Can a diabetic have watermelon?

It is a widely held belief that people who have diabetes cannot consume fruits as they are high in carbohydrates and fructose, a natural sugar that raises blood sugar levels. While diabetes patients are frequently advised to avoid fruits, particularly summer varieties, they can still be included in a diabetic person’s diet.

Fruit indulgence for a person with diabetes can be as simple as a piece of fresh fruit or a bowl of fruit salad to satisfy the sweet tooth while also providing extra nutrition, fibre, vitamin C, folate and potassium. Phytochemicals and minerals, which are powerful plant compounds, are also abundant in fruit. Fruit consumption may lower the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke while also improving overall wellbeing.

Apples, oranges, grapefruits, cherries and guavas are not only safe to eat for diabetics but are very useful for lowering the incidence of type-2 diabetes. Moreover, blueberries and strawberries are an excellent way to fulfil one’s sweet indulgence while also providing the body with antioxidants, vitamins C and K, fibre, potassium and manganese. Tomatoes are high in vitamins C and E, as well as potassium, and can be eaten pureed, raw or in a sauce.

Not all fruits, however, are equally beneficial because fruits in jars, plastic cups or cans may contain added sugar. Therefore, while buying canned fruit one should make sure that there is no added sugar or other preservatives.

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One approach for a person with diabetes to choose safe and suitable fruit and other high-carbohydrate foods is to check their glycaemic index (GI) levels. The glycaemic index (GI) is a measurement of how rapidly a food raises blood sugar levels (glucose). Anything with a GI of 28 raises blood sugar by just 28% as much as pure glucose, while one with a GI of 100 raises it as much as pure glucose does.

A fruit having a lower GI score is more effective at lowering blood sugar levels. For instance, avocados, strawberries, blackberries, apples, plums, grapefruit, peaches, pears and cherries have 20-49 (low) GI levels. These fruits are high in fibre and have a low GI that helps improve blood sugar tolerance. However, certain important factors should be kept in mind, such as the maturity or ripeness of a piece of fruit that will influence the GI of a meal.

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Even if the meal contains low GI items, one should keep an eye on the number of carbohydrates and portion size. Some fruits, like watermelon, have a high GI, but one serving of watermelon has very little carbohydrate and its effect on the blood sugar is very minimal.

Therefore, it is not possible to choose a healthy diet just based on the GI. However, it provides helpful information that can assist a diabetic person in selecting fruit/food that has a mild and gentle influence on their blood sugar levels.

Dr Suranjit Chatterjee is a Senior Consultant, Internal medicine, Indraprastha Apollo Hospital, New Delhi