- Fruits are an important part of a healthy, balanced diet for people with diabetes.
- Eating a variety of fruits in moderation can help support healthy blood sugar levels, as well as provide essential vitamins and minerals.
- Working with a registered dietitian (RD) can help you understand what types and amounts of fruits are best for managing your diabetes.
Despite what you may have heard or read online, you don’t have to get rid of your fruit bowl if you have diabetes. Nutrition misinformation is everywhere, and it can feel confusing to sort through it all. But here’s the truth: fruit can (and should) be a part of a healthy diet for people with or without diabetes.
Fruit is a carbohydrate that can affect your blood sugar levels. But fruit is also packed with essential vitamins and minerals—which are incredibly important for everyone, especially those living with diabetes.
This article will provide an in-depth look at fruit and diabetes, including their health benefits, how much to include, and which fruits are best for people with diabetes.
Is Fruit Good for Diabetes?
The reason that some assume people with diabetes can’t eat fruit is that it contains naturally occurring sugars or carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are converted into glucose in the body, the form of sugar your body uses as an energy source.
Your body tightly regulates how much glucose is in the blood at any given time with a hormone called insulin. Insulin helps take glucose out of your blood and into cells, but people with diabetes either don’t make enough insulin or don’t respond to it appropriately.
As a result, keeping track of carbohydrate intake is a crucial piece of blood sugar management—but carbohydrates are still an essential part of the diet even if you live with diabetes.
Fruits also provide many other nutrients. They are primarily made of water (80 to 90% in most cases) and contain vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. All these nutrients play a role in maintaining health and supporting healthy blood sugar in the following ways:
- Fiber: Insoluble fiber is primarily found in the fruit’s skin, while you’ll find more soluble fiber inside the fruit. Both improve blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity to support metabolic health (ideal blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and other health markers).
- Vitamins: Fruit contains vitamins C, E, A, and B vitamins which all play an essential role in metabolic function and disease prevention. Vitamins C, E, and A also have antioxidant properties, which can help reduce stress that damages cells and tissues and contributes to inflammation.
- Minerals: Fruits also contain various minerals involved in blood sugar. For example, magnesium, an essential nutrient for bones, muscles, and nerves, is also vital for blood sugar balance.
- Phytonutrients: The naturally occurring chemicals that give fruit their vibrant colors are also powerful antioxidants. These phytonutrients can help protect your cells from damage caused by inflammation and are supportive of metabolic health.
Does Fruit Raise Blood Sugar?
Nutrition is all about balance, and variety is key. For people with diabetes, fruit is only problematic if eaten in excess or not paired with other essential nutrients like protein, vegetables, and healthy fats.
Since fruit is a carbohydrate, it will raise blood sugar. However, studies on fruit and diabetes risk suggest that when consumed in moderate amounts, it doesn’t impact the risk of developing diabetes.
Blood sugar responses to fruit depend on each person’s unique physiology. You may be able to eat an apple and barely notice a rise in your blood sugar. Your friend may need to eat a smaller portion or combine it with other foods (like protein or fat) to help manage the impact. Protein and fat can help slow digestion, which helps limit how quickly blood sugar rises. This is why a Registered Dietitian may suggest pairing a fruit with a protein source like cheese or nuts.
Even though fruit can increase blood sugar, studies suggest that people who eat fruit regularly have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially when the diet also includes foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables.
Portion Size Matters
Since fruit does contain carbohydrates, it’s still important to be mindful of how much you eat. A serving of fresh fruit should be about 15 grams of carbohydrates which is ½ to 1 cup (around the size of your fist). If you’re having dried fruit, stick to no more than ¼ cup.
Each person’s blood sugar response will differ, so working with a registered dietitian can help you find the right balance for your body. The amount of fruit you eat daily can depend on your calorie needs, body size, activity level, and more.
Nourish offers personalized nutrition counseling and accepts the most popular insurance carriers. If you need support designing a diabetes plan that fits your needs, consider booking a virtual appointment with a Registered Dietitian.
Do Fruit and Fruit Juice Have the Same Impact on Blood Sugar?
Whole fruit and fruit juice have differing impacts on blood sugar. Consider a fresh whole apple versus a glass of apple juice. An apple contains vitamins, minerals, and fiber. With juice, you miss out on fiber (which is removed during the juicing process) and are left with a higher sugar concentration.
Drinking fruit juice is associated with a greater incidence of type 2 diabetes (especially sweetened juices), but replacing fruit juice with whole fruits may lower the risk. If you drink fruit juice, consider keeping portions to 4 ounces and stick to unsweetened options.
Fruits that Are Good for Diabetes
While all fruit can most likely fit when you have diabetes, consider these fruits that have vitamins, minerals, and
Berries are well known for their nutrient-rich qualities as they’re high in fiber and contain polyphenols. Studies show eating more berries—especially blueberries (3 servings a week)—is linked with a lower risk of diabetes.
Grapes are also associated with a lower risk of diabetes. They contain phytonutrients like resveratrol and anthocyanins, which may help protect beta cells (the cells that make insulin) from oxidative damage.
Pears are a good source of fiber and other key vitamins like vitamin C. Some research suggests that eating pears regularly is associated with a lower risk of diabetes.
Grapefruit intake is also associated with a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. It’s important to note that grapefruit interferes with many medications, so talk to your doctor if you take prescription medication.
Cherries are rich in anthocyanins and quercetin, two powerful antioxidants that have demonstrated anti-inflammatory benefits. Anthocyanins also may support insulin sensitivity to support blood sugar.
Apples are full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. A recent study found that when people with impaired blood sugar responses ate an apple before their meal, blood sugar didn’t rise as high as those who didn’t eat an apple first.
Studies on kiwis suggest they are a low-glycemic, high-fiber fruit to support blood sugar. While other fruits usually get all the credit for vitamin C, kiwis contain almost three times as much as oranges or strawberries.
Fruit can support health and wellness, including diabetes management. Even with the natural sugar content in fruit, fruit is associated with a lower overall risk of developing diabetes. Eating whole fruits and limiting juice can help mitigate the potential impact of sugar on your blood sugar levels.
In combination with other nutrient-dense foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables, fruit can be a healthy part of your diet.
Managing Diabetes with an RD
Portion size and keeping track of total carbohydrate intake are still crucial tools for diabetes management. Since each person may respond differently to food and lifestyle modifications, working with a registered dietitian can help create a plan tailored to your body’s needs.
A registered dietitian can provide education and support to empower you to make positive changes. Connect with a Nourish RD today.
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