A huge study has revealed what we need to be eating every day to lower our risk of diabetes and related vascular complications. Unfortunately, it’s not ice cream or fries—but it is a simple dietary addition that most of us can easily make: fresh fruit.
Huaidong Du, MD, PhD, of Oxford University, England, led the Chinese epidemiological study, which included half a million people and was reported online in PLOS Medicine. According to the research team, each daily portion of fruit consumed linked to a 12 percent reduction in diabetes risk, an association not significantly modified by sex, age, region, survey season, or a range of other factors including smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity, body mass index, and family history of the disease. (Find out the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes.)
“To our knowledge, this is the first large prospective study demonstrating similar inverse associations of fruit consumption with both incident diabetes and diabetic complications,” writes Du and colleagues. In lay language, this means that the more fruit you eat, the lower your risk of diabetes and diabetes complications. “These findings suggest that a higher intake of fresh fruit is potentially beneficial for primary and secondary prevention of diabetes (Here are more foods that should be in a diabetic diet.)
Previous research on how to prevent diabetes with fruit consumption has focused mainly on Western populations and typically included processed fruit—instead of only fresh fruit in the Chinese study. Because Chinese people with the disease are likely to cut fresh fruit from their diets due to a mistaken belief that any sweet-tasting food will raise their blood sugar, this may explain the very strong association in this study. Nonetheless, clinicians and nutritionists the world over are likely to be celebrating the findings.
And the good fruit news doesn’t end there: A separate study, carried out by the University of Eastern Finland and published online in Scientific Reports, found that the healthy bacteria that form in the gut when we eat fiber can be protective against the disease. Guess what has a ton of fiber? Yes, that’s right—fruit.
Be aware, however, that you can get too much of a good thing—even fruit. The World Health Organization recommends 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day for diabetes prevention (as well other chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and obesity), and there’s no need to go way over that amount. Nutritionist Abby Langer, RD, told Self that eating too much fruit can actually cause health issues like bloating, fatigue, weight gain, or trouble losing weight, and over time can result in heightened triglycerides (fat in the blood associated with how much sugar you eat) and high blood sugar levels.
So how many pieces of fruit is the ideal per day? Shoot for five servings of different fruits (in addition to vegetables) daily. If possible, choose from these superfood fruits.