Adding fresh fruit to any diet is a good move. But for diabetics, it can be a little tricky. They’re loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, just like vegetables, but fruits contain carbohydrates. Carbs affect your blood glucose the most because they’re digested quickly and easily into glucose — another word for sugar — and your body’s main source of energy. So you can have too much of a good thing when you’re managing diabetes.
According to the American Diabetes Association, the best fruits for diabetics are fresh, frozen or canned without added sugars. You should look for canned fruits that are in juice or light syrup. Dried fruits are also a good choice, but your portion sizes will be smaller. Adding fresh fruit to your diabetes diet is also great for weight loss because high fiber fruits will keep you feeling fuller longer.
But it’s important to pay attention to glycemic load. This number estimates how much each of the foods you eat will raise your blood glucose level. One unit of glycemic load approximates the effect of eating one gram of glucose.
- Low: 10 or less
- Medium: 11 – 19
- High: 20 or more
It’s considered to be the best way to compare blood glucose values of different types and amounts of foods, which is helpful to people with diabetes. So let’s take a look at some of the best fruits for diabetics based on sugar content and the effect it could have on your blood sugar levels.
The estimated glycemic load for one cup of blueberries is 6. In addition to having a low glycemic load, blueberries are low in sugar (about 10 grams per 100 grams of fruit) and they’re very low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
Blueberries are also a good source of dietary fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese, and one study found blueberry eaters decreased their risk for developing diabetes by 25 percent.
The glycemic load for a single apple is 5, which is low, and its sugar content is similar to blueberries. Like blueberries, apples also have protective properties. In fact, studies find eating apples on a regular basis reduces the risk of stroke, which is a risk factor for people with type 2 diabetes.
The skin of your apple is very high in fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer.
Strawberries are a great choice for diabetics because their estimated glycemic load is only 3. They pack about 140 grams of water per serving, so they’ll help keep you hydrated. Strawberries are high in folate (your cells will thank you) and vitamin C.
Researchers say the magnesium and calcium found in strawberries may protect against the properties of type 2 diabetes.
Another study found both strawberries and cranberries may improve insulin sensitivity for diabetics.
One small tangerine contains 40 calories and 9 grams of carbohydrates. Its glycemic load is 6.
A recent study tied eating fresh fruit such as tangerines and other types of citrus to a significantly lower risk of diabetes and, among diabetic individuals, lower risks of death and development of major vascular complications.
Citrus fruits also contain vitamin C and potassium, which can reduce blood pressure.
Grapes are great. One cup of grapes contains 27 grams of carbs, 1 gram of fiber and gets a glycemic load of 5.
A study in the British Medical Journal followed nearly 190,000 people and found that eating grapes, blueberries, and apples reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes. Researchers think it may because of the polyphenols they contain — especially grapes.
Fruit is a healthy source of carbohydrates and a good thing to add to a diabetes diet. The best fruits for diabetics contain large amounts of fiber and have a lower glycemic load. Remember to monitor your servings of fruit and to count your carbs. Guidelines published in January 2014 in the journal Diabetes Care can help.
You can also take a look at our guide: “Know Your Numbers: Blood Sugar.” In it, you’ll find out other ways to keep your blood sugar in check and six questions to ask your doctor about prediabetes and diabetes.