If you have diabetes, your healthcare provider has likely recommended that you choose foods with a low glycemic index (GI). Glycemic index measures the rate at which carbohydrates raise blood glucose. Foods with a high GI raise blood glucose quickly; foods with low GI raise it slowly. Because fruits and vegetables tend to have lots of fiber and are fat free, as long as they’re not prepared with butter, oil, cheese, etc., they tend to have low GI. However, the riper a piece of fruit is, the higher its GI. Processing also raises the GI of fruits and vegetables, so apple juice, for example, has a high GI while a whole apple has a low GI.
Most fruits have a low GI rating because they contain lots of fiber. Fruits such as apples, bananas, grapes, nectarines, plums, and peaches are great choices for people with diabetes. There are a few fruits that have a high GI index, including melons (e.g. cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon), pineapple, and dried fruits such as dates, raisins, and sweetened cranberries.
If you are counting carbohydrates, a good general rule is that a 1/2-cup of frozen or canned fruit (in juice, not syrup) has roughly 15 grams of carbs. A serving of fresh berries and melons is about 3/4 to 1 cup, and also adds up to 15 grams of carbs. If you like dried fruit, be aware that just 2 tablespoons of dried fruit equal 15 grams of carbohydrates.
Most vegetables are low in calories and carbohydrates, making them ideal food for people with diabetes. They are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and antioxidants—which is why the American Diabetes Association recommends eating at least three to five servings of vegetables every day. One serving of vegetables is either one-half cup of cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or one cup of raw vegetables.
Most vegetables are low GI foods, but there are some exceptions. Starchy vegetables, including potatoes, corn and peas, squash, parsnip, and plantains are high GI vegetables because they contain more carbohydrates than most other vegetables.
If you cook with canned or frozen vegetables, opt for varieties that say “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the packaging. Why? That’s the best way to ensure that you’re not adding too much salt to your otherwise nutritious vegetables. (If you must use canned vegetables that contain sodium, draining and rinsing them will reduce the amount of sodium that’s left behind.)