Eating Fruits With Diabetes

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Eating fruits with diabetes is a good option for those who are suffering from high blood glucose levels. There are many kinds of fruits that can be eaten with diabetes, but it should be noted that the type of fruit to choose depends on the frequency of meals since they shouldn’t be consumed just before a meal. This ultimately helps in managing the glucose levels. Some of the fruits which help in controlling diabetes effectively include berries, citrus fruits and apples. Here is a list of some of the safest fruits to eat with diabetes.

The Best Fruits to Eat If You Have Diabetes

Despite what you may have heard, fruit is OK to eat if you have diabetes. And if you don’t have diabetes, it may help protect you from getting it.

Good news for fruit lovers everywhere: Eating fresh fruit is associated with a lower risk of diabetes and a lower risk of complications if you already have the disease, according to a 2017 study published in PLOS Medicine.

According to this study, if you’ve been steering clear of fruit because of the sugar content, there’s no reason to do so. Over a seven-year time period, researchers analyzed the diet and health outcomes of more than 500,000 Chinese adults. The researchers found that higher fruit consumption was not associated with higher blood sugar, even for people with diabetes. And adults who consumed fruit more frequently had a lower risk of developing diabetes.

A 2021 study in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism echoes the 2017 findings. Considering 7675 Australian men and women and their intakes of whole fruits, researchers found that compared to those with the lowest fruit intakes, people with moderate fruit consumption had a 36% lower risk for developing type 2 diabetes over a five-year period. These researchers did not, however, find the same protective features regarding diabetes prevention in fruit juice.

We asked several registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators to clarify what fruits are best for blood sugar, what an appropriate serving size of fruit is and how many carbohydrates you should get from fruit each day.

To start, it’s important to note that “diabetes care is individualized,” says Staci Freeworth, Ed.D., RD, CDCES, professor of nutrition at Bowling Green State University. This is why it is recommended that people with diabetes see a certified diabetes educator (CDE). These specialists can break down how many carbohydrates you should be eating each day based on your individual needs and health history.

Best Fruits to Eat

Purple Fruit Salad

Recipe to Try: Purple Fruit Salad

Whether you have diabetes or not, the consensus from dietitians is the same regarding which fruits are best to eat.

“The best fruits for everyone to eat are the ones that create the least influence on blood sugar, often termed ‘low glycemic load,’ even if you don’t have diabetes,” says Daphne Olivier, RD, CDE, founder of The Unconventional Dietitian. “These include fruits with rich, deep colors such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, dark cherries and kiwi. The rich color is a result of antioxidants—which we know help to neutralize free radicals—but there are also other benefits to antioxidants that we cannot explain.”

Amber Gourley, M.S., RD, founder of the Disobedient Dietitian agrees. “As a general rule, I tell my clients to go for darker-colored fruits. Studies show that Americans don’t get enough dark purple and red fruits, and these fruits contain some of the best sources of anti-inflammatory antioxidants.”

Eat More of These Fruits:

  • Blueberries
  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Dark cherries
  • Kiwi

Fruits You Might Want to Limit

Pineapple & Avocado Salad

Recipe to Try: Pineapple & Avocado Salad

Newsflash: There is no “worst” fruit. All fruit delivers fiber and nutrients and can be part of a healthy diet. Unfortunately, bananas, pineapples and mangoes get a bad rap for their higher sugar content compared to berries.

Don’t avoid them altogether, though. Instead, the focus should be on decreasing how quickly your blood sugar rises.

For example, if you eat a banana by itself, your blood sugar will rise fairly quickly. “But if you pair fruit with foods that have healthy fats in them, such as blueberries with walnuts or apricots with mozzarella cheese, you will decrease the influence of the fruit on your blood sugar,” says Olivier. “These fats slow down the absorption of the glucose from fruit and prevent your blood sugar from spiking as high.” Nuts and nut butters, plain yogurt, cheese and even avocado will all help blunt your blood sugar response when eating fruit, due to their protein and fat content.

Fresh Fruit Salad

The advice you’ve heard to eat the whole fruit (like the Fresh Fruit Salad, pictured above) instead of drinking fruit juice follows the same reasoning. “The whole fruit has fiber, which is lost in the juice,” says Gourley. Fiber helps slow the absorption of sugar. “It’s also easy to consume far more carbohydrates than necessary when drinking fruit juice,” adds Gourley.

The same goes for dried fruit. “Dried fruit is a great snack, but 1/4 cup has 15 grams of carbohydrates, so I suggest using dried fruit on salads or mixed into plain yogurt instead of eating it alone,” says Gourley.

How Much Fruit Is Too Much?

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that, on average, adult men and women consume two cups of fruit per day. A one-cup serving would be one piece of fruit, like an apple or peach, or one cup of cut-up fruit. Specific guidelines and amounts can be found at MyPlate.

Olivier says, “In general, having about a handful size of fruit three times daily is appropriate.” Just remember to pair it with protein or fat. “An apple as a snack can raise blood sugar faster than an apple with almond butter,” says Olivier.

Can I eat fruit if I have diabetes?

A very common question asked by people newly diagnosed with diabetes is, “do I need to cut fruit out of my diet?” Like other topics that discuss both food and diabetes, there is an abundance of conflicting information and opinions.  This article attempts to set the record straight and give you the facts so you can decide what is right for your diabetes management.

Firstly, what actually is fruit? 

Fruit is described as the sweet, fleshy edible part of a plant. It is often eaten raw and can come in many different colours, shapes, textures and flavours.

Fruit is one of the core food groups in the Australian diet as it comprises a number of key nutrients that promote overall health and wellbeing. It contains crucial nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), C and E as well as magnesiumphosphoruszinc and folic acid.

Another important nutrient fruit provides our body is dietary fibre. The evidence for the benefits of fibre are extensive. Fibre contributes to improved bowel function, helps us to feel fuller for longer, promotes healthy gut bacteria and has links to improved weight management.

Current recommendations for people living with diabetes

In Australia, dietary recommendations for those living with diabetes are currently based on the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG). These guidelines are also aimed at the general population. The ADG recommends Australian adults consume two serves of fruit along with five serves of vegetables per day.

What is a standard fruit serve?

A standard serve is about 150g (350kJ) or:

  • 1 medium apple, banana, orange or pear
  • 2 small apricots, kiwi fruits or plums
  • 1 cup diced or canned fruit (no added sugar)

Or only occasionally:

  • 125ml (1/2 cup) fruit juice (no added sugar)
  • 30g dried fruit (for example four dried apricot halves, one and a half tablespoons of sultanas)

Doesn’t fruit contain sugar though?

When managing diabetes, people need to be mindful of foods that contain carbohydrates as, on a short-term basis, this is what has a direct impact on increasing your blood glucose levels (BGLs). Fruit contains fructose, a type of natural sugar classed as a carbohydrate. Although it is important to ensure you don’t don’t eat too much fruit, it is still considered as a healthy snack due to its numerous beneficial nutrients.

Data from the 2017-18 National Health Survey actually shows that only half (51.3%) of Australian’s over 18 years meet the two serves recommendation of fruit and only 7.5% meet the guidelines for five to six serves of vegetables. It is also known that over one-third (35%) of an adult’s total daily energy intake comes from discretionary food choices. These are foods that usually contain high amounts of fat, added sugar and salt and are described as energy dense yet nutrient poor. This provides an interesting picture that rising rates of obesity and chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes are likely related to the fact that a large proportion of Australians do not follow the Australian Dietary Guidelines (ADG)

Are all fruits equal?

Different varieties of fruit contain differing amounts of carbohydrates. Below is a list of common fruits where the amount of carbs have been compared per 100g. Each of these fruits has a glycaemic index (GI) that may also need to be considered. For more information on GI follow the link.

FruitCarbs (g per 100g)
Strawberries3.9
Rockmelon4.7
Watermelon5.0
Peach7.5
Mandarin7.8
Navel orange8.4
Apple12.1
Mango12.6
Grapes15.0
Banana19.6

Is fruit juice a good choice?

Although fruit juices seem like a popular and healthy choice, it must be highlighted that juicing fruit removes a substantial amount of skin and pulp that contains fibre and key nutrients. By removing this part of the fruit it concentrates the amount of carbohydrate, makes it higher GI and may cause your BGLs to spike quickly. This is something people living with diabetes should be trying to reduce.

Can eating too much fruit cause type 2 diabetes?

Although there is no clear cause of type 2 diabetes, risk factors include being overweight, having a family history of diabetes, or having prediabetes. Fruit does contain sugar, but it is unlikely to be harmful to health as part of a balanced diet

In this article, we look at what diabetes is, whether eating too much fruit can cause it, and the medical guidelines for how much fruit to eat.

Excess fruit and diabetes risk

woman eats fruit salad

Eating too much sugar can contribute to weight gain, which may lead to higher blood sugar levels and prediabetes.

These are both risk factors for type 2 diabetes.

Fruit contains many vitamins, minerals, and fiber, but they also have a high natural sugar content. However, this makes them great as a replacement for artificial sweeteners and table sugar as a supplement for sweetness.

Generally, eating fruit as part of a healthful diet should not increase the risk of diabetes. A diet that is high in sugar, refined carbohydrates, and saturated fats is likely to be more of a risk.

However, consuming more than the recommended daily allowance of fruit may add too much sugar to the diet.

Choosing fresh fruit rather than dried fruit, and limiting the intake of fruit juice or smoothies can help reduce a person’s overall sugar intake.

Fruit guidelines for people with diabetes

The right amount of fruit depends on a person’s age, sex, and how much exercise they do.

For people who do less than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day, the United States Department of Agriculture recommend the following:

AgeRecommended amount of fruit per day
Children2–3 years old1 cup
4–8 years old1–1.5 cups
9–13 years1.5 cups
Girls14–18 years1.5 cups
Boys14–18 years2 cups
Women19–30 years2 cups
over 30 years1.5 cups
Menover 19 years2 cups

Examples of 1 cup of fruit include:

  • 1 small apple
  • 32 grapes
  • 1 large orange
  • 8 large strawberries
  • 1 cup of 100-percent fruit juice

Dried fruit contains more sugar than fresh or frozen fruit. For example, half a cup of dried fruit has an equivalent amount of sugar to 1 cup of fruit in any other form.

People who do more than 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day may be able to eat more fruit than those who do not.

What is diabetes?

blood glucose check

Diabetes causes a person’s blood sugar, or glucose, levels to become too high. There are two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes typically develops in childhood. A person with this type is unable to produce a hormone called insulin. It is usually not possible to prevent this form of diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form. It can occur at any age, but it usually develops later in life. In people with type 2 diabetes, the cells do not respond appropriately to insulin. Doctors call this insulin resistance.

Insulin causes sugar to move from the bloodstream into the body’s cells, which use it as an energy source.

When a person eats, their digestive system breaks down carbohydrates into a simple sugar called glucose. If there is not enough insulin in the body, or the cells are not responding correctly to the insulin, sugar can accumulate in the bloodstream and lead to a range of symptoms and health complications.

A person cannot always prevent type 2 diabetes, but often, making lifestyle and dietary changes can reduce the risk of developing this condition.

Eating a healthful diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting regular exercise can reduce blood glucose levels and the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Should people with diabetes eat less fruit?

People who are overweight are more at risk of developing type 2 diabetes. One of the main causes of weight gain is eating more calories than a person burns off. Sugary foods and drinks are usually high in calories.

Staying within the recommended allowance for fruit should not increase a person’s risk for diabetes. Fruit juice is particularly high in sugar. Drinking no more than 1 cup of fruit juice per day can help keep sugar intake within healthful limits.

Many processed or baked foods, such as biscuits and ketchup, contain added sugar. Eating less of these foods can help a person reduce their calorie and sugar intakes.

People with prediabetes have blood glucose levels that are high, but not high enough for a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes. Having prediabetes does not mean that a person will definitely develop diabetes, but it does increase the risk.

By lowering their blood glucose levels, a person with prediabetes may be able to prevent it from developing into type 2 diabetes. Losing weight and engaging in moderate daily exercise can help reduce the risk.

Also, certain medications can reduce the risk of developing diabetes.

Can people with diabetes eat fruit?

fruit on shelf

Maintaining a healthful diet is an important part of managing diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association recommend eating fruit, but people with diabetes often need to plan their meals. They may need to monitor the amount of sugar in their diet or avoid eating too many carbohydrates.

Fruit contains carbohydrates and sugars, and a person with diabetes may want to consider this when putting together a meal plan. Fruit is also high in fiber, and foods that contain fiber take longer to digest, so they raise blood sugar more slowly.

All foods that contain carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels, and some foods raise these levels more than others. As a result, some people use the glycemic index (GI) to plan their meals.

The index measures the extent to which a type of food raises a person’s blood glucose levels. Foods with low GI scores affect these levels less than those with high GI scores.

Most fruits have low GI scores, but melons and pineapple are in the high range. Processing food increases its GI ranking, so fruit juice has a higher score than a whole piece of fruit. Ripe fruit also has a higher GI score than unripe fruit.

Combining a fruit that has a high GI score with low-scoring foods can be a healthier choice. This might involve, for example, pairing ripe melon slices with whole-grain toast.

Dried fruit, fruit juice, and certain tropical fruits, like mangoes, tend to contain more sugar. It may be a good idea to limit portions or eat these foods less often.

Some canned fruit has added sugar or is packaged in syrup. A person may benefit from choosing fruit canned in juice or low-sugar syrup instead.

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