetes than those who averaged just eight different types.

It’s important to note that the study doesn’t necessarily prove cause and effect. But it is one more good reason why you might want to incorporate a wider variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet. Here are some ideas to do so:

• Even if you don’t normally pack your lunch, pack a snack to have mid-morning or mid-afternoon. It can be one of the standards: an apple, orange, banana, grapes, baby carrots, celery strips or red pepper strips, or something totally new. Shop the produce section with a fresh eye to see what you might want to try.

• Buy large containers of vanilla or plain yogurt and, as you prepare individual servings, top with one-quarter to one-half cup of fresh or frozen berries.

• Add variety to salads by including spinach with the lettuce and topping with fresh blueberries or strawberries.

For more on the benefits of fruits and vegetables and ideas to include more in your diet, see the Fruits and Veggies Matter website, a partnership of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Produce for Better Health Foundation, at http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or filipic.3@osu.edu.