4 Science-Backed Reasons People with Diabetes Can Eat Fruit Worry-Free

Updated: Feb. 13, 2023

People diagnosed with diabetes may wonder if they can have fruit. The research says yes—you should eat fruit if you have diabetes because it's healthy!

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It’s true that all carbohydrates from food eventually end up as blood glucose (aka, sugar)—including the carbs in fruit. Which might make you wonder: Can people with diabetes eat fruits like grapes? Fruit has a much lower impact on blood sugar levels than other foods like candy and soda. That’s because, like vegetables, fruit is mostly water. What isn’t water is fiber, and that fiber slows the progression of fruit sugars into the bloodstream, causing a slow, steady rise in blood sugar rather than a huge spike.

“Because fruit contains sugar, many people with diabetes may be quick to assume that it’s not a healthful choice for them,” says Jackie Newgent, RDN, a registered dietitian, chef, and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook and The Clean and Simple Diabetes Cookbook, New York. “But when appropriately planned into a diabetes eating plan, whole fruit can and should be included.”

Bottom line: Fruit isn’t merely not bad for your diabetes. Fruit is downright good for it, and good for your waistline, too.

Bowl of fruit (strawberries, grapes, blueberries) for diabetics.kirin/iStock

Fruit fights inflammation

Peaches, plums, and nectarines contain special nutrients called phenolic compounds that have anti-inflammatory properties. (These nutrient-rich foods also fight off inflammation.) Research shows that these compounds travel through the bloodstream and then to your fat cells, where they affect different genes and proteins for the better. One study, published in 2016 in the British Journal of Nutrition, suggests that the phenols derived from red grapes and acai berries, among other foods, may help reduce inflammation.

Fruit may help prevent type 2 diabetes

Flavonoids are nutrients found in plant foods, and especially in many types of fruit. A review of studies published in 2018 in the journal Medicine found that these compounds can lower the risk for developing type 2 diabetes, probably because these nutrients improve insulin sensitivity. Harvard’s long-running Nurses’ Health Study found that women who consumed more anthocyanins (the pigment that makes blueberries blue and strawberries red) were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than women who consumed fewer of these health-promoting compounds. (Science says these are the 15 best foods for people with diabetes.)

Fruit slims you down

Filling your plate with fruits and vegetables is always a good idea for slimming down. But a study published in 2015 in PLoS Medicine found that fruit—specifically, berries, apples, and pears—may actually be more important than vegetables when it comes to long-term weight loss. These findings aren’t an anomaly. A study published in a 2016 issue of Nutrients found that the anti-obesity effects of fruit are greater than their pro-obesity effects in most cases. And if you’re choosing between fruits, pick apples, berries, and pears over pineapple and bananas which, though good for you, have a high glycemic index. (Try these yummy 11 summer foods to help you slim down.)

Fruit bolsters health

Along with vegetables, fruit protects against heart disease, stroke, and cancers of the stomach and colon. Incorporate these 30 new habits into your routine to reduce your risk of heart disease. Fruit also helps fend off depression, which is common in people with diabetes.

“I often recommend using fruit to offer wholesome sweetness to meals or to be the feature of dessert,” says Newgent. For instance: “Tossing seasonal fruit cubes into a spicy stir fry for balanced taste and intrigue; dicing a favorite fruit and using in place of tomato for a fresh salsa on Mexican cuisine; blending equal parts berries, oil, and vinegar to create a delightful salad dressing; or grilling peach halves then topping with plain Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of no-sugar-added granola for an awesome dessert.”

One way to ensure you consume more fruit: Shop local. Local produce is everywhere these days, thanks to the increasing popularity of farmers’ markets, backyard gardens, and community gardens. Just be sure you ask these five questions when shopping at your local farmers’ market. This food trend can motivate you to eat more produce, reaping the big weight-control and health benefits.

Check out this list of 32 foods that are more nutritious than you thought.

2 day diabetes diet bookBased on groundbreaking science, the 2-Day Diabetes Diet makes it easy to prevent, treat, or even reverse type 2 diabetes. No forbidden foods. No carb counting. Just restrict what you eat for two days a week.  Learn more and buy the book here.