Are Apples Good for Diabetics?

Health Benefits of Apples Plus Diabetic Apple Recipes

Man eating apple in workshop
Man eating apple in workshop. Cultura RM Exclusive/Tom Lindboe

Apples are undeniably good for you -- especially if you have diabetes. Fall's favorite fruit has lots of good-for-you nutrients. Plus, research has linked apples with certain health benefits related to diabetes. 

Nutrition Profile of Apples

A small apple (about the size of a tennis ball) delivers 77 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrate and 4 grams of fiber. It's also a good source of vitamin C and has a smattering of other vitamins and minerals.

Apples are rich in soluble fiber -- the kind that helps keep you full, slows down the absorption of nutrients (such as sugar) into your bloodstream and helps to lower your cholesterol.  In addition to helping to regulate blood sugar and bowel function, soluble fiber is thought to have an anti-inflammatory effect that may help diabetics recover faster from infections.

The recommended daily intake for fiber is 25 (for women) to 38 (for men) grams a day. A skinned apple is still good for you, but with skin an apple provides 4 grams of fiber - about 20% of the recommended total daily intake of fiber.

Apples and Diabetes Research

There's no denying fruits and vegetables are a healthy and important part of the diet for everyone, including diabetics.

Eating whole fruits, but particularly apples, blueberries and grapes is linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, according to a 2014 study published in BMJ.

Note that according to the same study, drinking fruit juice is linked with a higher risk of diabetes.

That being said, a few studies have examined the protective effect of cloudy apple juice on diabetes (in lab rats). In one 2016 study in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, diabetic rats that were given cloudy apple juice and apple peel extract for 21 days saw their fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels decline.

Researchers attribute the results to an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant effect. 

Apples are full of polyphenols -- plant compounds that seem to protect against a variety of chronic diseases. 

One of those polyphenols, quercetin, has been studied for health benefits. In a 2015 study in Pharmacognosy magazine, researchers found that quercetin improved glucose metabolism in liver and skeletal cells when studied in test tubes.

Keep in mind that a lot of this research is either epidemiological (looking at trends among large swaths of the population) or done in test tubes and rats. So while it's not the strongest evidence out there, it is promising.

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