Pineapple juice has been talked up as a good option for diabetics thanks to its low to moderate glycemic index (46-56). A low to moderate glycemic index usually means that the sugars obtained from the digestion of a certain food or beverage have a limited to moderate effect on blood sugar. Which is something to look forward to from your food, if you have diabetes. However, when it comes to pineapple juice, there are other nutritional factors that matter just as much. For example, the sugar content of the juice and the amount it is consumed in (serving size) trump the good glycemic index values and can lead to negative effects for diabetics, causing rapid rises in blood sugar.
How much sugar in pineapple juice?
100 ml of unsweetened juice has about 10-10.8 g of sugar and an additional 1 g of digestible carbohydrates that also get broken down into sugar following digestion. Juice made from sweeter (riper) fruit varieties may easily provide 12-13.3 g of simple sugars per 100 ml, plus an additional 1 g of carbs.
1 cup (240 ml) of unsweetened juice has about 23-26 g of sugar, plus another 2 g of digestible carbohydrates that get turned into sugar as well. If made from sweeter (riper) varieties of the fruit, the same amount of the juice may easily provide 30 g of sugar and 2 more g of carbs.
Compare with the sugar content in fresh pineapple:
100 g of fruit has an average of 10 g of sugar. Less sweet varieties may have as little as 8.3 g of sugar, while sweeter fruit have more.
1 cup of pineapple chunks (estimated at 165 g) provide, on average, about 16-17 g of sugar. Less sweet varieties may have as little as 14 g of sugar per cup, while sweeter fruit a lot more than the average content. See Can You Eat Pineapple with Diabetes?
While it isn’t that big of a difference between the whole fruit and the juice in terms of sugar content, the whole fruit is definitely preferable to the juice, particularly if you’re diabetic. And here’s why:
1) Eating pineapple is more satiating than drinking pineapple juice
At a macronutrient level, the whole fruit has pulp with fiber, some protein and fat, while the juice has only sugar. Also, the juice is all liquid and will pass seemingly unobserved through the digestive tract. And because of this, it doesn’t provide any satiation at all so you still have to eat to curb hunger. Which means you’ll be getting your usual carbohydrate intake from a full meal in addition to the carbs from a serving of the juice. Which means that having the juice merely adds to your carbohydrate intake, without providing any satiation or real value for diabetes management. Remember, diabetics are advised to eat up to 45-60 g of carbs per meal (sugar included) and manage their weight through conscious eating and nutritious food choices.
2) People hardly only have 100 ml of fruit juice
The average serving of juice of any kind is a cup, which is 240 ml (some put it at 250 ml). This means that choosing a serving of pineapple juice (240-250 ml) over eating a serving of whole fruit (100 g or 3.5 oz) can easily get you up to 30 g of sugar instead of just 10. In other words, a serving of the juice gets you 3 times more sugar than a serving of whole fruit. Considering diabetics are advised to eat no more than 45-60 g of carbs per meal (sugar being a carb), it’s not that good to get half or more of them from just a cup of juice. And since liquids don’t satiate, you’ll likely be having the juice and eating a full meal. Also see Is It Healthier to Eat Fruit or Drink Fruit Juice?
So is pineapple juice high in sugar?
Considered individually, as a separate food, it’s not that high in sugar (or carbs overall). It is usually equally or only slightly higher in sugar compared to the whole fruit, but high enough for a diabetic. So long as the intake of juice is comparable to that of a serving of whole fruit. But let’s be real: juice and whole fruit servings are not comparable. After all, a serving of fresh pineapple is set at 100 g tops (3.5 oz) while a serving of pineapple juice is set at 240/250 ml. So while a serving of fresh pineapple or canned solids (unsweetened) shouldn’t affect blood sugar too much, even when consumed separately from other foods (but better not), a serving of the juice may cause visible fluctuations in blood sugar levels, especially when consumed separately from other foods. Which means that pineapple juice is high in sugar if we are to take into account serving size, whereas the fresh fruit isn’t that high.
Does pineapple juice raise blood sugar?
Yes, it does actually. The fact that pineapple juice is liquid and has no pulp, no fiber, fats or protein means it goes right through the digestive tract and the sugars from it are taken up into the bloodstream fairly quickly (there’s really nothing to digest, no solids). Without anything to temper the uptake of sugars into the bloodstream, there will likely be a quick rise. The effects of pineapple juice on blood sugar metabolism are more pronounced if the juice is consumed separately from other foods and in large amounts. The more juice you have at once, the more pregnant the effects on blood sugar.
How to have the juice safely with diabetes
While it’s not the best fruit juice for diabetics, pineapple can be made relatively safe to enjoy with the condition. Here are a few helpful tips and advice to reduce its effects on blood sugar:
1) Limit intake to small servings. You can start with 100-150 ml and see how you react to this intake.
2) Never have more than one small serving a day. If anything, it leaves room for more variety in your diet. It’s perfectly fine and possibly even healthier for you to you have the juice occasionally, as a treat.
3) Avoid drinking it on an empty stomach, before a meal or separate from other foods. There’ll be nothing for your digestive system to absorb but water, lots of sugar and some vitamins.
4) Pair with sources of fat or protein or both. For example, if you’ve had a meal low enough in carbohydrates that you haven’t met your carbohydrate limit (cheese, eggs, meat, some greens), you may have a small serving of pineapple juice. The protein and fat will help reduce the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream and prevent spikes.
5) It may help to exercise lightly after having the juice (example: walking, riding a bike, dancing). Exercise helps not only use up the sugars so they don’t get deposited into fat tissue, but also restores glycemic balance.
Pineapple juice benefits for diabetes
Provided intake is limited to small amounts consumed infrequently, there are benefits to pineapple juice consumption for diabetes.
1) Low energetic value: on average, 100 ml has 50 kcal, whilst one cup (240 ml) only 120 kcal.
2) Good source of vitamin C with anti-inflammatory and regenerative effects for skin (between 60-72 g of vitamins C per cup). Holds benefits for wound healing, a major issue in diabetic healthcare,
3) Overall good source of vitamins B1 and B6 with benefits for the nervous system. Potentially good for diabetes-associated nerve damage.
4) High in manganese, an antioxidant minerals that combats oxidative stress and free radical damage (over 40% of the recommended daily intake for an average adult in every 100 ml).
5) Bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme in pineapple and its juice, has been found to hold potential benefits for diabetes prevention and management. For example, studies show it holds anti-inflammatory properties on insulin-producing pancreatic cells which has lead to its consideration for the prevention of type 1 diabetes. However, this does not mean you can up the fruit or juice intake. No. It doesn’t work that way. If you are diabetic, you still need to keep your intake low.