The Healthy Relationship Between Oranges and Diabetes
The Healthy Relationship Between Oranges and Diabetes
Oranges are considered one of the most nutritious fruits available, and they’re indeed quite satisfying. For most people, vitamins come to mind when they come across an orange — oranges are indeed richly equipped with vitamin C. Sweet and satisfying as it is, people with diabetes tend to avoid consuming them due to several myths surrounding the intake of fruits and diabetes.
Health professionals often advise people with diabetes to avoid foods containing too much sugar. Naturally, we tend to judge sweet natural fruits as having loads of sugar. The truth, however, is that fruits feature a type of diabetes-friendly sugar. In light of these, nutrient-dense fruits like oranges are essential in a regular diet.
About 400 varieties of oranges exist, some of which are bitter or sour. However, this guide considers the Citrus x sinensis variety, also called “sweet orange.” Here, you’ll discover the nutritional contents of oranges and how they benefit people with diabetes. Also, you will discover how to fit oranges into your diet correctly.
What to Expect
The Nutritional Content of Oranges at a Glance
Why Oranges Are Essential for a Diabetes Diet
Other Benefits of Oranges
Orange and Orange Products
Ways to Enjoy More Oranges in Your Diet
- Protein 0.94 g
- Carbohydrate 11.75 g
- Fat 0.12 g
- Fiber 2.4 g
- Sugar 9.35 g
- Cholesterol 0 g
Oranges, just like most fruits, are rich in vitamins, carbs, fiber, and other important nutrients. A large percentage of an orange is made of water.
Highlighted below are the nutrients packed in one medium-sized orange (140 grams):
Water: 86% by weight
Protein: 1.3 grams
Carbs: 14.8 g
Sugar: 12 g
Fiber: 2.8 g
Fat: 0.2 g
Vitamin C: 92% Daily Value (DV)
Folate: 9% DV
Calcium: 5% DV
Potassium: 5% DV
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A 2021 journal on citrus polyphenols shows how effectively citrus fruits protect against type 2 diabetes. Citrus polyphenols are compounds found in citrus fruits that seemingly have long-term positive effects on people with diabetes. Oranges, in particular, are loaded with many beneficial nutrients, much of which help deal with diabetes.
That said, let’s explicitly discuss the benefits oranges offer people with diabetes.
Rich in Vitamins and Minerals
One medium-sized orange contains at least 90% of your daily vitamin C. In addition, oranges are richly packed with other vitamins.
Vitamin C helps the body's immune system function properly. For one, it reduces inflammation which often occurs in people with diabetes. Oranges also contain calcium, a mineral responsible for healthy bones and strong muscles.
A randomized controlled trial on 84 patients with type two diabetes was conducted in 2007. Patients were divided into two groups, with some receiving 500 mg of vitamin C daily while others got 1,000 mg daily. Researchers measured factors like fasting blood sugar (FBS), low and high-density lipoprotein (LDL, HDL), triglyceride (TG), serum insulin, glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), and total cholesterol before and after patients consumed vitamin C. The result shows a reduction in these factors, mainly in patients that received 1,000 mg of vitamin C daily.
This research shows that consuming more vitamin C helps lower blood glucose and lipids in people with type 2 diabetes. Citrus fruits like oranges are an excellent means of upping your vitamin C intake, and consuming them daily will surely benefit your overall health as a person with diabetes.
Although in relatively higher amounts, vitamin C isn’t the only vitamin in oranges. Orange boasts a good dose of folic acid and essential B vitamins known for many helpful features.
A 2018 study on folate suggests it has beneficial effects on insulin resistance and glycemic control. However, the latter requires further trials. This vitamin helps break down homocysteine in the body — a compound that’d otherwise result in complications like heart disease when present in high quantities.
Folate plays other essential roles in the body, including preventing cancer and other blood diseases. Pregnant women are advised to consume foods rich in folate as they help prevent congenital disabilities in their unborn. It also helps in the production of DNA and RNA.
Low Glycemic Index
Using the glycemic index, a simple way for people with diabetes to detect which food fits into their diet. This scale measures how a particular food affects blood sugar when consumed based on its carbohydrate content. It runs from 0 to 100, with water taking the 0 spot and glucose ranking highest with a 100 GI score.
People with diabetes are advised to choose diets with low GI scores. On the other hand, high GI foods aren’t suitable for people with diabetes. Their high GI scores indicate their potential to rapidly increase your blood sugar following consumption. Hence, health professionals advise patients to avoid foods with a high glycemic index.
However, some foods might have low GI scores yet be unsuitable for people with diabetes. This is due to another factor known as the glycemic load.
Most fruits have a low glycemic index, making them suitable for a diabetes diet. However, one needs to consume them in moderate quantities.
Oranges tend to have varying GI scores depending on the variety. A regular orange will have a GI score of around 40–43 in its raw form. This makes orange a low GI food.
Hence, oranges are fit for people with diabetes. However, you also need to consider other factors that might affect your body's blood sugar response. These include glycemic load, pairing with other foods, consumption rate, etc.
High Fiber Content
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), you don't have a healthy diet until it has a percentage of fiber in it daily. Yes, fiber is essential. For the most part, it’s the only type of carbohydrate your body can’t digest, yet the most beneficial. This nutrient is essential for proper diabetes management, which is found in plant-based food.
While most carb-rich foods feature a percentage of fiber, they may not be the best choice in a diabetes meal plan. Hence, you need to get most of your fiber from whole fruits like oranges and other citrus fruits. A medium orange contains close to 3 g of fiber. Green leafy vegetables and whole grains like brown rice are other healthy sources of fiber.
Fiber offers many health benefits to the body, especially for people with diabetes. Your body produces waste daily, either a by-product of metabolism or environmental toxins. These waste products need to be eliminated from the body, or they get reabsorbed into the liver. When you consume fiber, it binds to the toxins and removes them from the body, detoxifying the body.
A study on dietary fiber shows this nutrient significantly decreased fasting blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes. Hence, fiber proves itself an essential nutrient in managing this disease.
Obesity is one of the risk factors for diabetes. Hence, people at risk of developing diabetes are always advised to keep their weight in check. When consumed, fiber takes a while to digest, making you feel full. This potentially discourages you from overeating, thereby helping with weight management.
Eating fruit-like oranges daily will help you get ahead of your daily dietary fiber needs. Considering these realities, oranges can be considered one of the diabetes superfoods.
Rich in Antioxidants
Ever come across the term “oxidative stress”? This phenomenon occurs when there’s an imbalance between the free radicals and antioxidants in the body.
Oxidative stress is one of the leading factors in the aging process as it damages cells and tissues in the body. Furthermore, prolonged oxidative stress has been linked to certain chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
There’s only one surefire way to tackle oxidative stress and nip it in the bud. You need to introduce more antioxidants to your system, which will help balance all the free radicals causing damage. Luckily, antioxidants are abundant in nature, existing in foods like vegetables and fruits.
Oranges have certain plant compounds that boast antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These include flavonoid antioxidants and carotenoids. Flavonoids are phenolic compounds that help tackle oxidative stress in the body.
There exist two major citrus flavonoids that play essential roles in the body, as we’ll observe below:
Hesperidin has antioxidant properties, helps reduce inflammation, and also lowers blood pressure. Another citrus flavonoid known to possess antioxidant properties is naringenin. Notably, it’s been linked to improving blood vessel functions.
Carotenoids are plant compounds that give fruits and vegetables their peculiar color. They possess antioxidant properties essential to the body's health and development.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
It might seem ironic that food containing sugar helps lower blood sugar levels. The truth is that this fruit's low GI score makes it less likely to spike your blood sugar, as it’s slowly absorbed into the body when consumed. However, this is not the only way oranges help lower blood sugar.
As mentioned earlier, oranges are pretty rich in fiber. This nutrient is known to slow down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream. Hence, it helps lower high blood sugar levels.
Additionally, the sugar present in fruits is fructose — a safer type of sugar to consume, especially for people with diabetes. Unlike common added sugars, like sucrose, maltose, syrup, etc., which can be detrimental to anyone's health, fructose is healthier. That said, regularly eating fruits (oranges) is an excellent way to prevent blood sugar spikes.
The health benefits of oranges aren’t limited to the ones mentioned above. Here are some more benefits of this juicy fruit:
Helps in collagen production
Promotes heart health
Protects against some types of cancer
Can prevent anemia
While most people can enjoy oranges in various forms, not all orange products are great for a diabetic's health. There have been debates on whether you should eat oranges whole or juice them out. Let’s look at some orange products and how safe they’re for a diabetes diet.
Orange juice is quite popular in many places, especially in the United States. In 2020/2021, the US consumed about 497,000 metric tons of this juice.
People tend to substitute juice for actual whole fruits to up their fruit intake. While some manufacturers might claim theirs is 100% fruit, consuming more of it might contribute to a health hazard.
Fruit juice usually has a high glycemic index. They contain added sugar, among other constituents, raising their GI scores. They typically have a GI score ranging between 66 and 76, which is relatively high and could lead to severe blood sugar spikes following consumption.
During production, oranges get stripped of most fiber content to make the final juice product. This makes it less nutritious than whole fruits. As we’ve established, fibers are essential nutrients you really can't do without. Hence, taking orange juice might not give you that healthy dose of fiber you require.
However, in some cases of hypoglycemia—a condition where blood sugar falls low—fruit juice can help. Drink orange juice when you need to restore your blood sugar levels to optimum. However, ensure you take one that has 100% of the fruit.
Oranges are seasonal fruits, making them less available during specific year periods. A safer way to store these nutritious fruits is by canning them. Although canned fruit usually contains preservatives to give it a long shelf life, it doesn’t make them any less healthy.
Even after several months of shelving, canned mandarin oranges still retain much of their vitamin C content — one of their advantages over fresh fruits. Thankfully, you can still enjoy canned oranges if you live with diabetes. However, ensure you take ones soaked in juice instead of syrup. Also, look out for the “no added sugars” inscription on the label before purchasing.
Eating oranges whole is the healthy way to go. However, how do they fit into a diabetes-friendly diet? Working them into your diet can be challenging, especially if you haven't been eating this fruit often. Here are some ways to enjoy oranges and get more essential nutrients.
Have Them in Slices
Consuming them in their natural form is the best way to go. Keep oranges at hand always where you can quickly grab, peel and eat right away. Another excellent option is to eat oranges in between meals as snacks.
Go the Salad Way
What more healthy way to snack than having a fruit salad. You can combine oranges with other fruits like strawberries, pineapple, and grapes. However, ensure you don't overcompensate on each fruit, as this can spike sugars.
Substituting processed juice for homemade one is another healthy option. Select a couple of oranges, squeeze them and enjoy your homemade orange juice.
What makes up for a healthy diet is usually relative to the individual. However, for people with diabetes, there are some pretty laid out rules. Simply put, a diabetes-friendly diet is essential for people with this illness.
To make a balanced diet, there’s a need to include fruits, and having them in the correct quantity contributes to healthier living. While you’re at it, you should avoid processed fruit as they may contain added sugar. On the other hand, sweet fruits like oranges are more nutritious options.
There’s more than one way to include oranges in your daily diet. Eating them whole is the preferred option as you derive all the nutrients packed in the entire fruit. You can also enjoy canned mandarin oranges as an alternative to fresh fruits or choose to add oranges to your salad or your smoothie. However, ensure you take them in moderate quantities to avoid an unnecessary rise in blood sugar.
If you’re still having trouble figuring out what you need for a diabetic-friendly diet, then our diabetes management app, Klinio, can come in handy. This app gives you access to enjoyable meal plans that will undoubtedly enhance your health. You also have access to other features, including a no-equipment beginner workout, a progress tracker, and more.
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