Medically Reviewed By: Tom Iarocci, MD
If you have type 2 diabetes, you know that you have to be careful about your sugar intake, including natural sugars. Although fruits do have natural sugars, they are an also an important part of a healthy diet for people with diabetes. What’s more, eating whole fruits may actually help reduce a person’s risk of developing diabetes in the first place. A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal reported that greater consumption of specific whole fruits, particularly blueberries, grapes, and apples, was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, whereas greater consumption of fruit juice was associated with a higher risk.
What Are the Best and Worst Fruits for Diabetes?
Most fruits, when eaten in their natural, unprocessed form, are perfectly fine to include in your diabetes-friendly meal plan, so long as you consume them in the right portions. There really is no such thing as a bad fruit, except that nutritionists often caution against dried fruits such as raisins, dates and fruit products with extremely concentrated sugars. In such cases, it is not that you can’t have these items if you have diabetes, but rather that one 15-gram-carb-containing portion of these items is very small, so avoiding excess can be a challenge and the whole experience may not be worth your while.
The Case for Fresh Fruits:
If you have type 2 diabetes, you have to watch your carbs, which are found in fruits, grains, and vegetables. You have to watch them, but you still have to consume them as well. When it comes to the best and worst fruits for diabetes, it isn't just about the carbs, though. Fruits are also filled with other nutrients and antioxidants and they are a natural source of fiber, which means they leave you feeling fuller. A whole fruit is filled with fiber, which most of us don’t get enough of if we eat the typical western diet. Fiber not only helps you feel full, but it can also help slow digestion and moderate the upward climbing of blood glucose levels.
Brightly colored fruits and vegetables can be especially healthy. This is because they contain high amounts of antioxidants and phytochemicals— plant nutrients that are believed have health benefits, such as helping to reduce inflammation.
In short, the best fruits for diabetes are fresh and whole. They include apricots, cantaloupe, papaya, mangoes, pineapple, citrus fruits, berries, apples, and grapes. Your fruits should be unprocessed and full of color and flavor. They are an important part of the diabetic meal plan, but at the same time, they need to be consumed in diabetic portions, with carb awareness. Moderation is key.