Fruit and Diabetes: 7 Things to Know

  • Child eating healthy
    Eating fruit if you have diabetes may be easier than you think.
    If you have diabetes, you may think of fruit as forbidden because of the sugar content. It’s not just the sugar though, it’s the total carbs in fruit that make your blood sugar level rise. You can eat fruit—which is not only delicious but important to good nutrition—you just have to be aware of the carbohydrates. Many fruits rank low on the glycemic index, which indicates how quickly your body converts the carbs into glucose. Eating low-glycemic fruits can help balance your blood sugar. Here are some tips for how to eat fruit if you have diabetes.
  • Close up of young woman shopping for fresh organic fruits in farmer's market with a cotton mesh eco bag choosing an apple
    1. Fresh is best when it comes to fruit and diabetes.
    Fresh fruit is a good choice because you know it has no added sugar, plus it’s packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber. If you’re counting carbs, a small piece of fresh fruit typically has about 15 grams of carbohydrate, but it varies according to the type of fruit, so check before you dig in. Fresh fruits with a high fiber content are lower on the glycemic index, or GI, because the fiber slows down the digestive process and the conversion of carbs into blood glucose, making it less likely to spike your sugar levels.
  • bowl of raisins on table
    2. Portion size is the key to eating dried fruit if you have diabetes.
    Just two tablespoons of small dried fruits like cranberries or raisins have about 15 grams of carbs. Two dried figs or three prunes also deliver about 15 grams of carbs. Dried fruit can still have a low to medium glycemic index, though. Dried apricots have one of the lowest at about 32, so you eat about seven dried apricot halves in a portion. Some dried fruits have sweetener added, which can change the sugar picture a lot, so do your homework and read the labels before trying out a dried fruit.

  • child-eating-apple-with-father
    3. Consider fresh apples, oranges and peaches if you have diabetes.
    A fresh apple the size of a tennis ball has about 15 grams of carbs and a glycemic index score of about 36, making it a good choice if you have diabetes. Plus, they supply lots of vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants. Oranges and peaches are a little higher on the glycemic index, but still in the “low” category at under 55. A small peach or orange contains about 15 grams of carbs. Peaches supply you with vitamins A and C, and oranges, well known for their vitamin C content, also deliver other important nutrients, including thiamine, folate and potassium.
  • bowl-of-berries-with-spoon
    4. Berries and cherries are excellent fruit choices if you have diabetes.
    Other diabetes-friendly fruits with a low glycemic index include blueberries, cherries and strawberries. A cup of blueberries or raspberries contains about 15 grams of carbs and are high in antioxidants. You can enjoy about 15 medium strawberries per 15 grams of carbs, which have a lot of potassium and vitamin C. A ½ cup of cherries has about 11 grams of carbs and anti-inflammatory properties to boot. They may also lower uric acid, the cause of gout.
  • Grapefruit
    5. Grapefruit is a good fruit pick if you have diabetes.
    Half a small grapefruit contains about 13 grams of carbs and ranks a low 35 on the glycemic index list. Like many fruits, grapefruit is high in vitamins C and A, has plenty of antioxidants, and can help your body absorb the iron it needs. Check to make sure grapefruit doesn’t interact with any of your medications, as it can increase the effect of certain drugs, including statins and blood pressure medications.

  • Caucasian woman drinking purple smoothie
    6. Processed fruits and smoothies are often loaded with extra sugar.
    Foods like applesauce and fruit juices can contain high amounts of added sugar, which can almost double the carbs of the unsweetened varieties. Fruit smoothies can also be carb traps. One cup of a smoothie made with honey, yogurt, bananas, strawberries and a little more than a teaspoon of sugar has roughly 34 carbs. Instead, make your own in a blender with fresh or no-sugar-added frozen fruit and ice. A small portion of banana will give it some creaminess, though note that bananas have a pretty high carb count so stick to a chunk or two. Low-sugar yogurt options are another option.

  • banana
    7. For some fresh fruits, a little goes a long way if you have diabetes.
    Watermelon has a high glycemic index at 80, but has very few carbs. As long as you have no more than about a cup and a half, you’re getting a 15 gram portion of carbs. A whole medium banana has about 37 carbs, so stick to half of a banana instead. Pineapples have a medium glycemic index rating of around 66 and more carbs than some other fruits, so a healthy portion would be no more than ¾ cup. If you have diabetes, enjoy fruit but know your carb and GI numbers.
Fruit and Diabetes: 7 Things to Know

About The Author

Nancy LeBrun is an Emmy- and Peabody award-winning writer and producer who has been writing about health and wellness for more than five years. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists and the American Society of Journalists and Authors.
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  5. Low carb fruits – 15 grams or less per serving. Michigan State University. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/low_carb_fruits_15_grams_or_less_per_serving
  6. Khan Sohaib A, et al. Dry Fruits and Diabetes Mellitus. International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences, 2017, 6(4): 116-119. https://www.ijmrhs.com/medical-research/dry-fruits-and-diabetes-mellitus.pdf
  7. 15 Gram Carbohydrate Food List. Seattle Children’s Hospital. https://www.seattlechildrens.org/globalassets/documents/for-patients-and-families/pfe/pe2599.pdf
  8. Fruit Smoothie. Nutritionix. https://www.nutritionix.com/food/fruit-smoothie 
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Last Review Date: 2021 Oct 6
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