Interesting how the complications we are currently experiencing have driven us back to the basics of living. Same holds true for the science of nutrition. When things get complicated, we need to retreat to the basics. Here is an example from reader Claudette:
Q: My husband has a large smoothie every day with about 1 1/2 to 2 cups frozen fruit and his glucose level is higher now than usual. What is the difference in sugar content from fresh fruit to frozen fruit? Would it be best for him to use fresh fruit versus frozen fruit? Also, he likes his smoothie very, very cold. If he used fresh fruit and puts it in the freezer does the sugar content go up because he is freezing the fruit? Would appreciate your input and also do you have a list of recommended fruits low in sugar? I also know that breads and pasta can increase glucose count. Help!!”
A: Fresh and frozen fruit are comparable in sugar content if the frozen version has no sugar added to it. Freezing should not increase the sugar content. So any type of fruit — fresh, frozen, dried — are healthful additions to the diet.
That said, if your husband has diabetes, he needs to watch the amount of fruit and other carbohydrate foods he eats at one time. Excess carbs — whether from fruit, pasta, breads, starchy vegetables or added sugar — can drive up blood sugars.
Depending on what type of fruit he adds to his smoothies, two cups could easily represent 2 to 4 servings of fruit according to diabetes exchange lists. People with diabetes usually need to limit their fruit to no more than 1 or 2 servings at a time.
All types of fruit are recommended eating if your husband understands portions. For example, each of these portions of fruit contain approximately the same amount of carbohydrates in the form of fruit sugar: 1 cup of strawberries, 1 and 1/4 cup raspberries or cantaloupe, 1 cup of frozen mixed whole fruit, 1 small apple, orange, peach, pear or nectarine, 1 small banana (or 1/2 of a large banana), 1/2 cup fruit juice.
Dried fruit such as raisins and prunes are more concentrated in sugar due to their low water content. A serving of these is just 2 tablespoons.
In smoothie making, remember that other ingredients can also add carbs, including fruit juice, milk and milk substitutes, and yogurt.
My standard advice for a healthful smoothie without excess carbs is 1 serving of fresh or frozen fruit (about 1 cup for most types of fruit), 1 cup of milk, milk substitute or yogurt (or a combination of milk and yogurt), and some type of added protein such as protein powder or peanut or other nut butter.
You can find other resources from the American Diabetes Association, including cookbooks and meal planning advice at shopdiabetes.org. Thanks for writing.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian nutritionist affiliated with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula. Email her at to email@example.com.