People with diabetes often worry about including fruit in their diet due to the amount of natural sugar it contains.

However, diabetics do not have to avoid certain fruit as they play an important part of a healthy diet.

They just have to know and monitor the effects the different fruits have on their blood-sugar levels.

Fortunately citrus is a fruit type that is not only rich in vitamins and minerals, but is also relatively low on the glycaemic index and can therefore safely be enjoyed by people with diabetes.

Habata Agri in the Sundays River Valley are one of South Africa’s top exporters in the fruit industry and citrus forms a major part of their farming operation. In this article we look at the benefits this fruit type has for diabetics.

Before we explore this, however, it is important to understand exactly what diabetes is.

The disease occurs when the body is unable to produce enough of the hormone, insulin. This results in abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates and higher levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood.

Insulin helps the body convert sugar from the food you eat into energy or to keep it for future use, as well as regulating your blood-sugar level.

There are three major types of this disease. In Type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells in your pancreas that produce insulin.

In Type 2 diabetes, insulin is not used correctly in the body. Initially the pancreas will manufacture more of the hormone, but this diminishes over time, leading to insufficient insulin in the body.

The third type is gestational diabetes and can occur during pregnancy. Here the blood-sugar levels, which were normal before, rise when a mother is pregnant but usually return to normal after the birth.

Foods are measured on the glycaemic index (GI) from one to 100 and by checking this someone with diabetes can manage their blood-sugar levels.

High-GI foods provide a surge of energy while low-GI foods, which are digested more slowly, release a more constant form of energy. These are the safer choices for diabetics.

Fresh citrus fruit – like the oranges, lemons and mandarins produced by Habata – are low on the glycaemic index and can be enjoyed by people with diabetes.

These fruits are high in fibre and vitamins A and C, which are powerful antioxidants that help to fight infection and protect cells.

They contain minerals and a category of nutrients which work as anti-inflammatories and antioxidants. They also assist to prevent blood clots, cancer, bacteria and viruses.

It is essential to note that eating the whole fruit is better than drinking the juice. This is because the fruit contains fibre, which delays digestion.

If you have diabetes you can enjoy citrus fruit in your diet as a snack between meals, but it is recommended you choose smaller-sized fruit to keep your diabetes and blood-sugar levels under control.

The citrus fruit grown and exported by Habata Agri can be included in a diabetic’s diet as it has a low glycaemic index and lends itself to be a safe choice of food.  Picture: Supplied

Issued by: Full Stop Communications