Although we hate the term "superfood" with a fury only possible from a team of nutrition researchers, some foods happen to have health benefits that are backed up by randomized trials in humans. One such food is the humble blueberry, which can be seen at the bottom of the phytochemical family tree below:
But .... did you know that blueberries might also help with blood sugar regulation? Which is a bit strange, since blueberries contain sugar, to the tune of 15 grams of sugar per cup of blueberries. So how is it that a sugary fruit can help with blood sugar? Well, maybe you’re a skeptic (which is an incredibly helpful trait for a nutrition researcher, so nice job!), and you’re thinking “15 grams isn’t that much sugar, especially when a cup of blueberries also has almost 4 grams of fiber”.
Correct! But let me present Exhibit B: The mango. A cup of mango chunks contains 23 grams of sugar, and only 2.6 grams of fiber. And as any mango connoisseur knows, some varieties are pulpier with more fiber, and some have very little fiber and more delicious creaminess.
So you might be surprised to find that twelve weeks of mango consumption reduced blood sugar in a randomized trial. Not only that, the mango didn’t even come in the form of whole fruit, but rather in a quickly digested freeze-dried powder form (which would not be the choice of glycemic index adherents … RIP glycemic index usefulness).
How in the heck is it possible for a sugary fruit to reduce blood sugar? It’s those ol’ phytochemicals again. Specifically, mangos contain a phytochemical called mangiferin, which may help slow absorption of carbohydrates in the intestine. But researchers don’t fully understand how mango phytochemicals do their thing, or even which phytochemicals are involved.
Fruits such as blueberry and mango may help with blood sugar regulation, even though they contain sugar. They may not have very strong effects like medications do, at least in isolation, but a diet rich in different plants may compound the benefits of any one single plant food.
Many people find fruit to be delicious. It turns out that delicious fruit is often quite healthy. Aside from mango, aptly dubbed “The King of Fruits”, other delicious fruits (such as pomegranate) are also theoretically linked to improved blood sugar regulation.
Don’t be scared of the moderate amounts of fructose in fruit, based only on isolated animal studies. For further reading, check out our analysis of fructose versus glucose versus HFCS of a recent human trial.