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The 8 Best Fruits for Diabetics
October 2, 2023|Read Time - 3 minutes
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When managing diabetes, understanding what you consume plays a significant role in keeping your blood sugar levels in check. One of the areas many people get confused about is fruits – are they good for diabetics? And if so, which ones?

The reality is that not all fruits are created equal; some can be a boon for your diabetes care while others might cause unwanted spikes in blood sugar levels. While fruits offer essential vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber, they also contain carbohydrates, which can affect your blood sugar levels. The glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load (GL) are two metrics that can help you choose fruits that will have a lesser impact on your glucose levels. In this blog post, we'll break down the best fruits to incorporate into your diabetes diet, along with their GI, GL, and other nutritional benefits.

The Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL)


When selecting fruits for diabetes management, it's crucial to understand two terms: Glycemic Index (GI) and Glycemic Load (GL). The GI measures how quickly a food causes your blood sugar to rise. Foods with a high GI can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, while those with a low GI are digested more slowly, causing a gradual rise in blood sugar levels. If you have diabetes, foods with a lower GI (1 to 55) are considered a better food choice than foods with a medium GI (56 to 69) or a high GI (70 and higher).

The GL takes into account both the GI and the amount of carbohydrates in a serving. It is often considered a more accurate way to predict how a particular food will affect blood sugar levels. A GL of 10 or less is low, which is better for those with diabetes. A GL of 11 to 19 is considered medium, and a GL of 20 or more is high.

GI and GL are important considerations for both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics; while the two types have different root causes, both are impacted by problems with insulin (the hormone that allows your cells to properly absorb glucose), so proper food selection is important for both.

Top Fruits for Diabetics


1. Apples

According to the American Diabetes Association, the GI of an apple ranges from 32 to 38. The GL of an apple is about 4.7. Therefore, apples are often considered a beneficial fruit for those managing diabetes. Along with their low GI and GL, they also have high fiber content and a rich nutrient profile. The fiber in apples helps slow down the absorption of sugar, contributing to more stable blood sugar levels - fiber is highest in the skin of an apple, so be sure to leave the skin on to make the most of the fruit’s benefits.

Additionally, apples are a good source of antioxidants like quercetin, which may help improve insulin sensitivity. While moderation is key, as with any food when managing diabetes, incorporating apples into a balanced diet could offer several health advantages.

2. Berries

Berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, have a GI range of 28-40. The GL for a ½ cup can depend on the type of berry, but it’s typically between 2 to 7.2, which is categorized as a low glycemic load. Berries are also packed with antioxidants like anthocyanins and can help improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels after meals.

They are also low in carbohydrates, with about 21 grams of carbohydrates per cup. The American Diabetes Association recommends incorporating berries into your healthy diet to benefit not just your blood sugar but also heart health.

3. Kiwi

These tart green fruits have a GI of 50 and a GL of 7.7, making them a suitable option for diabetics. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin C and fiber, both of which play a role in controlling blood sugar levels. Just remember, portion size is crucial; one medium-sized kiwi is usually adequate for a single serving.

4. Citrus fruits

Citrus fruits like grapefruit and oranges offer numerous health benefits, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol. Oranges have a GI of around 43 and a GL of 4.4, while grapefruit has an even lower GI (25) and a GL of 1.2 for a 1/2 cup of chopped grapefruit. However, consult with a healthcare provider if you're on medication, as grapefruit can interact with certain drugs.

As a bonus, citrus fruits are also rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, and flavonoids that are known for their potential cardiovascular benefits, including lowering blood pressure and improving overall heart health, which is crucial for people with diabetes who are at higher risk for heart disease.

5. Avocados

Yes, you read that right! Not only are avocados a fruit, but they’re also low in carbs and rich in healthy fats. Because of this, avocados can help you maintain a balanced diet and healthy weight, which is crucial for diabetes management. They have a GI of about 40 and a GL of 1 (for about ½ a cup). They also contain potassium and folate, nutrients that are beneficial for heart health. Avocados can be a wonderful addition to your diabetes meal plan when consumed in moderation.

6. Apricots

With a GI of 34 and a GL of 3.8, fresh apricots can be part of a diabetes-friendly diet. They’re also a great source of vitamin A, fiber, and antioxidants. A single apricot contains about 4 grams of carbohydrates and has minimal impact on blood glucose levels when consumed as a whole fruit.

7. Peaches

The GI of a peach is about 28, and the GL is around 3 - this makes a low-glycemic load fruit. Peaches are also a good source of dietary fiber, which aids in regulating blood sugar by slowing down the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream.

Additionally, the fiber content helps promote feelings of fullness, assisting in weight management—a key component in diabetes control. Peaches are rich in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium, offering antioxidant benefits and supporting overall health. The vitamin C content, in particular, has been linked to improved immune function and may also have a role in improving insulin sensitivity.

8. Cherries

Depending on the serving size, the GI for cherries is about 22, and it’s also considered a low glycemic load fruit, with a GI of about 2.7. They are also rich in antioxidants, like anthocyanins, which can help combat oxidative stress and inflammation, two factors often elevated in people with diabetes.

Additionally, cherries are a source of fiber, which aids in digestion and can contribute to improved blood sugar control. However, it's important to consume them in moderation and consult healthcare providers for personalized advice.

Fruits to Avoid for Diabetics


It’s important to note that there aren’t necessarily any “bad” fruits for people with diabetes. In fact, a review of articles published in the last 10 years studying fruit intake and diabetes actually found that the consumption of 200 g of fresh fruit (equivalent to about 1 ¼ cups of berries, an apple, or a banana) per day appears to prevent Type 2 diabetes and weight gain.

However, it’s also important to understand that fruits with a higher glycemic index and glycemic load will cause your blood sugar to spike more rapidly. If you’re consuming any of the following fruits, eating them in moderation and pairing them with proteins and healthy fats (such as cheese, nuts, or plain yogurt) can help your body adjust to the increase in blood sugar:

1. Watermelon

Watermelon, while refreshing and hydrating, can pose challenges for people with diabetes due to its high GI of 72. Foods with a high GI are digested quickly and can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels, which is a concern for diabetes management. A single serving of watermelon can provide a significant amount of carbohydrates, leading to quick elevations in blood glucose levels.

2. Pineapple

While pineapple is a nutritious fruit that offers a range of vitamins and minerals, it is generally not recommended as a first-choice fruit for people with diabetes. This is because the GI of pineapple can range from moderate (59) to high (82) depending on the ripeness of the fruit, how it’s processed, and several other factors.

Therefore, if someone with diabetes wishes to eat pineapple, it's recommended to do so in moderation and to pair it with a source of protein or healthy fat to mitigate the blood sugar spike that can coincide with a high glycemic index food.

3. Bananas

Bananas have a medium glycemic index (the GI for a ripe banana is 62), which means they can cause a quicker rise in blood sugar levels compared to other fruits with a lower glycemic index. Additionally, they are high in carbohydrates, with one medium-sized banana containing around 30 grams of carbs.

The natural sugars in bananas — glucose, fructose, and sucrose — can cause blood sugar levels to spike, especially when the banana is overripe. This rapid increase in blood sugar can be problematic for diabetics who need to maintain stable blood glucose levels. Though bananas can be consumed by people with diabetes in moderation and as part of a balanced diet, it is important to monitor their impact on blood sugar levels closely.

4. Canned Fruit

Canned fruit can pose a challenge for diabetics primarily due to the added sugar and syrups that are often used to preserve the fruit and enhance its flavor. Moreover, the canning process can sometimes deplete the fruit of its natural fiber content, which is essential for slowing down the absorption of sugar and thus maintaining stable blood glucose levels. For these reasons, canned fruit is generally not recommended as part of a diabetes care plan, particularly for those managing type 2 diabetes or striving for weight loss. Instead, opting for fresh fruit or those canned in water or their own juice, and paying close attention to serving size, can make for healthier choices.

5. Dried Fruit

Dried fruits can pose challenges for individuals managing diabetes due to their concentrated sugar content and higher carbohydrate density compared to fresh fruit. When fruits are dried, the water is removed, resulting in a smaller, more compact product that still retains all the natural sugar and calories of its larger, hydrated counterpart. This makes it easy to consume a larger portion size, thereby increasing the number of carbohydrates and sugar consumed in one sitting. Moreover, some dried fruits come with added sugar, further elevating the carb count and glycemic load.

6. Fruit Juice

Fruit juice can pose significant challenges for people managing diabetes because it often lacks the fiber found in whole fruit, which helps slow the absorption of sugar and regulates blood sugar levels. It’s also a concentrated source of sugar and carbohydrates. This can result in rapid spikes in blood glucose levels, making it difficult to maintain stable blood sugar. Moreover, many commercially available fruit juices contain added sugar, further exacerbating their high glycemic index (GI) and glycemic load.


If you're grappling with a recent diabetes diagnosis or struggling to manage your blood sugar, book a diabetes consult on Sesame with a licensed clinician. They can provide expert guidance on how to manage your condition effectively, which can include making informed choices about fruits to include or avoid in your diet.

While managing diabetes does require careful planning and dietary restrictions, it doesn't mean you have to eliminate fruits from your diet. By choosing options that are low on the glycemic index, rich in fiber, and packed with essential nutrients, you can enjoy fruit and all it has to offer!



Sources:

  • Atkinson FS, Foster-Powell K, Brand-Miller JC. International tables of glycemic index and glycemic load values: 2008. Diabetes Care.
  • Park, Ah Hyun. Fruit Intake to Prevent and Control Hypertension and Diabetes: 2021. Korean Journal of Family Medicine.
  • Glycemic Index Foundation. About the glycemic index. gisymbol.com.
  • Glycemic Index Foundation. What is low GI?. gisymbol.com.

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