Do you remember the last time you visited the local grocery store, considering what to include in your diabetic-friendly diet? Perhaps you spotted some luscious, juicy fresh grapes that caught your attention, but you resisted the temptation because you’ve heard that grapes could spike your sugar levels. If so, you are not alone. Many diabetics have questions about grapes and often find themselves in a dilemma with no one to provide them with definitive answers.
The good news is, your search ends here! In this blog, we will debunk many urban myths about grapes for diabetics and answer many questions that you may consciously or subconsciously have.
Nutritional value of grapes
You likely know that grapes, being a juicy fruit, have high water content. To be precise, a cup of grapes contains about 121 grams of water. Grapes are also known to be packed with valuable vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
Various grape varieties are available in the market such as Concord, Moon Drop, Cotton Candy, Crimson, Muscat, and Black Munakka, among others. In general, if you’re wondering which grapes are good for health, the darker grapes are usually the better choice because they contain additional phytochemicals and flavonoids.
Before this information overwhelms you, let’s explain in simple terms. Phytochemicals are chemicals that aren’t recognized as nutrients, but they still protect us against many chronic diseases and conditions. Flavonoids, meanwhile, help the body counteract the harmful effects of ‘free radical’ formation. For your information, free radicals are atoms or groups of atoms with a single unpaired electron, making them unstable.
Your most significant concern as a diabetic fond of eating fruits would likely be the sugar content. Fruits generally contain glucose and fructose in a 1:1 ratio. Fructose, also known as ‘fruit sugar,’ is a sweet molecule smaller than glucose. Fruits containing more than 4 grams of fructose in one serving are categorized as ‘high-fructose fruits’. Given that the fructose per serving of grapes is about 12.5 grams, grapes fall into this category. However, while they do not immediately increase blood glucose levels, excessive fructose consumption can lead to fatty liver and increased insulin resistance because it slows down the mitochondria, thereby affecting metabolism.
Effects of Grapes on Blood Sugar and Gut
Like many other fruits, grapes also contain glucose and fructose in a 1:1 ratio, though the fructose content in overripe fruits may be higher than the sugar content. The glucose in fruits raises your blood sugar level, and so the body needs insulin to metabolize it. On the other hand, fructose is metabolized into glucose and organic acids in the small intestine and, when in excess, by the liver. This does not raise blood sugar levels immediately.
Secondly, commercially available grapes are often treated with pesticides that could be harmful to you. Pesticide residues in grapes can disrupt the delicate balance of your gut microbiome and, in turn, lead to various gut issues. Furthermore, the sugar present in pesticide-laden grapes can nourish harmful gut infections. This can ultimately impact your overall health, including your blood sugar levels. So, if you’re wondering which grapes are good for health, you should prefer organic varieties as they can significantly reduce the risk of pesticide exposure and support a healthier gut microbiome.
Grapes Glycemic Index: Do Grapes Increase Blood Sugar?
The Glycemic Index (GI) value for green grapes lies between 50 and 56, which puts it in the low to medium GI range. But having a low GI value does not necessarily mean that grapes will not raise your blood sugar levels. You should also consider the Glycemic Load (GL) value. The GL for a one-cup serving of grapes is 11, which is high.
Now, considering the GI and GL values of grapes, you might conclude that it’s best to avoid them. However, grapes are rich in fiber, vitamin B-6, and other essential nutrients. They are also good for digestion and can boost your mood and support brain function. So, it would not be wise to reject grapes outright as part of your diabetic diet. But of course, you should avoid them when your blood sugar level is not in control. Otherwise, consuming organic grapes in moderation is okay.
Benefits of Grapes
The most significant benefit of grapes is their antioxidant content. It protects you against disease, inflammation, and even certain diabetes complications such as neuropathy and retinopathy. Antioxidants in grapes can defend your body from damages caused by free radicals.
Did you know that resveratrol, a type of polyphenol found in high concentrations in grapes, can help promote heart health, improve memory, and cognitive functions? It’s also proven that resveratrol decreases insulin resistance in Type 2 diabetic patients. Grapes also contain polyphenols that are good for your skin health.
Grapes are low-FODMAP fruits. Patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease may experience digestive symptoms when they consume foods high in FODMAPs. To put it simply, these are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) that the small intestine does not absorb well. So, some people experience digestive distress after consuming them.
A one-cup serving of grapes contains 1.4 grams of insoluble dietary fiber, which aids in maintaining overall health as it does not get absorbed by your body. Insoluble fiber passes through the intestine and stomach without being absorbed, thus delaying the amount of sugar that enters your body. This type of fiber also helps in eliminating high cholesterol and normalizing bowel movements.
Adverse Effects of Grapes
Eating grapes can have some adverse effects. For instance, they can slow down blood clotting due to their high Vitamin K content. So, if you’re also taking medicines that are blood thinners, you should consult a healthcare expert before consuming grapes. Moreover, whole grapes can be a choking hazard for children younger than 4 years of age. It is advisable to always cut grapes into quarters before serving them to children.
Aside from the above, as mentioned earlier, you should also avoid grapes if your blood sugar level is not in control as they have 80 calories per 100 grams on average. Also, inorganic grapes should be avoided completely for the reasons stated above.
Reasons for Potential Spikes in Blood Sugar Levels Due to Sugar Content in Grapes
The main reason sugar spikes occur when diabetics consume fruits is the underlying insulin resistance. A person with normal insulin sensitivity can easily tolerate the sugar when they consume fruits in whole form. But for diabetics, it is better to follow a low-insulin protocol, which involves eating low GI and GL foods to balance blood sugar levels and preserve insulin sensitivity. So, if your question is – can diabetics eat grapes? The answer is: If your sugar level is under control, then yes, you can consume fruits, but in moderation. One serving of fruit is usually the ideal quantity for diabetics. Here, one serving typically equates to 15 grams of sugars. This amount of carbs can be found in 15-17 grape globes.
Grapes contain precious vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But they are also high in calories. So if your diabetes is not in control, it is best to avoid. Otherwise too, you should restrict consumption to about 15 grapes at a time. Diabetics can also have a cup of vegetables 40-60 minutes before eating grapes in order to prevent sugar spikes. Moreover, you should choose organic grapes.
For further queries around grapes or any other fruits or foods, you can always connect with our dedicated team of nutritionists and dieticians at Wellfinity.