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3 Tips for Diabetic Fruit Lovers

By Ashley Morgan, Dietetic Intern at North Carolina Central University and Elisabetta Politi, Nutrition Director at Duke Diet and Fitness Center


“Fruit contains carbohydrates? “What?? Well, I have diabetes, so that means I can’t eat fruit. Right?” If you are a person with diabetes, you may be anxious about the term carbohydrate or maybe you are not sure how to balance your carbohydrates or even why that is important. Well, let’s talk about it! A controlled blood sugar will be your focus. Believe it or not, you have the power to control your blood sugar, primarily by what and when you eat. Carbohydrates, when digested into their simplest form, are sugar. This “sugar” is what causes your blood sugar to spike after you eat. However, if you don’t overload on carbohydrates during meals, but rather, you plan and have an appropriate intake of carbohydrates throughout the day, a controlled blood sugar is achievable.

3 Tips for Diabetic Fruit Lovers 

So yes, you can have fruits! In fact, they have many valuable vitamins and minerals that support important functions in our daily living. For instance, Vitamin A plays a role in strong vision, B vitamins support a good energy level, potassium aids in muscle contraction, and there are a plethora of antioxidants that fight diseases; that’s just a small fraction of the benefits that come with fruit. Now let’s learn a few tricks to eating fruit in a way that won’t worsen diabetes.


Learn the carbohydrate value of fruit


One “serving” of fruit contains 15 grams of carbohydrates. This generally equates to one small fruit, such as an apple or orange (tennis ball size – so that means a large grapefruit or Honeycrisp apple would actually be 2 “servings”). If we are talking chopped fruit, these 15 grams would equate to a ½ cup. Now we do have some odd balls out there that may catch you off guard. Half of a medium banana (4-in piece), for instance, will hit that 15 gram mark. About 17 medium grapes or 3 oz .will also get you there. Berries and melons, by comparison, contain a higher percentage of water; therefore, the serving size is bigger (¾ - 1 cup). Dried fruit is another option, however since water from the fruit is missing, the serving size of dried fruit is just 2 tablespoons.


Choose whole fruit


Fresh, frozen, or canned (with no added sugar) are good choices. And if you can eat the skin of the fruit, do it! Fiber within the skin slows the absorption of carbohydrates and leads to a more gradual increase in blood sugar. This important addition of fiber is why fruit juices are NOT encouraged. Juices are missing the fiber component. Fruit juice is composed of just the sugars of the fruit, which are absorbed very quickly after ingestion. Not to mention, a serving of fruit juice is only 4 oz, which generally is not very satiating. Dried fruit can be another good choice, because it is indeed the whole fruit – but remember the small serving size. It can be tricky to practice control and be satisfied with just 2 tablespoons. The same idea goes for bananas. Would you be satisfied with eating half of a banana without being tempted to eat the entire fruit?


Another bonus tip is to have fun and try new fruits. By broadening the types of fruit that you eat, you will also extend the range of nutrients you receive!


List of common fruits


List of exotic fruits:


























Buddha’s Hand



Dragon Fruit





Kiwano (horned melon)




Logan Fruit (dragon’s eye)


Miracle Fruit

Passion Fruit





Snake Fruit

Star Fruit



Pair your fruit with a protein and/or fat source

Just like fiber, protein and fat can also help control the rise in blood sugar. Pair your fruit with a piece of string cheese or a boiled egg (primarily protein), or dip your fruit in a small amount of peanut butter or almond butter (fat and protein). You could also just save your fruit for a nice treat after your meal.  


Now that you’ve received a few tricks to support diabetes, go enjoy some fruit!

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