To “fruit or not to fruit” that is the question. OK, so I am not Shakespeare, but you get the point. Those who know me understand that when it comes to blood sugar response and current insulin (or oral medication) responsiveness, I am very anti-fruit.
Since reading Dr. Bernstein’s book several years ago, I learned that blood sugar targets and ranges can and should be, for my long and short-term health, be lower and tighter than I had previously been taught. The payoffs of doing so have been tremendously positive, so blood sugar levels come first and foremost before anything is shoved in my face. It does not matter if a nutritionist thinks it is “healthy” or not. Blood sugar swings are NOT healthy.
This is where to “fruit or not to fruit” comes into play. It is deemed healthy by nutritionists. However, they have never checked a diabetic’s blood sugar at the 15, 30, or 60-minute point to “get it.” Thanks to Dr. Bernstein, I have tested the theory. And low and behold, with the current insulin products there is one hefty increase in blood sugar, followed by an equally charming and hefty drop. Result – monkey bar swinging, crappy control and usually symptoms of short-lived energy and euphoria followed by loss of energy, fatigue, and overall crappiness.
Since I aim (with any food) to stay within a 20 point variation of my target (85), fruit became unacceptable behavior. Plenty of people have claimed over the years they “can” eat fruit. Well, sure you “can” eat fruit if you like what happens to your body and you are interested in satisfying your mouth before your blood sugar. You “can” eat fruit if you do not test at 15, 30, or 60-minute increments to notice what it is doing to your body. Once I did that, reality set in and that is when I “got” when Dr. Bernstein was trying to tell us.
The change in my overall thought process, not of maintaining the range, but of the fruit in general came last year when I was trying to figure out natural ways of lowering blood pressure and LDL levels without pills. I hate pills, their costs, and their inevitable side effects – stated on the package or not.
Vegetables are great. There are plenty of veggies on the list to naturally assist in all sorts of body processes. However, some vegetables I do not like and some are hard to find or just too expensive. Did I mention, I am a cheap New England Yankee?
And of course, there are many vegetables on the list. Therefore, this year, I have started to play with the effects (still diligently testing and not tolerating swings). I have been out of work so that is always a good time to learn from diabetes experience. In general, I have not had time to sit on my behind though … I recently spent several weeks working on a niece’s home renovation including joint compounding and sanding, furniture refinishing, painting, etc. etc. Let’s not forget its early summer now and rain or no rain, there’s been gardening to do.
One day just after the niece’s wedding, there was a leftover plate of cheese and fruit (watermelon and grapes). OK. Here is a good test I thought (left the watermelon out by the way – not particular nutrients I really need so why eat sugar water). I like both cheese and fruit but to be honest, I do not like them side by side - salt and sugar all in one? Ick says my mouth. There are certain foods I prefer the tastes to be entirely separate and these are two of them.
What I figured out was that I could eat a piece of cheese and a piece of fruit (grapes) with xx amount of insulin (testing hourly) per xx quantity and not drop hugely or spike hugely while I was in construction mode. After all, I was running up and down stairs and ladders and swinging my arms up and down the whole time.
However, I had to be fairly consistent or it did not work. I could not just stop and eat a pile of grapes or a pile of cheese. I had to eat a few of each every 15 minutes or so and it still had to add up to the amount of Humalog (in general 1 unit at a time). I had not altered my Levemir doses (3, 2 1/2 and 2 1/2 units). I did noticeably spike when I stopped for the day and ate several grapes but did not take any extra insulin. The effect of the exercise was very short-lived.
I have also figured out that adding red grapes to chicken salad makes the chicken tolerable and slows the grapes down. Otherwise, grapes are entirely off limits. I may as well drink straight OJ! No insulin product keeps me level (within my 20 point tolerance range).
Two of the healthiest fruits during the summer (anti-oxidants) are strawberries and blueberries. What do I do with those? Well, personally, I throw them in ice cream. Ice cream and Humalog do not kill my blood sugar. They are actually very well timed – digestion versus insulin action I mean. (It usually requires two shots for the extra protein and fat though. One large dose of Humalog causes an awesome low.)
I also throw berries in pancakes – buttermilk or German. In addition, all pancakes are eaten with 2-3 ounces of protein (eggs, ham, or bacon). See, how this goes? Everthing is eaten with protein and fat to slow them down, to slow down the digestion in order to keep up with insulin. It's not perfect but it's better. Using Regular insulin in conjunction with Humalog makes it even better.
However, that requires thought during the entire period because then, I have a lot of slow digesting food in my system and need to take several small shots and test every 30-60 minutes for 4-6 hours. The good news … I am not hungry again for 4-6 hours. I realize, however, not everyone is willing to put in this much effort to one meal. I think the benefits are worth it; I get to eat my favorite meal and don't resemble a monkey in a playground.
Some people throw fruit into plain yogurt. I do not like yogurt and it is highly acidic which doesn’t agree with me anyway. That does not mean it does not work or is not a good solution. It is just not one I am going to be using. It's also a lot more low calorie than my pancakes and eggs! On the other hand, yogurt and fruit wouldn't keep me full for 4-6 hours and pancakes and eggs do.
I have tried eating cherries recently too. Good thing cherries have a very short, season especially at a reasonable price. That test really has not worked. The produce bag claims 21 cherries (of that brand and size) equals 26 carbs so >two units of Humalog for that serving size. However, the low yo-yo kicks in for that experiment. Not to mention eating the cherries actually makes me hungry (as many carbs do). So, I best resign myself to continuing to avoid that fruit. I also can't think of anything I'd want to eat along with the cherries.
So … the experiment overall has still resulted in 1) no fruit by itself 2) very, very frequent testing 3) must be a fruit I don’t mind combining with a protein/fat and 4) is time consuming on a regular basis. I cannot see how I will do this on a regular basis even if I do like fruit and certain ones are good for my blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Again, I'll continue to wait patiently for the 15-minute peak insulin product.
Doris J. Dickson