What Fruit Can You Eat If You Have Diabetes?

4 Tips for Incorporating Fruit Into Your Meal Plan

Oranges and pomegranate
Helen Yin/Stocksy United

You may have heard at some point that you cannot eat fruit if you have diabetes. Perhaps someone even told you that watermelon and bananas are off limits because they are too sweet. Neither of these is entirely true. You can enjoy fruit, you simply need to make smart decisions about which fruits and how much you eat.

Fruits and Diabetes

Fruits have many health benefits and they can be beneficial to a diabetic diet if eaten in moderation.

The key to eating fruit is to make sure you eat the right kinds in the appropriate portions.

For instance, fruits contain fiber. Fiber can help prevent blood sugar spikes, pull cholesterol away from your heart, and help you feel full, causing you to eat less. Fruit is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, which can help reduce your blood pressure

On the flip side, fruit is a carbohydrate and it contains a natural sugar called fructose. Carbohydrates, whether from bread, milk, yogurt, potatoes, or fruit, get broken down and turn into sugar or glucose. For this reason, it's recommended that people who have diabetes monitor how many carbohydrates they eat, including fruit servings.

When choosing fruit you'll want to take a few tips into consideration.

Avoid Dried Fruit and Fruit Juices

Dried fruit, especially if it is sweetened, is higher in carbohydrates per serving than natural whole fruit.

It also contains more sugar because sugars are added to flavor it and can be lower in fiber if the skin has been removed. Just two tablespoons of raisins (1 ounce) will cost you: 100 calories, 23 grams carbohydrate, and 18 grams sugar. This yields almost 5 teaspoons of sugar.

It's also best to avoid all fruit juices.

Even 100 percent fruit juice, causes instant spikes in blood sugars because the flesh of the fruit, which contains fiber, is discarded. It is also easy to drink an excess amount of calories without realizing it. For example, 4 ounces of 100 percent fruit juice contains 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, and 15 grams sugar.

Instead of dried fruit or fruit juice, opt for whole fruit—fresh, frozen, or canned—without added sugars.

Keep Portions in Check

If you are following a fixed, consistent carbohydrate meal plan, you need to factor in fruit as a carbohydrate choice. When choosing fruit, try to stick with one fruit serving per meal or snack and limit your fruit servings to no more than about two to three per day.

Keep in mind that one fruit serving is about 15 grams of carbohydrate. How much of each fruit you can eat within that one-serving limit will depend on the type of fruit. Here is a list of what is considered one serving for common whole fruits: 

  • 1 small piece (4 ounces) apple, orange, peach, pear, or plum 
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 2 small or 1 large tangerine (4 ounces total)
  • 2 small (2 ounces each) kiwi 
  • 4 small (1 ounce each) apricots
  • about 1 cup of melon (cantaloupe, watermelon, or honeydew)
  • 15 grapes or cherries 
  • 1/3 medium mango
  • 1 1/4 cup strawberries
  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup raspberries and blackberries (contain 8 grams of fiber)

There are some fruits that you should be more cautious about. For instance, it's recommended that bananas, cherries, grapes, mango, and pineapple be eaten only in the limited quantities noted (or avoided completely) as they can cause a fast spike in blood sugars.

If you are looking to get the most value for the biggest portion, you will want to choose fruits that are very high in fiber, such as berries. For example, you can eat 1 1/4 cup of strawberries for 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 3.5 grams fiber, and 7.5 grams sugar or only 1/2 medium banana which is 60 calories, 15 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, and 8 grams sugar.

Choose Fruits With a Lower Glycemic Index

The American Diabetes Association suggests that you choose fruits that have a low glycemic index. The glycemic index, or GI, is used as a reference to measure how a carbohydrate-containing food raises blood glucose.

Foods are rated based on how they raise blood sugars in comparison to a reference food such as sugar or white bread. A food with a high GI will raise blood glucose more than that of a food with a medium or low GI.

Most fruits have a low GI, with the exception of pineapple and melon. That doesn't mean you can never eat pineapple and melon, but if you notice that your blood sugar spikes after eating either, it's best to avoid them in the future.

Everyone has their own trigger foods, which will spike blood sugars more than others. You may also find that the riper a fruit is, the more it affects your blood sugar. Again, you should monitor your sugar to see which foods work best for you. 

Pair it With Protein

Some people find that pairing fruit with a protein can help slow down a rise in the blood sugars. You can do this by incorporating fruit into your meal allotment for carbohydrates or add protein to your fruit snack. 

For example: 

  • 1 4-ounce apple slice with 1 tablespoon almond butter 
  • 1 cup raspberries with 1 small non-fat Greek yogurt 
  • 1 small peach with 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese

A Word From Verywell

The notion that you have to avoid fruit on a diabetic diet is a myth. However, it is important that you make the best choices and always consider the carbohydrates in fruits, which will convert to sugar and may cause a spike in your blood sugar. Choose wisely and keep your portions under control and you should be able to enjoy some fruits. If you have questions, be sure to ask a member of your healthcare team.

Sources:

American Diabetes Association. Glycemic Index and Diabetes. 2014.

American Diabetes Association. Making Healthy Food Choices: Fruits. 2016.

Higdon J, et al. Micronutrient Information Center: Potassium. Linus Pauling Institute. 2010.