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What Foods Are Good For Diabetics With High Blood Pressure

overhead shot of produce, fruits and vegetables arranged in rainbow order from dark reds on the left to purples on the right

Photo: Meredith

There is a misconception that people with diabetes cannot eat fruit. Yes, fruit contains natural sugars. But just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to avoid fruit. It just means you need to make better choices about which fruit (and how much) you eat.

Fruit, like many other foods, can raise blood sugar. Frequent spikes in blood sugar can elevate your A1C, a measure of how high your blood sugar is on average. The higher the A1C level, the less well your body is handling the condition.

But fruit doesn’t have to be off the table if you’re someone with diabetes. In fact, fruit can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. It’s just important that people with diabetes pick the fruits that are best for them and eat others less frequently.

We spoke to two dieticians to get the scoop on the best and worst fruits for people with diabetes.


Can people with diabetes eat fruit?

“All fruits have healthy qualities, even if you have diabetes,” says Zoe Fienman, RD LDN CDE, a registered dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. “They’re full of fiber, vitamins and minerals that your body needs.”

What identifies a fruit as better or worse is actually how much sugar the fruit has and where it is on the glycemic index. An important tool for people with diabetes, the glycemic index refers to how quickly food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.

“If it’s higher, that means the food breaks down more quickly, which can cause blood sugar to spike more quickly,” says Fienman. That said, as with all foods, people can digest or react to something differently. A person with diabetes may be able to tolerate a banana without a major sugar spike, and others may need to avoid them altogether.

Of course, always consult your doctor or a registered dietician when finding a suitable diet to manage your diabetes and blood sugar.

The best and worst vegetables for people with diabetes


The worst fruits for people with diabetes

Serving size is important for all fruits, especially those with a high glycemic index. Fienman recommends thinking the serving size of a whole fruit (like an apple) about the size of a tennis ball and cutting the fruit down to ½ cup. Even in these small portions, some fruits have more natural sugars and can raise blood sugar for longer.

These fruits contain a high amount of natural sugars:

  • Mango
  • Banana
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • watermelon

Skip the canned fruit.

Canned fruit and those cute fruity cocktail cups may be convenient and inexpensive, but they’re not so good for you.

“Those canned in heavy or light syrup aren’t the ideal choice for people with diabetes,” says Kim Rose, RD and certified diabetes care and education specialist. “That’s because syrup-laden fruits contain added sugars that may be too much for the body to handle.”

Be careful with dried fruit.

Drying fruit concentrates all of the delicious flavor of the fruit into a smaller bite, but it also concentrates many of the sugars. Even a small amount of nuts can push you over the edge.

Be careful to read the labels of dried fruit; many of them load up on added sugar. Some are even sweetened, making your sugar problem worse. If you must have nuts, keep the amounts small. Rose recommends dates, figs and prunes as they have a lower glycemic index.

Juices and smoothies can be tricky.

Many store-bought juices — orange, apple, even green juices — sneakily add extra sugars, so you’ll want to avoid those, too. Even the juices or smoothies you make at home can require a lot of fruit for a glass (a small juice can often contain two to three oranges), so it’s not always the best option for people with diabetes. If you want to have a smoothie, try adding mostly greens and something like half a banana for sweetness.


The best fruits for people with diabetes

Two to three servings of fruit per day are recommended, and this is also true for people with diabetes.

“If you combine fruit with a fat or protein, it will help you feel fuller and help you with that portion control,” says Fienman.

Here are some beneficial fruits that not only have a lower glycemic index, but are also rich in other vitamins and minerals:

  • Berries — Both citrus fruits and berries are recommended as superfoods by the American Diabetes Association.
  • cherries
  • plums
  • Grape
  • Peaches
  • Apples — Fiber-rich fruits like apples and pears help slow the blood sugar spike, says Rose.
  • pears
  • Kiwi
  • oranges

Related:

  • Is type 2 diabetes reversible? We asked the experts
  • Browse all of our diabetes recipes.
  • 15 diabetes-friendly breakfast recipes to start your day off right


There is a misconception that people with diabetes cannot eat fruit. Yes, fruit contains natural sugars. But just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you have to avoid fruit. It just means you need to make better choices about which fruit (and how much) you eat.

Fruit, like many other foods, can raise blood sugar. Frequent spikes in blood sugar can elevate your A1C, a measure of how high your blood sugar is on average. The higher the A1C level, the less well your body is handling the condition.

But fruit doesn’t have to be off the table if you’re someone with diabetes. In fact, fruit can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. It’s just important that people with diabetes pick the fruits that are best for them and eat others less frequently.

We spoke to two dieticians to get the scoop on the best and worst fruits for people with diabetes.


Can people with diabetes eat fruit?

“All fruits have healthy qualities, even if you have diabetes,” says Zoe Fienman, RD LDN CDE, a registered dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. “They’re full of fiber, vitamins and minerals that your body needs.”

What identifies a fruit as better or worse is actually how much sugar the fruit has and where it is on the glycemic index. An important tool for people with diabetes, the glycemic index refers to how quickly food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream.

“If it’s higher, that means the food breaks down more quickly, which can cause blood sugar to spike more quickly,” says Fienman. That said, as with all foods, people can digest or react to something differently. A person with diabetes may be able to tolerate a banana without a major sugar spike, and others may need to avoid them altogether.

Of course, always consult your doctor or a registered dietician when finding a suitable diet to manage your diabetes and blood sugar.

The best and worst vegetables for people with diabetes


The worst fruits for people with diabetes

Serving size is important for all fruits, especially those with a high glycemic index. Fienman recommends thinking the serving size of a whole fruit (like an apple) about the size of a tennis ball and cutting the fruit down to ½ cup. Even in these small portions, some fruits have more natural sugars and can raise blood sugar for longer.

These fruits contain a high amount of natural sugars:

  • Mango
  • Banana
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • watermelon

Skip the canned fruit.

Canned fruit and those cute fruity cocktail cups may be convenient and inexpensive, but they’re not so good for you.

“Those canned in heavy or light syrup aren’t the ideal choice for people with diabetes,” says Kim Rose, RD and certified diabetes care and education specialist. “That’s because syrup-laden fruits contain added sugars that may be too much for the body to handle.”

Be careful with dried fruit.

Drying fruit concentrates all of the delicious flavor of the fruit into a smaller bite, but it also concentrates many of the sugars. Even a small amount of nuts can push you over the edge.

Be careful to read the labels of dried fruit; many of them load up on added sugar. Some are even sweetened, making your sugar problem worse. If you must have nuts, keep the amounts small. Rose recommends dates, figs and prunes as they have a lower glycemic index.

Juices and smoothies can be tricky.

Many store-bought juices — orange, apple, even green juices — sneakily add extra sugars, so you’ll want to avoid those, too. Even the juices or smoothies you make at home can require a lot of fruit for a glass (a small juice can often contain two to three oranges), so it’s not always the best option for people with diabetes. If you want to have a smoothie, try adding mostly greens and something like half a banana for sweetness.


The best fruits for people with diabetes

Two to three servings of fruit per day are recommended, and this is also true for people with diabetes.

“If you combine fruit with a fat or protein, it will help you feel fuller and help you with that portion control,” says Fienman.

Here are some beneficial fruits that not only have a lower glycemic index, but are also rich in other vitamins and minerals:

  • Berries — Both citrus fruits and berries are recommended as superfoods by the American Diabetes Association.
  • cherries
  • plums
  • Grape
  • Peaches
  • Apples — Fiber-rich fruits like apples and pears help slow the blood sugar spike, says Rose.
  • pears
  • Kiwi
  • oranges

Related:

  • Is type 2 diabetes reversible? We asked the experts
  • Browse all of our diabetes recipes.
  • 15 diabetes-friendly breakfast recipes to start your day off right


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Diabetes Superfoods

“Superfood” is a term used by many food and beverage companies as a way to promote a food thought to have health benefits; however, there is no official definition of the word by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA regulates the health claims allowed on food labels to ensure there is scientific research to support the claims. The list of foods below are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber that are good for overall health and may also help prevent disease.

Beans
Kidney, pinto, navy, or black beans are packed with vitamins and minerals such as magnesium and potassium. They are very high in fiber too.

Beans do contain carbohydrates, but ½ cup also provides as much protein as an ounce of meat without the saturated fat. To save time you can use canned beans, but be sure to drain and rinse them to get rid of as much added salt as possible.

Dark green leafy vegetables
Spinach, collards, and kale are dark green leafy vegetables packed with vitamins and minerals such as vitamins A, C, E, and K, iron, calcium and potassium. These powerhouse foods are low in calories and carbohydrates too. Try adding dark leafy vegetables to salads, soups and stews.

Citrus fruit
Grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes or pick your favorites to get part of your daily dose of fiber, vitamin C, folate and potassium.

Sweet potatoes
A starchy vegetable packed full of vitamin A and fiber. They are also a good source of vitamin C and potassium.

Craving something sweet? Try a sweet potato in place of a regular potato and sprinkle cinnamon on top.

Berries
Which are your favorites: blueberries, strawberries or another variety? Regardless, they are all packed with antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. Berries can be a great option to satisfy your sweet tooth and they provide an added benefit of vitamin C, vitamin K, manganese, potassium and fiber.

Tomatoes
The good news is that no matter how you like your tomatoes, pureed, raw, or in a sauce, you’re eating vital nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E and potassium.

Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids
Omega-3 fats may help to reduce the risk of heart disease and inflammation. Fish high in these healthy fats are sometimes referred to as “fatty fish.” Salmon is well known in this group. Other fish high in omega-3 are herring, sardines, mackerel, trout, and albacore tuna. Choose fish that is broiled, baked or grilled to avoid the carbohydrateand extra calories that would be in fish that is breaded and fried. The American Diabetes Association Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes 2017 recommends eating fish (mainly fatty fish) twice per week for people with diabetes.

Nuts
An ounce of nuts can go a long way in getting key healthy fats along with helping to manage hunger. In addition, they offer magnesium and fiber. Some nuts and seeds, such as walnuts and flax seeds, are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids.

Whole grains
It’s the whole grain you’re after. The first ingredient on the label should have the word “whole” in it. Whole grains are rich in vitamins and minerals like magnesium, B vitamins, chromium, iron and folate. They are a great source of fiber too. Some examples of whole grains are whole oats, quinoa, whole grain barley and farro.

Milk and yogurt
You may have heard that milk and yogurt can help build strong bones and teeth. In addition to calcium, many milk and yogurt products are a fortified to make them a good source of vitamin D. More research is emerging on the connection between vitamin D and good health. Milk and yogurt do contain carbohydrate that will be a factor in meal planning when you have diabetes. Look for yogurt products that are lower in fat and added sugar.

Tips for eating on a budget
Some of the items above can be tough on the budget depending on the season and where you live. Look for lower cost options such as fruit and vegetables in season or frozen or canned fish. Foods that are easier on the budget year ‘round are beans and whole grains that you cook from scratch.

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