No fruit juice is really good for you if you have diabetes. Fruit juices are high-carbohydrate foods and even small servings can up your intake significantly per meal and per day. And unless you plan your meals ahead to account for the carbohydrates you’re having, you are looking at spikes in blood sugar levels. Long-term, this causes damage to tissues and organs and diabetes-related complications such as kidney disease, skin problems, loss of vision and nerve damage.
What do fruit juices do for diabetics?
Short-term, raise blood sugar levels; long-term (with regular, frequent intake) weight gain and diabetes-associated complications such as kidney problems, loss of vision, poor healing wounds and nerve damage. The carbohydrates in fruit juices are all simple, digestible carbohydrates and these are broken down into sugar during digestion, sugar being their simplest form. If there is nothing to temper the rate of sugar absorption into the bloodstream (eating first, having animal protein or a food with some fat), blood sugar levels rise quickly as the sugar is absorbed all at once.
And because, with diabetes, either there isn’t enough insulin produced by the pancreas or the cells of the body do not respond as they should to it, all that sugar stays in the bloodstream for longer than it’s supposed to. This is bad for you because, long-term, the continual state of hyperglycemia (high blood sugar levels) leads to tissue damage and disease. And there are really no fruit juices that are good for diabetics in the sense that they don’t cause significant fluctuations in blood sugar levels or produce benefits that you wouldn’t get from eating the fruit whole.
When consumed too frequently, even in limited amounts, or in large amounts at once, especially on an empty stomach, before a meal, fruit juices will raise blood sugar levels to unhealthy values. Apple, orange, cranberry, pineapple and others all have the same effect if intake is excessive for the diabetic patient, exceeding their carbohydrate intake per meal and per day, if consumption is too frequent, even with small amounts or the juice is enjoyed outside of a meal, on an empty stomach.
Whenever possible, always choose the whole fruit over the juice. It doesn’t matter if it’s 100% fruit juice, it’s never as good as the whole fruit for diabetes (but consumption should still be limited to small amounts). If the skin of the fruit is edible, make sure you eat it too because that’s where a lot of the dietary fiber is and we all know fiber helps slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.
All things considered, there are instances when drinking fruit juice with diabetes is allowed and tolerated well. For example, if the diabetic patient reaches a state of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar levels), they may have a little fruit juice to help them reverse this state. This can happen if they haven’t eaten for some time or engaged in strenuous exercise routines. Also, fruit juices may be consumed as an occasional treat (infrequently), in very limited amounts. The maximum recommended intake for a diabetic patient is about 4 oz (120 ml) of juice a day.
But keep in mind that not every diabetic has the same tolerance to sugar from fruits or their juice so reactions may vary greatly from person to person. Some may not be able to enjoy any fruit juice at all without experiencing side effects and others may need to reduce intake significantly.
Tips and advice to reduce effects on blood sugar
If you have diabetes and are looking to introduce fruit juice into your diet as an occasional treat, it is important you consider the following aspects in order to lessen its effects on blood sugar levels:
1) Don’t turn it into a dietary habit. It’s better not to have fruit juice too frequently. Definitely not everyday and not even every other day. Ideally, it should only be an occasional treat.
2) Moderation is the key. Only small amounts are well tolerated in a diabetic diet, although not every diabetic can tolerate fruit juices, whatever the amount. Intake is set at a maximum of 4 oz (120 ml) per serving and no more than 1 serving a day.
3) Plan ahead for when you want to have some juice. If you want to have a treat, plan your meal ahead so you can account for the carbohydrates in the juice. Remember that, on average, a 4 oz (120 ml) serving can easily provide 12-15 g of carbohydrates. Subtract this from your average meal to see how many carbohydrates you have left to eat and, based on this, choose your foods. This helps you avoid exceeding your maximum recommended intake of carbohydrates per meal and per day.
4) Never on an empty stomach. Always eat first, preferably a light protein, low carbohydrate meal. This helps reduce the impact on blood sugar levels. A bit of sour yogurt, some cheese, lean meat or eggs can make a great basis for having a little fruit juice afterwards.
5) Spread intake over the course of a day. One small serving a day is more than enough and you don’t have to have it all at once. If needed, spread your intake over the course of a day for better reactions and always after a meal.
6) A little fat, a little protein, dietary fiber. Fat, protein and dietary fiber temper sugar absorption into the bloodstream and contribute to a steadier rise in blood sugar levels, preventing unwanted fluctuations. These are three elements that take longer to digest than carbohydrates (fiber isn’t digested at all), hence their effects.
7) Always choose unsweetened juice or make it fresh at home. The more you can save up on your carb intake from fruit juices, the better. Remember to read the label if the juice is store-bought to see exactly what your intake of carbohydrates will be and look at total carbohydrates values, not just sugar.
8) Exercise. There’s nothing better you can do after a meal than to go for a walk. Or ride your bike. Any form of light exercise practiced after a meal, and especially after having a serving of fruit or fruit juice helps towards better, healthier, steadier blood sugar levels. This is because the sugar you are getting from fruits or juice will be the first to be used to fuel the exercise. And remember that excesses are deposited into fat cells and cause weight gain which is not good for diabetes type 1 or 2.
9) Avoid problematic juices. Grapefruit and orange juice with pulp, sour cherries and even tomato juice have compounds that affect how diabetes medication is absorbed. Natural compounds such as naringenin, bergamottin or dihydroxybergamottin can either enhance or reduce the effects of diabetes and other medication, which is best avoided. If you are a diabetic currently receiving treatment for blood sugar levels, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, then know not all fruit juices are safe for the condition.
10) Remember you are unique. Just because others can have a certain juice or a certain amount of it, that doesn’t mean you can too. You may have a different tolerance level and react differently, so listen to your body. If you feel sick or somehow unwell after having fruit juice, entertain the idea that it might not be a good food choice for you, even as an occasional treat, and discontinue consumption. And always, always seek out your doctor’s advice before anything else.