Whether you’re eating it as a snack, dessert or side dish — fruit is nutrient-dense and delicious. If you, or someone you love, is diabetic or has prediabetes, you may be wondering if fruit is still on the table for enjoying. Jeanne Rasmussen, ARNP, UnityPoint Health, breaks it down with some bite-sized answers.
Why is Fruit a Healthy Part of Any Diet?
Fruits are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and they have a high water and fiber content, too. This helps keep you fuller longer by slowing your digestion and preventing a fast rebound to your blood sugar.
Together, these properties help prevent serious health conditions like heart disease, cancer and stroke.
Is Fruit Safe for Diabetics?
Fruits are measured in carbohydrates, which is important for people with diabetes to know.
“It’s one of the macronutrients that we tell people, especially those with diabetes, to monitor, because there are definitely fruits higher in carbohydrate content people with diabetes should be aware of,” Rasmussen says.
Carbohydrates also increase your blood sugar, another reason someone with diabetes should be mindful of their intake.
“When you have diabetes, we monitor your blood sugar. The higher it is, the worse you typically feel,” she says.
What are the Best Fruits for Diabetics?
How does someone with diabetes still keep fruit in their diet without it having a major impact on how they feel? Like any other food group, Rasmussen says moderation and portion control are key for diabetic-friendly fruit.
“Everything is based off the serving size. A typical serving size for fruit is about 15 grams of carbohydrates. You have to be very aware that even though 15 grams is what you're allotted, it could look like 1/8 of a cup, or a full cup, depending on what you're what you're eating.”
How Much is a Serving Size of Fruit for Diabetics?
For example, here’s a look at which fruits and how much someone with diabetes could eat in a day to reach their recommended 15 grams of carbohydrates.
- 1/2 apple
- 1/2 banana
- 3/4-1 cup different berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)
- 1/8 cup raisins
If you’re going for more volume for your fruit intake, here’s a list of the fruits with lower carbohydrates, so you can eat more fruit and stay under your 15-gram allotment.
- 2 medium-sized plums
- 1 1/2 clementines
- 1 1/2 medium-sized kiwis
- About 1 cup cherries
- 1 cup cantaloupe
- 1 medium-sized peach
Can Diabetics Eat Dried or Canned Fruits?
While fresh fruits are preferred over dry fruit or canned fruits — nothing is totally off limits.
“You just need to be aware that a little box of raisins is not going to be as filling as a cup of berries. The raisins aren't going to have the fiber content as an apple or banana will either,” Rasmussen says.
She adds that dried fruits are often made with additional sugar and other chemicals to help sustain the shelf-life of the food.
“Same with the canned fruit, which can sit in sugary syrups. Look for canned fruits that come in their own juices, unsweetened or with no added sugar, those are OK. The biggest thing is to watch the labels.”
What are the Worst Fruits for Diabetics?
While they can still be enjoyed, Rasmussen says some fruits, particularly tropical fruits, tend to be higher in sugar as well.
“Mangoes, papayas, pineapple — those have a higher sugar content. Watermelon has a higher carbohydrate content as well as bananas that are overly ripe, which can raise your blood sugar. All of them can be eaten, you just have to be mindful.”
What are 3 Key Ingredients for a Healthy Smoothie?
One popular and tasty way to incorporate fruit into your diet is by drinking smoothies. Rasmussen advises that while buying a smoothie might be more convenient, making one yourself is often the healthier bet for someone with diabetes and more affordable.
“If you go out and buy a smoothie, you have no control over what's going into it,” she says.
So, what are the best ingredients for a satisfying smoothie? Rasmussen says the following combinations of foods are worth considering when you pull out your blender.
- Add protein. For protein, plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt or a protein powder, such as whey protein, are good ideas.
- Mix in healthy fats. Healthy fats to make your smoothie extra yummy can include peanut butter, avocados or nuts.
- Include fiber. For fiber and flavor, add in your favorite fruit. Rasmussen stresses that people with diabetes should measure how much fruit they’re adding to ensure it’s within the appropriate serving size.
“A lot of people will use spinach leaves or chia seeds to help slow digestion and keep their blood sugar from spiking later on, too. Some people also add spices, or use a small amount of different flavored extracts, for additional flavor.”
If you’re looking for other healthy foods that’ll keep you satisfied while also boosting your metabolism, consider main dishes that include fish, legumes, lean meats, oatmeal, almonds or low-fat cottage cheese.
If you have diabetes and want to learn more about the best diet for your diagnosis, Rasmussen says the best place to start is by visiting with your primary care provider.
“Here at UnityPoint, we have diabetic educators we can connect you with as well as health care coordinators who can provide support with important reminders about things like portion and moderation. It can be a lot to take in and figure out, but we’re here to help you through it.”