What Fruits Can You Eat If You Have Diabetes?

Top 4 Tips on How to Incorporate Fruit into Your Meal Plan

Oranges and pomegranate
Helen Yin/Stocksy United

If you are someone with diabetes, you have probably been told by someone at some point that you cannot eat fruit. Perhaps someone told you that you are not allowed to eat watermelon and bananas because they are too sweet? This is not true. Fruit has many health benefits. For instance, fruit contains fiber, which can help prevent blood sugar spikes, pulls cholesterol away from your heart, and helps to keep you feeling full.

Fruit is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, such as potassium, which can help to reduce blood pressure. The key to eating fruit is to make sure you eat the right kinds in the appropriate portions.

Fruit is a carbohydrate and it contains natural sugar called fructose. Carbohydrates, whether coming from bread, milk, yogurt, potatoes, or fruit, get broken down and turn into sugar or glucose. People who have diabetes should monitor how many carbohydrates they eat, including fruit servings. When choosing fruit you'll want to take the following tips into consideration: 

Avoid Dried Fruit and Fruit Juices

Dried fruit, especially sweetened, is higher in carbohydrates per serving than natural whole fruit, and it contains more sugar because of the added sugars used to flavor it. It can also be lower in fiber if the skin is removed. Just two tablespoons of craisins (1oz) will cost you: 100 calories, 23g carbohydrate and 18g sugar (this yields almost 5 teaspoons of sugar).

It's also best to avoid all fruit juice. Fruit juice, even 100 percent fruit juice spikes blood sugars instantly because the flesh of the fruit which contains fiber is discarded. It is also easy to drink excess calories without realizing. For example: 4oz of 100 percent fruit juice contains: 60 calories, 15g carbohydrate, and 15g 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, aim to stick to one fruit serving per meal or snack and limit your fruit servings to no more than about 2-3 max per day. One fruit serving = ~15 g of carbohydrate. 

Here is a list of common fruits and what is considered one serving: 

Whole fruit:

  • 1 small piece (4 oz) - apple, orange, peach, pear, plum 
  • 1/2 medium banana
  • 2 small tangerines (2 oz each) or 1 large (4 oz)
  • 2 small kiwi (2 oz each)
  • 4 small apricots (1 oz each)
  • ~1 cup of melon: cantaloupe, watermelon, honeydew
  • 15 grapes or cherries 
  • 1/3 medium mango
  • 1 1/4 cup strawberries, 3/4 cup blueberries, 1 cup raspberries and blackberries*

* Raspberries and blackberries contain 8g of fiber per 1 cup serving. 

If you are looking to get the most value for the biggest portion, then you will want to choose fruits that are very high in fiber like raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries.

 For example: you can eat 1 1/4 cup of strawberries for 60 calories, 15g carbohydrate, 3.5g fiber, and  7.5 sugar vs. 1/2 medium banana which is 60 calories, 15g carbohydrate and 2g fiber and 8g 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 your blood sugar spikes after you've eaten those foods, you should avoid them. Everyone has their own trigger foods, which spike blood sugars more than others. You may also find that the more ripe a fruit, 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 protein can help to slow down how quickly blood sugars rise. I always recommend that you incorporate fruit into your meal allotment for carbohydrates or add protein to your fruit snack. 

For example: 

1 4 oz apple with 1 tablespoon almond butter 

1 small non-fat Greek yogurt with 1 cup raspberries 

1 small peach with 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese


The American Diabetes Association. Fruits. Accessed on-line. March 6, 2014: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/fruits.html

Linus Pauling Institute. Potassium. Accessed on-line. March 6, 2014: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/minerals/potassium/

The American Diabetes Association. Glycemic Index and Diabetes. Accessed online. November 10, 2015: http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/understanding-carbohydrates/glycemic-index-and-diabetes.html

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