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Fruit - Friend or Foe?

A Diabetics Guide To Fruit

Ahhhh that sweet sweet nectar. Natures dessert and a staple in almost all homes.

Over the past 50 years we’ve been told that fruit can do no wrong and that it contains vital nutrients and without it we’d basically die. Every parent knows, or at least believes,

”Your child isn’t healthy unless there’s fruit in their lunchbox”.

I‘ve certainly never questioned this growing up.

Fruit was in my bag at all times. It accompanied desserts like ice cream; we had a slice of orange at half time during rugby games (because, well, that was going to provide all the energy we needed for the second half); we used it for decorations at Christmas, and we blended several pieces to an inch of their life and drank it believing it was the height of nutritional mastery.

Walk into any supermarket and there’s a plethora of brightly coloured and oddly shaped sweet natural treats from countries I’ve never even heard of. We don’t even bat an eyelid that they don’t or can’t grow where we live. We simply pop them into our trolley safe in the knowledge we’re a more healthy person for eating them.

or are we?

What is fruit exactly?

Well, if you’re not sure - fruit is the fleshy product of a tree or other plant that contains seeds and can be eaten as food.

Fruit comes in all shapes and sizes, and can be easily found and eaten like berries or practically impossible to access like coconuts.

More people die each year from coconuts falling on their heads than shark attacks - Just in case you were wondering.

Why is fruit so sweet?

Plants and trees fill fruit with sugar (fructose) to entice animals to eat them. Inside the fruit are seeds that (coincidentally) cannot be digested and is accompanied by a lot of fibre to help the animal pass the seeds unharmed through their body. Frequently, this happens a good distance from where the parent plant is located. This process of distribution is known as ‘dispersal’.

Now, you may be thinking “I haven’t come here for a biology lesson I received in play school”, and I wouldn’t dream of patronising you with such information, however, to fully understand what we are eating and whether it’s good for us, it’s also important to know what the goal of the fruit is, not necessarily the animal.

One thing to remember: the plant wants us to eat the fruit - hence the sugar. It also wants us to ‘disperse’ (poop) the seeds - hence the fibre. The human body doesn’t need either sugar or fibre to function.

Funny that.

Fruit and Location

Fruit is seasonal. We have never evolved eating fruit every day. Why do we force this?

The closer to the equator - the more fruit and carbs you‘ve evolved eating (30-35%). Alternatively, the further from the equator - the less fruit and carbs are available (<15%). Humans have spread to almost every corner of the earth and thus have access to different food sources. Fruit, in its very nature, has never been consistently available all year round.

Benefits of fruit

We have all been indoctrinated into the various benefits of fruit. So what are they?

Many fruits are packed with various vitamins and minerals considered good for our health. These include vitamin C, potassium and folate.

For this reason we are told to eat 2 servings of fruit per day from the age of 9. That’s 14 bananas a week as a 9 year old. Good luck with looking after that 9 year old.

But as a diabetic, we have an intolerance to carbohydrates. So are there any foods that have an equal or better nutritional profile than fruit without the large quantities of sugar?

I’m glad you asked.

Foods that have equal or greater amounts of vitamins than fruit (but small amounts of carbs) include:

Vitamin C

- Green leafy vegetables

- Broccoli

- Pepper (Capsicum)

- Cabbage Vitamin A

- Green leafy vegetables

- Spinach

- Peppers (Capsicum)

- Tuna

Vitamin D

- Fish

- Mushrooms

- Butter

- Pork

- Eggs

Vitamin K2

- Cheese

- Eggs

- Butter

- Organ Meats

- Chicken

- Beef


- Green leafy vegetables

- Nuts

- Fish

- Beans

- Avocado

- Dark Chocolate


- Meat

- Nuts

- Beans

- Green leafy vegetables


- Green leafy vegetables

- Broccoli

- Nuts

- Beans


- Green leafy vegetables

- Broccoli

- Cauliflower

- Beans

- Nuts

So, as you can see, there are a lot of foods that have greater levels of nutrients than fruit with little to no carbohydrates. This makes it a lot easier to control our blood sugars, whilst also maintaining a healthy diet.

This also means that if you want to live a life free of fruit you can. Many people now follow a diet very low in carbohydrate to help them have stricter control of their blood sugars. People who live close to the poles (e.g. Inuits) have survived a long time off nearly 100% fat and meat. Richard Bernstein, famous for his book ‘the diabetes solution’ is now in his late 80’s and has not eaten fruit in nearly 2 decades.

Don‘t be fooled into thinking you need it.

Fructose and our metabolism

As mentioned, fruit is packed with fructose to entice us to eat it. Fructose is broken down by the body differently to glucose, where it is almost entirely metabolised by the liver (Glucose by-passes the liver where it is metabolised by fat cells).

When a person eats a lot of foods that contain fructose the liver turns It into fat. Many scientists now believe it is this that is driving many modern diseases, including obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer.

Recent research is also finding fructose being the culprit to increased VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) - the dense cholesterol particle associated with increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Fructose is also associated with:

- High blood pressure

- Gout

- Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

- Insulin resistance

- Leptin resistance (increased hunger)


Diabetes and Fruit

We walk a tight-rope of good and bad nutrition. Every supermarket is a minefield of temptation and false advertising. With something as simple and whole as fruit, you would think it would be a clear choice, but this is certainly not the case.

Not all fruit is created equal. Many tropical and citrus fruits are large and sugar-dense. Smaller fruits that grow on bushes tend to be lower in sugar and are high in vitamins, such as strawberries and blueberries.

As you can see from the list above, fruit can be part of a healthy diet. But in large quantities you are increasing your chances of rollercoaster blood sugars and increased fat storage - particularly around your vital organs.

Small amounts of berries should be enjoyed on occasion but large high-carb fruits such as bananas and oranges will only help to get you out of a hypo quicker or put your blood sugars higher than you want. Continue with caution.

Speaking of caution;

If you are drinking blended fruit, you are removing the fibre from a whole food. That leaves you with pure ’unobstructed’ sugar in a cup. To give you an example of just how much sugar we’re talking, let’s take a look at a “boost juice blueberry blast 610ml”.

22 tsp of sugar!

That‘s 4 more tsp than a 610ml bottle of coke. You may believe blending fruit is good for you and that because you don’t have visible fat on your body, you’re healthy. This might not be the case, so speak to your doctor about checking for fatty liver.


Fruit has and more than likely will always be marketed to us as a ”can do no wrong” food. Arguably, the marketing campaign for fruit has been a raving success. The reality is that fruit has it’s place on a person plate, albeit in small quantities, but is most certainly not good for us in large quantities.

In days gone by, we would have happily picked the fruit from the bush or tree, eaten it and then spread its seed on our little journey. We are getting some fast-acting energy from the high sugar content and the fruit tree has the ability to grow and extend its reach and propagate.

Now, we are simply mis-informed and consuming large quantities without understanding the true effects on our body, and we’re not even helping the poor fruit out as the seed ends up in the toilet.

That being said; it does look great all bright and bountiful on the shelves in the supermarket.


Believe the hypo

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