Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
At least five portions of fruits and vegetables everyday is the recommendation for diabetics and non-diabetics, alike. Sometimes people who just learn they have type 2 diabetes may wonder about fruit consumption because many fruits are naturally sweet. With respect to diabetes, it is the total carbohydrates consumed—which includes sugars—that you need to keep your eye on. Fruits have natural sugars, but you shouldn't remove them from your diet, as they also have an abundance of other nutrients, vitamins and fiber. It is the refined sugars (in chocolate bars and pastries, for instance) that you want to more generally avoid. Unfortunately, these concentrated sugars are also found in products that seem like they might be natural and healthy, like honey, fruit juice, and smoothies. When craving something sweet, choose the real fruit in its natural form.
Learning About the Common Fruits to Avoid for Diabetes:
While fruits contain natural sugars, a standard portion of fruit has only between 15 and 20 grams of carbohydrates in it. Compare this to a small bar of chocolate (30 grams) or a chocolate muffin (55 grams), and it quickly becomes clear which of them should you remove from your diet. However, fruits are not a “free” food, and even with fruits, you have to watch the amount that you eat. In other words, don’t remove fruit from your diet, but go for the healthy portion and not the whole bowl.
Only in very rare cases will diabetics be told to avoid fruit. However, keeping a food diary is important, so that your diabetes nurse knows how much fruits you have consumed and when, as well as how you eat them. For instance, it is very easy to snack on tropical fruits, grapes, and dried fruit and exceed what is generally recognized as one diabetic portion. When this happens, it can send your blood sugar levels upward.
Avoid Dried Fruits and Juices:
Some dried fruits have 20.8 grams of carbs in a single tablespoon. One tablespoon also has 82 calories. Clearly, this tiny little snack is one that should be avoided. If you have half an apple instead, you would consume about 12 grams of carbs and 47 calories. And with the apple, you may find you feel fuller for longer.
In short, with the possible exception of dried fruits and their highly concentrated sugars, people with diabetes can opt for a wide variety of fruits as long as they know the right portions to have. Have a small banana instead of an extra large one. Don't drink juices or, if you have to, stick to half a cup of real fruit juice. Fruit juices can be particularly bad, because it is so easy to consume large amounts. Plus, when you drink the juice instead of eating the fruit, you miss out on much of the beneficial fiber and nutrients that a fruit has to offer.