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If you live with diabetes, someone has probably given you friendly advice about keeping certain fruits on your off-limits list. That’s because fruits are a source of carbohydrates, which means they break down faster than fats and proteins and therefore impact your blood sugar more. But here’s even friendlier advice: Fruits don’t have to be in your dietary restrictions.
Eating fruit as a diabetic boils down to two key factors, says Eleana Kaidanian, a registered dietitian and owner of Long Island Nutritionist, a private virtual practice based in New York. “When you incorporate portion control and quality of food, technically all foods (including fruits) are allowed and can be part of a healthy, balanced diet,” she explains.
Fruits, specifically, are packed with essential nutrients that your body needs for everything from fighting against inflammation to reducing your risk of other chronic diseases, like cancer. The edible skin and pulp of fruits can also be great sources of fiber. And for those having a difficult time drinking enough water (✋guilty), fruits can help you achieve your hydration goals.
For diabetics, it’s best to consume the fruit intact, which means no manipulation. That means no juicing, no dehydrating, minimal baking, etc. So even if you’re checking out the ingredient list on some organic applesauce and see that it has no additives, Kaidanian encourages diabetics to pick up a fresh apple instead.
Fresh is good, and frozen is just as good, too, because the fruit is usually flash-frozen as soon as it’s plucked. That means its nutrient profile remains intact for a long time, Kaidanian says. (That apple that’s been at the back of your fridge for weeks may still be edible, but it has lost some of its nutrients.)
If you want to have the occasional dried fruit, that can be okay, too. You just have to make sure it doesn’t have any additives or preservatives, and you’ll want to consume it in smaller portions and less frequently.
Speaking of portion control, it can be difficult to carb count on the go, so Kaidanian says one small fruit — like a small apple, banana, or orange — is a good measurement of one single serving. If you’re able to cut the fruit up or measure it, one serving would be half a cup. Generally, Kaidanian recommends two servings of fruits a day.
Still, there are some fruits that are better for diabetics than others — meaning they’re lower on the glycemic index. So if you’re curious what some of these are, here are the best fruits for diabetics, according to Kaidanian.
Fruits with edible skins and peels, like pears, are great sources of fiber. Fiber can help with blood sugar management and regulation and can leave you feeling satisfied, Kaidanian points out.
Per serving: 102 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g saturated), 27 g carbs, 17 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 6 g fiber, 0.6 g protein
There are many types of apples that have various benefits. Some might offer more hydration; others might have a better texture.
In general, though, there are no apples that are better or worse for a diabetic. “Apples that you would find in the supermarket or are widely available are fine. Just try to choose smaller ones,” Kaidanian says.
Per serving: 95 calories, 0.3 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 25 g carbs, 19 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 4.4 g fiber, 0.5 g protein
Like pears and apples, peaches have an edible skin that provides fiber. Another benefit is that they’re convenient (not to mention delicious).
“They’re very grab and go. You don’t have to cut them and peel them,” Kaidanian says about apples, pears, and peaches. “You just wash it and then take it with you, and you can bite right into it. So that makes it very user-friendly, and that’s important.”
Per serving: 68 calories, 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated), 17 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2.6 g fiber, 1.6 g protein
Apricots are extremely high in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, or harmful compounds that damage your cells, in turn lowering your oxidative stress. Oxidative stress has been linked to several chronic conditions, including heart disease and diabetes.
Similar to apples, pears, and peaches, Kaidanian says apricots also have a skin that provides fiber and can help manage blood sugar levels.
Per serving: 79 calories, 0.6 g fat (0 g saturated), 18 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 3.3 g fiber, 2.3 g protein
Here’s a good rule of thumb: The more colorful the fruits are, the better they are for you. And that isn’t just for diabetics; it’s a good guideline for everyone.
Because berries tend to be smaller and are eaten intact, they’re great for people with diabetes. “They’re also good because it’s easy to practice portion control, and because they’re low on the glycemic index,” Kaidanian says. “One carb serving of berries typically has more volume than other fruits. For instance, one carb serving of a banana is half a medium banana. [But] most berries allot for a cup or a cup and a half depending on the type of berry to allow more volume in your portion, while still staying within range of your carbohydrate allowance.”
Per serving: 85 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated), 21 g carbs, 15 g sugar, 1 mg sodium, 3.6 g fiber, 1.1 g protein
Cherries have potent antioxidant levels that can be used to fight inflammation, Kaidanian says. Similar to berries, cherries are low on the glycemic index, which means you can incorporate more of them into your diet. It goes back to that convenience factor, as well. Cherries are eaten intact with all of their nutritious fiber.
Per serving: 77 calories, 0.5 g fat (0.1 g saturated), 19 g carbs, 13 g sugar, 5 mg sodium, 2.5 g fiber, 1.6 g protein
Citrus fruits are known for their vitamin C, which boosts immunity and helps heal wounds. The pulp provides extra fiber, and the segments (the slices) help with portion control.
Oranges also provide a lot of hydration, which is a benefit to eating all types of fruit. “They give you edible hydration to help you meet your daily fluid requirements beyond just water to not only satisfy your thirst, but also provide electrolytes,” Kaidanian says. Electrolytes can help regulate blood pressure and aid in muscle function.
Per serving: 45 calories, 0.1 g fat (0 g saturated), 11 g carbs, 9 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2.3 g fiber, 0.9 g protein
Like oranges, grapefruits are also a good source of hydration and vitamin C. What’s tricky about the grapefruit though, Kaidanian says, is maintaining good portion control.
Unlike with the orange, it’s going to be more difficult to find ones on the smaller end. In this case, half of a medium-sized grapefruit is sufficient, she says.
Per serving: 52 calories, 0.2 g fat (0 g saturated), 13 g carbs, 8 g sugar, 0 mg sodium, 2 g fiber, 0.9 g protein
Kiwis offer some of the same nutritional benefits as berries, and the same convenience as an apple or peach. Like berries, kiwis have seeds that remain intact, providing that necessary fiber for blood sugar regulation.
If you’ve gone through life peeling your kiwis, you don’t have to do that. “The kiwi also has a thin skin. Most people in our society, in our Western culture, do peel it. But if you [wash] it, it’s edible,” Kaidanian says.
Per serving: 42 calories, 0.4 g fat (0 g saturated), 10 g carbs, 6 g sugar, 2 mg sodium, 2.1 g fiber, 0.8 g protein
Grapes are beneficial because they provide you with a robust nutritional profile, Kaidanian says. They’re high in copper, which helps with…