If you’re diabetic or prediabetic, you’ve definitely heard that fruits are bad for you.
The line of thinking is pretty straightforward: fruits contain sugar.
If you are at risk of dangerous health complications from having blood sugar levels that are too high, then sometimes it’s easier to just avoid fruit.
But who wants to live a life without fruit? And what if fruit could actually be a part of your diet, even if you had type 2 diabetes? Here’s the kicker question – what if fruit could actually help people with diabetes manage their blood sugar?
A family member of mine has diabetes, so this topic hits close to home. I hear from this person about not having any fruit, when this simply isn’t true from a health perspective.
Hopefully by the end of this article you’ll see that there are plenty of popular fruits that are actually beneficial for diabetes, whether you have or are at risk of developing diabetes!
I will also address these frequently asked questions along the way:
- What fruits diabetics should avoid?
- What are the best fruits for diabetics to eat?
- Are bananas OK for diabetics?
- How many fruits should a diabetic eat per day?
At the end of this post I’ll mention a great online course that I actually bought myself because it was so cheap and I wanted to learn more about diabetes.
I thought it was pretty straightforward and included a bunch of good info, which I discuss more at the end of the article.
What Fruits Diabetics Should Avoid To Maintain Blood Sugar Levels?
We’ll first talk about what fruits to avoid and why.
If you can understand why these fruits are to be avoided, then you’ll more easily see the reasoning behind why some other fruits are actually to be encouraged.
- Avoid Fruit Juice: Did you know that just 8 oz of apple juice contains 29 carbs? I know it’s just fruit juice, but yep, it still has carbs. Even worse, fruit juice doesn’t contain any fiber and fiber is a major reason why some fruits are actually beneficial to eat with a diabetes diagnosis!
- Avoid Canned Fruits: You know those sweet sliced pineapple chunks that come in those metal cans? They are so good! But they also contain very little fiber and have more sugar than ordinary fresh fruits. (Hint: fresh fruits and frozen fruits are the way to go!)
- Avoid Processed Fruits: Think of those plastic applesauce containers. Or those other blended fruit mixes that come in tiny plastic bowls. These are processed! And just like canned fruits, processed fruits don’t contain much fiber and have more sugar than usual, too. This includes dried fruit as well, as dried fruit frequently takes up less volume in your stomach, making you more likely to overeat them.
- Pineapple/Watermelon: These fruits are listed as high on Glycemic indices. I’ll discuss these indices more below, but basically these fruits have easily digestible sugar which will raise your blood sugar levels quickly.
Do you see the trend? Fruit juices and processed, artificial, and canned fruits tend to have very little fiber and have more sugar than usual.
Three General Guidelines For Eating Fruits Best For Diabetes
Now that you see the general trend, let’s establish some baseline guidelines to guide our fruit making decisions. Then we’ll dive into the four most popular fruits best for diabetes.
Here are three general guidelines for fruits if you’re pre-diabetic or diabetic:
- Eat Fresh Fruit: Eat fresh fruit like it’s found in nature! Do canned apples grow on trees? No! Think whole apples, not the canned apples. If you eat whole fruit, it’s hard to go wrong (although it’s possible, see the banana section down below).
- Avoid Processed / Canned, Fruit Syrups, Dried Fruit, and Fruit Juice: Enough said on this in the above section already!
- Get Fruit From Produce / Frozen Section of Grocery Store: I know all this information can be hard to remember, so if there’s one thing to focus on just think about getting your fruit from the produce section or frozen section in your grocery store. While this fruit may not be the ‘fresh fruit’ like you pick from trees, it’s definitely good enough.
Using Glycemic Index and Load Chart (With Caution)
The Glycemic Index and Load Chart point very clearly to the idea that certain fruits can even be beneficial for people with diabetes.
I’m including this info before I talk about the fruits best for diabetes so that I address any objections beforehand. Because I know some people are very skeptical about eating any fruit in diabetic conditions.
They rightfully note the grams of carbs that various fruits have and point to the various complications of diabetes and heart disease.
However, this is not the full picture.
Here’s what Harvard has to say about the Glycemic Index:
“The glycemic index (GI) assigns a numeric score to a food based on how drastically it makes your blood sugar rise. Foods are ranked on a scale of 0 to 100, with pure glucose (sugar) given a value of 100. The lower a food’s glycemic index, the slower blood sugar rises after eating that food.”
The Load Index is slightly different, but very similar. Here’s another Harvard article comparing GI with Load:
“Load gives you a more accurate picture of a food’s real-life impact on your blood sugar. Watermelon, for example, has a high glycemic index (80). But a serving of watermelon has so little carbohydrate that its glycemic load is only 5.”
Overall, These indices are often used together to give you a complete picture of whether or not you can have fruit under diabetic conditions.
The overall gist is:
- Foods that are high have more sugar, more carbs and raise blood sugar faster.
- Foods that are low have less sugar, less carbs and your blood sugar much more slowly rises.
Here’s a picture of both the Glycemic Index and the Glycemic Load Chart, which both been extensively medically reviewed (note that green is best):
Here are some other fruits not listed above which score under 55 GI and less than 10 GL:
If you want more info on foods low on the GI index, here are over 125 listed foods. This list was medically reviewed like the other information listed above!
Now that we’ve covered the science of fruits and diabetes, let’s now explore some popular fruit items that you can eat no matter your health conditions!
(Side note – if you struggle with binge eating, please be sure to read my post about how to use CBT to stop binge eating, because this issue will only make diabetes worse overall).
What Are The Best Fruits For Diabetics To Eat?
It turns out that some of the most popular fruits are popular for good reason. You can have them whether or not you are diabetic!
If you look on the above chart, you’ll see that these four fruits are listed as low on both the Glycemic Index and the Load Chart. As I go through each of these fruits, I’ll also list a few other interesting facts!
1 – Apples
We all know the phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’
If you are skeptical about apples, please refer to the chart above as apples are green and low in both the GI and the Load Chart.
Of course the best thing about apples is that not only are they viable foods for diabetics, but you can eat them in your car and at your desk with very little food prep.
However, please refrain from peeling the skins of your apples because the skins contain a lot of fiber, and fiber is one of the big differences between great, wholesome apples and not-so-great sugary apple juice.
Please note that one half of a medium sized apple is generally considered a serving of fruit.
Apples also are extremely easy to pair with peanut butter. While the GI and Load Chart are good indicators of grams of carbs, you can also pair other fruits that are not necessarily rated ‘low’ on the indices with fats and proteins to minimize the sugar absorption rate by your body.
This isn’t a concept I talk about much in this article, but just know that you can put peanut butter on pretty much any whole fruit to have it digest even slower, keep you full longer, and minimize the impact of any sugar.
Summary: Between convenience, being low on both the GI and Load Chart, and the easy ability to pair with peanut butter, apples are the number one best fruit for diabetes.
2 – Orange
Eat one orange a day and the doctor will stay away. Maybe that should sound familiar too!
A single orange will give you about 80% of the Vitamin C you need for an entire day! Oranges also contain potassium, which is great for muscle recovery.
Please note that this blog post tries to focus on the most popular and best fruits to manage diabetes. However, there are plenty of supplements and vitamins that can help you manage as well.
Summary: That doctor quote about apples applies to oranges too.
3 – Peaches
Peaches are another juicy, delicious fruit that’s diabetes friendly.
Like oranges, peaches have Vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Although (fun fact) peaches only contain around 10% of your daily Vitamin C needs, compared to 80% for oranges.
Summary: peaches are delicious in smoothies and are simply great overall. Mix with a dash of cinnamon and/or, peanut butter and you have yourself a treat!
4 – Pears
Our last fruit that is green and low on both the GI and Load Chart is pears!
Like bananas, which I’ll talk about more below, pears ripen and get better if you let them sit on your counter for some time.
Summary: Pears are also a great source of fiber, like the other fruits on this list!
I now want to address the other frequently asked questions that I mentioned earlier!
Are Bananas Ok For Diabetics?
So according to the GI and Load Chart above, bananas are OK for type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetic conditions.
However, please note that generally speaking, it’s half of a banana that counts as one serving size.
Plus the longer you let a banana sit on the counter, the more ripe the banana gets. As the banana gets riper, more of the fibrous contents turn to sugar.
So while you do want to ripen your bananas some because let’s face it, eating green bananas is simply bananas, you also don’t want to ripen too much either!
So just be sure you aren’t having super brown bananas, but are eating your bananas more on the yellow side and you’ll be fine.
Again, remember that you can pair bananas with peanut butter or some other type of fat (like cooking your bananas in olive oil, as you would do for plantains). This pairing will help minimize any negative effects from sugar.
Summary: Half a banana is all good.
How Many Fruits Should A Diabetic Eat Per Day?
“Overall, fruit is encouraged when using the glycemic index to guide food choices—so enjoy.”
Generally speaking the recommended servings of fruit per day is 2-4 servings, so there you go.
Hopefully the information in this article has convinced you that there’s nothing wrong with some fruit! But if you are feeling cautious, what you can do is have fruit in the morning and evening to give your body plenty of time to adjust.
Finally, if you are still looking for recommendations or more online learning, I highly suggest you take a look at this “Diabetes Freedom”.
This online offering tells the tale of a man who was going to have his leg cut off due to type 2 diabetes, but then reversed his diagnosis and recovered.
Overall, the product page alone is well-designed and provides a lot of useful info about how type 2 diabetes develops and how it can be prevented.You don’t even need to buy to get some good info.
But this article is sticking to fruit, so if you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comment section down below!