Blueberries and Diabetes: Can Blueberries Consumption Lower Blood Sugar?
People with diabetes ought to avoid food with high amounts of sugars. However, experts suggest that the inclusion of fruits in the diet leads to positive outcomes in diabetes management, including the sweet ones containing natural sugars. This is because fruits provide lots of other health benefits. In fact, some fruits, like blueberries, are highly recommended in the management of diabetes.
The American Diabetes Association encourages people with diabetes to consume blueberries - they called it a super food for diabetes. Fresh blueberries are a typical summertime delicacy. They are sweet, succulent, highly nutritious, and potent against several health conditions, including diabetes. You can enjoy fresh or frozen blueberries or in combo with other fruits as a salad.
However, blueberries are to be consumed in moderation like other foods, especially carbohydrate containing foods. You do not want to eat a portion size that may cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Even though it has a low glycemic index and glycemic load, active consumption of blueberries in excess may still pose a threat to diabetic individuals.
Perhaps you are unfamiliar with those terms earlier mentioned; this article gives a detailed explanation of each term. It also contains all the necessary information you need to know about blueberries before adding them to your diet.
- Protein 0.74 g
- Carbohydrate 14.49 g
- Fat 0.33 g
- Fiber 2.4 g
- Sugar 9.96 g
- Cholesterol 0 g
Nutritional Stats of Blueberries
Like many fruits, blueberries have high amounts of water accounting for about 80 percent of its content. However, blueberries are rich in numerous nutrients. Though have low levels of calories and fats but provide a fair share of dietary fibers.
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Vitamins and Minerals in Blueberries
As it is common to fruits and vegetables; blueberries are a good source of different vitamins. Let's take a look at those present in decent amounts.
Vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is the common vitamin in most fruits and vegetables. It is an antioxidant important for healthy skin and may serve as an immune booster. They are also known to promote healing and repair worn-out tissues.
Vitamin K, known as phylloquinone, is essential for blood clotting. It is often prescribed for hemophilic patients. The vitamins are also crucial for bone-building and other vital body processes.
Manganese is an essential mineral needed for optimal body function, such as forming connective tissues and bones. They are also necessary for the metabolism of proteins, amino acids, fats, and carbohydrates in the diet.
Potassium is a crucial macronutrient in the body. They aid in the regulation of body fluids, muscle contraction, and nerve signals. Eating a potassium-rich diet may help reduce blood pressure and water retention, which are essential for diabetic individuals and those with a propensity for cardiovascular disease.
Blueberries also contain vitamin E, copper, vitamin B6, beta carotene, and phosphorus in minute amounts.
Health Benefits of Blueberries Relating to Diabetes
Other than the general benefits of blueberries, below are the specific benefits of the fruit concerning people living with diabetes.
Blood Sugar Regulation
Though, blueberries contain sugar and carbs in decent amounts. Studies show that they aid in improving glucose processing in the body, and lower overall body weight and insulin resistance, which is vital, especially for patients with type 2 diabetes.
Blueberries are a powerhouse for lots of antioxidants, especially the flavonoid anthocyanins. Reports show that they are potent against several disease conditions, including diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy is one of the complications of diabetes, a condition that affects the blood vessels of the retina. If left uncontrolled, it may even lead to blindness. Blueberry supplementation can improve sight and strengthen blood vessels of the retina.
Also, the antioxidants in the fruit offer protection to the eyes and reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Diabetes is one of the major cardiovascular risk factors. High blood pressure and several other cardiovascular disorders are leading causes of death worldwide. Several reports have linked flavonoid-rich foods, like blueberries, to improving heart function.
Blueberries may also prevent the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins - one of the most common causes of different heart conditions.
Wound Healing and Blood Clotting
People living with diabetes tend to experience slow healing, in some cases, injuries don't even get to heal. Blueberry contains significant amounts of vitamin C necessary for wound healing and vitamin K, which is vital for blood clotting, and manganese is also important in forming connective tissues.
What is the Glycemic Index of Blueberries?
Food's Glycemic Index (GI) is a critical feature that all diabetic patients need to worry about eating. It is a metric for ranking the amounts of carbohydrates in foods, which indicates how much a portion of food can cause the elevation of blood sugar levels. The GI scale ranks each food from 0 to 100, as shown below.
Low GI foods have values of 0 to 55.
Medium GI foods have values between 56 and 69.
High GI foods have values from 70 to 100.
The GI metric system is relatively straightforward, as foods with high GI values will cause an elevation of sugar levels. Blueberries rank 53, which is low on the glycemic index. However, the glycemic index is not the only metric to measure how a portion of food is likely to cause a spike in blood sugar levels. Another crucial metric is the glycemic load.
Glycemic Load of Blueberries
The Glycemic Load (GL) is a more comprehensive parameter as it combines the food's glycemic index with the portion size of the food you consume. Therefore, the glycemic load is a more precise indication of how the food is likely to cause a spike in blood sugars. That is, when you consume a low GI food in large quantities, accumulations of the glucose content in each portion may lead to the same results as taking foods with high GI.
The GL scale, like GI, also divides foods into three categories, namely,
Low GL foods have values of 10 or less.
Medium GL foods have values between 11 and 19.
High GL foods have values of 20 and more.
For example, a portion size of 100 grams serving blueberry has a GL value of 6.4; hence, it is a low GL food. This further suggests that blueberry consumption is healthy in diabetes patients. However, say you decide to consume three of such portions, that is 300 grams - what you have is 19.2 on the GL scale, which is already approaching high GL.
In essence, it is vital for people with diabetes to consume foods with caution. As excessive consumption may be detrimental to health. Monitoring the glycemic load of foods is not limited to type 2 diabetes patients alone. Also, people with type 1 diabetes need to ensure the carb content in their food is in contention with their insulin injection.
What Research Says About Blueberries and Diabetes
Experts report that consuming a diet high in fiber reduces the sugar level of people with type 1 diabetes. Such diets also improve lipid, blood glucose levels and reduce insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes. Overall, it is safe to say that daily consumption of blueberries leads to improved outcomes in people with diabetes.
It is suggested that the antioxidant actions of anthocyanin may be responsible for improved overall health. Therefore, the addition of blueberries to the diet may play a role in maintaining healthy nutrition in diabetic individuals.
Blueberries and Insulin Resistance
Blueberries improve insulin sensitivity. A study by The Journal of Nutrition in 2010 shows that the addition of blueberries to one’s diet enhances insulin sensitivity in obese and insulin-resistant men and women. This indicates that the consumption of the fruit will give positive results, especially in type 2 diabetes individuals.
The study also recommends that consuming blueberries may yield positive outcomes in people with prediabetes.
Blueberries and Glucose Metabolism
Blueberries may aid efficient glucose metabolism. Reports from a study by PubMed show that the inclusion of blueberries in one’s diet lowers postprandial glucose AUC and elevates insulin levels.
Another study by the University of Michigan reveals that including powdered blueberry in rats' feed causes reduced abdominal fats, cholesterol, and triglycerides. Improved insulin sensitivity and fasting sugar were also noticed, indicating better processing of glucose for energy production.
In combination with a low-fat diet, other than lower fat mass, the blueberries also accounted for reduced total body mass and liver mass. An enlarged liver is often a result of obesity and insulin resistance, which are features of Diabetes Mellitus.
Perhaps more studies in humans are necessary to detect the effects of blueberries on glucose processing in humans and insulin sensitivity, but these tests indicate what to expect. More so, the rats in the study were similar to Americans suffering from a metabolic syndrome that increases the propensity to diabetes and heart diseases.
Blueberries and Body Weight
Obese adults are often advised to increase the portion of fruit and vegetables in their diets. Blueberries contain low amounts of calories and fats - the hallmark of weight-loss diets. Daily blueberry consumption of a healthy, balanced diet containing blueberries in overweight and obese individuals may reduce the risk of diabetes.
Is Blueberry Healthy for People with Diabetes?
It is true that most fruits contain natural sugar - the primary culprit in diabetes. However, these fruits often have lots of other beneficial nutrients. Blueberries, for example, contain loads of vitamins, dietary fiber, antioxidants, and other phytonutrients essential for healthy living.
One of the said phytonutrients is anthocyanins, which are strongly linked to reducing the risks of type 2 diabetes. The compound might lessen the liver's production of glucose which is particularly important for diabetic individuals.
Several reports have suggested that diet changes - eating a healthy balanced diet, go a long way in the management of diabetes. When you eat healthily, you have better control of your overall health - reduce blood sugar spikes, body weight, and risks of diabetes and other diseases.
In the management of diabetes, avoiding foods rich in sugar seems to be a fundamental approach. However, the American Diabetes Association suggests including fruits in one’s diet. ADA says they are an excellent way to satisfy your sweet tooth without necessarily causing spikes in blood sugar level; instead, you get additional nutrients.
Just ensure you stick to the natural fruits and not juices that often contain added sugars. Taking a blueberry smoothie may not be as eating the fruits raw. The breaking of fibers may increase the glycemic loads of the fruits.
How Much Fresh Blueberries Should People With Diabetes Eat?
The key to regulating blood sugar levels in diabetes is to monitor the portion size of foods or fruits consumed. Thanks to the low GL of blueberries, you can enjoy about 30 blueberries without worrying about blood sugar spikes. A 100 gram serving of blueberries has a low GL of 6.4.
This 100 gram portion size of blueberry accounts for about ½ a cup. So, should you decide to take ¾ cup of fresh blueberries, you have a GL value of 9.2, which still falls low on the scale. However, no specific nutrient distribution works best for all, so you may still need to work with your wellness professional on the number of fruits you include in your daily diet.
One cup contains about 60 to 70 average-sized fresh blueberries. These fruits do come in unequal sizes, so it might be better to use ideal measuring cups to get a more precise result. Or you can decide to weigh it. A portion size of 100 to 150 grams of blueberries should be good enough for diabetic individuals.
To reiterate, it is always better to eat fruits and vegetables fresh in their natural forms than to drink fruit juices and smoothies or eat cooked or boiled ones. Besides the reduced dietary fibers - a result of the processing procedures, they may include added sugars which may be detrimental to diabetic patients.
Other Fruits Options for People With Diabetes
While active consumption of blueberries is a diabetes friendly diet, they are not the only beneficial fruits for diabetes management. Or perhaps you don't even like blueberries. There are many other fruits and vegetables within the low GI and GL range that you can include in your diet.
Just ensure you maintain a healthy balanced diet and consume these fruits in moderation. The list below includes fruits and veggies with low to medium GI to help maintain normal plasma glucose levels.
Citrus - Orange, Grapefruit, Orange, etc.
For emphasis' sake, stick to fresh or frozen fruits. Processed, dried, and packaged fruit juices tend to be more concentrated; therefore, they have a high glycemic index. Besides, they may contain other additives which may be detrimental to your health.
So, How many Fruits Can I include in My Daily Diet?
Dietitians and nutritionists recommend that every individual, including diabetic and obese individuals, have two to five fruits servings in their daily diet. Unless told otherwise by your wellness expert, active consumption of fruits is suitable for all. Fruits contain many essential nutrients absent in other diets or low in quantities.
Daily consumption of fruits is vital for healthy living and lowers the risk of numerous disease conditions. However, people with diabetes must pay more attention to the non-starchy fruits. Also, it is good to include proteins and high-fiber foods in diets.
How Should I Plan My Diet?
Healthy feeding plays a crucial role in the management of diabetes.
However, knowing the perfect food combination may not be as easy as you think. This is why it is best to work closely with your dietitian to know what's best for you, don't be deceived; there's no perfect food combination for everyone.
However, another good way of closely monitoring your condition as a person with diabetes is to use a standard diabetes management app. Besides managing your diet, these apps monitor other crucial aspects of diabetes management, such as exercise and blood glucose levels. Klinio is an excellent app for this purpose.
We have established that daily blueberry consumption has numerous health benefits for people with diabetes. However, more studies may be required to know the actual mechanism of action behind it. Also, various researches already link blueberry consumption to weight loss and reduced insulin resistance.
However, if you are interested in getting the best diet recommendation, your best bet is to use an excellent diabetes management app like Klinio or visit your dietitian.
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