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Can Diabetics Eat Fruit?

Michael Pollick
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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The close association between sugar intake and diabetes has led to a few misconceptions about diabetics and their diet restrictions. Most people who have diabetes can eat the same foods as those who do not have the disease, but the question becomes how much and how often. Diabetics can indeed eat fruit and, in fact, are strongly encouraged to choose fruit over processed foods that are high in sugars and other carbohydrates. Fruit contains natural fiber, vitamins, enzymes and other essential nutrients that diabetics need to maintain a normal lifestyle.

Diabetes and Blood Sugar

The assumption that fruit can be dangerous for people who have diabetes stems from the relationship between sugars and insulin levels. Insulin transports blood glucose — or blood sugar — to the cells, where it is stored as glycogen that can be used as fuel. Many diabetics' bodies cannot produce enough natural insulin to handle a high amount of sugars or carbohydrates, which are broken down into glucose, at one time. Diabetic menus take into account the relative amount of sugars and carbohydrates that are present in foods, also known as a glycemic index (GI).

Types of Fruit

The majority of common fruits have low to medium GI scores, which means that most diabetics can safely metabolize the fruit sugars through natural insulin production. Some fruits that have low GI scores include apples, strawberries, pears, cherries and plums. A few fruits, such as dried dates and watermelons, are relatively high on the glycemic index, but they can still be eaten in moderation. Many fruit juices, especially those made from concentrate, also are high on the glycemic index and should be consumed in moderation.

Portion Sizes

The key to eating fruit on a diabetic diet is to eat the proper portion sizes. Many experts say that any type of fruit can be eaten, as long as the portion size provides no more than about 0.5 ounces (15 g) of carbohydrates. That would be about half a banana, one handful of fresh raspberries or two spoonfuls of raisins, for example. Diabetics also should not eat too much fruit within a short period of time, but should spread out fruit consumption over the course of a day. Eating too much sweet fruit at once could be problematic for insulin-dependent diabetics, but in general, most fruits should not create a dangerous spike in blood sugar levels.

Fiber is Important

Fruits such as apples and oranges provide fiber as well as fructose or fruit sugar. It can be a challenge for people who have diabetes to get enough fiber in their diets, because many foods that are high in natural fiber might also be high in starch, sugar or other high-glycemic ingredients. Fruit can also satisfy diabetics' cravings for processed sweets such as doughnuts and cakes. A handful of grapes or a medium-size apple between meals can help a diabetic maintain his or her blood sugar level without creating a sudden spike that can overwhelm an already overworked insulin-producing pancreas.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon239868 — On Jan 11, 2012

I was under the impression that insulin transports sugar into the cells of the body rather than break it down. Also, aren't carbs broken down by gastric juices?

By anon195569 — On Jul 12, 2011

can a diabetic eat toddy fruits?

By anon119431 — On Oct 18, 2010

i have heard that eating banana along with breakfast or meals will not raise the blood sugar levels. is it true or not?

By anon119392 — On Oct 17, 2010

I can only eat 50 grams of pureed grapefruit mixed with 5 grams grapefruit powdered fiber and it must be chilled 24 hours at least (to thicken). If I fail to do this, my sugar spikes from 120 to 170. I am considering phasing out fruit or squeezing out most of the sugary juice. Trust no glycemic list. Test your blood. You can test your forearm with some meters.

By anon118255 — On Oct 13, 2010

My boss is a diabetic and I've done a whole lot of research and most of it converges on diabetics being able to eat apples, pears, apricots, blueberries, kiwi, pomegranates, guavas, mangos, and avocados. They also cited that grapefruit could be also eaten but if you are taking prescription medication like Lipitor, it causes the medication not to work.

Like the previous postings, it all depends on quantity and if you are eating on an empty stomach. The meter is a great way to know what foods are good for you. My boss keeps one here at the office and one at home.

By amypollick — On Oct 27, 2009

Diabetics, eat by your meter. Check your blood sugar 2 hours after eating fruit and see if you are within your target levels. If not, you probably need to eat that fruit only occasionally, and in small amounts.

Anon50118, fruit on an empty stomach probably is more apt to spike your blood glucose levels. This is because there isn't any protein or fat to "buffer" the fructose. However, a fruit with more fiber, such as an apple, is less apt to send your blood glucose up, although you're going to get a small rise anytime you consume carbohydrates. Try eating a piece of cheese first, then your fruit. That may help even out the spike, giving you a gradual rise, which is easier on your body. But check your blood sugar 2 hours after eating your fruit to see what effect it has on your levels. That's the only way to know what your body tolerates well.

By anon50118 — On Oct 26, 2009

i heard that the intake of fruits on an empty stomach can cause an increase in blood sugar level. is it true?

By anon37384 — On Jul 19, 2009

What are the fruits recommended to a type 2 diabetic who has diabetes under control?

By twetty2007 — On Feb 07, 2009

how about bananas? are they safe to eat for diabetics?

By mendocino — On Jan 21, 2009

I've heard the same thing Anon24902 (Sharon): grapes have a generally high sugar content. And eating too many of them, as I tend to like to do, can be very bad, especially for diabetics, however, there was a study conducted back in 2007 by a Susan J. Zunino, Ph.D. that showed a beneficial impact by grapes in terms of diabetes. That is the antioxidant, polyphenol, contained in grapes helped prevent the break down of insulin-producing beta cells. This resulted in the reduction of diabetes. I don't know what the final conclusion is, but I think grapes in small amounts are OK for diabetics. The real answer, I suppose, lies with diabetic's personal physician as I suppose each person's diabetes may differ.

By anon24902 — On Jan 20, 2009

Grapes are a big no no for a diabetic due to its high sugar content. --Sharon

By kkarthik1995 — On Dec 31, 2008

What is the healthy fruit, can be taken by a diabetic person who is keeping his blood sugar level under control?

By ostrich — On Aug 09, 2008

We really all should eat fruit over processed sugary things.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to WiseGeek, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range...
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