Springtime Fruits and Vegetables for Diabetes

Winter's hearty gourds and tubers have given way to a trove of springtime treasures at the market, and the good news is that everything in the colorful cornucopia is appropriate for those with diabetes. Delicate, tender greens, juicy berries, and crisp, sweet peas all are becoming abundant now, and there's no need to resist the temptation to fill up the market basket with vitamin-packed goodies.

You do, however, need to watch portion size, cautions Caroline Bohl, RD, CDE at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia in New York City.

"You can't just look at fruits and starchy vegetables and think, they're healthy so I can eat as much as I want," Bohl explains. "In fact, half a cup of a starchy vegetable like corn or potatoes should be figured into the diet the same as if it were a slice of bread."

Some fruits and vegetables make more prudent choices than others.

In general, choose fruits and veggies that are low on the glycemic index, says Steven Joyal, MD, co-author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Diabetes. Eat more sparingly of those that are high on the glycemic index.

What's high on the glycemic index? Grapes and bananas are higher than apples, citrus fruits and pears, he says. Peaches are a much better choice than grapes and bananas since the sugar is not so concentrated, and the season is coming up soon.  Berries, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, for example, don't make your blood sugar spike as quickly as watermelon and cantaloupe. "Berries and cherries also are easier to eat," says Elizabeth Edelman, BA, co founder of Diabetes Daily, an information website for those who have diabetes.

As for veggies, look for greens and don't overdo on carrots, Joyal suggests. "If you are eating a mixed meal with protein and fat, having some carrots is fine, but if a diabetic sits down and eat three cups of raw carrots, that will really raise the blood sugar," Joyal says.

Greens, spinach, and cucumbers can be eaten whenever you please. Spring peas, while delicious, must be considered in the same category as potatoes and corn, Bohl says. In other words, figure that a serving of peas "counts" for about the same number of carbs as a slice of bread.

3 Reasons to Indulge in Spring Produce

It's sweet! And the great taste comes from fructose, fruit sugar, rather than sucrose, which is table sugar,  Edelman explains. Fructose produces a more gradual rise in the blood sugar than sucrose.

It's colorful! And all those colors mean the produce is loaded with antioxidants. Pick a produce rainbow at your supermarket.

It's a good source of fiber! And fiber helps keep your blood sugar stable. Eating fiber means your blood sugar won't rise as quickly, and so you can avoid blood sugar swings, explains Joyal.