Best Fruits For Diabetic Diet

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The best fruits for diabetic diet are the ones that are low in sugar and high in fiber and nutrients. You see, diabetes is not a condition you want to deal with your entire life. If you suffer from this condition you should know by now that maintaining a healthy diet can help. This way, your blood sugar levels are even and you don’t experience those high spikes and lows. In turn, they will affect both your eating habits and lifestyle.

The Worst Fruits for People With Diabetes (and the Best)

People with diabetes don’t need to avoid all fruit; they just need to make smart choices.

There is a misconception that people with diabetes cannot eat fruit. Yes, fruit does contain natural sugars. But just because you have diabetes does not mean you need to avoid fruit. It just means you need to make better choices on what fruit (and how much) you eat.

Fruit, like many other foods, can raise blood sugar. Frequent blood sugar spikes can elevate your A1C, a measure of how high your blood sugar is on average. The higher the A1C level, the less well your body is managing the condition.

But fruit doesn’t have to be off the table if you’re a person with diabetes. Indeed, fruit can be a healthy part of a balanced diet. It’s just important for people with diabetes to pick the best fruits for them, and to eat some others less frequently.

We spoke to two dietitians to get the scoop on the best and worst fruits for people with diabetes.

Can People With Diabetes Eat Fruit?

“All fruits have healthy qualities, even if you have diabetes,” says Zoe Fienman, RD LDN CDE, a registered dietitian at OnPoint Nutrition. “They are filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals your body needs.”

What identifies a fruit as better or worse is really the amount of sugar that fruit has and where it lies on the glycemic index. An important tool for people with diabetes, the glycemic index refers to the rate at which food is digested and absorbed into the blood stream.

“If it’s higher, that means that food breaks down more quickly which can cause a spike in blood sugar more rapidly,” Fienman says. That being said, like with all foods, people may digest or react to something differently. One person with diabetes may be able to tolerate a banana without a major spike in sugars, and others may have to avoid them altogether.

Of course, always consult your doctor or a registered dietitian when figuring out a diet that is right for managing diabetes and your blood sugar.

The Worst Fruits for People With Diabetes

Serving size is important for all fruits, especially those high on the glycemic index. Fienman recommends thinking about the serving size of a whole fruit (like an apple) to the size of a tennis ball and cut up fruit to a ½ cup. Even in these small servings, some fruits have more natural sugars and may spike blood sugar longer.

These fruits contain a high amount of natural sugars:

  • mango
  • banana
  • papaya
  • pineapple
  • watermelon

Skip the canned fruit.

Canned fruits and those cute little fruit cocktail cups may be convenient and inexpensive, but they aren’t so good for you.

“Those canned in heavy or light syrup are not an ideal choice for persons with diabetes,” says Kim Rose, RD and a certified diabetes care and education specialist. “This is because syrup-laden fruits contain added sugar that may be too much for the body to handle.”

Be careful with dried fruits.

Drying fruit concentrates all of the yummy fruit flavor into one smaller bite, but it also concentrates many of the sugars. Even a small amount of dried fruit can put you over the edge.

Be careful to read dried fruit labels; many of them pack on the added sugars. Some are even sweetened, making the sugar problem worse. If you must have dried fruit, keep the quantities small. Rose recommends dates, figs, and prunes because they are lower on the glycemic index.

Juices and smoothies can be tricky.

Many store-bought juices — orange, apple, even green juices — sneakily add extra sugars, so you’ll want to avoid those, too. Even juices or smoothies you make at home can require a lot of fruit for one glass (a small juice can often have two to three oranges), so it isn’t always the best option for people with diabetes. If you want to have a smoothie, try adding in mostly vegetables and something like a half of a banana for sweetness.

The Best Fruits for People With Diabetes

Two to three servings of fruit a day is recommended, and that can is true for people with diabetes, too.

“If you combine fruit with a fat or protein, it will help you feel fuller and help with that portion control,” Fienman says.

Here are some beneficial fruits that are not only lower on the glycemic index, but also pack a punch with other vitamins and minerals:

  • berries — Both citrus and berries are recommended as superfoods by the American Diabetes Association.
  • cherries
  • plums
  • grapefruit
  • peaches
  • apples — High fiber fruits like apples and pears help to slow a spike in blood sugar, Rose says.
  • pears
  • kiwi
  • oranges

The 10 Best Fruits To Eat If You Have Diabetes, According To A Registered Dietitian

If you live with diabetes, someone has probably given you friendly advice about keeping certain fruits on your off-limits list. That’s because fruits are a source of carbohydrates, which means they break down faster than fats and proteins and therefore impact your blood sugar more. But here’s even friendlier advice: Fruits don’t have to be in your dietary restrictions.

Eating fruit as a diabetic boils down to two key factors, says Eleana Kaidanian, a registered dietitian and owner of Long Island Nutritionist, a private virtual practice based in New York. “When you incorporate portion control and quality of food, technically all foods (including fruits) are allowed and can be part of a healthy, balanced diet,” she explains.

Fruits, specifically, are packed with essential nutrients that your body needs for everything from fighting against inflammation to reducing your risk of other chronic diseases, like cancer. The edible skin and pulp of fruits can also be great sources of fiber. And for those having a difficult time drinking enough water (guilty), fruits can help you achieve your hydration goals.

For diabetics, it’s best to consume the fruit intact, which means no manipulation. That means no juicing, no dehydrating, minimal baking, etc. So even if you’re checking out the ingredient list on some organic applesauce and see that it has no additives, Kaidanian encourages diabetics to pick up a fresh apple instead.

Fresh is good, and frozen is just as good, too, because the fruit is usually flash-frozen as soon as it’s plucked. That means its nutrient profile remains intact for a long time, Kaidanian says. (That apple that’s been at the back of your fridge for weeks may still be edible, but it has lost some of its nutrients.)

If you want to have the occasional dried fruit, that can be okay, too. You just have to make sure it doesn’t have any additives or preservatives, and you’ll want to consume it in smaller portions and less frequently.

Speaking of portion control, it can be difficult to carb count on the go, so Kaidanian says one small fruit — like a small apple, banana, or orange — is a good measurement of one single serving. If you’re able to cut the fruit up or measure it, one serving would be half a cup. Generally, Kaidanian recommends two servings of fruits a day.

Still, there are some fruits that are better for diabetics than others — meaning they’re lower on the glycemic index. So if you’re curious what some of these are, here are the best fruits for diabetics, according to Kaidanian.

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Pears

pears

Fruits with edible skins and peels, like pears, are great sources of fiber. Fiber can help with blood sugar management and regulation and can leave you feeling satisfied, Kaidanian points out.

Per serving: 102 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 17 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 0.6 g protein

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Apples

apples red

There are many types of apples that have various benefits. Some might offer more hydration; others might have a better texture.

In general, though, there are no apples that are better or worse for a diabetic. “Apples that you would find in the supermarket or are widely available are fine. Just try to choose smaller ones,” Kaidanian says.

Per serving: 95 calories, 0.3 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 25 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber, 0.5 g protein

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Peaches

peach in basket

Like pears and apples, peaches have an edible skin that provides fiber. Another benefit is that they’re convenient (not to mention delicious).

“They’re very grab and go. You don’t have to cut them and peel them,” Kaidanian says about apples, pears, and peaches. “You just wash it and then take it with you, and you can bite right into it. So that makes it very user-friendly, and that’s important.”

Per serving: 68 calories, 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated), 17 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2.6 g fiber, 1.6 g protein

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Apricots

apricots

Apricots are extremely high in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, or harmful compounds that damage your cells, in turn lowering your oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to several chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.

Similar to apples, pears, and peaches, Kaidanian says apricots also have a skin that provides fiber and can help manage blood sugar levels.

Per serving: 79 calories, 0.6 g fat (0 g saturated), 18 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 3.3 g fiber, 2.3 g protein

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Berries

fresh berries in a basket on rustic wooden background

Here’s a good rule of thumb: The more colorful the fruits are, the better they are for you. And that isn’t just for diabetics; it’s a good guideline for everyone.

Because berries tend to be smaller and are eaten intact, they’re great for people with diabetes. “They’re also good because it’s easy to practice portion control, and because they’re low on the glycemic index,” Kaidanian says. “One carb serving of berries typically has more volume than other fruits. For instance, one carb serving of a banana is half a medium banana. [But] most berries allot for a cup or a cup and a half depending on the type of berry to allow more volume in your portion, while still staying within range of your carbohydrate allowance.”

Per serving: 85 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 21 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 1 mg sodium, 3.6 g fiber, 1.1 g protein

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Cherries

tart cherries

Cherries have potent antioxidant levels that can be used to fight inflammation, Kaidanian says. Similar to berries, cherries are low on the glycemic index, which means you can incorporate more of them into your diet. It goes back to that convenience factor, as well. Cherries are eaten intact with all of their nutritious fiber.

Per serving: 77 calories, 0.5 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 19 g carbs, 13 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 1.6 g protein

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Oranges

oranges

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Citrus fruits are known for their vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps heal wounds. The pulp provides extra fiber, and the segments (the slices) help with portion control.

Oranges also provide a lot of hydration, which is a benefit to eating all types of fruit. “They give you edible hydration to help you meet your daily fluid requirements beyond just water to not only satisfy your thirst, but also provide electrolytes,” Kaidanian says. Electrolytes can help regulate blood pressure and aid in muscle function.

Per serving: 45 calories, 0.1 g fat (0 g saturated), 11 g carbs, 9 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2.3 g fiber, 0.9 g protein

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Grapefruit

whole 30 approved foods

Like oranges, grapefruits are also a good source of hydration and vitamin C. What’s tricky about the grapefruit though, Kaidanian says, is maintaining good portion control.

Unlike with the orange, it’s going to be more difficult to find ones on the smaller end. In this case, half of a medium-sized grapefruit is sufficient, she says.

Per serving: 52 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g saturated), 13 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 0.9 g protein

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Kiwi

sliced kiwi

Kiwis offer some of the same nutritional benefits as berries, and the same convenience as an apple or peach. Like berries, kiwis have seeds that remain intact, providing that necessary fiber for blood sugar regulation.

If you’ve gone through life peeling your kiwis, you don’t have to do that. “The kiwi also has a thin skin. Most people in our society, in our Western culture, do peel it. But if you [wash] it, it’s edible,” Kaidanian says.

Per serving: 42 calories, 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated), 10 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 2.1 g fiber, 0.8 g protein

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Grapes

grape nutrition

Grapes are beneficial because they provide you with a robust nutritional profile, Kaidanian says. They’re high in copper, which helps with energy production, and they also have a good amount of vitamin K. That promotes blood clotting (aka helps heal wounds) and aids in maintaining healthy bones.

Grapes come with skin and seeds, as well. By now, you should know what that I’m going to say—yup, they come with intact fiber.

Per serving: 62 calories, 0.3 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 16 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 0.8 g fiber, 0.6 g protein

What are the best foods for people with diabetes, and what should be avoided?

Eating certain foods and limiting others can help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar levels. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and healthy proteins can have significant benefits.

Both sugary and starchy carbohydrates can raise blood sugar levels. But these foods, in the right amounts, can play a role in a balanced meal plan. The right amount and type of carbohydrates can be based on many factors, including a person’s activity levels and medications, such as insulin.

A dietitian can make specific recommendations. However, as a general rule, people should try to follow the Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines.

For people with diabetes, the keys to a beneficial diet, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), are as follows:

  • Include fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat lean protein.
  • Choose foods with less added sugar.
  • Avoid trans fats.
  • Eat fewer processed foods, especially ultra-processed foods.

This article looks at some of the best foods for people with diabetes, as well as which foods to limit and how to ensure that a diet is balanced.

Green, leafy vegetables

senior woman shopping in supermarket

Green, leafy vegetables are full of essential vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. They also have a minimal impact on blood sugar levels.

Leafy greens, including spinach and kale, are a key plant-based source of potassium, vitamin A, and calcium. They also provide protein and fiber.

Some researchersTrusted Source have found that eating green, leafy vegetables is helpful for people with diabetes, due to these plants’ high antioxidant contents and starch-digesting enzymes.

Green, leafy vegetables include:

  • spinach
  • collard greens
  • kale
  • cabbage
  • bok choy
  • broccoli

One small-scale studyTrusted Source suggested that kale juice may help regulate blood sugar levels and improve blood pressure in people with subclinical hypertension. In the study, people drank 300 milliliters of kale juice every day for 6 weeks.

People can eat these vegetables in salads, side dishes, soups, and dinners. Combine them with a source of lean protein, such as chicken or tofu.

Whole grains

Whole grains contain high levels of fiber and more nutrients than refined white grains.

Eating a diet high in fiber is important for people with diabetes because fiber slows the digestion process. A slower absorption of nutrients helps keep blood sugar levels stable.

Whole wheat and whole grains are lower on the glycemic index (GI) scale than white breads and rice. This means that they have less of an impact on blood sugar.

Good examples of whole grains to include in the diet are:

  • brown rice
  • whole grain bread
  • whole grain pasta
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • millet
  • bulgur
  • rye

Try substituting whole grain options for white bread or white pasta.

Fatty fish

Fatty fish is a healthy addition to any diet. It contains important omega-3 fatty acids called eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid. These are sometimes known as EPA and DHA.

People need certain amounts of healthy fats to keep their body functioning and to promote heart and brain health.

The ADA reports that a diet high in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats can improve blood sugar control and blood lipids in people with diabetes.

Certain fish are a rich source of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. These are:

  • salmon
  • mackerel
  • sardines
  • albacore tuna
  • herring
  • trout

People can eat seaweed, such as kelp and spirulina, as plant-based alternative sources of these fatty acids.

Instead of fried fish, which contains saturated and trans fats, people can try baked, roasted, or grilled fish. Try pairing this with a mix of vegetables.

Beans

Beans are an excellent option for people with diabetes. They are source of plant-based protein, and they can satisfy the appetite while helping people reduce their carbohydrate intake.

Beans are also low on the glycemic index (GI) scale and are better for blood sugar regulation than many other starchy foods.

According to a report from North Dakota State University, beans may also help people manage their blood sugar levels. They are a complex carbohydrate, so the body digests them slower than other carbohydrates.

The same report suggests that eating beans may help with weight loss and could help regulate blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

Among the many types of beans are:

  • kidney
  • pinto
  • black
  • navy
  • adzuki

Beans also contain important nutrients, including iron, potassium, and magnesium. They are highly versatile — a person might eat them in chili, stew, or a wrap with vegetables, for example.

When using canned beans, be sure to choose options without added salt. Otherwise, drain and rinse the beans to remove any added salt.

Walnuts

Nuts can be another excellent addition to the diet. Like fish, nuts contain fatty acids that help keep the heart healthy.

Walnuts are especially rich in a type of omega-3 called alpha-lipoic acid (ALA). Like other omega-3s, ALA is important for heart health. People with diabetes may have a higher risk of heart disease or stroke, so it is important to consume these fatty acids.

A study from 2018Trusted Source suggested that eating walnuts is linked with a lower incidence of diabetes.

Walnuts also provide key nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B6, magnesium, and iron. People might add a handful of walnuts to their breakfast or a mixed salad.

Citrus fruits

Eating these fruits can be a great way to get vitamins and minerals without any carbohydrates. And research has shown that citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and lemons, can be beneficial for people with diabetes.

Some researchers have found that two bioflavonoid antioxidants, called hesperidin and naringin, are responsible for the antidiabetic effects of oranges, for example.

Citrus fruits are also a great source of:

  • vitamin C
  • folate
  • potassium

Berries

Berries are full of antioxidants, which can help prevent oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is linked with a wide range of health conditions, including heart disease and some cancers.

Studies have found chronic levels of oxidative stress in people with diabetes. This occurs when there is an imbalance between antioxidants and unstable molecules called free radicals in the body.

Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries all contain high levels of antioxidants and fiber. They also contain important other vitamins and minerals, including:

  • vitamin C
  • vitamin K
  • manganese
  • potassium

People can add fresh berries to their breakfast, eat a handful as a snack, or use frozen berries in a smoothie.

Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes rank lower on the GI scale than white potatoes. This makes them a great alternative for people with diabetes, as they release sugar more slowly and do not raise blood sugar as much.

Sweet potatoes are also a great source of:

  • fiber
  • vitamin A
  • vitamin C
  • potassium

People enjoy sweet potatoes baked, boiled, roasted, or mashed. For a balanced meal, add a source of lean protein and green, leafy vegetables or a salad.

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