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Why eating fresh fruit could actually lower your risk of diabetes

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Photo: Unsplash/Luke Michael

You might have heard about papaya’s probiotic powers, or the mega-nutritous (and protein-packed) jackfruit—but usually when nutrition pros talk about fruit, they’re advising you choose from the low-sugar options (and definitely skip the dried variety altogether).

But according to a new study, nature’s candy may reduce the risk for developing diabetes.

The observational study, published in PLOS Medicine, tracked the health and diet of more than 500,000 adults in China for seven years. It found that those without diabetes at the start who ate fresh fruit daily were found to have a 12 percent lower risk of developing the disease than those who ate none.

“The sugar in fruit is not the same as the sugar in manufactured foods and may be metabolized differently.”

And the more frequently they ate it, the lower their diabetes risk: More than three days a week resulted in a 17 percent lower risk of dying from any cause, and a 13 percent to 28 percent lower risk of developing diabetes-related complications (compared to those who consumed fruit less than once a week).

While it sounds great—eat more fruit, don’t get diabetes!—it may also sound contradictory. If high sugar consumption is a leading cause in developing diabetes and fruits are packed with sugars, is it really smart to OD on oranges?

“The sugar in fruit is not the same as the sugar in manufactured foods and may be metabolized differently,” the lead author, Huaidong Du, MD, a research fellow at the University of Oxford, tells The New York Times. “And there are other nutrients in fruit that may benefit in other ways.”

So go ahead and pass that pomegranate, pineapple, or pitaya—just keep doing it in moderation.

Here’s how to make the most of your summer fruits: our ultimate smoothie guide. And FYI you can also make your blended concoction a thing of beauty (AKA Instagram-ready).