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Putting fruit on the menu

If you have diabetes, you may sometimes be confused about when and if it’s OK to eat fruit or drink fruit juice. Believe it or not, most fruits and their juices won’t raise your blood sugar faster than any other carbohydrate, including rice and potatoes. In other words, 15 grams of grapefruit (about a half cup) raises your blood sugar at the same rate as 15 grams of melba toast (about 4 slices).

In fact, most fruits have a low glycemic index, the score used to rank carbohydrates according to how fast they raise your blood sugar, whether they’re fresh, canned, dried or in juice form. And the benefits outweigh any risks: Fruits are often high in fiber and rich in anti-oxidant vitamins, magnesium, potassium and other phytochemicals that can reduce your heart disease risk.

Some fruit may taste sweeter at times. But this depends on your blood sugar level when you eat fruit, which depends on whether your stomach is full or empty and when you last took your diabetes medicine. Your challenge is to find out how fruit affects you. To do that, check your blood sugar one to two hours after you eat a piece of fruit. You may find that fruit in the afternoon will be enough carbohydrates to tide you over until dinner.

Choose fruit wisely

Shop seasonally when possible. Choose fruit that’s uniform in color, size and shape. Avoid fruit that’s bruised or has soft spots that could harbor bacteria. Don’t shake fruit, such as melons, to determine their ripeness. Instead, feel and smell it. Fruit that’s underripe is usually hard. Overripe fruit feels too soft. But fruit with a strong scent means it’s ripening nicely.

Pay attention to serving size. One serving is equal to a half cup of cooked or raw fruit or juice. It’s easy to go overboard. For instance, a large grapefruit is easily two or more servings. According to the American Diabetes Association’s food pyramid, you need two to four servings a day, or one to two cups of fruit.