How Much Fruit Should Be Eaten by Diabetics?

An October 2011 study published in the “Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics” found that diabetics who ate adequate amounts of fruit were able to reduce two medical risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease 1. If you have diabetes, eating fruit daily provides your body with essential nutrients, helps control your blood sugar and reduces your risk for other illnesses such as cardiovascular disease. Ask your health care provider or registered dietitian how to include fruits in your meal plan.

2 to 4 Servings Daily

The National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse suggests that people with diabetes consume two to four servings of fruit a day, depending on their calorie needs. If you require between 1,200 and 1,600 calories, aim for two fruits daily. Three fruits should be your goal if you need between 1,600 and 2,000 calories daily. People requiring 2,000 to 2,400 calories should consume four fruits daily. A serving is equivalent to a small piece of fruit roughly the size of a tennis ball, 1/2 cup of juice or canned fruit, 2 tablespoons of dried fruit or 3/4 cup to 1 cup of fresh berries or melon.

Avoiding the Blood Sugar Roller Coaster

Because fruits contain natural sugars, they will raise your blood sugar. Balancing them throughout your day will help prevent peaks and valleys in your blood sugar levels. The American Diabetes Association suggests that the best fruits to choose include fresh, frozen or canned without added sugar 2. Canned fruits in juice or light syrup, dried fruits and juices contain more sugar, and you should limit these. Melons and pineapple have a higher glycemic index and so may raise your blood sugar more than other fruits, but they can still be included in your diet.

Keeping It Regular

An important component of fruit for diabetics is fiber. Most people know the digestive benefits of fiber, but according to an article published in the journal “Nutrition Reviews” in April 2009, fiber also improves your blood sugar control and may even reduce your need for some medications or insulin 3. Participants who consumed high-fiber diets had lower blood sugar levels after meals and improved insulin sensitivity. Fiber also reduces low-density lipoprotein -- the "bad" cholesterol -- and triglycerides, which some diabetics struggle to control. Fruits containing the most fiber include:

  • apples
  • bananas
  • peaches
  • pears
  • tangerines
  • prunes
  • berries
  • figs
  • dried fruits

Mixing It Up

Fruits are loaded with vitamins and minerals 56. Each contains different amounts, so choose a variety every day. People with diabetes tend to be low in vitamin C, according to the Joslin Diabetes Center 56. High blood sugar levels make it difficult for your body to absorb vitamin C, so eat plenty of citrus fruits, which are excellent sources of this vitamin. Magnesium is another mineral that tends to be deficient in diabetics and is associated with insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and other diabetic complications. Bananas and apples contain small amounts of magnesium. Diabetics should also consume adequate amounts of folate, which can be found in orange juice and strawberries. Folate helps with heart health.