Fruit: Is there really a good and bad choice?

fruit_woman_iStock_000019680537XXXLargeWhen it comes to fruit, numerous patients have asked me if there is such a thing as good and bad fruit. Many will read on the internet that bananas are bad for you and grapes are too high in sugar. Messages like this can be quite confusing because after all, isn’t fruit supposed to be good for you?  The perk of eating fruit is that it is low in calories and contains a bundle of vitamins and minerals. The downfall of fruit is that it also contains natural sugars and like we know, too much sugar (even natural) is not a good thing.

I don’t really like to say that there are good fruits and bad fruits, but I do try encouraging some fruits over others based on their glycemic index. Glycemic index is a value assigned to foods that indicates what type of affect that food may have on one’s blood sugar and insulin level. A low glycemic food such as broccoli will have a minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin whereas a high glycemic food like a white potato will make both levels skyrocket. This information is especially important for someone who is diabetic or even pre-diabetic. In fact, a recent meta-analysis in the American Journal for Clinical Nutrition suggests that high intakes of foods with a high glycemic index can greatly increase one’s risk for developing diabetes. Elevated levels of insulin can also increase LDL (the bad cholesterol) as well as promote fat storage. It is understood that elevated insulin levels can make it more difficult for the body to burn stored fat; therefore, choosing foods with a lower glycemic index can help reduce insulin levels and thus, may help the body burn more fat and promote weight loss. Other consequences of chronically elevated insulin levels can include increased sugar cravings, elevated triglyceride levels and hypertension.

The glycemic index is a scale of 0-100. Foods with a score of 70 or higher are considered high glycemic foods and are encouraged to be limited. Foods with a medium score of 50-70 are considered moderate glycemic foods and should be eaten in moderation while foods with a score of less than 50 are lower on the glycemic index and should make up the bulk of one’s dietary choices. Below is a list of common fruits and their GI values.

Where does your favorite fruit fall on the list?

Fruit GI Value
Cherries 22
Grapefruit 25
Prunes 29
Apricot, dried 30
Apple 38
Pear, fresh 38
Peach, canned in juice 38
Plum 39
Orange 40
Peach, fresh 42
Grapes 46
Mango 51
Banana 52
Fruit Cocktail 55
Papaya 56
Raisins 56
Apricots, fresh 57
Kiwi 58
Figs, dried 61
Cantaloupe 65
Pineapple 66
Watermelon 72
Dates 103

Remember, just because a fruit has a high glycemic index doesn’t mean that you have to cut it completely out of your diet. It’s perfectly fine to enjoy some of these fruits from time to time guilt-free but at least try to mix up your choices with a variety of GI values.

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