Fruit is a nutritious option for people with diabetes. However, some fruit products, such as juices and dried fruit, have a high sugar content. This can cause blood sugar to spike.

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The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommend that people with diabetes include fruits as part of a balanced diet.

Eating fruits and vegetables may put a person at lower risk of developing heart disease and cancer. Fruit is also an important source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

However, fruit can also be high in sugar. People with diabetes must keep a watchful eye on their sugar intake to avoid blood sugar spikes.

That said, there is a difference between the type of sugar in fruit and the type of sugar in other foods, such as chocolate and baked goods.

This article will explore which fruits a person with diabetes should eat and avoid and how they relate to diabetes.

In general, a person should not have to exclude fruit from their diet. In fact, one 2017 study suggests that eating fruit can actually help prevent diabetes.

However, it may be worth people who already have diabetes limiting their intake of the following fruits.

Fruits high in sugar

The glycemic index (GI) shows how much a certain food can raise a person’s blood sugar after they have eaten it.

If a food has a GI score of between 70 and 100, it is high in sugar. Some fruits with a score in this range include:

These fruits are still safe for a person with diabetes to eat. However, they should do so in moderation. Consuming larger portions of fruits that have lower GI scores may be more suitable for a person with diabetes.

Most other fruits have a low-to-medium GI score. Learn more about low and medium GI foods here.

The sugar myth

Many people believe that since fruit is often high in sugar, people with diabetes should avoid it.

However, the sugars in fresh fruit are not “free” sugars. Free sugars are added sugars and those present in honey, syrups, nectars, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices. The sugar in fresh fruit is fructose, which does not have much of an effect on a person’s blood sugar or insulin levels, according to one 2017 article.

Foods such as chocolate, baked goods, and some sodas have high levels of free sugars, which do cause spikes in blood sugar.

Fruits high in carbohydrates

According to Diabetes UK, the amount of carbs a person eats has the most impact on their blood sugar levels.

If a person is following a low carb diet, they should identify which carbs they are eating that are low in nutrients or unhealthy in other ways and cut those out first. Fresh fruit carries many health benefits, so it may not be first on the list.

This table outlines the carb content in several fruits compared with other high carb foods:

FoodCarb content
1 medium apple15–20 grams (g)
1 chocolate muffin55 g
1 large banana30 g
500 milliliters of an ordinary soda54 g
1 serving of dried fruit20 g

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that drinking fruit juice during a meal or on its own quickly raises a person’s blood sugar levels.

However, the combination of fiber and simple sugars in fruit slows the absorption of sugar into the blood when a person eats whole fruits.

A 2013 research paper looked at how fruit consumption affects the likelihood that a person will develop type 2 diabetes.

The results showed that people who consumed more whole fruit were less likely to develop the condition. People who drank larger amounts of fruit juice were more likely to develop the condition.

A 2017 study had similar results. The researchers found that fresh fruit consumption reduced a person’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They also found that people with diabetes who ate fresh fruit regularly had a lower risk of developing cardiovascular conditions or dying.

Learn more about carb counting with diabetes here.

A person can also include dried fruit in their diet, as long as it was not dried with added sugar.

In a 2017 study, researchers found a positive correlation between eating nuts and dried fruit and the prevention of type 2 diabetes.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) confirm that dried fruit can be a good option for people with diabetes, but they should be mindful of the fact that portion sizes can be small.

The ADA suggest that people watch out for certain phrases on product labels. For example, they should opt for products with labels that say:

  • packed in its own juices
  • unsweetened
  • no added sugar

One way of replacing processed fruit in the diet is to freeze fresh fruits, such as banana slices. According to Diabetes UK, a person can mash this frozen fruit after a couple of hours to make healthy ice cream.

A person with diabetes should aim to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.

According to Diabetes UK, the following amounts of fruit constitute one portion:

small fresh fruit: 2 or more fruits2 plums
2 satsumas
2 kiwi fruit
3 apricots
6 lychees
7 strawberries
14 cherries
medium sized fresh fruit: 1 fruit1 apple
1 banana
1 pear
1 orange
1 nectarine
large fresh fruit: fewer than 1 fruithalf a grapefruit
a 5-centimeter (cm) slice of papaya
2 5-cm slices of mango
dried fruit: 30 g1 heaped tablespoon of raisins, currants, or sultanas
2 dried figs
1 handful of banana chips
canned fruit in natural juice: as with fresh fruit2 pear or peach halves
8 segments of grapefruit

In various diets

The ADA also recommend including fresh, frozen, or canned fruit no matter what diet a person follows.

They recommend the following amounts of fruit based on three different diet types:

  • The plate method: This diet involves one small whole fruit or half a cup of fruit salad, among the other foods it allows.
  • Carb counting: One small whole fruit or half a cup of canned or frozen fruit has about 15 g of carbs. A person can substitute the fruit for another serving of carbs during a meal or day.
  • GI: Most fruits have a low GI score due to their high fiber content, so they can feature in the diet of someone who follows the glycemic guide.

The ADA list several common fruits that people with diabetes may have in their diet. These include:

  • apples
  • apricots
  • avocados
  • bananas
  • blackberries
  • blueberries
  • cantaloupes
  • cherries
  • grapefruits
  • grapes
  • honeydew melons
  • kiwis
  • mangos
  • nectarines
  • oranges
  • papayas
  • peaches
  • pears
  • pineapples
  • plums
  • raspberries
  • strawberries
  • tangerines

Fruit consumption is an important part of a person’s diet. Though fruits have a large amount of sugar, fresh fruit does not contain free sugars, which are what can affect a person’s blood sugar.

Fruits also have a high amount of fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream.

Several studies have shown that consuming whole fruits can help lower the risk of developing diabetes.

Therefore, a person should look to cut other carbs from their diet and leave fruit as part of their normal dietary routine.

Read this article in Spanish.