3 Super Fruits for Diabetes

Can eating a sweet, juicy treat really lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes? Quite possibly.

It appears that consuming more blueberries, apples, and pears may be linked to a decreased risk of developing the disorder, according to research reported by Reuters. All three fruits are high in flavonoids, a naturally occurring substance found in certain produce that some studies show may reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease. While the study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found a link between consuming the fruits and a reduced diabetes risk, it did not prove that the fruits could actually prevent the disorder.

"The researchers went back and looked at 30-plus years of data and found that people who ate more of the apples, pears, and blueberries had a lower risk of diabetes," explains Kathleen Barbera, RD, CDE, of the Division of Endocrinology at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Manhasset, NY. "They probably ate more fruits overall. Foods rich in flavonoids seem to confer the effect of a lowered risk for type 2 diabetes."

For the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the dietary habits of some 200,000 individuals were followed for as long as 24 years. During the research period, some 12,600 study participants developed diabetes, though none had the disorder at the start of the study. The participants were regularly asked how often they ate various fruits and vegetables. The team of researchers found that the individuals who ate the most blueberries reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 23 percent. Individuals who consumed at least five apples per week enjoyed the same lowered risk (23 percent) as compared to individuals who ate no apples at all.

Besides the potential benefit of reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes, fruit has other health benefits, too. For one thing, it's high in fiber. "This is helpful since fiber slows the absorption of sugar," says Rachel Neifeld, RD, CDN, of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill-Cornell Medical Center in New York City. "Berries are a little higher in fiber than some other fruits. So are fruits that are eaten with the skin on, like apples and pears."

Still, individuals with diabetes shouldn't eat these fruits in unlimited quantities, Neifeld cautions. "For a person with diabetes, one serving of fruit equals 15 grams of carbohydrate," she says. This equals nearly a cup of berries, she explains.

Besides eating them raw, try adding blueberries to sugar-free yogurt or using them as a topping on a high-fiber cereal. Since eating protein also slows the absorption of sugar, she says, try adding a handful of almonds or walnuts to your berry-based snack.

Slice an apple or a pear into a salad of mixed baby greens and top it with a lowfat balsamic vinaigrette. Or chop and use as a topping on breakfast oatmeal. Both apples and pears also are delicious sliced and eaten with a few whole grain crackers and a handful of nuts.

The take-away message about the study? "If you have a history of diabetes in your family, it makes sense to include these foods rather than stay away from them," Barbera explains. "And the study opens the door to more research on foods containing these substances."



Pan, An et al. "Dietary flavonoid intakes and risk of Type 2 diabetes in US men and women."  April 2012. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Narayanan, Aparna. 16 March 2012. Quality Health.