Can I Eat Fruit If I Have Diabetes?

You might have heard that you can’t eat fruit if you have diabetes. While it's true that fruit has carbohydrates and a form of natural fruit sugar called fructose, which can raise your blood sugar levels, it can still be part of your meal plan. Fruits are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and powerful plant compounds called phytochemicals.

Thanks to phytochemicals, eating plenty of fruit may lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke and boost your overall health. That's important because diabetes is linked to higher chances of heart disease and other problems.

Many fruits are high in fiber, too. Fiber slows digestion, helping prevent blood sugar spikes. It also makes you feel fuller, which can help you stay a healthy weight and make you less likely to have other problems.

How Does Fruit Affect Blood Sugar?

Because they have carbohydrates, fruits will raise your blood sugar. So it’s important to count the carbs you eat and balance them with medicine and diet and lifestyle choices. (If you’re having trouble keeping your blood sugar under control, let your doctor know right away.)

One serving of fruit has 15 grams of carbohydrates. But -- and this is key -- the serving size can be very different depending on the type of fruit you choose. For example, each serving of the following fruits has 15 grams of carbs:

  • 1/2 medium apple or banana
  • 1 cup blackberries or raspberries
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 1/4 cup whole strawberries
  • 1 cup cubed honeydew melon
  • 1/8 cup raisins

Healthy Ways to Eat Fruit

Small steps can make a big difference in your blood sugar levels. Be sure to:

  • Watch your portion sizes, especially with dried fruit. A small apple has the same amount of carbohydrates as 2 tablespoons of raisins.
  • Choose fresh or frozen fruit when possible. Processed fruits like applesauce and canned fruit packed in syrup or fruit juice are often higher in carbs and can raise your blood sugar higher than fresh fruits.
  • When you do eat dried or processed fruit, check the label. Many have added sugar, and serving sizes can be very small.
  • Go easy on fruit juice. It’s high in carbs -- 8 ounces of apple juice has 29 grams of carbs. And it doesn’t have fiber to slow digestion and prevent blood sugar spikes. Research even links high amounts of fruit juice with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Spread your fruit out over the course of the day. Instead of two servings for breakfast, have one at breakfast and another at lunch or as a snack.

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Healthiest Fruits

All fruits have vitamins, phytochemicals, and other compounds that make them good for you. But some are more likely to lower your chances of chronic disease:

Red grapefruit. Half of a grapefruit has 52 calories, 13 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber.

Blackberries. One cup of raw berries has 62 calories, 14 grams of carbohydrates, and 7.6 grams of fiber.

Strawberries. One cup of whole strawberries has 46 calories, 11 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber.

Tomatoes. One cup of sliced or chopped tomatoes has 32 calories, 7 grams of carbohydrates, and 2 grams of fiber.

Oranges. One medium orange has 69 calories, 17 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of fiber.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by David Zelman, MD on August 16, 2019

Sources

SOURCES:

American Diabetes Association: “Fruits.”

Mayo Clinic: “Diabetes Diet: Should I Avoid Sweet Fruits?”

Joslin Diabetes Center: “Five Common Food Myths for People with Diabetes Debunks.”

Diabetes Care: “Nutrition Principles and Recommendations in Diabetes.”  

CDC: “Defining Powerhouse Fruits and Vegetables: A Nutrient Density Approach.”

United States Department of Agriculture: “Why is it important to eat fruit?”

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: “Vegetables and Fruits.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Diabetes, Heart Disease, and Stroke.” 

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