And just like that, January is under way. It’s time to start focusing on a new phase of nourishment: winter produce. Think—citrus, root vegetables, and a variety of cooked greens. Warming the body from the inside out. Amidst the chaos of the new year, January is an opportunity to slow down. Get back to the basics. Opt for foods that feed the soul (and most importantly, boost immunity!). No need for restrictive diets or juice cleanses. Just focus on real, whole foods. With that, let’s dive into fruits and vegetables to lower blood sugar in January. Why the focus on blood sugar? Because stable blood sugar helps prevent—or delay—long-term, serious health problems. Although carbohydrates, like fruit, raise blood sugar, carbs are an essential part of a well-rounded diet. Learn what produce is in season in January—that also helps balance blood sugar. Win win.
Is Fruit Healthy?
Some of you might be thinking, of course fruit is healthy! But others might look at a banana and only see what diet culture sees: sugar and carbs. Fearing fruit is just another example of how diet culture impacts our ability to make perfectly nutritious and wholesome choices for our bodies. The truth is, fruit is healthy. Mother Nature knows what she’s doing. When we strip away all the convoluted messages, confusing studies, and set aside our tendencies to overanalyze everything, we realize that what comes from our natural world is here to help, sustain, and satiate us. That includes juicy pears, crisp apples, and sweet dates! Ultimately, it’s other kinds of sugar, like refined cane sugar and artificial sweeteners that can cause inflammation and other chronic diseases. And while not all sugar is created equal, the goal is not to restrict or feel deprived.
what kind of sugar is in produce?
Fruit contains two types of sugar: fructose and glucose. The proportions of each vary, but most fruits are about half glucose and half fructose. Most fruits have 5-6 grams of fructose (some only have 3-4 grams), which is a small amount. In excess, fructose can be toxic to the liver, but I’m talking about large, substantial quantities of fructose. When you eat 3-6 grams of fructose at a time, the intestines will actually neutralize it and the fructose never makes its way to the liver. To put that into context, one medium orange has roughly six grams of fructose. Most vegetables contain fructose, too. However, many vegetables contain low levels of fructose—leafy greens, asparagus, mushrooms, celery, spinach, white potatoes, cucumbers, etc.
Does fruit cause fatty liver disease?
Somewhere along the way, maybe you read that fructose in fruit causes everything from weight gain to fatty liver disease. When you’re sucked into the chronic dieting vortex, a food as nourishing as a vitamin C-packed apples can be overshadowed by its sugar content. While studies suggest that high fructose intake may increase the risk of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, consider which type of fructose is being tested: Naturally-occurring fructose vs. processed fructose. When it comes to weight gain, diabetes, and fatty liver disease, the bigger culprits are high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS, a sweetener made from corn starch) and table sugar. Fruit isn’t the enemy. It’s only when fruit is consumed in large quantities—without anything to slow blood sugar (like protein and healthy fats)—that the liver receives a cascade of fructose.
How much fruit should you eat at a time?
This depends, of course! Like all-things nutrition, there is no universal rule. However, experts agree that if you’re eating 1-2 fruits at a time (about the size of a tennis ball), your liver will get very little—if any—fructose. In essence, the fructose gets partially blocked by the intestines. Another component that changes the way we metabolize fruit? Fiber. Fiber in fruit slows the sugar’s absorption. It helps keep hunger at bay and can support hormone balance. Unlike sodas, often with at least 25 grams of fructose, natural fruit contains fiber to keep blood sugar in check. Furthermore, fruit’s vitamin C content can also help neutralize the effects of fructose.
fruits and vegetables in season in january
In the spirit of changing up your grocery basket—while keeping blood sugar in check—below are fruits and veggies to focus on in January:
- Brussels sprouts
To help keep blood sugar stable, aim to pair this produce list with protein (see ideas, here!) and healthy fats—avocados, extra-virgin olive oil, coconut, nut butter, olives, full-fat dairy, etc. For example, a bowl of cottage cheese topped with sliced kiwis, chia seeds, and cinnamon or roasted turnips and cauliflower with steamed fish and a pat of butter.
Do Smoothies Spike Blood Sugar?
Keep in mind that while smoothies are inherently healthy, a fruit-only smoothie can cause a spike in blood sugar. Even if a smoothie is overflowing with healthy foods, it can cause blood sugar levels to spike if the main ingredients are carbohydrates. Instead, opt for a protein-packed and fiber-rich smoothie, with ingredients like chia seeds, hemp seeds, nut butter, spinach, and protein powder. Same goes for fruit juices. When you take multiple fruits, blend them to create juice, then remove the fiber, you can get a large dose of fructose. When creating blood sugar-friendly juice, opt for low-sugar fruits and plenty of greens.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider.
Images courtesy of Unsplash.