Myth: People With Diabetes Can’t Eat Fruit

If you are one of the 34 million Americans with type 2 diabetes, limiting your consumption of carbohydrates is among the biggest challenges. Your body converts carbohydrates into sugar, which directly spikes blood sugar levels.

Fruits tend to be an abundant source of carbohydrates — primarily the simple sugars, fructose and glucose. So, do they have a place in a diabetes eating plan? The simple answer is YES. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), eating fruits is an excellent way to gain nutritional benefits while satisfying your sweet tooth.

The Best Fruits for People With Diabetes

Fresh fruit is always best, although the ADA also recommends canned or frozen fruit that does not contain added sugars. To avoid consuming high amounts of carbs, ensure to check all food labels for added sugar. Sugar has 56 different names (yes, you read that right), including sucrose, dextrose, sucanat, corn syrup, and 52 other unique terms.

The recommended fresh fruits are:

A 2013 published study from the British Medical Journal also revealed that eating whole fruits such as apples and blueberries significantly lowers the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The Ideal Portion Size for Fruit

The correct serving size depends on the fruit’s carbohydrate content. In general, one serving of fruit comprises approximately 15 grams of carbs.

Fruit servings that contain about 15 grams of carbohydrates include:

  • 1 small piece of fresh fruit (4 ounces)
  • Half a cup of canned or frozen fruit (no added sugars)
  • 2 teaspoons of dry fruit, such as dried raisins or cherries

Other serving sizes that contain around 15 grams of carbs include:

  • Half of a medium-sized apple
  • 1 cup of blackberries
  • Three-fourths cup of blueberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 17 small grapes
  • 1 cup of raspberries
  • 1 cup of cubed honeydew melon or cantaloupe

Fruit Juice Options

Although one-third to one-half cup of fruit juice is 15 grams of carbohydrates, the scientific research results concerning diabetes and fruit juice are mixed:

  • A 2013 study concluded that the increased consumption of fruit juices is associated with a significantly higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • A 2017 study suggested that drinking 100 percent fruit juice does not elevate a person’s risk of developing diabetes. However, the study also mentioned that further detailed research is necessary to understand the impact of 100 percent fruit juice on regulating and maintaining blood glucose levels.

The ADA recommends consuming fruit juice in small portions, precisely about 4 ounces or less per day. Moreover, unless you are making freshly squeezed fruit juice at home, they recommend checking the labels to ensure you are drinking 100 percent fruit juice with zero added sugars.

In general, eating the fruit itself is better for you than drinking fruit juices. The fiber content in whole fruit delays digestion, which plays a role in helping you feel full for longer periods.

The Bottom Line

Yes, you can add fruit to your diabetes diet. Just pay close attention to your portions — about 15 grams per serving is enough to avoid raising your blood sugar levels.