Diabetic? The 7 Worst (and 10 Best) Fruits You Can Eat
Whether you just got diagnosed with diabetes or have been dealing with it for years, figuring out your diet can get complicated quickly. You can easily find out which kinds of food can help prevent diabetes. But if you already have diabetes, there are more rules and restrictions you need to know. Need an example? We all think fresh fruits and veggies are safe and healthy. But if you have diabetes, some fruits are safer to eat than others.
The Cleveland Clinic names berries one of the best foods for diabetics because they have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index measures how much a carbohydrate-containing food raises your blood glucose. But a separate measurement, called the glycemic load, does a better job of telling you a food’s real impact on your blood sugar. A glycemic load of 10 or below is low, and 20 or above is high. Watermelon, for instance, has a high glycemic index, at 80. But a serving of watermelon has few carbohydrates — just 6 grams — so its glycemic load is just 5. So some foods that are high on the glycemic index can have a low glycemic load.
Confused yet? We’ve done the hard work for you and found out which fruits nutritionists say are the worst (and the best) for people with diabetes. You might never look at fruit salad the same way again.
1. Dates: worst
According to the international table of glycemic index and glycemic load index values, published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, dried dates have a high glycemic load of 42. Livestrong notes with super-sweet fruits, such as dates and raisins, “portion control is crucial.” The publication adds, “In general, people with diabetes should aim for fruit servings that don’t exceed 15 grams of carbohydrates. For that reason, you can usually eat more juicy fresh fruit than concentrated sweet treats like dates and raisins, which are higher in calories and carbs.”
2. Raisins: worst
Raisins have a high glycemic load of 28. Livestrong explains, “Because they have naturally concentrated sugars and a low water content, raisins and dates are much higher in sugar, calories and carbohydrates than most other fruits, especially the juicier varieties. Compared to the 15 to 20 percent water content of dates and raisins, fresh berries and watermelon are 85 to 90 percent water.”
3. Sultanas: worst
Sultanas have a high glycemic load of 25. Not familiar with sultanas? They’re dried grapes that are golden in color. But they aren’t any healthier than standard raisins for people with diabetes. Livestrong notes raisins, golden and otherwise, might not impact your blood sugar as much as other sources of carbohydrates. But that’s only true if you eat a single serving of sultanas. Because they’re small, it’s easy to eat more than a single serving. So keep an eye on the label, and make sure to be conscious of your portion size.
4. Bananas: worst
Another factor, beyond glycemic load, to consider when you’re in the produce aisle? The amount of carbohydrates in a specific fruit. Both the amount and type of carbs in a food can affect your blood sugar. And according to the American Diabetes Association, the total amount of carbohydrates in a food often acts as a stronger predictor of blood glucose response than the glycemic index of that food. Livestrong lists some high-carb fruits you might want to avoid. At the top of the list? Bananas. One cup of banana slices contains 30 net grams of carbohydrates.
5. Mango: worst
Livestrong also reports a cup of mango chunks contains 22 net grams of carbohydrates. SF Gate reports that with fruits like mangoes, you need to be careful about the amount you eat. As the publication explains, “A large serving of mango or any other fruit will raise your blood sugar levels more substantially than a small serving.” Plus, fructose accounts for about 30% of the sugar in mangoes. “Since fructose is metabolized by your liver, too much of it can raise your triglyceride levels,” SF Gate says.
6. Pineapple: worst
According to Livestrong, a cup of pineapple chunks packs 19 net grams of carbohydrates. Livestrong reports that though pineapple “can be a nutritious food since it provides significant amounts of vitamin C, thiamine, and manganese, people with diabetes may want to limit their pineapple consumption due to its high carbohydrate content and glycemic index.”
7. Breadfruit: worst
Livestrong notes the South Pacific breadfruit contains almost 60 grams of net carbohydrates per cup. Breadfruit originates in the South Pacific. The protein-rich fruit recently made headlines as a promising crop to feed hungry populations in tropical parts of the world. It’s related to jackfruit but is one of the worst choices of fruit for people with diabetes. The problem is breadfruit is rich in starch, which is converted to sugar when the fruit becomes very ripe.
1. Apricots: best
Fortunately, the list of the worst fruits for people with diabetes isn’t that long, and we’re already on to the best fruits. Apricots have a low glycemic load of just 5. Everyday Health notes that four fresh apricots equal one serving. Together, they’ll provide you with more than 50% of your daily vitamin A requirement. Plus, apricots offer plenty of fiber. Just make sure you buy your apricots fresh, not canned.
2. Apples: best
Apples have a low glycemic load of just 4. They’re also a great source of fiber. And they contain lots of vitamin C. Plus, if you eat the skins — you definitely should — they’ll also give you lots of antioxidants. Authority Nutrition explains apples also contain large amounts of water. That in combination with the fiber they contain makes them surprisingly filling. Fiber slows down the digestion and absorption of carbs, which means they won’t cause a spike in your blood sugar as quickly as they would otherwise.
Cherries have a low glycemic load of just 3. Everyday Health notes not only do cherries have a low glycemic index, but they also offer other health benefits. They contain lots of antioxidants, which means they can fight inflammation. Cherries might also help prevent heart disease, cancer, and other serious illnesses. Your grocery store probably offers cherries fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. But you should always read the label because many canned and dried fruits contain added sugar.
Grapefruits have a low glycemic load of just 3. That alone makes them a great choice of fruit if you have diabetes. But you might get some other benefits by regularly eating a grapefruit. Time reports according to a recent study, grapefruit juice “might be just as effective as the type 2 diabetes drug, metformin, at lowering blood glucose.” You might have to drink as much as 4 cups of grapefruit juice a day to get the results seen in the study. But even if you don’t consume nearly that much, grapefruit or grapefruit juice still can make a healthy addition to your diet.
Want a tropical fruit? Then, reach for a kiwi. Kiwi have a low glycemic load of just 5. They routinely make the list of low-carb, diabetes-friendly fruits. Kiwi also make a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. Even though you might think they’re an uncommon tropical fruit, grocery stores actually offer them year-round. And once you’ve bought them, they’ll actually last in the refrigerator for up to three weeks — a lot longer than many other kinds of fruit.
Citrus, including oranges, can be very healthy choices for people with diabetes. Oranges have a low glycemic load of only 3. Oranges and other types of citrus are famously a great source of vitamin C. They also contain folate and potassium. Livestrong reports oranges also contain large amounts of fiber, which can help your digestive health. Plus, oranges make a good choice of fruit whether you’re using a carbohydrate-counting system or using the glycemic index or glycemic load of foods. And according to Livestrong, the fiber in oranges “helps modulate blood sugar by slowing absorption into the bloodstream.”
Peaches have a low glycemic load of just 4. Everyday Health notes peaches make a smart addition to a diabetes-friendly diet because they contain vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. They’re also rich in fiber. You can eat your peaches raw, add them to your smoothies, or even opt to grill them. But with peaches and other fruits available in a can, remember the healthiest form of fruit for someone with diabetes will be fresh, not canned.
Another diabetes-friendly fruit? Pears. They have a low glycemic load of only 4. This delicious fruit also acts as a great source of fiber. And as Everyday Health notes, pears are one of the few kinds of fruit that actually improves in taste and texture after it’s been picked. You can store pears at room temperature until they’re ripe. (After that, you can just stick them in the refrigerator.) Plus, they make an excellent source of fiber and vitamin K.
Strawberries have a low glycemic load of just 1. Everyday Health counts berries — including both strawberries and blueberries — as one of the best fruits for a diabetes-friendly diet. And for good reason. As the publication notes, “According to the ADA, berries are a diabetes superfood because they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber, plus they’re low-GI.”
Watermelon has a low glycemic load of just 4. Healthline reports watermelon is a great source of numerous vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, vitamin B-6, fiber, iron, and calcium. The publication also notes because watermelon is high in fiber, it promotes good digestive health. Plus, eating a moderate amount of watermelon can “curb your craving for something sweet” and “can also keep you feeling full longer.”